New gym named for a special man
A new work-out gym at Northland College has been named after a Kaikohe man who has dedicated more than four decades of his life to helping Mid North youth through sport.
The James Lawrence (Jimbob) Strength and Conditioning Gym includes weights, benches, exercycles, 10 state-ofthe-art exercise machines and other equipment.
Speaker after speaker at the opening ceremony praised Mr Lawrence’s commitment, practical skills and bottomless sporting knowledge.
Bill Parangi recalled the first piece of advice he was given as a new parent at the school, looking to get involved in kids’ activities: “If you want to know anything about sport, just ask Jimbob”.
“When I met him I thought he was a grumpy old bugger, but that’s just his exterior. You find out his heart is bigger than his body,” he said.
Mr Parangi, now the head of guidance at Kaitaia College, said if he became half the man Mr Lawrence was he would have achieved a great deal.
Mr Lawrence joined Northland College in 1975, and was head of PE until 2016. He was also involved after-hours in almost every code at the Lindvart Park sports complex, including netball, soccer, basketball, volleyball and softball.
For decades he marked out the town’s sports fields and was the pool caretaker. The new workout gym has been named after long-time PE teacher James (Jimbob) Lawrence.
Now, about to turn 74, he has stepped back from many of his volunteer roles, but is still involved in soccer, and still works as the college sports coordinator, with no plans of retiring.
“This keeps me going,” he said, although he was almost lost for words after the tributes paid to him during the gym opening ceremony.
“I’m a humble person, I just did it as my job . . . If you can get kids involved in sport, hopefully you can keep them out of trouble and put them on a career pathway,” he said.
Past students who had succeeded on a world stage included Taal Smith (NZ softball rep), Cheryl Waaka (double World Cup-winning Black Fern) and Danielle Smith (world champion boxer).
Meanwhile the gym equipment was funded by profits from the school farm, which has 500ha in dairy, forestry and ma¯nuka for honey. Committee member Suzanne Brocx said the farm made $40,000 in 2018, the first time it had returned a profit in years, and the gym was just one of several projects that would benefit.
“The school can’t necessarily afford things like the gym, so to be able to give back to the college is awesome,” she said.
Other speakers at the opening included head boy Addalicent Croft-Haenga, head girl Ruahine Kea, new principal John Kendal, board of trustees chair Kelly Yakas, former principal Jim Peters, and kauma¯tua.
Head boy Addalicent Croft-Haenga trying out the equipment.