I’d like to share a few thoughts after reading a fellow marshal’s blog post about “Rock n’ Roll Marshalling”
Though I’ve never met Rob Lee, the publisher of “A Life in Orange” blog chronicling his experiences volunteering in the UK and elsewhere. I do admire his efforts, because like me, he seems to devote a considerable amount of time promoting this hobby to others. In fact I fall far short of the effort he puts into his articles with my immigrant English and rampant spelling and grammatical errors… I’m not sure whether I completely agree with the post I’m commenting on here, but I’ll try to outline my reasons below from a few angles based on my personal experiences.
So few items jumped out of the page at me in his September 14th post here: alifeinorange.com/2017/09/14/rock-n-roll-marshalling/
- Glitz, Glamour, that Rock and Roll lifestyle
- Spotlight on marshaling vs. Drivers/Teams
- Celeb-Hero matrix
- Martin Brundle Orange Army TV comments
- Kids perceptions on Rockstars/Drivers/Marshals apeal
- Different location every weekend/travelling aspect
- Quirky shit
- Share, share, share!
Point one… glitz, glamour, rockstar-lifestyle is fiction.
It may appear that way if you follow someone’s social media account, posts and photos on facebook, twitter or instagram. But the reality is hardly that cool.
Do “perceptions” really recruit people to marshal? I’m not sure… I remember watching the Gumball 3000 events a decade ago. The glitz, the glamour there… the wannabe drivers racing on city streets telling cops that wrote them tickets in the videos that they’re on a rally not a race, etc. It looked so cool. But the more I looked into that event and other copy-cats like it, most participants didn’t even own the exotic cars they were driving… those were rentals. Similarly, the marshals participating in those high-profile, professional events are generally poor slobs having to rough it out in a tent somewhere. Waking up at the crack of dawn, first to show up at the track, last to leave. Working long hours, mainly standing in one spot in all kinds of weather. Hardly glamorous, is it? Sure some may get away for a little bit to take some of those amazing pictures of high-tech cars on grid. Rubbing shoulders with celebrity drivers, and real celebrities, and some other really important people. But not all marshals are even able to do this. Having to choose between eating lunch in most cases or taking pictures by making a hike to the grid from whatever post they are stationed at…. hoping they get back in time for the start of the race without getting in trouble. That’s the reality. And reality is hardly rockstar-like lifestyle. It is what you make it. You could request post assignments. You could make personal choices to allow yourself to participate in the glitz and glamour, but usually there’s a price to pay. Personally I’m careful promoting the idea of marshaling as glitzy because new recruits see right through it if their first pro event isn’t all you cracked it up to be. Expectations should be realistic!
Point two… I don’t agree with the idea of throwing marshals and teams, drivers into the same basket. They couldn’t be more fundamentally different. Remember that teams and drivers get paid to go to Motorsport events. Most volunteers have to pay their way to marshal those same events. And if the organizers had their way I’m sure they’d try to charge those otherwise “non-paying spectators” for access to the best viewing spots on the circuit. The other issue with teams and drivers is that their participation at lesser pro/club events is fickle at best. Lose a sponsor, you’re losing your seat or a trip to the race. Crash a car, the team packs up and leaves if they don’t have a backup vehicle, even if this happens on the first day of the event. Comparing volunteers to racing teams and drivers is comparing apples to oranges.
Point three… It’s no secret that many marshals like the celebrity aspect of their line of work… they’re practically rubbing shoulders with the multi-million dollar earning champion racers at the same events with the best seat in the house. Many Brits seem to push this “Hero” idea that marshals are the unsung heroes of the racing world. I don’t know if I buy that either. WE, as volunteers, are at Motorsport events to do a job. If we were not willing to do it, we’d just be spectators paying our way to watch the racing. The organizers know this. The sanctioning bodies know this. Most do a really great job of cutting us out from TV coverage unless of course something major happens and we do a really good job with the incident or a really bad one. If we do something wrong we have a great chance of making it on TV. Less so if we do something really right. Do we deserve to get more TV time and being acknowledged that we are “someone” doing important work. Perhaps… but there’s little value for organizers/TV to push that line so I see why they don’t do it.
Are we Heroes? That’s debatable. Real heroes are too humble to refer to themselves as such.
Point four… is very much tied to the Celeb-Hero matrix idea above. Martin Brundle giving a shout out to the Orange Army every broadcast is something. Is it enough… Yeah, probably. Do we want more? Of course we do, it does wonderful things for our ego’s! Should he do it? Well, that depends on what the TV producers think about that.
Another famous announcer in the world of Endurance Racing: Radio Le Mans announcer John Hindhaugh or Hindy for short does a fantastic job mentioning the marshals and other volunteers in all of his broadcasts. But he’s also called out several recent incidents in my own experience working IMSA races where he made false claims that I… yes I! was doing something wrong, even though when watching the video replay of the incidents everyone and their mother could clearly see his statements were inaccurate. So how the fuck do you deal with something like that? A well-intentioned broadcaster making you look like a foo… an amateur… I’m a Pro dammit! (right?) Second guessing your actions. Wrongly… It’s not right! But that’s the issue of Celebrity and the whole actions of Heroes debate. No matter what you do, someone will question it. It’s human nature. Best thing to do is continue doing the right thing, no matter what people comment about it. It’s all about perception.
