I am not a natural writer. Several weeks ago I was asked to join a sort of cyber-flash-blog-mob to write on the topic of volunteering at agility trials. At the time I was in the middle of getting my Puppy Peaks membership off of the ground. I really did try to put a blog out on the day requested, but it read like crap so I deleted it. It seemed contrived to me.
From the Heart
Here is the thing and why I am not a natural writer. I can not often write what “you” want me to write about and make it read like something worthwhile. I am sure a “true” writer can do that. For me, if I want to post a blog that is worth someone’s time to read, I must be inspired by the topic. I must be emotionally involved to the point where it just flows out of me. The passion takes hold and regardless of what else I have planned for the day, I have to write about IT.
This weekend I was so inspired. I was competing at the our annual Canadian National Agility Championships. I don’t want to say this was “the best organized one ever” because that seems a bit insulting to some awesome nationals that have run before (and have provided learning tools to each one that followed) . . . but this year’s nationals was pretty amazing.
I know these things are always done by the hands of many and this weekend there were 250 people that volunteered their time so that some of us could have an incredible Nationals experience. Here is what I noticed about these volunteers. They WANTED to be there. It could have been just been because all 250 of them were naturally happy people (possibly). But more likely it had something to do with how they were recruited, trained, supported and the sense of “team” that developed amongst them. I think this partly is due to how well organized their time was arranged. As competitors we were reminded each day not to bother ring stewards who were not wearing their special red baseball caps. Those caps indicated they were working, without one it meant that person was focusing on their own dogs and needed space to do so (yes some of these volunteers ran their dogs as well!).
I learned something about volunteering this weekend. I learned it is not for everyone. It is a lot of hard work for not a lot of thanks. I have been to trials where people do it because they have been “shamed” into volunteering, as it is their “duty” as a competitor that is enjoying the spoils of the sport.
That kind of “motivation” just ruins the fun for everyone. Do yourself and the competitors a favor, if that is why you are volunteering, don’t do it. I myself, have lost my cool a bit after being criticized by fellow competitors while “volunteering” at a trial (just this year actually). That just is not good for anyone. Not for me, not for my dogs, not for the other competitors and I am possibly not doing the organizers who would like competitors to return any PR favors either!
Let your motivation to volunteer come from the same place my blog writing does, do it because you are inspired to help out or to learn by watching others. Honestly, that is how the people who volunteered at the Canadian nationals this past weekend came off to me. And not just one or two of them. EVERY single green-shirted person that I observed this past weekend seemed to carry off their jobs with this same sense of selfless purpose. It really was inspiring to see.
Here is a clip of some of the volunteers working on Saturday night. While everyone else was barbqueing or drinking beer, these guys were going ring to ring moving equipment and re-cutting the already perfectly manicured grass of our 7 competition rings. It is these little details, that many would not even have seen, that made the difference this weekend.
I mentioned to one volunteer that these guys looked like a hive of bees and I was told they had named themselves the “green hornets.” I thought to myself, “crap they have even inspired themselves!” You can’t demand, suggest or beg for that kind of dedication, you have to inspire it.
All good teams are inspired by a leader. Mary Denise Williamson was unbelievable. Not only did she get all of the right people to head her committee (for example all of the results were compiled and posted to the website within 2 hours of the event finishing) and not only did Denise seem to be involved in the entire event, I never saw her without a smile on her face. Before each class started she drove around in her golf cart from ring to ring making sure everyone was ready to go. I saw her deal with questions with expediency yet showing genuine concern for each of the 600 + competitors entered on the weekend. Grace under pressure.
No Question Unanswered
But seems to me there was little pressure. Everything was so amazingly organized they knew exactly what was going to happen and when! I remember Tony Robbins once saying “nervousness is your body’s way of asking you if you are prepared.” If you can answer the question correctly, the butterflies go away. I am sure Denise and the members of her committee could answer correctly and that is why it looked to me like they had as much fun as any of us.
My advice to future organizers of provincial regionals or Canadian Nationals or heck, World Championships is; hire Denise to head your committees; pay her what she wants to do what she does, it will be an event like no other.
Today I am grateful for not only all of the amazing members of the “Green Hornets” National volunteers, but to everyone who throws themselves into volunteering the way this group did. They really set the bar in demonstrating what “volunteering your time” is really all about.
Thanks also to Len Silvester for the quick turn around on these photos for me today:)!