Yesterday was my last day as the Chief Executive at Sport Northland.
I started the role on December 1, 1998, so I’m sure you can do the maths on how long I have been in the job. What keeps someone in one role for so long, given how rare that is these days?
For me, it was always about being in my dream job in the region I love. Having been born and bredin Kaipara and schooled mostly in Whangārei, where I attended school more to play sport than to pass exams, I naturally developed a passion for both sport and for Northland.
Having managed to somehow obtain a Bachelor of Physical Education at the University of Otago in the early 80s (which was tough work given the distractions down there), and after a stint in an Auckland fitness centre and then roaming the world for a few years, I found myself back in Whangarei in the early 90s as a fitness instructor at Kensington Fitness.
Sport Northland had just been formed that year (as a result of two previous charitable trusts merging), and before long I was managing the centre as part of the Sport Northland leadership team under first chief executive Steve Bramley.
When Steve left in 1998 to be the chief executive of the Millennium Centre in Auckland, the Sport Northland board saw fit to appoint me to the role. The rest is history, but as I reflect on 25 years in the top job (and 33, all up, with Sport Northland), I can honestly say that I got up each and every Monday morning with the same purpose and passion for what we are still trying to achieve today at the trust – to encourage more Northlanders to move more for the sake of their wellbeing.
Working in sport and recreation definitely won’t make you rich. It’s a relatively young industry and with sometimes uncertain funding sources, sports organisations need to find other ways of attracting quality people to the industry. That’s where people with a purpose and passion for what we do come in. And people who like to have a bit of fun.
It is a satisfying thing to witness the fruits of the labour we put in across the sport and recreation sector – especially seeing young people develop, learn and grow from their experiences playing sport and participating in active recreation. I witnessed it with my own girls, especially the discipline they all gained through the sport of swimming and life lessons from playing team sport.
Sometimes, however, it was as simple as just playing with their mates for fun, which, more and more, is becoming how young people want to be physically active.
I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to lead such an awesome organisation. I didn’t always get things right, but, hey, who does? What I can say is that it was the people that I worked alongside, those from the wider sport sector and those who funded and partnered with us that kept me in the job for so long.
To all of you, and you know who you are, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the experiences and the memories. It has truly been a blast to work for this wonderful organisation in this amazing sector.
The great thing is I get to continue my association with Sport Northland, as they are one of the 14 Regional Sports Trusts (RSTs) I get to work alongside in my new national role that is looking to increase collaboration and capability of the RST Network across the country. And I can undertake the role from Northland, who would want to leave? You can’t ask for much more.