Athletics presidential title kept in the family

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Newly-appointed president of the New Zealand Children’s Athletics Association, Nelson’s Brian Cockeram, won’t have to go far to get good advice about the job that oversees 18,000 young athletes around the country.

Brian was elected as president at last month’s annual general meeting and will serve a two year term in the job after already spending two years as vice-president. But the long-serving official and administrator isn’t the first one in his family to fill the role, with his wife Jan serving as president from 2012 to 2013.

“If I have any problems, I’ll just ask my wife what she would have done,” Brian jokes. “But it shouldn’t be a problem because I’ve been involved in officiating and administration of athletics for a long time – I’m very familiar with the system.”

Brian and Jan first became involved in athletics as competitors in Southland. Brian was a “useful” middle distance runner while Jan was a thrower, with both representing Southland at national championships.

Coaching, officiating and administrating were the next steps for the Cockerams who continued their involvement in the sport when they moved to Nelson in 2002. They now have a combined total of over 80 years of service to athletics and Brian says it’s not over yet.

“I’ve got two years as president and then you do another two years as immediate past president, so by the time I finish it will be a six year commitment,” Brian says. “But we wouldn’t still be doing it if we didn’t enjoy it.”

The next big challenge for the Cockerams and a dedicated army of Nelson parents will be organising the South Island Colgate Games, to be held at Saxton Field Athletics Track in January. Interestingly, Jan was president when the Colgate Games were last held in Nelson in 2012.

Brian says about 1000 athletes will be competing at the three-day games that will require 120 volunteers to ensure they run smoothly. Although it will be Brian’s first Colgate Games as president, he doesn’t expect his role to change. “I’ve been competitive director of the Colgate Games for the last four or five years and will be doing that again. It means I’ll miss out on some of the official president’s duties but that’s not an issue, that sort of thing is not me.”

The Colgate Games, which are a non-selected meeting with a focus on participation for children aged 7-14, have been held for 38 years.