So your child/children have started racing BMX. As a parent it’s time to work out what your role in the proceedings is…there’s many to choose from.
Many parents take up a post on the sidelines to look after their kids, hopefully, and their involvement doesn’t extend to the running of an event. However you will see a few who, (a) look like they know what they are doing; and (b) seem to be the ones always doing something when you get to the track.
So I would like to take a moment to let you in on what they know, what they do, why they do it and how it all came about.
Volunteers run BMX. Period.
From the club worker standing on the corner of the track with a flag in hand to the board members of BMX Australia, we are all volunteers with: (a) full-time jobs outside BMX; (b) kids in the sport (or used to have kids in the sport), (c) a love of the sport and kids in general and (d) most importantly have the impetus to get up and lend a hand.
Don’t get me wrong, the welfare and safety of your child at the track is your number one responsibility, and that should never be neglected because you, as a parent have volunteered to work in a particular role. All too often I hear some say that by working at an event you are disadvantaging your children. I believe this to be a misconception, and am sure that the opposite is true.
All roles, from being a race director through to working in the canteen (and everything in between) will help you as a parent learn more about the sport your children love.
This in itself is an interesting point. Many of the parents know all about football (of all kinds), car racing, motorbike racing, soccer, cricket – you name it, because that’s what they did when they were young. But when it comes to BMX many are complete novices. They generally did not participate in the sport when they were young, and are nowhere near as familiar with the rules or general running of BMX as they are of other sports. BMX may have been around for a long time, but in comparison to other sports ours is still in relevant infancy.
So what often happens when families are new to the sport is that the child doesn’t know a great deal about it all, nor does the parent when asked for help or advise. This can lead to a fair bit of frustration, misinformation and general confusion. I know this because all too often, I am the person at the end of those questions.
Now you might be thinking that I’m drawing a long bow by trying to insinuate that if you work in the sport you will learn about the sport and become an expert, or that you won’t learn anything about the sport if you don’t volunteer. In that point you would be correct.
There is no guaranteed link between working and knowing, or between sitting on your butt and not knowing, but it is reasonably common sense that if you get involved with the workings of the sport you will learn something about it.
You will also get quite a bit of enjoyment from whatever it is that you do. Surprisingly, even though I sound like I’m cranky most of the time, I really enjoy working at a BMX event, being involved with the kids and a great bunch of parents, and generally enjoying the companionship of a very large number of people all with a common interest.
So enough of the grand story … just what it is you can do?
There are three main areas of involvement in BMX:
All clubs need Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Secretaries, Treasurers, Public Officers, Registrars and a few other positions, if you are able to fill them. These are really administrative roles. Becoming a president in your first year is ill advised, it’s a rotten job…but it’s about getting involved somewhere to kick things off.
Like all volunteer work, you should look to be involved in something you enjoy and already have some skills in. No one ever asks me to get involved in balancing the books (I’m hopeless), but my skills lie in the areas of organisation and running things, so I focus on those areas.
Key administrations jobs to begin with when starting out are club secretaries or registrars. You don’t need to be overly skilled, or have done it before. The crux of this job is being organised, and willing to put in a few hours of your own time after work during the week.
So if your skills sets include digging dirt, you probably shouldn’t put your hand up to be the club secretary, or registrar first up.
Setup and Track Work
If you have skills in digging dirt, knowing how to drive 13 different kinds of heavy machinery and you can tell which end of a spirit-level is up…then setup and track work is a valuable asset you can bring to your club.
Significant physical labour is involved in getting the BMX show up and running. This work doesn’t require a lot of effort when many chip in to help, but for one or two people it is damned hard work. This is a good time to reiterate that you can never have too many volunteers. I can’t recall a time I have ever been turned away when I walked up to the person in charge and said: “What can I do to help?”
Setup and track work sees volunteers doing everything from carrying equipment out of sheds and installing it, running the canteen, sweeping the track and any extra heavy-handed maintenance that it might need. Then at the end of the day it all needs to be packed away. This is not just a helter skelter chuck it in the bin affair as most clubs have very specialised and organised ways of handling and storing their gear, but if you ask to help you will be welcomed, and once you have learnt the ropes you won’t need to ask again.
Becoming an Official
This is the one that parents find the most daunting … being out there making decisions and working in front of everyone, possibly making mistakes and feeling somewhat pressured regarding your performance. Almost everyone thinks they don’t know what to do, and can’t possibly help in this regard.
This is probably the biggest secret. No one knows what to do as an official the first time. But when the day comes when you are prepared to walk out on centre stage, you will be shown what to do, guided throughout the day and importantly, you will be appreciated for ‘putting your hand up’.
Being an official is probably one of the most rewarding jobs, and generally you only work in short stints. That’s the nature of the sport. We’ll also ensure that your comfortable in the role. A beginner official will usually begin working in staging, flagging or on the finish line. Staging in particular is a lot of fun as you get to interact with and learn who your riders are, and get to know their parents too. The only requirements are a nice loud voice.
Flagging too is quite simple, you watch all racing and in the instance where a rider may come down, you raise a yellow flag to let the starter and other officials know that there is an incident on track.
Being on the finish line has a few more roles, and requires more instruction…but with a little diligence you will quickly find yourself making a significant contribution in this area, especially when it comes to jobs such as scoring!
There is a major upside to becoming a volunteer and learning about the sport your children have chosen to do.
You will find a common language to communicate with your kids about the thing they love doing, and that’s a benefit not to be sneezed at. You will gain knowledge of the sport and be able to help and advise your child. You will also meet a great bunch of people and have a fantastic time while at the same time benefiting both your own child and all participants within the sport.
So think about getting involved … it’s rewarding in more ways than you think.