According to Jamie Milne, the Community Development Manager of New Zealand Football (NZF), “volunteers are the heartbeat of sport.” This statement certainly holds true for New Zealand Football, as the organisation gears up to honour local volunteers behind the scenes, who are the true unsung heroes behind the organisation.
As Dave Armstrong put it in one of his articles for the Dominion Post, it’s the volunteers of this world who make our sports tick. Whether players are in for the win, or just doing for the fun of it, nothing brings people together like a game of sport, and the volunteers of the local football clubs experience real opportunities to transform their own lives and touch others’ lives. Jamie Milne, who has been working with Volunteering New Zealand for the development of a strong community of volunteers, says that he is the luckiest person to have his job. His reasoning is that there are so many great stories from the volunteers: From the parents who gained the confidence to return to the workforce, to seasoned players who stay connected as a coach after serious injuries, there are innumerable instances of people who “live, laugh, and share” every moment of their time with NZF.
NZF is the national association for football in New Zealand with seven Federations and numerous local clubs. The organisation is affiliated to FIFA, and is working towards the goal of being “leaders in sport and making our sport accessible for volunteers from diverse communities,” Milne says. Each local club recruits its own community of volunteers who work from the grassroots level to support the day-to-day running of a national organisation. These local clubs draw dedicated followings, with some members staying up to 25 years at the same club, or more.
For NZF, a volunteer’s passion is more important than their knowledge or experience. Diversity is also highly important for NZF, and the organisation is actively encouraging its members to adopt open-minded strategies when it comes to recruiting volunteers. Although the number of female coaches is increasing, NZF’s goal is to push the statistics further and make coaching accessible to wider members of society. To create a more inclusive environment, NZF also works in partnership with key organisations such as Volunteering New Zealand, Sport New Zealand, Crown Entities / Government Agencies, NGO’s and various ethnic agencies.
To recognise the invaluable contribution of local volunteers, NZF is launching a special campaign as part of National Volunteer Week. Between 18th and 24th of June, NZF will be sharing a series of posts on its social media channels, profiling active supporters of clubs nationwide, and taking a moment to thank their contribution. There are 70 petrol vouchers to be given to its volunteers. Each Federation will award ten volunteers based on written recommendations they receive. Further details about this campaign will be made available on NZF’s official channels.
National Volunteer Week is an opportunity for NZF to express their gratitude for the volunteers’ time and effort. Due to the size of the organisation, NZF faces many difficulties acknowledging individual volunteers. However, going beyond the Week, NZF is working towards building a greater support and recognition system for its network of volunteers. For more information about the National Volunteer Week, and ideas about how to get involved, visit http://www.nationalvolunteerweek.nz/
— Hely Kim is a volunteer for the National Volunteer Week campaign. She has a passion for the Arts, and media-based storytelling. She is completing her BA Honours at Victoria University.