PEOPLE such as Adrian Cocker are the heartbeat of Southland Football.
Cocker was a hockey player, a code in which he played one game for Southland. He had only played a few games of social football; however, he has been involved as a volunteer in football since the late 1990s.
Cocker began as a spectator when his son Jason began playing for the Old Boys club and a year later, dragged into coaching
He stayed coaching at the club until daughter Hannah finished in 2013.
Cocker’s interest increased when English coach John Herdman came south.
“Without a doubt, he is one of the best Southland and this country has seen,” Cocker said of the man who is now the Canadian men’s coach.
“He inspired me to do as well as I could in the coaching field.
“Herdman started the Spirit Academy, and I and others became Academy coaches.
“When I was with the Spirit Academy I was spending seven days a week on football – they were great times.
“I learnt more and John convinced me to go for my New Zealand Academy coach’s licence and from that I had a couple of stints with the New Zealand Youth Academy which was great learning.”
Cocker spent a year helping with the Southland Spirit side.
After manager Phil Williams moved on, he spent five years managing the side.
“I only missed one game, the very last one after I had booked a holiday to Australia but the season got extended.”
While he was managing the Spirit, he was also coaching youth football.
“I would do my coaching during the week, but on game day I would be there for the first 10 minutes before I had to go to Dunedin with the Spirit, so I relied on the great parents we had.”
Ironically, despite only having played social football, Cocker said when he managed the Spirit his name was on the team sheet each week.
“The sight of my name inspired them not to come off,” he said jokingly.
After the kids stopped playing, I started helping Ken Cresswell with Fun Football.
“Ken left the next year and I have been here ever since.”
On a Saturday he would start at 8am, the children began playing at 9.30am and Cocker “got away” some time after lunch.
One of Cocker’s highlights was the success of two girls he had coached Lauren Mathis, of Gore, and Sammy Murrell, of Invercargill, who went on to make New Zealand teams.
Cocker said for the 2010 World Cup qualification game against Bahrain build-up, Football NZ assembled the All Whites for the game in Wellington.
Lindsay Thomas and Cocker managed to convince Ken and Peter Simonson to take them along as guests for the celebration. “A great time had by all.
Cocker said the people he had met in sport were good people.
“If you get kids into a sport for a few years they are on a good track.
“Parents are the biggest influencers on kids who play sport because they care.
“I love seeing kids playing from a young age, enjoying the game and having fun and the enjoyment their parents get from it all.”
Cocker said Southland Football had been lucky to have had coaches of the calibre of 1982 All Whites Peter Simonsen, Cresswell and Herdman, and currently Ignacio Sande and Luis Paiva.
Cocker also coached at the Oreti Swimming Club and it was a similar story there. “I started with our kids, then it was friends’ kids, now it’s the grandkids,” he said.
“Both my brother and I were brought up to participate in the community and I am giving back what was given to me.”
Away from sport, Cocker was an operations technologist with 3 Waters, part of the Invercargill City Council, dealing with drinking water, stormwater and wastewater.
With the country now at Alert Level 1, Cocker was about to get busy again.
First Kicks for the 4-6 year olds and Fun Football for the 7-8 year olds gets under way on Saturday.
- Any children wanting to play could phone the Southland Football office on 03 217 7900, their local football club or just turn up to Turnbull Thomson Park, Lindisfarne St, at 9am on a Saturday, and ask for Adrian Cocker.