Volunteering in Agility
Why/when/how I choose to volunteer:
If I have a dog that won't stress out if I work.
If I don't have to travel far (get up at 4am, or will get home at 10pm).
If the class that I would work is small (I wouldn't be in the ring for hours)
Why/when/how I choose NOT to volunteer:
If my dog(s) would stress if I work.
If the club sticks people in spots, and leaves them there for hours at a time.
If they don't tell me before the morning of the trial if I have to work. If I'm staying until 3pm for Novice, I don't want to get there at 8am just in case I have to work. Give me a schedule and I'll stick to it. But communicate.
The impact of volunteers:
Trials can't be run without them.
How can clubs make it easy/fun/rewarding for people to volunteer:
Workers raffles are good, but make it stuff I might like (not just garage sale stuff).
I LOVE getting money off of lunch or a future trial. It can be a token amount for each class (one club gives $2 per class). I can choose to get a cheaper entry next time, or buy a bag of chips.
Don't just yell "who wants to set poles". Know your exhibitors, and ask them personally to help. Everyone loves to be thought of as the person for the job.
Use a white board so I can sign up when I get to a trial, see how my dogs are doing, and how the schedule is going. I can also remember what I signed up to do.
How not to alienate those who don't want to volunteer:
Do not threaten to stop the trial until you get enough workers. You don't know why I'm not working, so don't stress me out about it.
Jobs you like to do:
I love to gate steward.
I will scribe or time, set poles, run leashes, or scribe run.
I will NOT work the score table or build courses. I suck at both jobs. Which leads me to:
What has dis/encouraged you to volunteer:
I was once put at the score table, telling the person in charge that I would be terrible. Only be told that it was easy. Then that person spent the whole time barking at me to work faster, and mocked my errors. Not only will I not work the score table again, I will NEVER volunteer for that club again.
Working at a national championship event, from first dog on the line to last dog on the line, for 2 straight days. Being told that I would not be getting lunch (only people on a list would be getting lunch.) I was never told this in my confirmation for working. I was not running a dog at all, so I was getting nothing out of this event. And there were no restaurants close by. I never worked or entered another of their trials.
I've been competing in agility for 17 years. I've worked from day 1. In fact, I got started in agility because a client at the vet I worked for asked me to work a trial before I knew much about agility (I showed in obedience.) I've worked every job. I've rarely flaked on an assignment. I never freak out about missing a walk through because I'm working. My dogs have blown runs because I was busy working. I stay late a LOT to work the last class on Sunday, if the trial is close to home. I've chaired All-Breed Agility Trials (for 10 years straight) and Specialty Trials (3 times, with a 4th coming up).
But right now, I'm trialing 2 dogs. One of them is weird in new places, and since we just moved to this area, they're ALL new places. Both dogs are in Excellent, and I'm not used to having 2 dogs in that class. So I'm taking a break from working for awhile. People that don't know me might get mad because they see me not working. I've paid my dues, people. I've worked a lot more than most volunteers at trials over 17 years. So I'm taking a break. I'll work again, but only when I'm comfortable doing so, with the dogs I'm showing.
That's my two cents about volunteering at agility trials.