Great support makes Southland sport's future bright

On Friday night I was fortunate to play host at the annual Southland Secondary School Sports Awards.

Southland's 15 secondary schools recognised their classes of 2012 across a large number of sportspeople, participation, contribution and volunteer categories.

I was struck by a couple of things during the evening. Firstly, the opportunities these youngsters have to participate and perform in a huge number of sports.

That's down to the brilliant work our schools, our sporting clubs and our regional sporting organisations provide for Southlanders.

So often we in sport get caught up in the minute details and day-to-day struggles of our lives in sport, without stepping back and, even briefly, recognising the great work that goes on in our province every week of the year.

Friday night provided another example of the role the humble volunteer plays in this picture. There are thousands upon thousands of volunteers who give their time so selflessly - not for money, not for glory but because they are passionate about the kids, their school and their sport.

There is no better example than our just-completed PowerNet Tour of Southland or our recent hosting of the UCI Juniors Track World Championships.

Around these two events alone, there were about 12,000 hours volunteered. Put it in dollar terms that is a volunteer staff input of close to $250,000 and that's just during the events themselves, let alone the countless hours spent in preparation for large-scale events like these.

In many respects, it's easier to recognise this contribution around events while the week-to-week contribution can sometimes tend to go unnoticed.

However, it is literally the blood that pumps through Southland sport's veins.

As the end of another year approaches, every sport - including Cycling Southland - owes another huge debt of gratitude to that passionate group of people who keep our organisations going through their unwavering passion and enthusiasm.

It was wonderful to see a handful get worthy recognition on Friday night. Reading out the lists of achievements on an international, national and regional level by those nominated for awards on Friday across a hugely diverse range of sports, proves again what a future Southland sport has.

Like many sports, cycling was well represented with Southland Boys' High School's Josh Carpenter continuing cycling's fine tradition of a sixth-successive Junior Boys Sportsperson of the Year award.

Kate Dunlevey, Jeremy Presbury, Michael Culling and Josh Haggerty were all nominated as senior finalists and they are showing no signs of slowing down.

Presbury, Culling and Haggerty will be joined by Laura Heywood in BikeNZ's U19 squad for the Oceania Track Champs in Adelaide at the end of this month, while Eddie Dawkins, Matt Archibald, Pieter Bulling, Cam Karwowski, Natasha Hansen and Sequoia Cooper have all made the Elite squad.

Add Culling and Haggerty's selections in the BikeNZ Road Development squad along with Central Otago's Liam Aitcheson and Georgia Vessey and there is plenty to look forward to.

If Friday night's awards were a look into the sporting future, ours could not be more promising.

The Southland Times