Day 20: Volunteer for a Triathlon

Pay it forward (or back) by volunteering in 2020.

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This time of year is a good time not just to rekindle yourself physically, but also mentally. Rest, recover, and recharge—while gradually stepping up your training. And nothing helps this process more than giving back to your sport. Why not use this time to store up a little good karma and volunteer for a triathlon?

“You are going to get back what you put out there,” said Rebecca Maccaroni, who volunteers as the race director for the D.C. Tri Club and also relies heavily on volunteers to put on their events.

The benefits of volunteering

Research suggests there are many health benefits to volunteering for a triathlon at various levels. Less stress and depression, longer lifespan, better health outcomes—even lower blood pressure has been linked to volunteering. Research has also found volunteers can have an increased sense of self-confidence and happiness. And when it comes to volunteering for sporting events or racing for charity, it can even be tied to a rise in motivation. These are all good things for the year ahead.

But you don’t necessarily get all the benefits of volunteering unless you do it for the right reasons—so what are those?

Reasons people volunteer

When the motivations for sports volunteerism have been studied, there are any number of reasons people decide to volunteer.

In some cases, people want to gain skills or practice. Think of med students in the med tent.
At big events, like the Olympics or Kona, there’s a sense of pride and involvement in something special—like you were a key part of Jan’s course record!

There can also be literal benefits: early registration for races, cool swag only available for volunteers.
And, of course, volunteers can be motivated altruistically by wanting to help others.

“I’m giving back to the sport I love,” says Maccaroni. In addition to her work at her local tri club, she also volunteers at races and Ironman events, and even served as a catcher at Kona.

(Hint: those who volunteer for altruist reasons often see the most health benefits.)

Where to volunteer

If you’re ready to go, then start with asking yourself: What do you care about and who’s doing good work in your community?

  • reach out to local nonprofit organizations
  • sites like VolunteerMatch, Idealist, and HandsOn can help match you with volunteer opportunities
  • contact your local triathlon club to see what they need volunteers for
  • your local club may also know of groups, like Exceeding Expectations, helping youth or at-risk kids through triathlon

Whatever you decide, make the most of the opportunity to give back!

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