Lately, there was a thread on the Clean Run Yahoo List regarding volunteering to work at trials. Steve Schwarz, the Agility Nerd, sent a group e-mail inviting people who blog about agility to do a post on June 28th explaining why they do or do not volunteer their time at agility trials. Here are my thoughts.
I started my agility training with Cheryl Carter. Her group, Fundog, puts on several trials during the year, and it was only natural to volunteer at the Fundog trials. In fact, at my first trial, I didn't even run a dog. It was a wonderful learning experience, and when it came time for my debut with Max, I wasn't totally in the dark as to what was expected from me as an exhibitor.
Now a days, I do most of my trialing at the Quad Cities Dog Center in Davenport (one ring), and I volunteer every chance I get. The $2 off per class is a great incentive in these hard economic times, but even if it weren't, I'd be happy to volunteer. There are 18 different runs every day of a NADAC trial, and I'm participating in only six of those runs with my dog. It makes the day go by so much faster to have something to do during the 12 runs in which my dog and I are not running.
I also freely volunteer at one ring trials and at AKC trials whether they be one ring or two. With only two runs a day at an AKC trial, there are really no conflicts. Usually, there are so many people at a two ring AKC trial, that you only get assigned to work once a day.
However, there are two ring NADAC, CPE and USDAA trials that I do not volunteer at--at least not ahead of time. Basically, it's because it becomes too tiring for me (mentally and physically) to run back and forth between rings to see where the classes are at, take care of my dog, and volunteer. (At this point in my life, this is almost a mute point, since I only do one or two two-ring trials a year.)
Because I started with Fundog, I know what it takes to keep a trial moving along efficiently. Clubs are not making an outrageous profit running agility trials, and their members put in a lot of hard work. To keep entry fees reasonable, most depend upon club and non-club volunteers to help out. I'm grateful that someone is willing to put in the effort to host a trial, and I'm more than willing to help gate, scribe, time, or bar set. I don't course build because I usually use that time to exercise my dog. However, from building my own courses at home, I can tell you that helping to set up a course gives you a real head start on analyzing it for your run.
Many of the jobs give me a ringside seat from which to view the action. This is definitely not the case when I scribe though--I have devote myself to watching the judge ;-) Leash running, bar setting, transcribing, chute fluffing and timing are the best jobs for viewing the action.
For me volunteering has been an over-overwhelmingly positive experience, and I confess I used to wonder about people who never seemed to volunteer. However, after reading some of the reasons on the Clean Run List, I realized I can't read minds, and I don't know every exhibitor's circumstances. Additionally, as someone pointed out a year or two ago, the key word is "volunteer."
You can find links to the posts of other bloggers concerning this subject on the Agility Nerd's blog.