by Elizabeth Wickham
Parent volunteers are crucial to the success of meets. Meets not only raise money for your children’s team, but they may be the major source of fundraising. So, even if your child isn’t swimming in a particular meet, you may be required to volunteer because you’re reaping the rewards of the money raised.
Through my years as a swim mom, I’ve worked different jobs at meets. Some I loved, and others not so much. There’re many positions and it’s easy to find one that fits your personality. One of the best things about volunteering is the camaraderie and bonding between parents who are giving their time and effort for something bigger than themselves.
Here are the different jobs I’ve volunteered at:
My first swim meet in 2001 I found myself making fruit bowls and selling breakfast burritos. I found the fellow snack bar volunteers to be friendly, welcoming and I count these parents as some of my best friends today. The downside is standing on your feet for hours and hours. But there’s always something to do and the time will pass quickly interacting with the public.
When I graduated from newbie snack bar parent I was asked to work “under the tent” in admin, first as a runner. It was my job to race back and forth from the printer to the awards and posting board with heat sheets and results. I loved the work and at the time I could race back and forth nonstop for hours on end.
I often signed my dad up for this job. As a former swimmer, he loved to watch his grandkids swim, and sitting in a chair clicking stopwatches with the best view in the house was perfect. I’ve done it many times, and any timing chair is a fun place to watch swimming for your shift.
Clerk of Course
This is one job I didn’t care for, but it’s so important. The Clerk is responsible for check-in and the seeding of all events. There’s no time to walk around and chat, and you feel the responsibility and pressure for the meet to run smoothly. No thank you. I do have friends that love this position and their effort and hours are appreciated by everyone.
I found my home in awards for many years. Quietly tucked away from the hubbub of the meet, but within view of the races, I sat with good friends and put stickers on ribbons and medals. The downside of this job was trying to figure out how many ribbons we had left over and how many new ones to order. It’s a detailed task that has to be done months in advance of a meet.
This job only lasts for a short time and is done while sitting down. It can be hectic for a short bit and then it’s over. The best part is getting to talk with all the athletes and wish them a great day.
Depending on the meet, marshaling and wearing a neon vest can be fun or a headache. I think at championship meets where kids and parents are more experienced makes this job a joy. I marshaled recently and never once did I have to tell kids to stop running on deck or tell parents to get out from behind the “swimmers only area.” At a meet with younger swimmers and new families, I kept busy telling parents to get out from behind the blocks and keeping children safe in the warmup lanes.
One tip about volunteering I heard from an official, “Put the cell phone down.” Parents who volunteer often get distracted while they’re on their cell phones texting, talking, or checking out FB.
Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community, and quite frankly you may not have a choice to volunteer if it’s a team requirement. Whether we’re volunteering from the goodness of our hearts, or because we have to, we can show our kids by example that it’s good for our community to volunteer—and we enjoy giving back to the sport that is shaping our children’s lives.
What jobs are your most favorites at meets?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.