Over the next few months, sports reporter Jonty Dine is putting the spotlight on our off-field superstars. These people work tirelessly to make sport in our region happen – without trophies or medals to recognise their efforts.
Chris Shand’s Saturday’s have had a familiar look over the past 20 winters.
While most of us were enjoying a weekend sleep-in, Chris and his son were setting up the fields at Greenmeadows with the frost on the grass yet to melt.
From there, he would arrange food for the after match, coach up to two junior teams before watching the seniors play, packing up the ground and feeding the players.
Chris has worn almost every hat available within the Stoke Club.
He has coached every grade from U6’s to U21’s, has been on the committee for 20 years, the junior club captain for 10 and president for 3 years/.
Chris joined the club in the late 1990s after being taken along to Greenmeadows to watch a game and he has been a regular fixture ever since.
The incomparable passion he shows for the game is driven by seeing kids succeed in the sport.
Chris has helped shape the careers of current Super Rugby stars including Quinten Strange, Tom and James Marshall, Ethan Blackadder, Mitch Drummond and Mitch Hunt during his 22 years coaching the Nelson under 52Kg Seddon Shield side.
His tireless efforts are driven by his desire to see young players grow.
“My big driver is seeing the development of kids – kids in sport stay out of court.”
His influence is not forgotten by players.
“When you walk down the street and have a kid you coached 10 years ago come up and start talking to you, that’s always a highlight.”
He says his coaching philosophy has always been enjoyment is the key.
“We want them to learn and develop, but they have to enjoy it.”
Out of all the players to have gone onto higher honours, when asked who showed the most potential as a junior, Chris didn’t hesitate.
He says during a Seddon Shield trip to Greymouth, Mitch Drummond demonstrated his commitment to the game.
“The kids were all running around and playing pool but Drummy was just focussed on the Ranfurly Shield game on TV, oblivious about everything else, that summed him up.”
Illustrating his longevity was a recent run-in with a former mentee.
“I was helping out with an U8 side and one of the parents came up and told me I coached him too, I thought then I might be getting a bit old for this,” he jokes.
Another highlight on Chris’ calendar is the annual Mike’s Sevens tournament, held at Greenmeadows.
Starting in 1996 with 20 under-seven teams, it has evolved right through to under 10s, with players coming from all over New Zealand for the prestigious tournament.
To help accommodate the influx of 2000 players and parents, Chris arrives at the ground before 6am and won’t leave till after 5pm.
“It’s a huge day, but it’s great and still very competitive, you see six-year-old’s out there as if they are playing for their life.”
Of course, this kind of dedication would not be possible if not for his “incredibly supportive wife”.
“I am very lucky to have her.”
Chris says the friendships he has made with everyone associated with the game will keep him coming back.
“As long as I can, I’ll be here. Stoke is part of my life.”