by Malcolm McCutcheon
There are few sports in Nelson where the number of volunteers is greater than the spectators cheering or athletes competing.
Competitive swim racing is one of them.
At any given swim meet there are over 130 parent volunteers giving their weekend to support the Nelson Neptunes Swim Club.
Each volunteer fills a role in stopwatch timing, as an on deck stoke and turn official, registering swimmers, uploading race results, handing out refreshments to volunteers, or marshalling swimmers into their lanes and starting blocks.
“Basically without volunteers there would not be a club, and therefore I wouldn’t be able to have such a wonderful summer job. It’s incredible to see that so many volunteers step up to allow these swim meets to happen for their kids,” said Neptunes head coach Cynthia Pfeiffer.
Like many volunteers in sports parents become involved because their child is participating, and that is no different for Neptune’s Swim Club President Paul Cowan.
Giving upwards of six hours a week as part of the board of directors, Cowan is responsible for anything from updating the website to communicating with the regional board and families for fundraising events.
“The executives of the team are all volunteer parents who put tremendous hours into keeping the club running. They don’t just hire the coaches and make us do everything either; they support our decisions and help with planning of events,” said Pfeiffer.
Although the sport of swimming tends to be individually based there is not only a team of swimmers, but also a team of volunteers supporting one another.
“I think it’s the camaraderie of the sport itself, swimming is a funny sport in that it’s an individual as well as a team sport. The real goal of the swimmer is to improve their personal time and if they do well then they accumulate points for the team,” said Cowan.
The impact a parent volunteer has on a child can be large, and it also shows they care about their child’s sport.
“I think they get a sense of ‘wow mom and dad really care about us. They’re involved in not just me but in what I do, and this takes a whole lot more than just a swimmer to have a swim meet’,” said Cowan.
The Neptunes Swim Club is more than a competitive swim team. At meets it becomes a family with every parent cheering on every swimmer.
“It’s a real sense of family amongst the swim teams in this region and I think that’s what draws people to it. Once you get into that you feel a sense of belonging and want to step up and help out,” said Cowan.
This three part series has just barely begun to explore the vast number of sporting organizations in Nelson with massive volunteer bases supporting them.
Every sport has its own unique role for a parent volunteer.
For some the job of volunteer means raking the infield, for others it means holding a stopwatch at a swim meet, and for others it’s manning the concession booth at Lakeside Park — it’s all part of the job.
No matter what the task, parents give their time for the love of sport. They seek no gratification, they do it because they care. In the end, the only recognition they seek is the smiles on the faces of the hundreds of athletes they support.