Volunteerism takes a village

PARK CITY, Utah. — Around here, ‘full send’ (a sports term meaning giving 110%) is a way of life for both athletes and those who support them. Often, that support takes the form of volunteering in a million ways to enable competitors and their events.

The Oldens of Park City are one of countless families who embody that philosophy. The Olden children participate in nordic ski jumping. When not competing, Macey Olden, 16, volunteers at the top of the course as a starter. Her brother Ryder, 13, competes, then volunteers by clearing ice out of younger teammates’s bindings and rooting them on. Their dad John volunteers as a hill marker, and their mom, Sherry, volunteers at the bottom of the course as the queen of calcs (calculations). 

From hockey to soccer, gymnastics to cheerleading, karate to lacrosse, and ski mountaineering to mountain biking, there’s always a way to support the coaches who are supporting the kids. Generally, when grandparents are in town, they lend a hand too, volunteering at the hot chocolate table.

From bib collectors to gatekeepers, from orange smiley slicers to judges and officials, Park City shows up.

“I like to support and encourage activities that I personally enjoy or think are good ones for kids to participate in,” said Brendan McGuire, a Parkite whose children compete in cross-country skiing and running.

For some, the contributions are both a fun way to connect to the sports community, and a way to reduce participation costs.

Ryder Older, a member of the USA Nordic Jr. National Championships Team in between jumps. Photo: Michele Roepke
Ryder Older, a member of the USA Nordic Jr. National Championships Team, in between jumps. Photo: Michele Roepke.

Many local teams have adopted a policy whereby family volunteer hours contribute to their programming fees. This has occasionally become a catalyst to folks turning into ‘volunteer vixens’ who can’t get enough of the volunteer vibe, or ‘volunteer whisperers’ who recruit others along the way.

It’s been overheard among spouses, “That’s great honey that you’re out there volunteering again today but, um, it ain’t payin’ our bills.” Well, thanks to the advent of these work hours policies, nowadays it actually is paying the bills.

Parents are driving to the venue anyway and often find that via volunteering, they get to see their children compete close up. That’s taken on special meaning since COVID: in this unique year of pandemic policy, many non-spectator competitions mandate that in order to even be present at an event, one must be a volunteer.

More often than not, a no-experience-necessary policy is firmly in place, with volunteering spots inviting and encouraging all comers. But some find themselves building skills that they can actually put on their resumes.

Lots o’ live-streaming of COVID competition schedules occurred in 2020, creative overnight the high-tech and crucially important volunteer positions of producer, director, and camera person. 

Sports administrators show their appreciation in all sorts of ways – not that it’s asked for, expected, or needed. Parents’ appreciation flows back up to them in the gratitude put forth by the families of Park City.

Sherry Olden, queen of calcs
Sherry Olden, queen-of-calcs. Photo: Michele Roepke


Macey Olden, a member of the USA Nordic Jr. National Ski Jumping Team, riding the chairlift up before ski jumping down. Photo: Michele Roepke


John Olden (the highest of the four hill markers) watching where the ski jumper lands and marking accordingly. Photo: Michele Roepke

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