As a volunteer for the Wellington Phoenix, Stephanie Evett has the best of both worlds; being able to give back to her community as well as playing a part in the success of her hometown football club.
25-year-old Stephanie began volunteering for the club at the start of last season, after being a huge Phoenix fan for many years – even being crowned ‘Fan of the Year’ four years ago in recognition of her outstanding support of the team.
Her role as a match day volunteer is diverse. On the day of the match, she’ll be either in the bowels of Sky Stadium or on the field, doing everything from handing out accreditations, looking after VIPs, overseeing the ball kids, flag bearers and mini-football kids, and generally helping people get to the right place at the right time.
Stephanie says she had the idea of volunteering for the Phoenix, as a way to give back to the club that she’d supported for so long.
“Beyond the football itself, I saw all the things the Phoenix did in the community and I wanted to help and be part of that, because it really makes a difference to people.”
Stephanie had previously volunteered for Girl Guides and at her church, but her experiences with the Phoenix were on a different level.
“It’s hard work at times but it also gives you the opportunity to experience things that many people can’t – like standing on the side lines, right up close to the players, during a match in the stadium -and it’s amazing to look up at the crowd and see everyone enjoying themselves.
“I remember in the first season I used to hand free flags out to the young fans and I’d see the smiles on their faces – it was cool to be able to brighten up a kid’s day with something as simple as a flag.”
In addition to the match day experience, volunteering for the Phoenix has had other benefits for Stephanie as well.
“I’ve gotten to meet new friends, made great relationships with the other vollies and staff; and it feels good to help out and get to know the club better with a different, behind the scenes views of everything they do.
“It’s also bought my confidence up and I just love that excited feeling of when game day comes around, I’m always like ‘yay its game day!’ and I really look forward to it.
“It’s never a bad moment really, you come back as a volunteer because you enjoy it, and I do – in fact I enjoy it more than working, but it doesn’t pay the bills!”
This season Stephanie was able to travel with the Phoenix team to their two ‘home’ matches at Auckland’s Eden Park. It’s during matches like these, that she also has an added appreciation for the Nix players and their willingness to engage.
“The players are great and they always takes time out to speak with us and share their game day experience with us as volunteers – win or lose – and Stevie (Taylor) and Louis (Fenton) in particular take time out to make sure we’re having a good time.”
Stephanie recommends volunteering to anyone who is keen to open themselves up to new experiences.
“If you’re keen to volunteer, go for it – it’s definitely an eye opener, you learn a lot more things about yourself and the world and it’s a really good way to give back.
I’m keen to stick it out as a volunteer as long as the club is around.”
Stephanie is one of over 30 volunteers who are part of the Wellington Phoenix football club, assisting either on match day or with the running of the club’s community programmes and activation events.