I saw that Steve from AgilityNerd is having a Blog Action Day where Dog Agility bloggers all blog about the same subject. Today's subject being volunteering. Apparently there is much debate about this right now. Which seems a little odd to me. In our area where trials fill up, but are small compared to most of the US trials (1 ring/350 runs per day), we are all expected to volunteer. Those who don't are likley not to get into the next trial. That's how it works around here and I think it's great. It forces people to actually help out, and take a part in the event. There are exceptions of course- people who seem to never volunteer but always manage to get into trials- they must have other redeeming qualities. lol
I think that Volunteering is great for a few reasons. First, it's the best seat in the house. I enjoy watching all the talented little starter dogs, and it helps me to remember where I started at. Also I think that for "newbie" people volunteering is a great way to learn more about the sport. Not only the agility aspect but all the stuff that goes along with hosting a trial. Sarah and I teach our students right off the bat about volunteering, stepping up if something needs to be done. So by the time they get to a trial they are well trained. It's also helpful that we only have the awesomest students. :)
For the AAC trials in our area the clubs have a poster board with all the classes scheduled out and space for people to volunteer for what they want. I think this is a great way to ensure that people only volunteer for what they are comfortable or good at. There is nothing more stressful than the poor Starter who is scribing for Masters Gamblers... Signing up for what YOU want is also a good way to ensure that people are commited and realise they have a job. It's not fool proof of course as we all forget at one time or another but I think it helps.
I try to sign up for at least two or three things a day. Typically I like Timing/Scribing and I am a wicked Gate Steward. (I am very loud and bossy). Even though I only sign up for two events I often step in to help pole set if I am standing around and I see they are short volunteers. I think that these little gestures go a long way to making trials go quickly and smoothly. The more volunteers, the faster the day will run, which means the quicker we can get home and relax (or have a drink depending on who you are traveling with. :) )
I am also careful to only volunteer for things that will give me time to warm up, or exercise my dogs. Often I am either first or last so on the days when I am first I would never sign up for the event right before mine. I don't like to rush, and don't think it's fair for my dog either. I also need to make sure I give myself time to relax, walk the dogs, eat lunch etc, and of course visit with friends. I find three things a day to be the maximum amount I am comfortable with.
Because our trials and clubs are small we don't get much in the way of thanks for volunteering- some trials have free goodies (chocolates,cookies, etc) and others do volunteer draws at the end of the day. The volunteer poster is all cut up and the names are drawn for some cool prizes- free trials entries, guaranteed entries, dog stuff, gift certificates etc. I never win those sorts of things but I am happy to work for a thank you.
I do think that regardless of the type of thanks Volunteers get they need to be appreciated. Treated well, and with respect. We don't typically have problems in this area with that sort of thing. I think our area is too small to ruffle feathers like that. Everyone knows everyone and word would get out pretty quick who the bad apple is. Likewise I think that all competitors should volunteer to some extent. Even people with multiple dogs- if you can't work a class then there is always course building, or set up...there are always ways to help out if you want to. And at a trial there is never shortage of work!
From an email from Agility Nerd:
I've been contacting dog agility bloggers in an effort to organize a "Blog Action Day" where we all post to our blogs on the same subject. There have been a lot of of email list discussions about volunteering at dog agility trials in the last few weeks and I thought this might be a good subject on which we can open up a discussion with our readers. I'm certain we all have different, and possibly conflicting, views on the subject that will make for good reading!
After discussion with some other bloggers we chose Tuesday June 28th as the day we'll post an article discussing the subject
I hope you will join us on June 28th! When you post your article please send me a link so I can put it on my blog. Monica at Clean Run will also host a list of all the articles - I'll forward your link to her for you.
I scoured the internet for dog agility blogs and tried to find their owner's email addresses. If you aren't a dog agility blogger I'm sorry for bothering you!
Please forward this email to every dog agility blogger and occasional agility blogger you know, I'd like to get everyone involved!
Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or comments.