One Sports Administration Student’s Adventures in Volunteering

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This week’s blog takes a different turn. We’re talking to Will Lindsay, a WSU Sports Administration Graduate Student and asking about his recent experiences as a volunteer at the Toronto Pan Am Games. We caught up with Will and asked him a few questions:

  1. How did you get involved with volunteering at the Pan Am Games?

My athletic career ended abruptly, and I was searching for a way to stay involved in the sporting world. One of my doctors suggested that I apply to the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) to volunteer at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. I did, and was selected. That glorious three weeks in Vancouver turned into a month in London, England for the 2012 Olympic Games, and a month in Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. At each of these games, I volunteered at Canada House. Canada House is a place for athletes to meet up with their friends and families, to celebrate medal moments, and for guests to watch the Canadian broadcast television feed.

Approximately a year and a half ago, I submitted an application to the TO 2015 Pan Am organizing committee. It is separate from the COC. I then had to complete a video interview, answering questions about my previous experience and reasons for applying. In March 2015, I received an email indicating I had been chosen as one of the 23,000 volunteers for the event.

In March 2015, I also submitted an application to the COC to volunteer at Canada House. Since I have volunteered with the COC before, I was not interviewed and I was offered a position in April 2015.

  1. What kinds of responsibilities did you have?

I had two responsibilities for TO 2015. I was a sport presentation assistant for roller figure skating and indoor volleyball. For roller figure skating, I helped organize the sport presentation team (announcers, music technicians, video producers) by printing scripts, and helping with normal competition procedures. During the event I stood by the ‘Kiss and Cry’ for the short programs, and on the officials’ podium for the free programs. I also helped coordinate and execute the medal ceremonies.

For indoor volleyball, my role was titled the same but I had different tasks. Indoor Volleyball was a broadcast venue, so we had to make sure we were coordinating with the host broadcaster at all times. I indicated the start of the announcements once the teams were in place, and then assisted the in-venue host with promotions and contests to engage the audience. For most games, we had a sell-out crowd of 4,000 people.

At Canada House, I was working at the access and accreditation desk. Here we checked guests in, printed their passes, and dealt with anyone whose name was not on the official list. There were times when people had to be turned away as they were not family or friends of an athlete.

  1. What were some of the highlights of being there?

I really enjoyed being a part of a different aspect of a multi-sport event. I was able to develop new skills, meet a lot of sport-minded people, and reconnect with those that I had previously met while volunteering. Being exposed to new sports was a treat. I had not seen roller figure skating, handball, squash, or racquetball competitions live, nor had I been exposed to indoor volleyball at this level.

I do have to say though that using my connections to receive a free ticket to the closing ceremonies was a major highlight. I’d never attended a closing ceremony before, and after all of work I put in for the games, it was a great way to cap off my experience.

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  1. What areas (if any) frustrated you or didn’t go the way you wanted them to?

Public Transit! Everyone who has spent time in a big city knows how crucial public transportation is for daily life. Many people in Toronto do not own cars and instead rely solely on transit. My commute to Canada House each day was approximately 20 minutes on the streetcar, and it was just over an hour to Exhibition Centre (my venue). This would have both been fine, but I cannot tell you how many times I either walked home because there was no streetcar, was on a streetcar that was diverted and I was forced to get off, pulled the cord to have the driver stop and he completely drove past my stop, or walked up to a stop just as the driver was pulling away.

The only other frustrating part of the games was that during the day, Canada House was not very busy. This was a stark contrast to London and Sochi. There are various reasons in play here. In Sochi, Canada House was the only place you could go if you wanted English media or North American food. As a result, Canada House was always packed. In Toronto, of course, there are hundreds of options for food and media coverage. In Sochi, everyone there was on ‘vacation.’ Many people in Toronto were still working their normal jobs during the day and attending the events at night.

  1. What value is there for a Sports Admin master’s student in volunteering?

Graduate students can gain a whole host of benefits from volunteering. It is a great way to make contacts and meet new people in a field where you eventually want to work. I know of many former volunteers who have gone on to careers at the COC or with other sport federations. You can see various parts of the world and be exposed to new sports through volunteering. Volunteering can help you define your future career, based on organizations you want to work for, or jobs you enjoy doing. Volunteering can also expose you to opportunities that you did not know existed. I encourage everyone in the program to spend a little time this year volunteering in sport. It may just be the best decision you make!

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