They came from far and wide — Florida, Australia, Holland — paying their own way for the love of their sport: CrossFit.
Nearly 500 volunteers were on hand at this year’s CrossFit Games, the first to sell-out at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
As the number of spectators grew from about 6,500 in 2011 to about 10,200 this year, those willing to relinquish coveted vacation time and money heeded the call.
Total volunteers doubled since last year, Chantel Jimenez says, who does seminar logistics for CrossFit’s Training Department and managed volunteers at the Games.
Volunteers were doing “anything and everything,” she adds.
That meant handling athlete registration, stuffing spectator goodie bags, ensuring other volunteers had food and water, keeping baths filled with ice for competitors and moving gear in preparation for the next heat, to name a few duties.
This year, CrossFit used an Internet-based administrative tool to assist in identifying and assigning the appropriate volunteers for both the Regionals and the Games. Within the first two weeks of registration for Games volunteers, about 400 people had signed up, Jimenez says, who is also a trainer at CrossFit Ocean Beach in California.
Another 300 or so were on a waiting list.
“We had to shut down the registration,” John McLaughlin says.
McLaughlin also works on logistics in CrossFit’s Training Department and managed volunteers at the Games. “We had too many volunteers that were willing to work,” he says.
He acknowledges it’s not a bad problem to have.
Volunteers got gratis tickets to the Games.
“Once they get there, we provide them with swag, shoes, shirts, hats, food,” Jimenez explains.
Everything else, volunteers pay for out of their own pockets.
“Within that group of volunteers there are some that are outstanding, amazing and hard workers, and come back every year and contribute a lot of their own funding for travel, hotel stays,” McLaughlin says. “It’s pretty amazing.”
Michael Irizarry calls it his vacation.
After volunteering at last year’s Games, he signed up to help at the South East Regional and this year’s Games.
“It’s extremely rewarding to give back to something that you really love at its core,” Irizarry says, who made the more-than 2,700-mile trip from Miami Beach, Fla., to Carson.
Irizarry helped set up Rogue equipment, which included the Big Bob sled that weighed more than 700 pounds. He started working Sunday night before the Games and went home the Monday afterward.
Irizarry coaches at multiple CrossFit affiliates in the Miami area and enjoys volunteering for the Games very much. Although the workdays were often 12 hours or longer and he paid his own travel expenses, Irizarry says he’ll do it again next year. “It’s like having a backstage pass,” he says. “You really get to see everything from a different perspective.”
George Sadler rode his motorcycle more than 100 miles from San Diego to Carson to volunteer on the media team from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, when his wife joined him to volunteer, as well. After that, the days got longer — 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. — and the couple booked a hotel room for the rest of the stay.
“It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun,” Sadler says.
Specifically, Sadler was the stage manager for the CrossFit Games Update Show with Caity Matter Henniger, Rory McKernan, Miranda Oldroyd and Pat Sherwood.
“I would never have guessed how much work goes into that,” Sadler says. “I was real fortunate because I was brought right into the scene. Anybody who was anybody, I was in touch with.”
As for volunteering next year, Sadler says he will “absolutely” do it again.
“It wouldn’t even matter to me what area I was in,” he says. “It was just a lot of fun.”
Without volunteers, the Games just wouldn’t be the Games, McLaughlin says, who is a trainer at CrossFit BGI in West Palm Beach, Fla.
“If the community wasn’t there to support us with volunteers it would be a plastic version of the Games,” he says. “They’re on the front lines, cheering as they’re working. It’s really what makes the event what it is.”
McLaughlin adds: “You could pay $1 million to … the labor force for the Games, but it wouldn’t be the Games.”
Just like everyday workouts at boxes around the world, the competition is an event where CrossFitters unite to get something done, according to Jimenez.
“The amount of work the volunteers (put in) to support the Games is tremendous. There’s a work force there that we rely on to do a lot,” Jimenez says. “Would the Games still happen? Yeah, probably. But it wouldn’t be the community-driven CrossFit experience that we want.”
Tim Baldry, who lost 180 pounds doing CrossFit and recently opened an affiliate in Mesa, Ariz., says he would volunteer again in a heartbeat. Like Sadler, Baldry was on the media side of things, helping the ESPN broadcast team.
“It was neat to be around that many people that cared about what was going on,” he says. “How could I not want to give back to something that has given me so much?”