In some ways it's no surprise: one in four Northland adults volunteer in sport and recreation. They're among a million Kiwis doing the same thing - that's five out of every six New Zealanders volunteering.

Perhaps that's inevitable: We are a proud and active nation. Sport is part of our Kiwi DNA, and it's not just something we do - for many, it is a way of life. And the reality is it simply can't happen without those who give their time for free.

We call them sportmakers. They literally make sport happen in our communities.

Many of them are parents who organise and manage teams, co-ordinating transport to ensure kids get to and from games and training sessions, cutting up oranges or washing the team shirts.


Others contribute as coach, referee or umpire, by drawing up rosters, being part of committees or organising fundraisers.

Each of these roles, and many others, are part of how sport brings communities together. They're what makes it special. What makes it possible.

In the Northland region, 24.6 per cent of adults are contributing to sport and recreation in one or more of these ways, according to Sport NZ's Active NZ survey. That's below the national average of 28.6 per cent, but still a great number.

The most common form of volunteering in the region is parent helper (11.8 per cent), followed by coach or instructor (8.1 per cent), officiating roles (6.8 per cent) and administration roles (6.5 per cent).

To each and every one of you: a huge thanks from Sport NZ.

There are loads of reasons why people volunteer in sport and recreation. The rewards aren't always obvious, especially when you're standing on the sidelines on a cold wet Saturday morning or have to fit kids' sport into an all-too-busy week.

But they're there in more subtle ways: the delight you feel when your team, or someone in your team, does something special; when a young person who may be struggling at school suddenly shows ability on the court or the field, and by doing so grows in confidence for tackling other areas of life; or simply in swapping stories after the game and enjoying a good laugh.

There's a good reason I know how rewarding volunteering it can be - I'm one of you.
I have volunteered all my adult life, currently as a coach at my local hockey club.

Being a part of a club, meeting new people, reminiscing with some old mates, helping boys and girls along wtheir sporting journey and to achieve their goals and aspirations (both big and small).

At Sport NZ, and through the work we do with partners such as Sport Northland, we want to help New Zealanders develop and maintain a lifelong love of sport and physical activity.

And, while we can't always continue to actively compete or play, there's no age limit when it comes to volunteering.

It is the gift of time, and the rewards can be immeasurable.

Some of our most selfless volunteers are recognised for their work by national and local sports organisations, in the Lotto Sportmaker Awards and in New Year and Queen's Birthday honours.

But the greatest reward and recognition comes from all of us. That's why National Volunteer Week is important - it focuses our attention on acknowledging and appreciating all of them.

To those million volunteers in the sport and recreation sector, I commend you. I'm proud to stand beside you. To those who are thinking about it - do it.

* Peter Miskimmin is the CEO of Sport NZ, the government agency responsible for oversight and leadership of the sport and recreation sector, increasing participation and ensuring there are more New Zealanders winning on the world stage.

* National Volunteer Week runs from June 18 to 24.