For Garry Horner, the desire to volunteer comes from wanting to give back some of the pleasure he has enjoyed during a lifetime in football.
Northern NSW Football (NNSWF) is thanking its 8,000 dedicated, hard-working volunteers that make playing football in our region possible this week as part of National Volunteer Week 2020.
National Volunteer Week, from 18 to 24 May, is an annual celebration which acknowledges the generous contribution of our nation’s volunteers. This year the theme is “Changing Communities. Changing Lives.”
Horner, the president of Hunter Valley Football club Bellbird JFC, enjoyed a distinguished career as a player before moving to the Cessnock area. He said football had been a huge part of his life.
His association with Bellbird started when his two sons began playing for the Bombers about 10 years ago.
“Football has given me a great deal of pleasure. I guess I just wanted to give back some of the pleasure I have received from the game,” Horner said.
“Seeing that smile on the faces of the kids when they score a goal. That’s probably what I love most [about volunteering]. And it’s the same from under-6s through to All Age.
“And just helping out. Just giving back a little bit of what soccer has given me over the years. Participating in the community, making sure our kids are protected and can enjoy the game in a safe, caring, family environment.”
And Horner has found a home at Bellbird. A small, tight-knit community filled with caring people and a passion for football.
“Bellbird is in a fairly low socio-economic area. You’ll see kids that just sometimes don’t get the opportunity to play because maybe their parents can’t afford the rego or to buy boots or their uniform. I keep an eye out for those kids and we’ve got some really generous parents who’ve got some extra gear to give to these kids,” he said.
“We’ve got families that have three or four kids playing at Bellbird. I’d really hate to see a child that would like to play but can’t. I think keeping kids in the neighbourhood off the street and safe by playing a great sport with their mates is really important.
“The people here they pitch in. Without even asking. They just pitch in and help. Obviously clubs find it so difficult without volunteers. And it shows with how much they help our club. I’ve also got a great committee which helps and we always want people to come to us if they’ve got a problem.”
Like many dedicated volunteers, Horner works full-time. With work and family commitments it can sometimes be difficult to juggle volunteering. But Horner said it was a sacrifice worth making.
“Of course it’s hard sometimes,” Horner said with a laugh.
“But people underestimate that smile on the face when kids score a goal. You see those kids running around in the under-5s or 6s, you don’t even see their knees, just their socks pulled up to their shorts and they’re running around in a pack.
“It brings back great memories. You just stand back and look at the excitement of the kids and the parents on the sideline who are kicking every ball with them.
“It’s really good to see. That’s why you make time to put the effort in and why you support your committee and your volunteers and why they support you. At the end of the day, it’s about kids playing football.”
While football will look different this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Horner said he and his club were eager to get back out on the pitch when the time was right.
“As far as Bellbird are concerned we’re keen. It’s not going to be easy. But I’ve been talking to a few parents and we’ve got a lot of our younger players asking when they can play,” Horner said.
“We’ll have to wait and see. We’ve still got a while to go. It’s a very fluid situation at the moment. We’ve got just over 200 players so we’re not a huge club.
“But I know we’ve got a lot of young players who are keen and ready to get out there and play.”
Not sure how you can help on the weekend? Touch base with your club and ask!
Coaching and managing teams
Cleaning hard surfaces
Refilling soap in bathrooms