A DRIVING force in the Inverell business and sporting community has been recognised for her efforts.
Nicky Lavender was named volunteer of the year at the Northern Inland Academy of Games awards night.
She has supported the netball coaches as team manager over the past two years.
In that time, she has helped the players and parents navigate their way through COVID-19 challenges while helping the coaches prepare the team to play at a higher level.
"It (the award) was very much a surprise and not something you expect," Lavender said.
"There is a lot of really good managers in a lot of sports, so it's great to be recognised among them."
Lavender is no stranger to the New England region.
She is currently a councillor in Inverell and past president of the local chamber of commerce.
Her daughter Tara is in the NIAS netball program while Nicky was president of the Inverell Netball Association.
She said her and the coaches do all they can to make sure kids from regional areas are afforded the same opportunities as their city counterparts.
"We run a pre-elite level program which has a clear pathway with Netball NSW," Lavender said.
"My role as a manager is to make sure the athletes and parents are aware of those opportunities that exist.
"The regional academies are an important part of the Netball NSW program.
"We need to make sure they feel comfortable competing at the next level.
"That's things like turning up on time and being where they need to be, so they're not a step behind when they get there."
"It's an amazing group we work with and that makes a big difference.
"When we went away for the Academy Netball challenge and there were Super Netball coaches on the sideline doing talent identification."
"Without NIAS and people promoting regional sport then those opportunities don't exist for our kids."
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