You won’t find many elite athletes among the award finalists this year, but what you will find are some pretty incredible community coaches, unsung heroes and amazing initiatives that are growing participation in communities around the Waikato region.
The 2022 Waikato Sport & Active Recreation Awards encouraged nominations from those in the community who go above and beyond to deliver programmes and initiatives that meet the needs of the participant and help create a more active region. 
“We’ve been overwhelmed with a vast range of entries this year, with an outstanding 100 nominations,” said Sport Waikato CEO Matthew Cooper. “And it’s coming through loud and clear that the voice of the participant matters more than ever now – with initiatives, coaches and unsung heroes all working to ensure that they cater to the needs of the people and ensure they have a great experience. This is key to keep people coming back and creating a lifelong love of being active.”
The awards format aligns with Sport Waikato’s partnered strategy, Moving Waikato, and the shift to working at a strategic level to support and grow the capability of those who influence play, active recreation and sport in our region, with the aim to grow participation to at least 75% by 2030. 
Among this year’s finalists there are some really innovative initiatives from around the region; such as Axilia Tricking (South Waikato) – a mixture of martial arts, gymnastics, capoeira and break-dancing - based at Tokoroa High School in the Commitment to Youth Engagement category, Waikato Treasure Chests Dragon Boat Team (Hamilton), a dragon boat team of breast cancer survivors and supporters in the Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion category and children’s dance company ConnectEd Community dance classes (Melville, Hamilton) in the Community Connection category. 
Again this year, there were a high number of outstanding coaches in the Community Coach category, with two finalists from Hamilton, Shervan Heu (Melville Intermediate) and Sandy Schaare (Parafed Waikato), along with Thames Gymsport’s Janet Michewski from Thames Coromandel. Janet’s nomination notes “Janet supports all the gymnasts to have a go, to achieve their goals and to have fun and be active. Janet upholds our clubs commitment to being inclusive, aiming to inspire, develop and challenge kids of all ages and skill levels.”
The Commitment to Youth Engagement category was flooded with entries this year, and alongside Axilia Tricking from South Waikato, Parafed Waikato Youth Group (Hamilton) and Te Awamutu Boxing Academy were also judged finalists. 
Community Unsung Heroes was a popular category again this year, with all nominees so worthy of their nomination. This year’s finalists – (Andrew Langman, Athletics; Kerry Rennie, Netball and Sean Stringfellow, football) all hail from various parts of the Waipa district, including Te Awamutu and Cambridge. Kerry Rennie’s nominee said “The culture within Cambridge netball has changed for the better with one of Kerry's main goals being to create inclusiveness within the local community and increase participation numbers. This has resulted in teams participating within the Year 0-8 Future Ferns programme through to secondary schools and Open Premier level representative netball.”
Nominations have all been judged again this year by local judges from the sector – athlete, disability sport advisor and Sky Sport presenter Honey Hireme-Smiler, commentator and Waikato radio broadcaster Graeme ‘Mintie’ Mead and Waikato River Trails General Manager Glyn Wooller. The judges said this year’s nominations were difficult to judge, and there were so many worthy of top placings for the incredible work they do around the region. 
The finalists are:
Community Connection Award: Those people or organisations that develop programmes that create connection and a great experience for its members or participants. 

Sport & Active Recreation Partnership Award: Two or more organisations working together to achieve a physical activity outcome goal.
Outstanding Active Space Initiative: Any programme or initiative that's held in a space such as community halls, parks, gullies, rivers - wherever a space has been used to help people be active.
Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion: Programmes or initiatives that are aimed at (for example) women/girls, ethnic minority groups, disability or cultural/religious groups to enable those people to be more active.
Community Unsung Hero:  Those unpaid, unsung heroes/volunteers that have made a real difference in the last 12 months to an initiative or organisation.
Community Coach: A community coach who creates positive team culture, provides a great experience and encourages fair play and commitment to Balance is Better/Good Sports principles.
Commitment to Youth Engagement: Those people or programmes who support young people (0-24), and help to grow the numbers of young people being more active. 
Congratulations to every person and initiative that was nominated this year – we value and acknowledge all the incredible work you do to keep our communities active. 
Finalists will be published on Sport Waikato social media channels, and you can view all nominations at
Finalists and their supporters are invited to a special event on Thursday 26th January 2023 in Hamilton where winners will be announced. 

2022 Waikato Sport & Active Recreation Awards - FINALISTS ANNOUNCED! 

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