They say it takes a village to raise a child.
But what happens when that child gets selected together with 16 other talented young men and asked to represent his country on the world stage halfway across the world?
Well, then it takes a community to raise a team.
The Junior Black Sox finished their recent campaign in Canada at the World Championships with bronze medals hung around their necks.
While that medal represents where they finished in the tournament, it’s also a reminder of the hundreds, if not thousands of hours of training and fundraising that went into just getting there too.
The training at their local clubs for years from volunteer coaches who hoped to instil the same passion they felt for the game into those they were teaching.
The fundraising of supportive friends, family and even strangers who wanted to give someone a chance to live their dream at the highest level.
And to raise this team even further, a support crew of over 100 pulled out the NZ flags and black face paint and flew all the way over to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan to scream at the top of their lungs to let them know they were with them on the other side of the world too.
Softball NZ CEO Tony Giles said after the tournament he was in awe of the dedication there was to support the team.
“I’m very humbled to be part of an organisation that has 100 New Zealanders leave our shores to support the boys.
“What an incredible feat.”
But it wasn’t just recognised after the final out was made in Canada.
Tobias Makisi said after delivering a two-RBI double in his pinch hit against the Czech Republic early in the tournament, knowing he had support in the stands gave him extra drive.
“I’ve got mum and dad, my two brothers and my auntie,” the Wellington catcher said.
“It’s good to know the support is behind you and when you see their faces there, it reminds you who you’re doing it for and you just want to go out there and crush it.”
Softball remains very much a community-driven sport in this country but our love for this game is apparent no matter where we are – at an under 11s club or in a World Championship playoff, and to see that it can continue to create amazing players and results is a testament to all those in it.
Looking forward, the White Sox have just touched down in Japan for their World Championship campaign and even after receiving funding from High Sport New Zealand, fundraising still gave them that extra push they needed to get over there and give it their all.
So while it may not seem like a lot purchasing the raffle tickets, keep helping these teams realise their dreams.
You’re not just raising funds in doing so.
You’re raising a team.