Grand Slam of Curling: Champions Cup Volunteer Wrap Up

I've volunteered for a dozen Curling Canada events, numerous local curling events, and a ton of other major sport type events. I've done everything from taking out garbages, selling merchandise, pretending to be media, and leading teams of other volunteers. But one volunteer gig remained elusive...I hadn't gotten the opportunity to volunteer for a Grand Slam of Curling* event. Until last month...

When I heard Heather Nedohin and her team from the Sherwood Park Curling Club had gotten the first ever Champions Cup, I knew I had to volunteer. I tweeted at various people and eventually was sent a link to fill out the volunteer form online. I couldn't attend any pre event volunteer rallys to size a jacket or anything. I got the impression most of the volunteers were coming from the curling club, as everything was done there pre-event, though the actual event took place at a local arena.

I was sent a volunteer schedule a few weeks before the event. This was more first clue it would be an "interesting" week, as I'd been assigned 3 different jobs. Interesting.

TV production bench. Always nice to be back working on the bench!

I received an email telling me to pick up my jacket and enjoy pizza a week before the event. When I got there, it turned out to be a volunteer orientation. Not sure why this surprised me, but it wasn't necessarily communicated that the jacket pick up was a meeting. Interesting. I picked up my jacket and asked if we'd be meeting our team directors. Turns out there were no teams and no team directors. One woman did the volunteer scheduling for all volunteers. No one was in charge of any one area. Interesting. I had been assigned 3 areas that were relatively similar, basically part of the officials team (though I did meet a volunteer who had been assigned 5 different distinct areas to volunteer for!). And it turned out there was someone in charge of this area, but that person wasn't in charge of the volunteers. So this person didn't know us or our contact info and had not done the scheduling. Interesting.

The volunteer orientation was quite disorganized. There was pizza and some people talked, but they didn't have a microphone so I barely heard anything. And they made the mistake of asking if anyone had questions (don't ever ask 200 people if they have questions, that's just asking for trouble). An hour later, they finally talked about volunteer parking. And that's it. I learned nothing about my jobs or anything else really. Interesting.

The next day I attended training to learn how to be a statistician (I had 3 stats shifts). We were handed out a manual, and talked to for a couple hours. I'd always assumed the statisticians were trained officials. But at the slams, 2 hours of training and we were good to go. Terrified actually. That night we were emailed the manual and a cheat sheet. Apparently the SportsNet stats guy had sent them to the organising committee to send to us, but no one had passed it on, which highlights an interesting lack of communication due to the lack of a volunteer team structure. It would have been really really really helpful to have that manual more than 24hrs before the event so we could read it and learn. Interesting.

Statistician training: learning during the calm before the storm.

The next day I attended a 30 minute training session for scorekeeping (1 shift) and timekeeping (5 shifts). Though I was terrified to be a statistician, scoreboard and time clocks seemed to be easier. Keep in mind here that I had at this point driven 45 minutes in rush hour to the arena three days in a row and the event hadn't even started yet. That's three 90 minute driving sessions pre event. This made me quite cranky. This organization can only be described as...interesting.

Finally the event started. The first day I did stats for 2 draws. It was...difficult. There were like 10 variables to check off in the computer program for each shot. Each shot. And I had to score both teams. And they curl quickly. It certainly was an experience. I've always wondered if I could do stats, so this opportunity was useful because it proved to me I can't do stats. I mean, I did an ok job, learned some new skills, met some nice people, but stats is not for me. I liked the challenge, but it was just too challenging. I think being a curling statistician is a fantastic job for a skip. I am not a skip. I know curling, I watch curling, but I don't KNOW curling. For one of my shifts, a former skip of mine helped me out and I learned a lot from that too. Lot's of learning on the stats bench that first day!

Scorekeeping was...hard.

My third shift was on time keeping. This was more my speed. I had to pay a lot of attention, but it was super fun to be down at ice level in the midst of the action. I did find that it got a bit boring after awhile and quite repetitive, but it was definitely an ok job.

Timekeeper's tools.

The next day I woke up with a raging head cold and a bit of a fever. Good thing I was sitting at ice level for my only score keeping shift! Score keeping was, well kind of boring. I got to watch a lot of curling though! And do math. Mostly I was worried about getting the math wrong. But score keeping was a decent job, despite the freezing toes.

Nice view from the scorekeeper's chair!

By now we'd figured out everything was sort of disorganized, and I had started checking when my next shifts were before I left the arena for the day. Good thing too because I had been told I had a Friday 8am shift but was not on the schedule at that time at all. Interesting.

I finished the event doing a bunch of time keeping shifts. Cold toes, but fun.

Not a bad view eh?

Let's just say the volunteer experience initially was disappointing and disorganized, but in then end, it was a great week and I enjoyed my self because the volunteers themselves were fantastic. I've gotten to know a couple officials over the past year and spent a lot of time chatting to them, plus I hung out a bit with a guy I used to curl with, and I knew a few people from the Sherwood Park Curling Club since that's where I learned to curl. I've no doubt the organizing committee put on a great tv event - they've been given the event back in 2018. At the start of the week I had decided not to sign up for 2018 because it was a bit lacking, but after the week played itself out I decided to probably sign up again if given the chance. The curling was good and the people were great. That there is the marker of a good curling event! Perhaps events can be run in different ways, to a similar end. I guess as long as it looks good on TV, then everyone is happy, right?

*Curling Canada runs the TSN events, and I have a long standing relationship with their team. I consider them my people and enjoy hanging out with them a couple times a year. Some I consider colleagues, and some friends. I hope to continue to work with them all for many years to come, and am indeed a Director for an event next year. The Grand Slam of Curling people run the SportsNet events. I've never attended one as they've never been local.

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