Thank a Volunteer


 I love it when I can get math into the blog.

It’s that time of the year. We all hold hands, sing kumbaya, and express gratitude for all of our blessings. We Americans will display our thankfulness on our favorite social media this week in huge numbers. We’re like a turkey who is dressed up like a peacock, expressing thanks for our glorious feathers. Maybe we’ll even attach a deep and meaningful hashtag. #sothankful. #attitudeofgratitude. #blessed. #itscalledstuffingnotdressing.

As triathletes, we have an #attitudeofgratitude all the time. Why? Because we get to compete in top-notch, superb quality races, all because of volunteers. Sure, the race director is important. I mean, he or she usually has a bullhorn and a clipboard, and everyone knows that people who use bullhorns and clipboards are important people and an integral part to the success of any event. But take away the volunteers from any race, and you’re left with a paltry selection of races, most of which would be dangerous. Basically, you get the Stone Harbor tri. A good breakfast, if you survive long enough to eat it.

I’ve raced more than I’ve volunteered, but I have definitely helped out at my fair share of races. And I love it when a triathlete says thank you to me. Last year at Challenge AC as I battled for space on the boardwalk for runners, most of the participants thanked me. Even though conditions were not ideal, most of them managed a smile, a nod, and a thank you. It was fabulous!

Over the summer, a woman filed a class-action lawsuit against CGI/Rock and Roll races(the California CGI, not the kick-ass New Jersey CGI). She volunteered to help at a race, not understanding that the race owners were a for-profit company. First of all, duh. This is America, love. Putting on a race for 30,000 people out of the kindness of your heart just doesn’t happen. Most races have a charitable component, but most races also pay many salaries and are conducted to make money for somebody.

I understand how that premise can be upsetting. You are serving as free labor for a for-profit corporation. I certainly would never walk into IBM and say, “Hey, can I clean your toilets for you? No charge. I’m just feeling generous today.” (Side note: that is a fantasy of mine. Someday someone is going to walk into my house and say those words. And he is going to look just like Jason Bourne.)

Fantasies aside, here’s the way I look at it. I choose to compete in races that are conducted by local companies whose owners are decent, cool people. Islandman Sprint in Avalon is 100% for charity! Delmo Sports pays its volunteers by donating to “Lunch with Lynch”a local educational program in Wildwood, NJ. CGI Racing will donate to your charity of choice if you bring a big group of volunteers. These races generate good feelings all around. The “big boys” (particularly the M-dot people) seem disconnected from the local community. I’d much prefer that everything, donations as well as profits, stays in the neighborhood.

Sometimes it’s okay to give up your day so that somebody else can have a great day, even if it makes someone a profit. It’s more than okay, it’s terrific. So I am going to hashtag the heck out of all race volunteers everywhere for giving up your day so I can have a great day:



3 thoughts

  1. Great blog entry! I have been on both sides of the volunteer issue. As a volunteer at the AC International Tri a few years ago, I felt truly blessed to be able to watch disABLED athletes compete. Bridgette (Delmo Sports) gave me a prime location for my duties…the transition area from water to bike. I will never forget the incredible people I witnessed pushing themselves to the limit. Their determination was awe inspiring!

    As an athlete (and I use that term loosely), I have been on the receiving end of many cheers and many high fives. I can’t tell you how many times a shout out from a volunteer helped me pick up my pace and brought a smile to my face. A good volunteer can make your race a truly special experience.

    Volunteers rock! Thank you for giving them their props!


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