At the start of each season, North Companions FC have a Welcome Day.
It is a chance for young players and their families to meet their coach, grab their new kit and start to build a sense of comfort and happiness within the club.
Club president Steve Mitchell likes to be there at the end of the line to show his face, shake the hand of every young player and welcome them to the Pandas.
At a previous Welcome Day, a young boy, about six or seven years old, stood off to the side of the long line of players and parents waiting to meet Mitchell.
It was like he was waiting for someone.
For almost half an hour the little boy waited until there was a break in the line.
The boy seized his chance. He walked up to the club president and said “Mr Mitchell, thank you for letting me play soccer. I’ll play until I can’t play anymore.”
It is moments like that why Mitchell is honoured and proud to be a volunteer.
“I’m not an emotional guy but that’s the reason you do it,” Mitchell said.
“And it’s a story I tell everyone because it has just stuck with me.”
Northern NSW Football 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.”
Mitchell started volunteering at the Northern Inland Football club when his son joined North Companions as a six-year-old. But his team already had a coach.
From there, Mitchell went to a committee meeting to see how he could help. Within a couple of months he was president.
“When I went down originally I thought I might be able to help mow or whatever I could do,” he said with a laugh.
“I’ve been there for almost five years now. I’ve been able to use some of the skills I’ve learned in business and apply them to help our committee and our club.
“I might technically be the president but over the years I’ve seen my role as encouraging more and more people onto the committee. We’ve got the full amount we are allowed under the constitution now. We’ve got a committee of 14 but we had another three people who were keen to help, so rather than turn them away we gave them something to do.
“In the early days like a lot of people you try and do it all yourself but it doesn’t work. I’m lucky I’ve got a full committee. And that in itself was one of my proudest achievements because we’ve got a full group of committed volunteers, diverse people from all different backgrounds. We’re very lucky.”
As a volunteer Mitchell’s focus is always on the kids. And enjoying being part of a tight-knit community club.
“The way I describe it is we’re a family club,” he said.
“We have people in their 50s playing and also five-year-olds. We’ve got families with three generations playing. It’s a game that all ages can play. And we do it for that reason, to give everyone a game.
“We try not to say no to anyone. We’re not selective as to who comes. We try to include everyone and give everyone a kick.
“At the end of the day, most people come here to play with their mates. And those that don’t can come here and make new mates.”