When Nicky Irving‘s children finish their school day they know to head to the netball courts to find mum – a volunteer who lives, eats and breathes the game.
The Ngatea Junior Netball Club President is one of the first to be at the courts and one of the last to leave during the season as she squeezes in roles including the junior co-ordinator, game development lead, setting up futureFerns programmes and co-ordinating the Centre’s annual ‘Have a Go’ day which attracts almost 400 local primary school children.
Irving said she finds it difficult to switch off from netball as she continually strives to give as many children as possible an opportunity to play.
“It’s one of those roles, where if I see something that’s going to make it more fun, or give kids more opportunities, then I’m actively pursuing it and making it happen,” she said.
“To be honest, I will take a month off after the season and not think about netball. But after that I am back into evaluating and planning the next season or event.”
Looking back on the experiences and opportunities she was given in sport growing up was the catalyst for Irving to give back to her community – eight years since taking on her first role as a futureFerns co-ordinator for Year 1 and 2 she is still going strong.
“To be honest, at the start of the season I ask myself if I have the energy to do this again. But as soon as I am out there with the kids on court that is all forgotten,” she said.
“Working with the kids and just watching them have fun just cements exactly why I volunteer and keep coming back.”
With her own children involved in sport, Irving said it was an obvious step to put her hand up as a volunteer in netball as well as at school and in other community roles.
“I will volunteer to be involved with my kids, with my kids’ friends, my friends, and my community. It is really satisfying knowing that you have contributed to someone having a great experience,” she said.
“I get such a buzz from seeing kids have fun – how can that not make you smile. I know that some parents just are not able to be there to watch their children play sports or be able to go away with their kids on a school trip. It is a real privilege to be able to be involved with your children and their experiences.”
Looking back at her first year with the futureFerns programme, Irving believes she has come a long way and continues to learn new things every year.
“Every season, every week there is something to learn, or find a better way of doing something, thinking of what works or doesn’t, or having the courage to be creative and make it fun for the kids – I’m always learning.”
Irving said it was the connections she made with others and the shared experiences that ensured she kept coming back and with three primary school girls playing the sport in her family, she expects to clock up a few more hours in a volunteer role.
“It’s not hard work when you’re passionate about what you do.”