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Sport volunteers high in demand

Kuranui College is desperate for a large number of people to assist with sports, due to the growth in the school’s teams having “outstripped” their volunteer base, and there’s now a risk that many students won’t be able to play.

“No coaches and managers mean our students will miss out on the 2024 season,” an appeal video recently distributed by the school has stated.

With more than 100 students signed up for football, there’s a need for seven football coaches and nine managers, while there are also vacant positions for two basketball coaches, one mixed hockey coach and manager, and one coach for the under-15 rugby team.

Kuranui sports director Kim Whiteman told the Times-Age there are a number of contributing factors that have led to the volunteer downturn.

Since covid-19, Whiteman said, volunteer numbers have dropped because people are enjoying fewer commitments and have taken up different interests.

Also, in the current economic climate, people increasingly can’t afford to take time off work to coach.

“We have had some long-term coaches retire, and parents who have given many years move on after their family’s time at the school ends,” Whiteman said.

She has also observed a tendency for parent coaches to fall at the secondary school level because their children don’t want them to be involved any longer, or the parents feel as though they lack the necessary skills needed by a college level team.

Another barrier is the uncertainty about what is expected of volunteers in terms of “competition timing” as well as “formats not being confirmed in all sports”.

Whiteman noted another factor is fewer teachers with less capacity because of growing demands, in addition to a “movement” away from weekend sports and the unavailability of training facilities narrowing the window of options.

Since issuing the campaign video, she said, Kuranui has managed to fill one manager and has received enquires from three people about coaching.

Wairarapa Secondary School Sports director Kerewai Tatana said the need for volunteers has increased compared to previous years.

“It’s getting more and more obvious, which puts a load on sports coordinators and directors,” she said.

Tanana said Wairarapa schools are facing an increased need for volunteers at the same time that other sports organisations are experiencing similar needs.

She believes there are many reasons for the growing shortfall, including inflation and rising travel costs.

“We are very isolated, which means travelling can be at the expense of the volunteer.”

Volunteer trends in community responses have also shown poor attitudes and a lack of resilience if treated poorly, Tanana said.

It’s not just voluntary involvement in school sports teams that has taken a hit.

According to Volunteering New Zealand communications manager Margaret McLachlan, covid-19 has negatively impacted other volunteer organisations with a squeezed ability for service delivery, resulting in programme suspensions and loss of volunteers.

“Organisations that have good volunteer management practices and who offer flexibility in the ways people can volunteer will likely experience an increase in volunteer numbers,” she said.

“Funding declines are likely to affect volunteer numbers.”

McLachlan said Volunteer NZ’s 2021-22 research showed that sport and recreation organisations during the pandemic suffered a funding decline of 56 per cent – among the highest fall overall across all sectors.

“While volunteers give their time freely, it requires resources to manage volunteers and programmes,” she said.

“A welcoming, inclusive and accessible volunteering environment will be conducive to attracting and retaining a diversity of volunteers,” Volunteering New Zealand chief executive Michelle Kitney added.

Stats NZ’s most recent data about the volunteer sector – from the 2018 Non-Profit Institutions Satellite Account report – indicated that the largest cluster of community organisations 44.8 per cent – are involved in culture, sport, and recreation.

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