Jan Dragsbæk

CrossFit Games 2014 - From a volunteers perspective

29 Jul 2014

A little backstory

I volunteer for a lot of stuff - mostly being CrossFit related and this time was no exception. I volunteered for the european regionals for my 2nd year at the rogue equipment team and had an absolute blast doing so. I managed to get off work, so that I could spend an extra day working at the event arena, getting ready for the event to kick off and this was where my journey really started.

I arrived at the event mid-day and started doing my thing together with other volunteers from the rogue team, getting everything ready for the friday events. After that was done, I went to the train that was supposed to take me to the place I was going to stay. Next to the train station, there was a McDonalds. I will never forget the minutes I spent thinking about taking getting myself a cheatmeal or not, and I decided to go for it. Entering the McDonalds, Oliver (the european event director) was there and I told him if possible, I’d love to work more and he agreed on taking me back to the venue, so we could continue the work.

The “tape incident”

“Any volunteer that was present that evening is probaly scarred for life”. That is the words that I heard from the guy in charge of this task a few days ago, when we talked about it.

If you remember the layout of the floor, there had to be 12 “lanes” that the athletes could handstand walk in. Every 5 feet, there was a marker indicating these 5 feet. This was done with tape. Yes actual tape. This tape was apparantly a special kind of tape, that was impossible to find any place in europe. Why am I saying this?

The signage team at the european regional had carefully measured and putten down tape for 10 lanes. After the 10th lane they ran out. Not only did they run out - they had also gotten the measurements wrong, which meant we had to carefully peel off the tape without ruining it and moving it a couple of inches. We also had to cut some pieces in half to be able to make the last two missing lanes. This was a very long working evening and I was home in my bed at around 2am.

Despite the fact I got late to bed, I was still amongst the first people to arrive at the arena the next morning at 6am. I kept staying untill everything was done the next 3 days and after that, I went up to a guy from HQ and told him if he wanted me to work just as hard at the games in Carson, I would love to. Without even giving me a moment to say goodbye, he gave me his contact details and he would sort everything out and make sure I could come.

Volunteering for the Games

About a month before the games, HQ opens up for anyone to volunteer for the games, having to list previous experiences and filling out a lot of information about who you are and why you should get picked. To begin with, I was placed on a waitinglist, but within a day after being placed on that, I got assigned to the “Signage and Ceremonies” team. I had somewhat of an idea what they did, but wasn’t quite sure. My teamlead wrote a lot of emails during the next two weeks giving us all the information we could possibly ask for and I felt super informed and prepared to get to work with the games.

When you volunteer for the games, you get to opt in for days you can work, which spans from sunday before the games untill monday after the games week. Without even hesitating, I opted in for every single day and got assigned to work all days, which was what I had hoped for. To my surprise, we were only 3 who had chosen to work all week long. Most went for working 3 or 4 days, so they could experience being a spectator, which is cool - but just not what I want. When volunteering for things, I like to go all in.

Signage and Ceremonies

So what is this team? What do we do? Well, everything you see on the field with a sponsor logo, a number or athlete name on it, is our work. If you actually see any of us, It’s because the camera guys focus on us between the workouts or because we did something wrong and need to fix it.

We also assist other teams, if they in any way need our help. The best example of this, is the big bob during the team events. Big bob had to be reset, which means the thing had to be moved back to the starting position by someone.

There are two rogue teams - one responsible for the track and one responsible for the tennis stadium and they check in at different times, which means that they needed someone to help push the big bob back, so we stepped in.

I had the pleasure of moving that thing from anywhere between 10 and 200 feet at least 30 times. We were some times 20 people moving the thing, but it was still heavy.

Getting things done

During the week of working, we had been assigned to meet in at a specific time and check out at a specific time. I checked in perhaps 10 minutes before every single day to avoid all the buzz and queues and I dont think I ever checked out. The team at Staff Services had left when we wanted to check out. Most days I checked out at midnight, but some days later and some days earlier.

Doing the switching of name mats that you guys saw on TV/stream was probaly the easiest part of what we did during the games, as it is a quick task that lasted no longer than 3 minutes. What you guys did not see was us cutting rubbermats, making lifting platforms, applying decals and branding all things that you did see. It was an amazing experience seeing how complicated this event actually is, from the inside out.

Everything has to be perfect and every single details has to be verified by one person, who sits right below Dave Castro and JB in the chain-of-command. This is a different way of managing things, than what I’m used to, but during the last couple of days, it turned out to work very well (as long as Castro liked what he saw). At times it was frustrating that we could stand 20 people doing nothing, but that is the flipside of having this kind of command. It does make perfect sense to do it like that, when it has to go on ESPN though. It’s kinda a big deal.

During the games, HQ had hired some contractors to help running the event and getting decals done and I got to know a lot of these people during the late hours. These people were amongs the hardest working people at the venue. They spent so extremely much time doing tedious tasks and they hardly get to see any of the events and get almost no recognition. These people hardly got any sleep during the nights (perhaps 1-2 hours if they were lucky) and I stayed working (as a volunteer, not getting paid) to help take some load of these peoples shoulders. I know they are hired, but I know how tough it can be working so hard without getting much sleep, and I know that any help is appreciated.

Experiencing the games

My experience of the games was different. I didn’t get to go to the stands, but I got to see everything from behind the scenes. I got to see how the athletes warmed up, I got to see their final ritual before going in and I got to see them after the workouts bonding and talking about what they just did. Seeing that was amazing. Even though they are competitors out on the field of play, they are best buddies after the workouts joking around, just like we (the average crossfitters) do. They were happy to talk with us and they enjoyed the attention and embraced it. Most of them even thanked us (the volunteers) for our work, which made the whole thing that much more enjoyable.

There are moments that stand out, as there always is, but this one is very special to me. i have never heard the american national anthem live before, and experiencing that at the tennis stadium, standing right behind the curtain, was right up there. It was so beautiful and I had goose bumps going on during the entire ceremony.

Final words

I have met the most amazing bunch of people, that I already now look forward to meeting again! I will most definitely be going back next year and without a doubt be working just as hard to make everything come together as nicely as it did. It was hard work and it was tough getting up in the morning, but seeing the stuff we made on YouTube makes me proud, and it looks pretty amazing. Untill next year! #signageneverstops

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