Volunteers Are The Glue of Dog Agility Trials
There is always a lot of discussion about dog agility trial volunteers and the lack of. When you look at the subject from both sides you will see there are issues that need to be address and awareness raised, not only about being a responsible competitor but also on being a fun and rewarding venue that respects the volunteer.
Much of the controversy could be removed if the venue hosting the trial ensured the volunteers felt needed and valued. At the trials I attended as a 4-Her, I was fortunate enough to be treated wonderfully as a volunteer! I can’t imagine how I would have responded if competitors or staff would have belittled my efforts to help. Everyone at a trial should keep this in mind, before you snap at a volunteer consider why you’re behaving the way you are. Chances are pretty good the situation is not the volunteer’s fault. And even if it is, you must treat them with respect and courtesy. They are not on a personal mission to ruin your day, they are there to help, learn and give something for, essentially, nothing.
Most of the time, volunteers do get some kind of perks though, such as experience in a trial atmosphere (great for beginners), trial or meal vouchers, etc. These are mere tokens of appreciation by the club putting on the trial. It is your thanks to them that goes a long way to making a volunteer want to come back.
It is absolutely vital for beginners that the volunteer atmosphere stays welcoming and friendly. Dog agility does form a wonderful, tight-knit community, but on the flip-side it can also be the breeding grounds for nasty cliques to form. No one goes to agility trials to feel looked down on. And if competitor or volunteer alike have a negative experience at a trial, they may quit the sport for good which would be a huge loss.
A smile can go a long way in making someone’s day as quickly as a snide comment can destroy it. We need to create a community of people who are happy to volunteer by creating a positive environment. I guarantee no volunteer will come back to a place where the staff resorts to bullying tactics. And this goes to the volunteers as well. No one wants to deal with a grumpy volunteer.
There needs to be understanding on both sides of this fence when it comes to working as well. Not everyone can be a ring steward and not all volunteers can stand on their feet all day. This is where planning comes into play with the venue securing a structure of volunteers before the event and being open to “walk-ins.” It is quite possible people are uneducated at the amount of help that is needed to successfully run a trial. Education is the key and service is the attitude. Because you have read this you are now educated and it is your turn to develop an attitude of service.