Sunday, March 20, 2005 - Perspective Update: Ode to the Volunteers

- By: Rhonda Sandau

 How many volunteers does it take to change a light bulb?

Probably only one.


How many volunteers does it take to organize a successful ski race?

More than I expected.


Elite athletes are very focused individuals; a focus that is quite often is self-centered. At a ski race, most athletes are concerned about their start time, if their skis are waxed, if their bib has been picked up and of course their result. Although these self-concerns are important to an elite ski racer, other important aspects of the ski race are quite often overlooked, such as the volunteers.


Like most ski racers, I have only been involved with the “front end” of a ski race, the aspects of a ski race that directly affect me. The efforts of volunteers who gave me my bibs, marked my skis and handed me Kleenex and juice at the end of my race have almost always been acknowledged and appreciated, however it wasn’t until recently that I became fully aware of the number of volunteers and the amount of time that goes into ski racing.


Before Christmas, I was fortunate enough to find a billet to stay with during the Rossland Continental Cup races. As it turned out, my billet was the race secretary for upcoming weekend of races. It wasn’t long before I understood what the job description of “race secretary” included.  The phone was ringing constantly with athletes and coaches confirming registration, wanting to change their registration and of course begging to be allowed to register after the registration deadline has passed.  After spending a day listening to the phone ring, I concluded that in order to hold the volunteer position of race secretary (as well as several other volunteer positions), one must either be retired, on vacation from their full time job or unemployed!


What intrigued me even more about my host, the race secretary, was how she became involved with the race organization. Unlike many volunteers, she didn’t have a child involved in the ski club, nor had she volunteered for previous races, she simply saw a poster advertising the upcoming races and decided that she would like to help. I found this very inspiring and it gave me a higher appreciation for all the time and efforts put in by race volunteers.


I now have a different understanding of the “back end” of ski races. Although I am still focused on myself and what I need to do as a ski racer, I realize that I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if it weren’t for the volunteers. It is for this reason that I owe a lot of appreciation to them. As an elite athletes it is easy for us to become self-concerned and complain about why a race isn’t exactly how we want it to be, but in the end we need to be grateful that there are people out there who are willing to put aside their daily routine to help us. Without volunteers we wouldn’t have any ski races to race in.

Thank you to those who print out the start lists, prepare the homemade soup and sandwiches that we devour after the race, and of course everyone who stands out in the snow (or in some cases rain) to ensure that the ski race goes according to plan.


(By the way… for those racers who have a habit of registering late, I am now aware that life is made much easier for the race organizers if you remember to register on time!)

Rhonda would like to thank her personal sponsors:




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