Volunteers are the lifeblood of our communities. The North Otago Sports Bodies Association is recognising people doing great things behind the scenes to help their sports. Kayla Hodge catches up with North Otago Netball president Sonya McDonald.
Q Tell me how you became involved in netball, Sonya.
My parents were very supportive of me and my brother’s sports when we were young, but they did make sure we at least played one team sport, as they wanted us to be involved in a team environment of some sort. My friends played so I wanted to play. I started skills and playing netball at the age of 5.
Q Growing up you played representative netball for North Otago and Otago. Tell me about those experiences.
I’ve learnt so much from playing representative sport over the years, and meeting so many different people through this journey are the memories I really treasure. I certainly learned from a young age if I wanted the court time or to be selected for the next game I had to work very hard as there was someone the same wanting that spot as badly as me. This taught me resilience, which has certainly helped me with everyday life.
Q How have you seen netball develop in North Otago from when you first started playing and to now?
I guess the biggest change is the environment we now live in is so different compared to back then. People’s working lives are so different to what they used to be. People are so busy and don’t have the weekends, like our families used to back then, to play, coach and volunteer to help develop our sport. Recently we have seen Covid-19 affect our seasons, so getting development programmes in place and then being able to roll it out to plan has been very challenging. We have certainly noticed with the lack of play and skills over the past couple of years, our netball community has been affected. This certainly can be fixed, fingers crossed for an uninterrupted season.
Q So then, what led you to become involved in North Otago Netball?
I always remember all the ladies that made netball happen for me when I was young. It’s now my turn to turn up and help make netball happen for the new generation. Over the years I have played, coached, and been a committee member of my club, but the last three years I have been the president of North Otago Netball. There is a great group on the executive of North Otago Netball, who are all committed to making our netball the best it can be.
Q What has been your proudest moment so far?
I’m not sure I really have one? To have completed our season this year was fantastic. With the last couple of seasons being so frustrating with Covid-19 and wet weather. Although the weather did its best to ruin this season, we got there.
Q It’s been a tough couple of years for netball, battling through Covid and rain. What stands out to you about the resilience shown by the clubs and committee?
Very proud of our committee as they turned up every week ready with plans A, B and C, and our netball community being ready for any plan we put in place to get some fantastic netball, whether it was played outside or inside.
Q Are there any areas you would like to see more development in?
There is always room for development, and each year we do our best to keeping moving with where netball is headed and offering opportunities for all our netball community to be involved in, while still pushing to be the best we can be.
Q Why was it important for you to give back to the sport?
I actually believe everyone should give back. Volunteers are a dying breed, which is a real shame, as without these amazing people, events, sports and so on, do not happen, and this ends up affecting our new generation coming through. Giving back is very rewarding when you see all the hard work come together.
Q With the arrival of the Waitaki Event Centre, what impact do you see that having on netball?
This centre would be huge for our sport and our community. We would be able to move netball away from a Saturday, and work in with our other sports in the community, which means more people playing our sport at the end of the day. Being able to host tournaments would bring so many people to our town. They spend money in our town which is huge for our community. Being in Oamaru, we are central in the South Island making our community a very attractive place to come to for events, functions, and so on. Not having to travel every tournament. To have these here at our back door would be amazing. This centre wouldn’t just suit netball, it would be a game changer for our community. Pity this facility wasn’t built years ago, but fully support this to come sooner than later.
Q Aside from netball, what else have you been involved in?
Over my lifetime I have ridden horses competitively, played netball, played touch, and rowed. My eldest son did competitive swimming. I was involved with his swimming for 10 years from volunteering, being on the committee, to being president of the Oamaru Swim Club. At the same time giving back to netball. I do fit a full-time job in there too, plus try to keep myself fit by pushing my limits at CrossFit.