Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Volunteering: Blog Action Day

I'm picking up on the trend of a bunch of other agility blogs today by talking about the topic of volunteering at trials.  AgilityNerd has a good explanation of what's going on and a list of participating blogs if you want to see more.

In reading the posts about volunteering, there was one simple thing that was important to me that other people didn't seem to be talking much about:  knowing how to volunteer.

I would like to be helpful at a trial.  Really, I would.  During the semester, just getting to a trial is a success and I often need to be able to get work done between rounds.  I'm only in class 30 weeks out of the year, though, and I want to be able to lend a hand as much as possible when I have the time.

 During my spring break, I knew I had time to volunteer and I was ready to work.  I signed up for bar setting or leash running because I thought I knew how to do them.  Honestly, my experience was very stressful.  I sat myself down in a chair for ring crew and instantly began to realize that I didn't know what to do.  It was too late to ask questions:  now I was out there on display and there was no one around me to ask!

I was by the first few jumps.  One dog came in the ring and the handler set him up about two feet in front of the 20" jump.  I instantly got nervous.  Here is something that I see a lot in agility but no one seems to talk much about.  If this were a horse, you would not ask her or him to jump a full height jump from a stand still less than a full stride away.  Yet, agility people do it all the time!  Often the dogs are athletic enough to get out of the jam, but this dog was not.  When released, the dog leapt straight through the bar.  Now it was down.  When did I set it?  The dog was out of the way now.  Should I get it now so the course would be ready as soon as the dog finished?  Or do I wait until the end, holding up the next dog for a few seconds?  I compromised, but I felt like all eyes were on me, judging me.

Then a while later, a dog crashed through a double.  I realized I had no idea how the bars had been arranged.  Ascending?  Square?  I remembered CPE is always ascending.  There were so many bars!  Where did they go?  I put them in a way that I would have done it for horses.  Luckily the judge was near me so I asked her.  She came over and quietly showed me the right way:  the back bars are supposed to cross.  She was wonderfully kind about it and I was grateful.  For the moment, I felt good that, even though I was unsure of what to do, people appreciated that I was trying.  Now I know how to set broad jumps.

A few rounds later, though, another bar dropped.  I fixed it.  Then the next dog came into the ring and set up, and a spectator who was watching yelled for them to wait.  She lept out of her chair, climbed over the fence and came brusquely up to the jump I had just fixed.  As she approached, she muttered to me, 'the bar is crooked.'  I looked, and the bar was sitting on the correct cups, the ground was just a bit uneven.  She jiggled it around in the cups, glared at me and stormed back to her seat.  I felt so humiliated!  Couldn't someone have just asked me to check that the bar was in the right cups?  Did she have to rush out into the ring to try to prove my incompetence?  Anyway, I do not mean to rant, but I felt truly awful.

Needless to say, when the round was over I felt exhausted and I fled from the ring relieved.  I haven't volunteered since.  As I'm writing this post, though, I feel ashamed that I simply haven't asked my questions and learned the skills I need to feel confident as a volunteer.  I know that I'm just oversensitive at trials because I still find the whole environment stressful.  But it's summer now and I could be volunteering.  I vow right now that I will volunteer at the next CPE trial I enter.  I will try not to let people's personalities get in the way of my enjoyment, and I will take the initiative to ask questions so that I know how to do my job well before I get out there.  I certainly owe it another chance.  I'm also curious about the potential of putting some sort of volunteer handbook together that people could read before the trial so they know what to do.  On a trial day, everyone is stressed and wanting things to move quickly, so there's not a lot of time for education.  I'd be happy to put time in at home before the trial, but when I've searched for instructions in the past I haven't found them.  Here's a job for someone!

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed your post. Jonah appears to be a tri-colored border collie. He's a handsome man!
    Jan at hhtp:/www.dogagility2go.com/