Many Hands Make Light Work: Working with Volunteers
by Patti Feeney, ISI Director of Member Programs and Services
Volunteers are the lifeblood of special events. No special event would succeed without them. Parents of skaters have enormous talents that can and should be utilized in assisting with competitions and ice shows. Even busy parents will often make time to help with a project involving their children, and if the experience is enjoyable, you will have them volunteering for years to come. It’s possible to have people volunteering long after their children are grown and are no longer involved in skating.
Where to Find Volunteers
Recruiting volunteers is the biggest challenge. Begin with your learn-to-skate classes and the parents of your participants. Parents of beginner skaters are often pleased to be asked to volunteer.
If your facility has a newsletter, place a “Help Wanted” ad listing your specific needs. Word your ad to grab attention and interest. (“Wanted: Shopper with bargain hunting experience to assist with assembling costume accessories.” “Wanted: Person with telephone expertise to serve on information hot-line.”) It’s important to provide detailed descriptions of the volunteer tasks to be performed.
Senior citizens often have the time and enjoy volunteering and being around children. They make great ice monitors because they calm the skaters and are quick to give hugs. Most communities have senior activity centers and will allow you to place a notice on their bulletin board.
Hockey and figure skating club members are often willing to assist with special events. Their skating and group activity experiences enable them to quickly and easily assume volunteer responsibilities. Most hockey and figure skating clubs have a communication system in place for recruiting, either via a newsletter or phone tree. Take advantage of their expertise and help build camaraderie within your facility.
If your arena has a Boosters Club, seek its support and assistance. Youth groups and other skaters in the arena also make good volunteers. Skaters who volunteer earn credit hours that can be used on ISIA Education Foundation scholarship applications. Skaters are especially good at assisting with ice show rehearsals and back stage coordination. At competitions, they make wonderful ice captains and tape registration personnel. You might be tempted to call on teens with computer skills for accounting, but remember that they may have friends entered in the events and confidentiality is crucial.
For ISI competitions, two accountants are needed at all times. If computers are used, the accountants need basic understanding of the program used. Select the chair of this committee very carefully because he/she will need to train the other volunteer accountants. The volunteers should work at least three hours per shift. There should be no children, other parents, or coaches allowed in the accounting room. The room should be quiet and secluded. All judges’ sheets, results sheets, and awards sheets should be well organized. Do not post any sheets that have the judges’ scores on them. The posting sheets should have the skaters listed in the order of placement, first through fifth, their club or arena’s name, and team points earned.
Food service volunteers are needed for hospitality at competitions, show cast parties, and parties throughout the year. The job of this committee chair is to organize a group of people to arrange for food donations from local restaurants or the volunteers. Some arenas have kitchens for food preparation and others require the food to be prepared off-site. For an ice show or recital, cookies and juice can suffice. For competitions, the menu should be more extensive, including hot foods, fruit, desserts, and beverages. Paper products may be donated or supplied by the arena.
Skilled craftsmen volunteers can include painters, set designers, and builders to assist with projects from assembling a judges’ stand to constructing an elaborate set for an ice show. Less artistic but equally willing volunteers are needed to paint, hammer, and help clean up.
Articulate announcers are needed for shows and competitions. This is an important role because this person sets the pace and keeps the event on time. The announcer will need a script and running order of skaters. At competitions, the announcer needs a stopwatch to time warm-ups. He/she also needs a means of communicating with the show director, ice captains, and judges.
Ice shows need a costume committee to assist with design, construction, and coordination. Even if you order costumes from a catalog, help is needed with distribution and alterations.
For show performances and dress rehearsals, a volunteer make-up artist and hairdresser are beneficial. For a professional appearance, make-up should be somewhat uniform. A hairdresser will not be able to do every performer’s hair, but can do the feature performers’. Specialty make-up can transform a simple costume into a special look, especially if animal characters are part of the show. If the participants need to be at the arena one hour prior to dress rehearsal and performance, dressing room and make-up volunteers should be present before the performers.
Other volunteer positions include awards, flower sales, ice captains or monitors, music registration, publicity/marketing, volunteer scheduling, tape players, runners, decorations, phone, program sales, tickets, and ushers. Some volunteers can be used for more than one function. For example, an ice monitor, whose main duty is during the event, could assist with pre-and post-event publicity.
Volunteer committees should be established six months prior to an event. List each volunteer, child’s name, address, and phone numbers (day and evening), and distribute the list to all committee chairs. Plan a get-acquainted meeting for volunteers several months in advance of the event to answer questions. Each committee should meet regularly thereafter, and all volunteers need to meet a week or two prior to the event to receive pertinent information, updates, additional instructions, and answers to questions.
Provide all competition volunteers with pertinent information such as:
• Location of awards
• Location of volunteer sign-in
• Important phone numbers (arena, chairpersons, taxi company)
• Floor plan of different areas (judges’ stand, accounting, etc.)
• Awards procedures.
During a show, volunteers need to know:
• Cast seating arrangements during performance
• Dressing room assignments
• Time and date of rehearsals and performance
• Name and phone number of director
• Any special instructions concerning ice entrance and exit
• Rules concerning cast members.
Some form of volunteer I.D. makes it easier for participants to identify who is in charge. Volunteers may be identified by a name badge and/or matching T-shirts. During shows and competitions, there are areas where public access should be limited, and volunteers’ credentials make these areas easier to control.
The key to working with volunteers is to be organized, plan in advance, and not to forget to express your appreciation for the jobs that volunteers do. The sooner you establish a pool of volunteers, the more quickly you’ll be able to enjoy their depth of skills.