Today I took the opportunity to complete some CAMS online marshal training through their Integrated Motoring Management System and received a Certificate of Achievement for the completion of the Introductory Course on marshaling.
The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport Training is world famous and is supported by the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety and Sustainability.
Why did I do this? Why now?
I would like to volunteer the Bathurst 12h race at Mount Panorama in 2016 (I have submitted my application and my fingers are crossed that I get accepted). On the application it was advised that persons without a current CAMS license will be issued a Trainee form which will be signed by the post chief and submitted to the organization so they could issue a CAMS hard card, like this one:
I have marshaled in Australia for two years already, working the Australian Grand Prix in 2012 while living in New Zealand and a slew of events including the Bathurst 12h and AGP in 2013 while living in the US. Both times I marshaled on international licenses first using a New Zealand license and then using the SCCA license. However, on both occasions I went through the same process of filling out a trainee form and therefore theoretically should have had my name in the system for a CAMS license.
So I reached out to CAMS with a question: What is my license #? And the response was to complete the trainee form again, complete the online training module and provide the dates/names of events completed under the supervision of a senior CAMS official in order to obtain a CAMS hard card.
I would be foolish to turn down any opportunity to receive more training in this hobby, so naturally I jumped on the opportunity to receiving more formal CAMS training. And voila, here’s proof:
Now I have had a number of previous encounters with CAMS training in the beginning of my career as a Motorsport volunteer. SingaporeGP relies heavily on their Australian trainers during Singapore GP. Most of the course material used during Singapore GP training was designed and implemented by CAMS first. When I volunteered in South Korea for the Korean GP, I went on the Singapore GP team there but worked closely with our Australian CAMS advisors who supervised the operation and provided helpful tips during the event. But using their Integrated Motoring Management System to receive direct training using the framework that CAMS developed for their own marshals is something new and I’m glad that I have an opportunity to have access to. Because it facilitates continuous training for me, in this hobby. And I will talk about some takeaway from the concepts covered in the training as they relate to me personally and as I make an “apples to apples” comparison of this system to the lack of any system in my frustrating experience with the SCCA. I will also make a few “apples to oranges” comparison towards the NASCAR and IMSA Track Services training which I did complete earlier this year and while it is still fresh in my mind.
First things first. I am going to use a term from the online training that really hits home with my personal experience, and that is:
I have had a very turbulent three year stint with the Northern New Jersey Club of the SCCA and it was made very clear to me by both the Flag Chief and the Division Administrator that I was the problem, and their solution was to keep me from volunteering in the US.
So my problem obviously is that I have convinced others of the idea that what I do while volunteering is problematic.
What is my problem?
My problem in the past three years of membership was the lack of training from NNJR SCCA. There was no training period.
What’s the solution?
The obvious choice for me was to seek training. CAMS suggests that as part of “self-reflection” once a person figured out what they need to learn, it becomes significantly easier to start learning. And this is true. Once I identified the fact that I would feel better about my marshaling if I sought proper training, I found NASCAR/IMSA track services training and completed both the online and on-site training modules. I cracked open a few Marshal Handbooks I picked up while marshaling in Singapore, South Korea, and Australia. And of course I continue to seek training opportunities like this one from CAMS. My personal training however does nothing to train the other marshals I would be working with while marshaling in the US particularly for Pro-level events. So there’s that.
CAMS has a code of ethics.
As part of the code of ethics they encourage members to accept responsibility for all actions taken. If I were to equate this to SCCA, I broke the rules when it comes to photo taking. I accept the fault for it. But I don’t accept the hostility that resulted from arguing about this subject. Because I broke a rule and got caught doing it, others felt it was OK to resort to harassment in the form of bullying and threatening speech particularly aimed at preventing me from marshaling in the future. CAMS suggests “seeking continual self improvement through training, performance appraisal and regular updating of competencies” which is my goal.
The problem with reaching my goal is that the US ASN doesn’t seem to have a Member Protection Policy (MPP) like CAMS does. The CAMS formal MPP states: “The policy will assist in protecting CAMS members from individuals who may have the intent to harm, harass or intimidate others.” And while I complained to the highest officers within the SCCA about the unacceptable behavior of other officers within the club, there was absolutely no consequence for their actions. I had a flag chief threaten to physically punch me, with a witness that he himself brought along to our meeting, and nothing was done about it. That’s pretty sad.
The CAMS training also placed great emphasis on recognizing different communication styles. Particularly in the Quiz at the end of the training given a case study that illustrated Aggressive behavior. I’ve dealt with a lot of aggressive behavior while volunteering in the US especially from those that are supposed to set an example or explicitly utilized to train new marshals, and I think that’s unacceptable. Sure people make mistakes, I made quite a few of them, including during my first Australian GP when dispatched to pick up a large piece of debris from a hot track. People learn from mistakes. I learned to not get distracted by spectators. But some people I worked with were determined to excommunicate me from the hobby of marshaling for ridiculous actions. Not only were our expectations out of whack from each other, but there was no opportunity to analyse the situation, take a deep breath and dissolve the problem or prevent it from escalating. Apparently the easiest solution for people that should know better in the US is: “my way or the highway” approach. And being on the receiving end of the unfair treatment there’s nothing I could do about it. There’s zero communication with the higher ups. Lots of misinformation. And no desire whatsoever to actually resolve the issue whether it arose from emotional triggers, legitimate mistakes or differing perspectives. Some of the mistakes I made or faults I had, were shared with my friend Jessie where we apparently got in trouble together. She went on to become an assistant Flag Chief in her region while I got my Divisional license downgraded to Regional, as if that made any difference to my choice of marshaling opportunities I pursue. SCCA could learn a lot from CAMS, I’ve said it before and having experienced both I’ll stick to my observations.
CAMS does an excellent job of recognizing various differences and approaches to the hobby of marshaling. They have a fantastic program for the young officials called the YO Team. Every country I marshal in should learn from CAMS and implement their best practices as they apply to the individual environments in each country, and that includes the US where I live. Just because I can have a CAMS license making me an FIA accredited marshal doesn’t mean that’s what I want to use when volunteering overseas. I live in the US and I want to use an American licensing to marshal. But things have got to change… status quo is unacceptable, and wrong. NASCAR which provides world class training with better quality resources than the CAMS course I just completed isn’t quite in the same category of racing or accreditation standing to issue me with an international marshaling license. So SCCA as a monopoly holder on such a privilege should step up to the responsibility that I expect of it as a dues paying member.
What do I expect to accomplish by posting this?
Absolutely nothing. All my pleas thus far either fell on death ears or pissed a whole lot ignorant people off, who either claim everything is fine or that they don’t have the resources to make necessary changes. And to that I say this is “only” safety we’re dealing with here, no big deal. If the competitors cannot cover the costs to ensure their own safety who will cover it for them? The sponsors? The event organizers? The marshaling clubs? Someone’s got to take this more seriously…