Life as a Tournament Volunteer

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Life as a Tournament Volunteer

I’m sipping a hot cup of coffee as I write this from my hotel room at the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino for the 2013 US Open.

It has been a hectic tournament so far. It’s Day 2 of 5 and I’ve been volunteering at the control desk, handing out match slips for Station A, covering twenty-six tables of action (out of almost 100). It has been calm at times, and absolutely bonkers at others. Players check in at our station ten minutes before the start time, and we hand out the match slips and a 3-star ball, while recording all of the slips that have been printed, have gone out to be played, and have come back. Then as the matches finish, we verify that the results have been recorded correctly, and hand it off to be processed.

The real challenge has been due to match conflicts–not conflicts between players, but between their schedules. With people playing multiple events (especially ITTF events), these clashes are frequent and tend to wreak havoc. When the dreaded, pink conflict slip arrives at our desk, it causes delays for the match, and when it does finally get played, we usually have to shuffle the tables to accommodate them.

Yesterday was just one of those crazy days.

A flurry of pink slips had us running around, trying to manage schedules while a line-up of thirty players vied for our attention so they could check in. I felt like a bank teller who had just announced that we were running out of cash, and everybody wanted to withdraw. Some players who were waiting on conflict matches grew impatient as we did our best to call on their opponents and start their matches.

A moment of peace

Amidst the chaos, one player had a profound impact on me. With dozens of people trying to grab my attention, pointing to their slips and calling out at me, I turned to help one man who politely waited his turn at the side of the desk. It was Xavier Therien of Quebec, Canada.

Despite his match being long delayed due to conflicts, he checked in and stood patiently as I searched, still in a frenzied state, for his match slip. He stood back, gave me my space, and held a peaceful expression that was contagious. It was a refreshing moment that I sorely needed. I’m not sure how his match went, but I hope he won.

Even though it gets stressful at times, I always enjoy volunteering at these events; collecting autographs from the pros, enjoying Vegas shows, watching some amazing live action, and meeting other players and volunteers.

I thank all of the players who, despite delays, have been patient and courteous to myself and the other volunteers. It’s a hard job, standing on the cement floor for almost six hours, trying to keep the tournament running smoothly and on time. If you have a moment, give a simple “thank you” to a volunteer, umpire, organizer or security guard. A small gesture goes a long way.

How was your volunteer experience?

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3 Responses to “Life as a Tournament Volunteer”

  1. Jean Bulatao says:

    Hi Arthur!

    Very nicely written and a very accurate description of US Open as seen from the control table.

  2. Albert says:

    Hey Arthur,

    Just want to thank you for this wonderful information of US Open…Much waiting for crazy event.

  3. Pam says:

    Great article Arthur. I’m never surprised to hear that someone with good manners is a Canadian! 🙂

    While your site is certainly focused on the more serious aspects of competitive table tennis (which is not my normal forte!) – I’ve really enjoyed reading several blog articles. I will also check out the Kickstarter fundraiser you refer to in another post.

    I’ve just launched a blog on the topic of social table tennis & travel- very lighthearted, but I hope you will check it out and let me know what you think.


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