Its Tuesday evening. The sun is beginning to set and you’re at your neighborhood pool volunteering at another summer swim meet. You’ve got a stopwatch in one hand, and a clipboard in the other. The only thing you want to do is watch your kids swim and go for a best time – but you’re too busy recording times, writing them down, and passing that along to another volunteer in what can only be described as a never-ending game of telephone. By the time you have a second to look up and see what’s going on, your kid is already out of the pool, ribbon in hand, and running over to you shouting that they just went a best time. As a parent, you can’t help but be as happy as that smile on their face, but also upset that you were too busy to see them swim. You give them a hug, say “GREAT JOB, BUDDY!” and hope that you won’t miss their next race.
Volunteers are some of the most important people in our sport. They are the glue that keeps the swim meet together and running efficiently. They are the HERO’s of our sport. Without volunteers, there would be no summer swimming, or competitive swimming in general. However, too often do we overlook the sacrifice that these parents agree to (knowingly or not) when they agree to volunteer for a swim meet. Not only are they providing a great service towards the team, but they are also giving up an opportunity to fully enjoy watching their kids swim and compete. Along with many other pain points of being a volunteer, it’s not hard to believe why parents might not enjoy volunteering and might just answer why many parents despise swim meets.
They are the most common volunteer role for any swim meet. We like to call them the “Lowest Common Denominator,” because it is the go-to position. You get to chat with the other timers in your lane, get a front row seat to the meet, and maybe even copy a couple times down from your fellow timer if you accidentally missed one…Right?
Unfortunately, if you ask anyone who has volunteered as a timer before, they might not have the best things to say. First things first, when you agree to be a timer, that means you have to stand… the ENTIRE meet, so NO sitting for you – many teams are a little more relaxed, we know! You’re also too busy to ever take a breath and actually watch the meet because you’re constantly recording times and passing the timer cards along. And recording times… constantly writing out times non-stop for 3 hours on a small, wet, piece of paper just screams carpal tunnel. Sorry, but this might not seem fun for any new parent volunteer coming into the sport.
Imagine walking from Point A (the timer’s location) to Point B (the scorekeeper) back and forth, for 3 hours… with no break. That’s essentially what the runners have to do for a swim meet. They are constantly passing the times from the timer, along to the Scorekeeper where all the times are inputted manually into a computer – unless you are using Swimmingly, Touchpads, Dolphin etc. It’s a never-ending game of telephone. It’s a constant relay race, except you’re the only one on the relay. The runners are too busy passing the times along to even take a quick peak at the pool and see how their kids are doing. If only there was a way to automate the transition of times from the timer to the scorekeeper…It’s okay, it’s a problem for most summer swim teams in the world. Hint, Hint…Swimmingly is the answer : )
The position where organization meets chaos! If you aren’t familiar with this role, try to imagine organizing a massive group of children, into their correct lanes, for hours at a time – oh, and many of them are hopped up on sugar and soft drinks from the snack bar! One minute they’re sitting exactly where they’re supposed to be, the next minute they’re gone… nowhere to be found. And it’s your job to chase them down before they miss their race – Welcome to the Clerk of Course! And forget about seeing any of the actual meet. These volunteers are working in the back, far removed from the pool.
This volunteer position isn’t all that bad, but it definitely has some down-sides. The big issue is the stack of DQ slips that each of the Stroke and Turn Judges are carrying with them across the pool. DQ slips + pool side judging = wet DQ slips. Not to mention, you get to insert the game of telephone into this role as well. How else are the DQ slips going to get to the scorekeeper that has to manually enter these in as well? Can’t be slow either…try DQ’ing the 8&Under Butterfly and Breastroke events : )
Do all volunteers actually “Despise” summer swimming? Absolutely not! Are there some volunteers that dread it? Sure. And, are there volunteers that are “USA Swimming Officials” that love every second of it? You bet. The important thing to remember is that summer swimming is fun! It’s about the kids. It’s where they get their first splash and fall in love with the sport. If you can remember that, it might even be a little more fun for YOU – The parents, volunteers, team reps, league reps etc. We all know that summer swimming is chaotic so, it’s time to embrace the chaos and have some fun!