Sports co-ordinator still hard at it
28 Apr 2017
Karen Gillum-Green has a five-year plan.
Details of that plan are secondary for the New Plymouth Girls' High School sports co-ordinator. It's what is at the end of it that matters.
"I'll be retiring at the end of it," she says.
While the thought brings a broad smile to her face, the reality might be a fairly sizeable adjustment.
That's because Gillum-Green defines the word busy.
As well as her fulltime job, she practically runs Egmont Athletics in her role as president, a position she has held for 26 years. She also coaches countless athletes in a stable that includes rising stars like Hannah O'Connor and Angus White.
She loves it, too.
Gillum-Green has been involved in athletics ever since she was old enough to compete for the Kaponga Athletics Club, like all of her six siblings.
It's that involvement that probably helped her get the job of sports co-ordinator when the position was established more than two decades ago.
"I think I must have been one of the first sports co-ordinators. I had no qualifications but I love athletics and I love sport.
"You just had to be personable and because I was involved in committees I knew about structure and paper trails."
The job then is very different to what it is now. For starters, the initial hours of work were supposed to only be 18 hours of week, although truth be told it was always much more than that.
She now does 30 paid hours but happily does more.
"Most co-ordinators are passionate about sport and don't want the kids to miss out so they do more. I'm really lucky the school supports me to do that."
When she started she was inputting all the fees the girls were paying for their sport, a bit like a cashier, she says, while she was also organising all their sports uniforms and sports trips.
"It grew rapidly. It just outgrew me especially if there was no teachers to take a team, it landed on the sports co-ordinator. It was just chaos."
As more and more schools opted to employ co-ordinators more and more sports became available for the students to play.
"You had to be diverse because the old traditional sports weren't enough anymore. The whole thing just went 'wow' and it's just awesome. As generations came through they just didn't want rugby, netball, basketball or hockey, they wanted something different.
"You also had to have options for those students who weren't as active. We see a lot more bigger kids come through school and in order to get them active you have to get them involved in a passive sport."
Now joined by another sports co-ordinator at the school, Gillum-Green organisers the majority of the Girls' High teams involved in Taranaki Secondary Schools Sports Association events.
That involves plenty of safety action plans, a topic it's best not to get her started on.
It's the interaction with the girls she enjoys the most and it will be that she misses at the end of that five-year plan.
Out of school, it's the athletics that keeps her most busy.
"It's where my love of sport came from, my mum and dad. They were real givers, traditional people who supported what their kids were doing and sport was a normal thing to do, like getting up in the morning and having breakfast, it's just what you did."
Her involvement with the Egmont Athletics Club followed her return to Taranaki 32 years ago.
She's delighted that the club continues to have a strong foothold, delights in club nights at the TET Stadium and thrives on the potential of athletes like O'Connor and White.
"I have a real trouble with saying no to someone who wants coaching. I have had so much knowledge passed on to me I have to pass it on. It would be so wrong to just keep it to myself.
"If I only help one or two people who pass it on then the legacy continues. People have got to learn to give back."
That's what she intends to do even more when she does get her gold card because she desperately wants to do more coaching.