After writing a letter to the former Richmond Multisports (RMS) volunteer coordinator, the owner of RMS, Laurie Mehler, gave me a chance to coordinate all volunteers at the Napier Realtors Sprint Triathlon on Sunday, Oct 10th.
Now that I have seen first hand what it’s like behind-the-scenes of a triathlon, I have a different perspective. While I still believe I did a better job than the 2 previous races I volunteered for, I was far from perfect. Here’s a recap of how the day went.
Race day setup & check-in
I arrived at 5:30am & began setting up the volunteer check-in tent. I got t-shirts, water, Clif Bars, etc. ready. Double-checked that I had everything I would need. And to my surprise, the first high schoolers started arriving at 6am (15 minutes early).
I had different groups of volunteers checking in at different times. I did this so they wouldn’t be standing around with nothing to do, however, it was way too difficult to keep track of.
I’ll ask all volunteers to check-in 2 hours before the race starts, and I’ll run a 15-minute orientation session & walk-through of the transition area. I’ll also have one of my course captains (either run or bike captain) to man the check-in tent while I’m meeting with the volunteers.
Volunteer assignments. Why bother?
I’m very organized, and this race was no different. I had assignments for every volunteer. Everything was planned out… and of course, nothing went according to plan. There were positions I needed volunteers for that I had no idea about until 5 seconds before they needed to be in place. A spotter to ride with Jim Napier in the pace car. An outgoing person to sell merchandise. Extra swim volunteers.
I would still assign vols to the bike & run course. But for everything else, I’d just ask them to show up 2 hours before the race, and plan on being there for 5 hours.
This is basically all I did for 5 hours. Cell phone in one hand. Walkie talkie in the other. When I wasn’t talking to the RMS team, I was shifting around volunteers & instructing them on what to do.
I owe a lot of credit to Matt Kirkendall, David Kunnen, Patrick, Barbara & the rest of the RMS team. We worked together extremely well.
You can’t over-communicate when you’re on the race production team. If you’re wondering whether you should repeat yourself… than you should.
I had 4 incredible course captains. Lori Perez, Tom McMahon, Laura Perry & Vicki Hottle surpassed even my highest expectations. I felt like the 5 of us had known each other for years, and you would’ve thought we’d all done this many times before. I couldn’t have done it without you guys.
It was a long day & a lot of hard work, but I truly had a great time. To be part of a team of ~10 people who put on a successful triathlon with over 600 athletes, that’s something special. The RMS team is a great group of people who love the sport of triathlon, and love helping others achieve their goals.
I owe a huge thanks to the Tucker High School track team, and their coach, John Amoroso. They supplied 25+ volunteers for the event, and Coach Amoroso owned the mic as the race announcer. The James River XC team also supplied 15 volunteers.
Volunteer Coordinator responsibilities – before the race
Weeks before the race
- I personally emailed every volunteer who signed up online
- I created a spreadsheet with all the volunteer information
- I secured 4 course captains: transition, swim, bike, run
- I assigned each volunteer to a specific area (and many were assigned to multiple areas)
- I dropped flyers off at REI & Starbucks to solicit more volunteers
- I found 2 motorcycle marshalls & a PA announcer (not easy to find, btw)
One week prior to the race
- I finalized race maps & spreadsheets for each of my 4 course captains
- I attended a team meeting at ACAC Fitness Center to review the course setup
Saturday before the race
- I helped with setup at ACAC, and got all final questions answered
- I didn’t sleep but maybe 4 hours because my mind was in full-out race mode
You might enjoy my short list of tips for volunteer coordinators that I wrote before this experience. I’ll be sure to post a more in-depth checklist at some point.