Every year, thousands of volunteers contribute millions of hours to sport in the Bay of Plenty. This week, National Volunteer Week, they get the credit they deserve. David Beck reports.
Volunteers have long been the backbone of local sport, without them little would be achieved, and this week they are being celebrated.
Often happy to work tirelessly in the background to provide opportunities for others, National Volunteer Week is all about giving credit where it is well and truly due.
According to the Active NZ Survey 2013/14, there were 57,000 sport and recreation volunteers in Bay of Plenty who contributed seven million hours worth $100 million to the sector.
Sport Bay of Plenty community sport team leader Zane Jensen said volunteers were the lifeblood of sport in Bay of Plenty, their efforts providing long-term benefits for the community.
"They are the heart and soul of ensuring community sport and recreation can happen. The way our culture is made up, sport and rec is such a huge part of it, and it wouldn't be able to happen without the thousands of volunteers.
"We need to take every opportunity we can to really celebrate those volunteers and thank them for giving up their precious time in a world where everyone is really, really busy."
Jensen said the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown had not affected the enthusiasm of the region's volunteers and "in a funny way" fostered more of a community feel.
"I think, if anything, it has increased people's desire to support their community. We haven't seen a huge increase but everyone is a lot more motivated to volunteer and support one another. We did the whole Covid thing and stood together and now everyone is sort of standing together to try to get back to normal the best we can."
It is the Kiwi way to grow up playing sport on a Saturday morning and there are countless volunteers refereeing, coaching and managing to make that possible.
Tauranga encouraged to celebrate 'unsung heroes'
Community's 'unsung heroes' to be celebrated
"Every Kiwi should have the opportunity to be active and it's the volunteers making sure they do. Volunteers tend to be very humble, they don't do it for the credit, they don't do it to be thanked, they literally do it because they think it's the right thing to do."
One of those thousands of volunteers is Kevin Prosser, who was the Rotorua Cycling Club secretary for six years. He stepped down from the role this year but is still actively involved with the club and said he volunteered simply because it gave him joy.
"I just enjoy it, the people you meet and seeing them have the opportunity to enjoy the sport. I'm passionate about cycling so if I can help other people enjoy that, that's great.
"I'm not the only one, we have a good team of volunteers here and that's important. One person can't do it all."
When asked what advice he would give to someone considering volunteering, Prosser said: "Just do it.
"It's very worthwhile and the more volunteers we have, the better the sport will be. Even if it's just doing something small, it all helps."
Swim-Able NZ coach Maxine Parker volunteers her time, on top of running her swim school, to help others chase their swimming dreams.
While Swim-Able is a business, she helps athletes she has coached at events. For example, last year she helped Shyla-Mei Corbett, who has cerebral palsy, complete the 300m swim leg as part of a team in the Have a Go event at the Tinman Triathlon in Tauranga and the Huka Extreme, a river swim.
She also coaches members of Jogging the Powerpoles, a local fitness group, in open water swimming to help them prepare for multisport events. Her goal is to ensure everyone has the equal opportunity to get active.
"What motivates me is I feel we are part of a community, it's like the saying 'it takes a village to raise a child'. The key is helping others do what they want to do, I really do believe safe water fun should be available to everyone.
"If I can help promote that and the other benefits you get from swimming, that's great. It's using my passion and my interest to help involve other people and hopefully find it's their passion as well."