That said I do think it’s important that TV announcers should continue to promote Motorsport volunteering. And they ought to do it more often!
Point five… Kid’s perceptions. I agree with Rob wholeheartedly that we need to recruit kids. Young marshals are key to the success of Motorsport of the future. This idea is not necessarily what current marshaling clubs rely on. It’s been my experience that here in North America the business model generally speaking is to focus recruitment on older folks… people that are retiree’s… people that have the time and money to travel to events to volunteer.
Yes, those people are needed. But I also think clubs and sanctioning bodies like the FIA or FIM, or IMSA or NASCAR need to cough up some cash to promote volunteering to younger folk. Provide the tools needed for the youngsters to succeed. Provide training. Provide incentives to volunteer often. Provide some support.
And it’s important to remember that kid’s perceptions of actual Rockstars and Race Car drivers whom Rob compares to Rockstars is not necessarily a realistic expectation of kid’s perceptions of volunteers. As I mentioned before comparing the two is akin to comparing apples to oranges. I think some experienced Motorsport marshals could be perceived as Rockstars for their actions on track. I have a number of people I look up to myself because of the way they do their job. But the way I look at them isn’t the same as I look at celebrity drivers. Then again I’ve learned long ago I have no future as a race car driver… so I don’t look up to any race car drivers at all.
Point six…. I love this point! Even before my family moved from Ukraine to the United States of America, it has been my dream to travel. I couldn’t wait to take my first trip to Czhechoslovakia (yep, it was still one country back then) or Poland… In high school in New Jersey I was determined to find a job that would allow me to travel. When that didn’t materialize I went travelling on my own, lived in Australia, Singapore, New Zealand… picked up this marshaling hobby while in Singapore and the travel bug exploded even more.
And to think there was a time when I’d read FlyerTalk.com forums and take flights to anywhere without any purpose for the only reason that the flight was cheap. Now marshaling has given me a purpose… a mission. A travel to a destination around the world so I could volunteer for a Race. Motorsport tourism is life! And I promote the shit out of it on this blog and to anyone that would listen to me whenever I meet people… it’s the only thing that comes out of my mouth when I’m given an opportunity to share some opinions…. sometimes I bore people to death with the idea. But I truly believe in it.
So yes! Different event every weekend is possible. It’s exciting. And it will probably drain your bank account like it has done to me. But it is extremely addictive and I love every minute of it!
Point seven… Quirky shit I don’t get. I don’t agree with it. I don’t think I fully understand it. But whatever, people do it, I’m cool with it. Continue doing it. All those racing bears. The wombats. The sheep. Whatever. When I take selfies I use my own face. I don’t need to use a plush animal to satisfy the same want… of taking a picture to remember an event.
I suspect, and I could be wrong… people use toys as an excuse to take a picture of something to promote this hobby.
Point eight… Sharing is essential! Social media. Facebook. Twitter. Snapchat… Instagram. Shit I don’t even use. You should continue using to promote this hobby. Because it’s worth it. I’ve written many times that the more there are of us the more enjoyable this hobby gets. It goes without saying that this is critical… For anyone that has learned anything about SEO, searth engine optimization, on the Internets… sharing stuff makes it go up in ranking on search engines which results in more traffic. Sharing info about events, opportunities to marshal, sharing volunteer opportunities will make the idea more popular and solicit participation. Greater participation will attract more participants. And that’s what it’s all about. Strength in numbers means better training because there are more of us doing this. More swag. More rewarding experiences. More fun!
So to wrap this up and make a long post even longer… I want to say marshaling is what you make it! If you want to feel like a Rockstar, sign up for some exotic races. Of the fifteen countries I was lucky to work, there’s something attractive about each and every one of them. But if you’re chasing opinions of your facebook followers, I can say with certainty that events in Southeast Asia or the Middle East take the cake… Yas Marina Circuit was one of the most incredible circuits I got to work. I was visiting on my own when a bus load of Brits was brought in at the request of the series, so I got a local experience while they were wined and dined by the series. Seek opportunities like that to make yourself feel real important. It sure is a boost to anyone’s ego. Singapore is a great place to feel important too, and there’s so much stuff you can share with your jealous friends on facebook from the tiny city state. The glitz, the glamour! The makan makan…
But more importantly go in with realistic expectations. Experiment with different volunteer positions. It’s not all about being a track marshal. Try flagging. Try working comms. Consider being a Fire Rescue marshal. Take the crash and burn school. Work in Pit lane. Starter is one of my favorite positions, and one you probably have to bump someone out of the way to get an opportunity to work.
There are so many possibilities.
But manage your expectations.
Volunteering won’t make you a millionaire. But the experiences you have the potential of witnessing are priceless!
Share… share… share!!!
Thanks Rob Lee for an opportunity to comment on your opinions.