By Seren Jones, Swimming World College Intern
Swimmers are not the only people who find swim meets exhausting. Volunteers dedicate their time and effort to the sport to ensure that the meet runs swimmingly, without any hiccups or splashes. Whether it’s a high school meet, a club meet, a college dual meet, or a championship meet, swim meets would not be as organized and successful if it weren’t for our devoted volunteers – many of whom happen to be our supportive parents.
However, despite their unwavering efforts and commitments, the duties that volunteers perform can often go unappreciated. With most coaches and swimmers focusing on warming up, racing, and warming down, we fail to step away from the block and take the time to acknowledge and appreciate everything volunteers do for us – because spending your weekend on a stuffy chlorinated pool deck and getting splashed almost every time a swimmer enters the water isn’t that much fun!
Here are four such duties that often go unappreciated…
There are several occasions where we swimmers count for our crazy teammates who endure the distance events, but sometimes we are unable to do so because our race is up next. In these moments, the volunteers step in and ensure the swimmers have someone counting their laps; be it 20, 40, or 66. Usually when we see a non-swimmer counting at the end of the distance lane, many of us may not realize that the individual voluntarily decided to step in and help these swimmers and sometimes have little to no association with that swimmer.
2. Post Session Clean Up
Meets can be messy. Not just with bad swims and DQs but literally, messy. Have you ever wondered what happens when you mix a group of competitive swimmers with copious amounts of food and sports drinks? A lot of garbage is the answer. Now, when you return for the finals session in the evening, and go back to where your team was sitting, it’s clean and the evidence is destroyed. Have you ever wondered who cleaned up after you? That’s right. The volunteers. I’m not saying that the workers at the facility don’t clean up, but the volunteers certainly help – and they really don’t have to.
We all know how crucial timing is in swimming. It defines the sport. Without time, the concept of competitive swimming merely exists. When the score board and the timing system fail – and they usually do so when the race is either excruciatingly tight, or when you’re trying to qualify for a certain meet – it is our volunteer timers who save the day with their stopwatches. Without them, we wouldn’t know if we had swam a best time, won the heat, or succeeded to qualify a faster meet.
4. Swim Club Committees
As swimmers, we primarily focus on our training and recovery. Whether it’s pool training or dry lands, or injury prevention or nutrition, the majority of the time, we obsess over our workouts and our rest. At times we’ll get on the bus, drive to the destination of the meet, race, and come home. The next weekend or two we’ll repeat the same routine. However, it’s not always the coaches who are arranging the weekends. Our committee volunteers contribute toward the decision of where the meets will be held, comfortable transportation for the team, even appropriate overnight accommodation with conveniently located eateries when necessary.
Without our volunteers, there would be a huge lack of organization and increased levels of stress, which doesn’t help anyone when you’re about to race.
On the outside, volunteering can look easy, but it is so much more than receiving a free lunch at a swim meet. Perhaps we should take the time to appreciate the volunteers who contribute at our swim meets. A small thank you after a race will go a long way.