Being able to wear the silver fern is often a goal for many athletes and four young softballers are excited to do just that this year.
Western Bay of Plenty representatives Rikaiah Te Wheoro, Abbey Finlayson, Cassidy Brown and Caleb Paki-Campbell have been selected for New Zealand teams that will compete in Australia and Canada. For Rikaiah and Cassidy, it will be their second time representing New Zealand internationally.
Rikaiah will compete in the under-14 Invitation International Challenge in Sydney, which begins on March 23. He flew out yesterday for this week's tournament - his second international experience after playing for the national under-13 team in the United States and Canada last year.
Cassidy will compete in the under-16 New South Wales Blues Annual Boys' Junior Softball Tournament in October. He played for the New Zealand under-14 team in Sydney last year.
Caleb and Abbey will play in under-13 teams in the Saskatoon Softball Tournament in Canada in July.
Abbey plays second base where she says you need to be a fast thinker to be effective in the role.
"I am excited to represent the country because it will be my first time playing in an all-girls team. I am also really excited to just put on the jacket," Abbey says.
She says she doesn't mind putting in the hard work.
"I like training in general. I got into softball because my brother used to play back in Auckland. I would go and watch his games and trainings and it looked like fun, so I gave it a go."
For pitcher Cassidy, playing and meeting new people are his drawcards to softball and it takes time and effort to be good in his position.
"It was a good feeling to be selected and to be a part of it. We have put in the hard work with four trainings a week. Representing my country is a privilege, not many kids my age get the chance to and I want my family to be proud."
Having six New Zealand representatives in the past two years is not by chance and Western Bay assistant coach Ash Jones says the players have done the work.
"The hardest working kids always get somewhere, talent only takes you so far. We have passion from all of the parents, managers and coaches and it is a real team effort. We have a lot of whanau kaupapa going on. They are all our kids, we all look after them and we give them whatever knowledge we can."
Jones says the competitions will be similar to what the players come up against at national championships, but another step up.
"They are all capable, as long as they have that self-belief and determination. We teach our kids that they can take on anything."
Jones says the Western Bay Softball Association is starting to grow.
"We would love more numbers. We have had a slow decline in last few years but is on its way back. We have had a lot of support from parents, but we also need more input from the schools."