Teenagers Make Enthusiastic Volunteers
By Paul Peavy
Since the symbol of New Year’s is a brand spanking new baby, let’s talk about the recruitment of youth volunteers to infuse life, energy, and creativity into your already hoppin’ and poppin’ event! The events I participate in or volunteer for are always greatly pumped up when kids are involved.
Getting kids to volunteer is sometimes easier than getting adults to volunteer. Kids aren’t always eligible to compete in some events, but they may be interested and eager enough to volunteer.
My 12-year-old daughter, Lauren, said she enjoys volunteering at triathlons because she can get up close to the big-shot amateur and professional triathletes as she hands them a cup of Gatorade or helps them get out of their wetsuits. “If I didn’t volunteer I wouldn’t be this close to them,” she said. “It really inspires me for my own competitions!” Lauren Thompson, 15, said that as an athlete she knows how hard it is to put on these events and knows they couldn’t happen without volunteers. She said she is thankful for all the people who come together to make her events possible so, “I like to make it possible for fellow athletes to have the best experience possible at their events.”
Another point of interest is that many middle schools, high schools, and colleges require volunteer hours in the community for graduation. Be sure to promote your event’s volunteer needs at local schools, and you may find an overwhelming source of volunteers.
Young people are very creative and energetic, so make your event even more fun by recognizing their creativity and enthusiasm with different awards. Many triathlons give a spirit award for the best group of volunteers—such as the loudest, best theme, who worked the most hours, etc. The prize could be in cash, gift certificates, a donation, or a small trophy.
At the 2009 Ironman Florida, a group of teenage volunteers dressed up in different costumes. Their job was to hand out special-needs bags to athletes who were on their last 13 miles of the 140-mile race. This spanned about seven hours, but the kids’ enthusiasm never waned and they probably could have worked hours longer. How? Because the director scheduled them in shifts, giving each teenage volunteer time to relax and enjoy down time with friends. The breaks helped keep up their energy and enthusiasm levels.
Capable and enthusiastic as they may be, young people still need supervision and parameters in which to work. They need to understand how to best facilitate the job while also enjoying the experience. Once the guidelines and boundaries are established, young people usually exceed expectations of volunteers and add incredible value to your event. For your next event, look for support from those crazy, young whippersnappers—they’re guaranteed to bring their “whippersnapper” energy to pump up your event!