Volunteer Burnout

Recently I posted a photo of my favorite Christmas gift (Dec. 27, 2008). It’s a change purse with a dolled-up Eisenhower-era babe with her head in white daisy clouds. Her frozen lipstick smile and perfectly plucked eyebrows suggest a woman with time on her hands. The caption reads: STOP ME BEFORE I VOLUNTEER AGAIN.
I’m not the only one experiencing volunteer burnout, and that became slap-my-face apparent earlier this week. Let me voluntarily relate this story:

Currently, I’m managing a girls’ soccer team. This makes me a step beyond a mere dedicated soccer mom who shows up on game day with orange slices and juice boxes. Turns out there’s a great deal of communication involved and, damn it, paperwork. I’m in the process of working on paperwork for two players. Player #1 is trying to get off our team and Player #2 is trying to get on.

After three weeks of calls, texts, emails, faxes and personal deliveries, I realized that it wasn’t only MY volunteer efforts needed to get the job done, but it involved the cooperative efforts of volunteers who are obviously far more burned out than I.

Player #1: A player transferring from Arizona to Texas. It took me approximately three minutes to print the transfer form and pull her other paperwork and player card. It was another minute to fill out the form and sign in the manager’s spot. I called Texas to confirm the address, prepared a manila envelope, and then hand-delivered it to our Club Administrator/Registrar for her signature. This was two weeks ago. The eagerly awaiting soccer mom in Texas has since contacted me twice asking for the materials. Her daughter, a talented midfielder, cannot play on a new team until the forms are first received and then processed on her end. She’s also due $475 in prepaid training fees. Last week I was assured the forms would go out this week. Today is Friday and after making another request I was told “they’d get to it ASAP—hopefully today.” Said Registrar is far too busy with her REAL job—the one that pays her—to deal with this silly soccer form.

Player #2: A player transferring from one local club to another. No state lines involved—just club lines. It’s been three weeks of gathering the appropriate paperwork for this player, a striker with promise, which is something our team could really use right now. The last signature needed before I can get her on our roster is that of the Club Registrar releasing her from her previous team. I’ve got a looming deadline and a history with Club Registrars putting this paperwork on the back burner, so I decided to squeaky-wheel the other club after Registrar B didn’t return my phone call or email for two days. (Because, of course, I have nothing better to do than invest time in this, right?)

Registrar B did return my second phone call. And, bless her little volunteering heart, lambasted me with an obviously prepared lecture on what it means to be a volunteer and how it was ridiculous for me to expect this kind of paperwork to be turned around “within 10 hours.” It was considerably more than 10 hours since I initially contacted her, however, it took 10 nanoseconds to determine that her overextended brain wasn’t firing with all cylinders.

“You obviously don’t realize that we are not paid to do these jobs,” she said. “We are all WORKING people with OTHER obligations. I, myself, am a full-time student and this, and that, and this and . . .” BLAH-BLAH-freakin’-BLAH.

I remained quiet, half listening, and tapped my foot while waiting for her to finish. Finally I was able to get in a word. All I wanted was the answer to one question: When can I get your signature on this form and back in my hands for filing? I asked her just like that—all business.

At this she sighed heavily and said, “You know, your TONE is really obnoxious!”

Okay . . . this chick obviously had issues. Maybe a fight with her teacher? A bad grade on a math test? So, I let that slide too. “You’re misinterpreting,” I said calmly. “I’m simply trying to expedite this process, and . . .”

“We’re all on the same team,” she interrupted. “We all work with the same organization . . . and you people don’t seem to realize . . . ” Again I had to stop listening. I only wanted the answer to my question.

Clearly, she had a lesson to teach and I was the soccer mom-turned-manager who was the target of her boring, burned-out volunteer career. And while I had to turn the form into a PDF to submit to her via email, she refused to offer the same courtesy to me. She wouldn’t even use a good old-fashioned fax machine.

“You have to come and pick up this form,” she said.

I didn’t argue. “Okay. Where will it be?”

Sigh! [dramatic pause] “At the corner of X and Y Streets.”

“O-kay,” I said again. “Do you want to give me an address”?

Sigh! [another dramatic pause] “It’s 1-2-3-4 Main Street.”

“Is this a business?”

Sigh! [and yet another dramatic pause—then absolute SNAP] “NO! It’s my house!”

“Ffffffffff . . . fine,” I said, definitely thinking of another F-word to say to this B-word, C-word. And by “B” and “C” words, I DON’T mean Bitter and Condescending.

The next day I had the signed form in my hand. But it’s not because I put in another minute of volunteer time to drive across town to the little house with the black gate and the blue box. I had someone who DID call her a Bitch and a Cunt do the job.

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