Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Volunteering Myths Dispelled

Written by Meriwether Tull, a triathlete and part-timer at Jack and Adam's:

I’ve been really lucky to participate in some awesome triathlons, but I’m ashamed to admit that I’d never actually volunteered for one until recently. When I moved to Austin eight months ago, however, I was fortunate enough to fall right in the middle of an amazing, supportive triathlon community simply by working here at Jack and Adam's. These triathletes not only race, they help fix each other’s bikes, share each other’s experiences, support, cheer, and – above all – volunteer.

I faced a predicament: with an awesome race going on almost every weekend in central Texas this summer – how could I possibly take time off to volunteer?! But I was inspired by my new group of friends so, against what I thought was my better judgment, I volunteered for Jack’s Generic Triathlon on August 2. Now that it’s all said and done, let me dispel a few myths about the horrors of volunteering:

1) Watching everyone race from the sidelines will make you sad that you didn’t race. I dreaded this the most but found that the exact opposite occurred; watching my friends race was super fun. Plus, I learned a ton about what clothes fit (and look!) the best while racing, what equipment suits different athletes, transition and race strategies – all just by observing.

2) Your friends and family won’t want to volunteer with you and, if they do, they won’t have fun. Since Jack’s Generic happened to fall on my birthday this year, I had a trump card on my boyfriend and made him volunteer. His job requires him to stay up really late and he’s not an aficionado of the sport, so I was pretty sure he’d never come to another triathlon after I made him volunteer. He looked exhausted when we woke up at 4am, after he had only one hour of sleep, but while we were body-marking the athletes I turned around to see him laughing, chatting and joking with everyone just like me. Turns out, he had (almost) as much fun as I did.

3) There’s little to no incentive for waking up at 4am when you don’t get the glory of crossing a finish line. I will admit, 4am is early, but training isn’t always about crossing a finish line. Sometimes it’s the journey that counts. Yada, yada… Just remember you can take a nap around noon.*

4) Volunteers don’t get all the awesome perks that competitors do. Actually, volunteers get wonderful stuff: great food before, during and after the race, an awesome t-shirt, and even a post-race party. You could also receive other long-term opportunities, like an invite to the Texas Tri Series party at the end of the year and eligibility for awesome prizes.

5) Slogging around in the dirt and mud isn’t that fun. Wrong! When you’re in there with friends – some you will meet while volunteering – it’s a blast! Enough said.

As you can see, I am a volunteer convert. It only took one race to show me that volunteering is not only fun, but it’s a great way to become a better competitor yourself!


*You could quite possibly have the best nap of your life after volunteering at a triathlon. Just ask Mark. His roommate took this picture of him after returning from the Couples Tri this year. Fell asleep with shoes and all:

Next volunteer opportunity with J&A's - The Austin Tri on Labor Day!


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