One thing I was encouraged to do by the “old timers” when I first joined our local triathlon club a couple of years back was to, first, race as often as you can. If you can’t race, volunteer, and if you can’t volunteer, show up to cheer. Those instructions have stuck with me ever since.
We obviously can not race every race available to us. We have our A, B and C races we are training for. We must not let the temptation to do a particular race overtake our need to stick to our training program. However, we can always take a few hours of our time and help out.
For race directors, especially the ones that put on the small local grass roots races, volunteers mean an awful lot. For the volunteer it is a rewarding way of giving back and, better yet, it can be a learning experience, too.
One will learn the challenges race directors face. By seeing a race from a different perspective we can understand why things are done a certain way. As athletes we have the opportunity to observe. Pay attention to what the triathletes do under race conditions. This can actually be very funny. For example, to see the person that brings everything, but the kitchen sink to transition. Or to see the person that takes off on the run with their bike helmet still on (I have done that! LOL).
It is a fun way to learn what NOT to do in a race.
Pay attention to the more experienced triathletes. What is it they do in transition, on the run, coming out of the water, at
the bike aid stations etc. that makes them faster. If you are volunteering at a big race where there are pros look at what they do. What do they do to be more efficient? How do they set up transition? How do they grab the water bottle at the aid stations on the bike course? How is their run form and foot cadence? Look for the details and look for the small things that separate the average triathlete to the very good one. It takes more than being fit and naturally fast to do well in competition.
Yes, volunteering can be a very important component in your quest to becoming a more complete triathlete. Remember, too,
to cheer the athletes on. You know how good it feels especially when you are struggling.
If some reason you sign up to volunteer and can not make it. Please find a replacement to fill in for you. It is the right thing to
do. Also, remember the people putting on a race will never turn down a walk-on volunteer. If you haven’t signed up
and you show up just say I am here and how can I help.
Volunteering is a very fun way to learn. And you know how much volunteers mean to you when you are out there sweating
on the course, so take the opportunity to pay it forward. It will do you good in more ways then one.
USAT Florida Board Member