Let’s Play Jenga!

My son’s youth football league started last night.  For those who are new to my words, I am the Volunteer Coordinator for a fairly large youth football organization.  The past 2 years most of my “football” discussion has revolved around some issues with a particular set of coaches and their inability to let all kids play equally.  Thankfully, this issue has been resolved and I truly believe that this year, as a mother of a player, will be greatly improved.  I am not so sure that the part of “coordinating unwilling parents to do jobs they think they should not have to do” part will see any improvement.

I jokingly refer to the volunteer schedule as a Jenga Tower.

My Volunteer Schedule

My Volunteer Schedule

I work for weeks to carefully put it together, based upon the sign up sheet each parent turned in.  We give them 3 job choices (they can choose more, if they are kind and want to make my life easier) and 2 game times during which they wish to work.  I labor over those lists and the puzzle of trying to make it fit into a 7 game schedule, 4 home, 3 away and playoff potential games.  After I get the tower built, I type up sheets for each of the families with their responsibilities listed, hand them out …

And then I hide.

Because, inevitably, there is a significant number of unhappy parents who want to try to pull all the little pieces of my puzzle out and watch the tower come crashing down.  I am Public Enemy #1 when it comes to the Football Board of Directors.  Nobody wants to see me coming their way, nobody wants an email from me.  And nobody seems to understand that … I AM A VOLUNTEER, TOO!  It appears they believe I sit in my home and devise ways to make their lives miserable for the next 3 months, scheming to keep them away from watching their football player’s score touchdown’s and their cheerleader’s do back flips.

I truly don’t.  I feel their pain.  I want to watch my son play as well.  Desperately!  For the past 3 years, I have shown up at 8:00am for every Sunday home football game to set up the field and I have stayed at that field until nearly 7:00pm, through every game, working every possible volunteer position at some point or another.  I set up, clean up, serve concessions, flip burgers, announce games, spot plays, monitor players, run sound, sell raffle tickets, run the scoreboard … whatever is needed … and sometimes all on the same day.  There is no job on that schedule that I have not personally performed in the past 5 years.

So, because I can not say it to their faces quite as bluntly as I can say it here, I am going to write everything I wish I could say in response to their questions.  Right now.

  1. Why am I scheduled to work in concessions while my son/daughter is playing/cheering?  Because that is what you signed up for.  I know you would have preferred set up, however, now that your child has aged out of the flag program and into a tackle program, we need to try to save the set up positions for flag parents, who finish long before your game even starts and don’t want to stick around with their younger kids in tow to do a job in which their children are not allowed to be a part of (concessions, specifically, no kids allowed, state health rules or whatever).  I can schedule you for the game after yours or I can schedule you during your child’s game.  I assume that, when you put down on your preference list that you wanted “Concessions or Set up during Flag of C games, you would  understand when I scheduled you for Concessions during C games.  We don’t sell concessions during Flag and set up is primarily for Flag parents.  Sorry.  The point is … if you want to watch your child play, do not put “during {whichever team they play on}” as a requested time.  There are tons of parents who simply have no choice but to work during their child’s game because they have no one to help with childcare after their child is off the field.  I have no way of discerning, by the volunteer sign up sheet, if you are one of those … or if you just didn’t understand that by putting on the sheet that you would prefer to work during your child’s game you actually meant that, no you did not and you just didn’t quite understand what the meaning of the word “work” was.  Not a mind-reader, folk’s.
  2. I don’t know anything about football, why was I signed up for Spotter/Monitor/Football whatever?  Because that is what you signed up for.  There is an explanation sheet of each job attached to the registration packet. If you sign up to be a Spotter, I assume you know what you are doing, and are capable of handling the job you requested.  I also assume that you know how to read and that you utilized that skill prior to signing up for any jobs on the sheet.  Again, not a mind-reader.
  3. It’s not fair that I have to work 5 volunteer slots.  I pay to have my kid participate, why should I have to volunteer? OR I am simply to busy and important to do this and you are going to have to accept that I can not fulfill these volunteer obligations.  OR  I am just going to smile and nod and throw this list in the trash as soon as I get home and never show up to do the assigned work.  It’s not like you can punish me, anyway.  Well, you are just my favorite kind of person, right there.  I love your little tootsies to pieces.  Stand right there while I grab my bat … Seriously?  Really?  First … it’s not fair that I have to volunteer.  This is a volunteer organization, run by volunteer’s.  Without the work of volunteer’s, it does not happen, your kid does not participate, whether you put up all the money in the world or not.  I LOVE it when parents come to tell me how much of a hardship it is on their life to fulfill 5 volunteering spots during a 3 month period.  How busy they are.  The Board of Directors is filled with volunteers who start working on all this football stuff in January, so that you child can participate in an awesome organization starting in August.  We meet monthly until around May, when it becomes more frequent.  We work every special fundraising event, some of us work every single day of a 3 day event because enough of you can’t be bothered.  Once practices start in August, we are at the field 4 days per week, working.  We spend hours away from the field working, so that when the games start, your children get an optimum experience.  And once the games DO start?  We are at the field from the start of the flag games, all the way through every level of tackle games which at home games means at least 11 hours and at the away games generally means about 6 hours.  I don’t need to hear how busy YOU are, and how hard it is for YOU to sit down and have a meal with your family during football season.  As far as I am concerned, if it is that big of a hardship and nuisance for you … QUIT.  Pull your kids and leave the program.  As for not showing up?  Someone has to do the job you were assigned.  If I am lucky, another parent with a heart of gold steps in and does it, over and above their own assignments.  If I am not so lucky, I am pulling people off the benches, or grabbing yet another board member to put them into your job, because you can not be bothered.  And as far as penalizing you for not showing?  Yes, I truly can do that.  Except that it is not you who is penalized … it is your child.  When a parent fails to do their assigned volunteer slots I have the ability to bench their child during the game.  I HATE doing that, because punishing a child for their lame parents really rubs me the wrong way.  They can’t help it that they were born to inept, ungrateful, ignorant, asinine parents.  However, if you do it to me often enough, I WILL bench your kid.  Because by the end of the season, I am so over people’s over-inflated sense of entitlement that I will punish innocents with glee.

So, there is surely more.  Quite honestly, 90% of the parents I deal with are ideal, wonderful human beings who, although they might not love their assignments, simply sigh deeply and plug on, and often raise their hands whenever I ask for extra help.  It is the 10% who drive me batty.  If I can lay claim to one pet peeve, it would be over-inflated senses of entitlement.  We live in a society where people think they should get everything for nothing.  Because they breathe air, they deserve … whatever … and it drives me nuts.

This is my last year in this particular board position.  I promised I would do absolutely anything else they might need, I would still work sun up to sun down at the games, however I just don’t have it in me to deal with the parents one more year.  I believe God grants us with a certain amount of patience and, although we can replenish it some, every year there is just a little bit less to work with.  The past 3 years have depleted me and I find myself with a shorter and shorter fuse to work with.  For the good of the league, I will let someone else handle the entitled 10% next year.

And now, after dumping all of that here, I can go open my inbox and begin to address the many issues and changes that are needed on my precariously built Jenga Tower of Volunteers … and hope that the whole thing doesn’t just come tumbling down.  Pray for me?

And it all comes a-tumblin' down!

And it all comes a-tumblin’ down!

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