Living a life of service

To mark National Volunteer Week we focus on the selfless and tireless work of one of New Zealand’s leading officials Craig Hoskin (pictured far left).


It is the Hoskins’ way to serve, so it is perhaps little surprise that family patriarch, Craig, has upheld the philosophy to play a worthy role within the volunteer sector of canoe sprint racing.


Introduced to the sport through his daughter’s, Courtney and Alicia, the latter of whom is a current member of the New Zealand women’s elite squad – their energetic father, a former provincial middle-distance runner and now avid cyclist/multisporter, was quick to offer his services at the Poverty Bay Kayak Club.


“I’m a restless person, and I tend to get bored sitting and watching a three-day regatta,” explains Craig, who has previously served in several volunteer roles including  committee member and handicapper for the Gisborne Cycling Club, Managing cycling teams for Gisborne Girls High, and sitting on the New Zealand Secondary Schools Cycling committee. “I wanted to make sure I was involved, not to add something to my CV, but to show that I was investing as much into the sport as my kids were receiving from others. My natural default position is to serve, so that others can benefit in their pursuit of being the best that they can be.”


Craig started out helping by transporting trailers for the paddlers at the Poverty Bay Kayak Club before later moving to the club committee. However, over time it quickly became apparent that there was a need for more volunteers within Canoe Racing NZ.


CRNZ Events Manager Karen Simpson-Warren became aware of Craig’s background as an IT Manager and he was put to task in the roles of video capture and video analysis at the Blue Lake regattas in Rotorua and at the National Championships.


Later – alongside his wife, Toni, a familiar voice as an announcer at Canoe Racing NZ events, he completed his national officials qualification before he was invited to complete his International Technical Officials qualification in China in October 2017


“I was motivated to take on the qualification to help New Zealand progress,” he explains. “For New Zealand to run the Oceania, Asia Pacific and other continental-level regattas we need more certified ITO’s. It was a recognition that to keep growing the sport we need to have more Kiwi officials who can apply the rules to a good standard. The travel benefits were almost secondary.”


Craig’s first overseas officiating experience came at the 2016 Oceania Championships/Grand Prix 2 in Adelaide, and then again in Sydney in 2018, before he served in boat control/race control at the 2018 European Championships in Serbia. Last year he continued his international officiating journey by serving as a starter at the 2019 British Championships in Nottingham.


The overseas travel may not be the primary motivation for Craig but there is little doubt experiencing some “amazing places” is a huge perk.


Last year on his way to the British Championships he was also able to watch his daughter Alicia reach the women’s K2 500m A Final alongside Caitlin Ryan at the World Championships in Szeged – and while having do so at his own expense this was a far more accessible option as he was already in Europe.


Craig, the chief official at this year’s 2020 New Zealand Canoe Sprint Championships and 2019 Blue Lakes regattas, says the unpaid volunteer role is far from glamorous. A lot of his annual leave is sucked up by travelling around New Zealand and the world to officiate. Being an official at events also means having to sometimes soak up a fair share of disappointment from aggrieved competitors, coaches and team managers.


However, he insists the positives far outweigh the negatives and that being given the opportunity to be up close and personal to world-class sporting action is a major attraction.


“As a former runner I would have given anything to have been trackside holding a tape measure or a stopwatch to have witnessed Sir John Walker or Sir Peter Snell win Olympic gold,” he says. “To be potentially able to observe firsthand a team led by Lisa Carrington is very special and means I can be there for what will be a very significant period in New Zealand sporting history.”


So does his future aspirations include officiating at a major event where his daughter, Alicia, is also present?


“When I first started out as an ITO it was in the back of my mind, and it was a pretty cool thought,” he admits. “But what needs to be remembered is that as an official at big overseas meets you see very little of the competition. So if you want to see your son or daughter perform on the highest stage – don’t become an official! I just hope to continue to do what I can in our continental competitions and if other opportunities arise like a Junior World Champs, World Cups, I’ll put my hand up. That motivation to officiate at an Olympics is not there anymore unless, of course, my daughter does not compete!”