Monday, June 28, 2010

Volunteering at Trials

When Agility trials (or any event for that matter) are run, there is always a need for volunteers to help out with odd jobs. When signing up to run for a trial, you can always pick to be a volunteer as well. The volunteers are scheduled so that the jobs they do don't conflict with their own runs, and they also get some compensation in return. I've volunteered at two difference AKC trials, and one USDAA trial so far, so I thought I'd tell you all about what I got to do.

Let's start with the actual jobs available:
Jump Setter. You get to sit in the ring off to the side from the run, and whenever a dog knocks down a jump bar, you would run over and pick it back up to its proper place. Jump setters also help adjust the equipment for jump height changes. Usually the ring has 3 jump setters, so that each covers a small part of obstacles right next to them.
Chute Straightener. One of the jumps setters normally doubles up to this job. You do everything a jump setter does, plus fix the chute material after each dog runs through it.
Leash Runner. The entrance and exit are normally at different ends of the ring, and the handlers drop the leashes down at the start line. To save time and hassle, the leash runner gets the leash and moves it to a stool near the finish line, so that the handler can clip it on the dog and be out of the ring quickly.
Scribe. This one involves writing down everything that the judge calls out for every dog. Each dog has a scribe sheet generated for it before the trial - these show the dog's name and breed, handler, and class being run. On the bottom is the space for the dog's time, any errors, and points (for point-gathering runs), which is what the scribe gets to write in. The judge has a set of signals that are used to depict each type of a mistake. For points, the judge simply calls numbers out loud.
Timer. When everyone is ready, the timer presses a button that makes the mechanical voice say "Go" or "Ready" and means the handler may start the run. Nowadays, electronic timers are used for the most part, so the stopwatch device starts and stop automatically, and the volunteer simply has to read it off for the scribe at the end. For some runs, the timer has to manually start and/or stop the stopwatch though, which involves a bit more work and precision.
Score Runner. This simply involves hanging around near the ring until several dogs have run. The scribe then hands over their scribe sheets, and the volunteer takes them over to the score table where someone records them into the system (computer at AKC and some special score sheets at USDAA).
Gate Steward. The gate steward makes sure that the dogs are running in their order and are ready to go on time. They will normally call out the name of the dogs coming up and also announce the one that's running to the scribe to make sure the correct sheet is used for recording.
Course Builder. Course builders help build the course before each class, as well as tear it down at the end of the day. I've noticed that these generally ten to be the same people over and over again at our trials. One thing I know for sure is that I wouldn't want to drag all that heavy equipment around!
Check-in (USDAA). At USDAA there is a separate check-in line (AKC does this in self-serve style) at the beginning of the day, and this volunteer just checks people off the list when they arrive, double checks their jump height, and sends them for measurement as needed.

Whew, I think that's all of them. I've done all of these except for the last 3 now and they've all been fairly easy and straight forward. I probably wouldn't volunteer when I don't have to be there, but since for now I have to be there for most of the day anyway, it's nice to have something to do in between the runs.

While these are referred to as volunteer jobs, the volunteers actually get a little something for their work. I'm not sure who decides what the compensation will be, so I'll just share what I've gotten.
Both of the AKC trials I volunteered for were put on by the same people, and in these I got a free lunch for the first job of the day, and a $5 voucher for every other job on the same day. So if you work 3 runs of Saturday and 2 on Sunday, you would get both lunches and $15. The lunch is brought in and the same for all the workers (for example pizza, sandwiches, or Chinese food). The vouchers are only good towards trials put on by the same people, but thankfully they put on most of the trials in this area, so that's not a problem.
For the USDAA trial, we were given a $2 voucher for every job done (even the first one) and lunch was automatically included. One of the runs I helped with had a lot of dogs, so we got two vouchers ($4) for that one. Generally though, 3 Saturday and 2 Sunday jobs would get you both lunches and $10.
Interestingly, while it's less money per job, there are actually a lot more runs in USDAA, so I ended up making more voucher money at USDAA than I did at AKC.

Well, I think that about covers it :)

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