Volunteering at a huge week long sporting event #volunteerlife

What is it like to be an insider at a big sporting event? I had my first taste of that last month when I was a volunteer for the World U23 Ultimate Championships. Need an excuse to travel? This could be it!

Ultimate is a great sport, full of people ranging from your stereotypical hippie to your nearly semi-pro elite athlete. You can find leagues, pickup, and tournaments for all levels of players and seriousness. That’s what I love about this sport, everyone just loves to play and meet other people who also love to play.

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The arena field, the day before the action started!

So what is it?

This tournament was for players under 23, meaning all the team members on the roster had to be under 23 years old. There were 40 teams there, from around 20 different countries. There were three divisions: Mixed, Open, and Women. All in all, there were a few thousand athletes and spectators during the week. Though not the biggest tournament I’ve been to, it was still a pretty big operation to be a part of. It was pretty cool to see that ultimate has gotten so big that all these different countries were able to send teams for this championship!

There was one team from India which was pretty inspiring to see. I happened to meet one of the coaches who was also from New York and knew some people I know. He told me about how they had a tryout process in 8 cities, and that they had issues with visas to get into the UK but eventually made it. By chance, there was a guy coaching the team who was also from New York and knew a lot of people I knew. There were teams from other parts of Asia too: Chinese Taipei, Japan, and the Philippines. I was glad to see that there were some teams from Asia there. Hopefully this means that they’ll send teams to the World Ultimate and Guts Championship next year, also to be held in the UK at these same fields.

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All the Mixed teams from Asia

Being a volunteer

So how was it like to be a volunteer for a full week? It was at times really awesome, but also at times annoying.

Most of the volunteers camped on site, so that meant we were literally 1 minute away from the playing fields. This was great because we often had shifts starting as early as 6 AM. I had my first shift starting at 7:30 AM on most days. We also got to bond with other volunteers after hours at the campsite and in a big marquee tent just for us. A few volunteers did have to stay off-site to help out with the athlete dorms, but the majority were camping at the fields in our little village. The fairy lights that outlined the rows of tents at night made it feel like we were entering another land. It was super cute!

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I had a great time helping people while at the reception desk. Many of my shifts were there, but sometimes I had other shifts like manning the recycling and trash bins in the catering tent and stewarding the grandstand area. The volunteers in general did a really great job, partly because of the foresight of the lead volunteers to make sure that we all had a diversity of job types to do during the week. It did take a long time for the schedule of our shifts to come out for the next day, but they really put effort into it. I think I had really boring shifts twice during the week, but it really made it tolerable to have more interesting jobs the same day or the following day.

We did sometimes get some insider info, and we got to interact with some really important people in the Ultimate scene. There were a few moments of crisis and drama, but overall nothing that crazy. There were some conflicts between one of the coaches and one of the volunteers, so at least I got to hear it straight from the person involved rather than through the grapevine. Overall, it was a great experience for me because I really don’t know anyone or anything about the Ultimate scene in Europe at all. I’m sure I’ll see these people around and I hope to get more involved in general!

Who won?

The week ended with USA winning 2 of the finals, Japan winning in the Women’s Division. I felt sad to come to the end of a great week and have to go back to my normal routine. Although I was one of the oldest volunteers, I still could say that I connected with the other volunteers and I would do it again. The WUGC is here again next year, and since I live so near I think I’ll sign up to be a volunteer again. The ultimate will be even better, there will be tons more teams to meet, and hopefully a lot more spectators!

Reasons I’d do this again

  1. It could be a great reason to travel in the future. World and European championships are held in a different country each time, so I would have every excuse to travel somewhere to help out in the future!
  2. Meeting new people in the ultimate community
  3. Feeling like an insider at a big event for a sport that I really care about (and spreading the love)
  4. Last but not least, free swag! We also got a discount on all the merchandise at the VC tent.

I’m a volunteer this week for Worlds! #worldu23 #wfdf #ultimate

A photo posted by chewy travels (@chewbear62) on

The future of the sport

AND, now the International Olympic Committee has officially recognized ultimate as a sport!! Though it may not be all it’s cracked up to be, I’ll still celebrate this as me getting a little closer to achieving my dream of being an Olympic athlete or at least attending to watch a sport I care about.

If you love a sport, why not try to find out if you can be a volunteer for the next big event? If I could, I would travel the world playing or volunteering in tournaments.

  • Nat

    Sounds like it was a really interesting time. I especially like the feeling of being an insider at an event that you like, and the swag–those are two things I love about events like this 🙂

    What were the annoying parts about the job?

    • Some jobs like ticketing were very uneventful, but at least we always had one other person with us there at all times so we had someone to talk to.

      Then when I did catering it was mostly cleaning up after people and trying to help people recycle and put their trash in the correct bins. I ended up helping people recycle by grabbing their plastics from their trays, etc. and my hands got pretty sticky from that! But, hey, I did more than I needed to with that because I care about recycling so I shouldn’t complain too much!