From the moment Cherry Smith was handed a stopwatch in her second week at Peakhurst Swim Club, the now dedicated technical official and volunteer has never sat in the stands since.
Her journey within the swimming community, which dates back to 1991 when her children attended learn to swim classes, has afforded her many opportunities however it’s still the little things that bring the biggest smile to her face.
“I still maintain one of the biggest things I enjoy was going down on a club day and seeing a little six or eight-year-old swim a personal best – it just gives me so much joy to see their little faces,” she said.
“I always come back to those grassroots even though I have been lucky enough to travel all over the world and been given some fantastic opportunities in my time as a FINA referee – it is all about their achievement and the fact you are just a little tiny bit of that journey as they travel up the ranks.”
It’s volunteers like Smith who are celebrated during National Volunteer Week, which began on Monday 18 May and finishes this Sunday 24 May. It’s a special week which recognises around six million Australians who volunteer their time to different causes around the country.
Achieving the status of a FINA referee is no easy feat, but Smith well and truly captured the “bug” of gaining more credentials from those early days at Peakhurst Swim Club in New South Wales.
“After you are there for a while they say, ‘you could make this official and become an official timekeeper and get a credential’, and then you get the bug,” Smith said.
“By this stage you have been there two or three years and you have made a nice social circle with like-minded people and the kids have made friendships with other people there.
“Then you go and you get another credential and you say to yourself, ‘I wouldn’t mind having a go at starting’, so then you get your starting credentials and then you think that you might as well top it off with becoming a referee, so then you get your referees certificate,” Smith laughs.
The next minute more than two decades have passed and Smith can proclaim being selected to referee at the 2018 Commonwealth Games is one of the highlights of her career.
Not only has Smith volunteered as a technical official for more than 20 years, but she has also been the President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary and Meet Director of Peakhurst Swim Club.
“I was the meet director for a very long time and I really enjoyed putting those meets together – it actually led to my role as events manager at Swimming NSW for seven years,” Smith said.
“I know people say, ‘you are spending all your time and your money to be an official and volunteer’, but it is what I like and it is what gives me the greatest enjoyment, I get so much out of it.
“I remember writing an article for Peakhurst many years ago about my journey in swimming and I finished it by saying that I have got more out of Peakhurst than I have ever given them. It is a great thing to volunteer.”
And what would Smith say to those thinking of volunteering?
“I would say if you love the sport and can give your time freely, you will reap the rewards of anything you do as a volunteer.
“That is the bottom line for me, if you are volunteer and you don’t enjoy it then you won’t volunteer, so I look at volunteers across all walks of life and all areas and I think they love what they do and they are getting out of it so much more than they are putting in.”
For more information on how you can get involved and volunteer you time, visit our volunteers page.