An EIT | Te Pūkenga ākonga (student) has been selected as one of four international technical officials including the only female, for Volleyball at the Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands.
Mary Kerekere, who is studying a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science and is also Volleyball NZ Referee Development Manager (RDM), says she is excited for the opportunity.
“It is a Godsend because at the moment, the only opportunities that we usually get to travel for our own professional development is if our teams travel to an Asian Championship, which we haven’t been doing in the last two or three years, for a number of reasons.”
She will also have a leadership support role to the Technical Director, and mentor National referees from other pacific countries during the games.
About 5000 athletes, officials, and support staff from 24 nations are set to participate in the Sol2023 Pacific Games and the 24 sports on show. It began on November 19 and will run until December 2, with indoor Volleyball on until November 26.
The 47-year-old first got into Volleyball refereeing less than a decade ago, thanks to her husband, Des Kerekere who is an international referee.
“He has been doing it all, a lot longer than I have. So, Volleyball has always been a part of our lifestyle, whether it’s playing or coaching. It initially started with being Tournament Director for Volleyball New Zealand together at Senior Secondary School Championships, to being just me at all their national competitions.”
“Then through that process, I ended up becoming a national level referee, because it made sense if you’re going to be the Tournament Director, it’s important to know some rules. So, in 2015, I finally sat my accreditation, and then from there, I went on a few trips with our New Zealand teams that go over to Australia for their junior champs. A couple of years down the track, I was invited to attend the next International Referee’s course in Thailand by the RDM at that time (Tim Hulls), and my international pathway began.”
She says she has been able to experience opportunities she otherwise wouldn’t have.
“I’ve been to so many countries that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience. So, it’s been a great experience sharing the love of the sport that I really enjoy. I’ve met so many people and experienced different cultures way of life. It’s been a huge experience that I’m really enjoying.”
Mary is of Samoan and Tokelauan descent and lived most of her life in Wellington, before moving to Hawke’s Bay three years ago with her husband and children.
It was then she found EIT | Te Pūkenga.
“It’s always been a goal of mine to actually earn a degree in something, whether it’s something sport orientated… I started off with physiotherapy, it wasn’t my thing. Started massage therapy, went as far as the first year and completed that.
“But I’ve always wanted to go down this pathway. And I’m involved in the sports industry a lot in different aspects so was thinking about sport and exercise science, thinking about the Pacific Islands and how can I give back to my community? How can I help my family? How can I help the wider Pacific Island community? So, all these kind of things come into my frame of mind of my bigger picture of how I can help.”
Alongside studying part-time, Mary has worked as a Research Assistant for Nourish Hawke’s Bay and recently joined a team providing relief management support at the Student Village. She has to complete a further year of study before she can graduate. However, she is already considering potentially doing a teaching diploma to complement her current degree.
Mary says her experience at EIT | Te Pūkenga has been a long, but very positive one.
“We’ve got some amazing lecturers and support staff in the sports department who are really empathetic and supportive who make an effort to see how you are throughout your studies. And Pacific Student Support team who have also been helpful throughout my time here, which has been fantastic.”
They have also supported her in her Volleyball journey, deferring her exams until she returns at the end of the month.
EIT | Te Pūkenga Executive Director, Student and Academic Services, Jo Blakeley, says Mary’s energy and passion for people and their wellbeing emerged in the first few moments of meeting her.
“I look forward to hearing how the Pacific Games have gone and seeing the volleyball net up in our Student Village this summer.”