You Need to Volunteer (Don't Worry, They'll Find You A Job Where You Can't Break Anything)

You Need to Volunteer (Don't Worry, They'll Find You A Job Where You Can't Break Anything)

Our sport requires a lot of volunteers. I know if you’re a non-climber, it can be very intimidating to raise your hand in order to help out at a local and even more so at regionals and beyond. As someone who has judged at the national level, I have to say, that despite the pressure to get things right, it sure is a lot of fun to get involved.

The picture above is not a scene from the Walking Dead (cough-region601-cough), rather, it is from the 202 Regional Championship (SoCal and southern Nevada) which often has over 300 competitors. These comps need a lot of volunteers to keep them safe and efficient. Here are many of the positions that are required.

Training required volunteer positions (high quality necessary to ensure youth safety and fair competition):

  • Lead belayer

  • Top rope belayer

  • Speed climbing safety monitor

  • Judge (typically trained prior or on the spot)

  • Assistant Judge (typically trained prior or on the spot)

  • Scoring

No training volunteer positions (aka don’t worry, you wont mess anything up):

  • Runner (coordinates the movement of climbers from place to place)

  • Scorecard runner (runs… scorecards)

  • Iso monitor (monitors… isolation)

  • Iso check-in

It’s getting harder each year to get the people we need to run comps. Ironically, in my region as the number of competitors has gone up, the number of volunteers has gone down.
— Kevin Gallagher, RC, Region 801

And of course, our super stars, the RCs who do gym venue coordination, web updates, social media, judging, volunteer training and management, scorekeeping, etc.

Volunteering is also a great way to get to know people in our awesome community. I’ve had a great time getting to know our local parents as well as parents from around the country through volunteering. We really do have something special in our sport.

If you’ve spent time wondering why we need so many volunteers (even though registration seem spendy), check out the article below, which I think was written by our New England East RC team. Please feel comment with a correction if I’m attributing that incorrectly.

With thanks to Kevin Gallagher who requested this article.


In part, this is because climbing competitions involve a new, unique "field of play" every time:

  • The climbing "field of play" is a set of never-before-seen routes/problems

  • A large majority of comp registration fees goes toward their creation

  • Extensive (volunteer) resources are required to run a fair comp: judges, iso, etc.

Most other sports use the same standardized, unchanged fields/venues over and over. Although these fields/venues require maintenance, it isn't many thousands of $ to build the "field of play" each and every event. Climbing comps require a large routesetting crew and 6-7 days of shutting down all/part of a revenue-generating climbing gym, followed by a competition in a sport requiring serious liability insurance for the gym and USA Climbing.

Most other sports don't have the human resource requirements either. The entire onsight format depends heavily on having iso run properly, and well-trained judges to make fair and clear assessment of a climber's achievement. To run a fair and safe comp for 250 competitors, that respects the effort that our climbers have put into training, requires almost 200 slots to be filled, nearly a 1:1 ratio. In comparison, a swim meet for over 200 competitors at an 8-lane poll needs less than 15 volunteers+officials; a soccer tourney with 200 players requires 20-40 vounteers+officials. A climbing competition therefore requires 5X to 10X the number of volunteers as these other sports. While other sports can have a small fraction of families helping at the competitions, youth climbing events need to have most families involved in at least one volunteer role.

The quantity of volunteers is partially driven by the need for coverage --  to ensure volunteers have the ability to watch their climber, and their climber can be watched. It's important that they can briefly step away from their assignment to watch, while still ensuring a level of consistency in judging. The number of slots are sized to allow this coverage, and to meet the standards of quality and fairness expected.

That's a quick outline of some reasons why the climbing comps require a registration fee AND require heavy volunteer participation from the parents. A reasonable expectation is that each climbing family provide at least one volunteer in each of the bouldering and sport seasons.

Thoughtful planning of judge pairing so that volunteers can watch their climber, as well as putting less experienced judges with experienced judges, requires time. The earlier the signups are filled, the earlier that process can start.

The reality is:

  • Competitors do pay a registration fee

  • On top of that, we still do need many, many volunteers for these comps

  • Often, we don't get enough volunteers for these comps signed up early enough

  • But we can help make that change!

Thank you!
-Your friendly (volunteer) New England East Regional Coordinator crew

Sport and Speed Regionals: Help, it's my first time!

Sport and Speed Regionals: Help, it's my first time!