That dull cliché is true: it is better to give than to receive. As a million stories tell us — from A Christmas Carol to Finding Forrester — the act of giving, especially, when there’s no parade or photo-op, is how we own a part of something. By own, I don’t mean return-it-to-Costco-if-you’re-disappointed own. I mean that you have an emotional stake in something or someone. The following are a few examples of USA Karate volunteers who have provided significant, but mostly under-the-radar, contributions:
Before genetic testing was instilled, I infiltrated the all-female computer center at one of our tournaments. Being neither a good actor, nor (as I’m sure you’ve noticed), the least bit funny, I was banished after one tournament, but I was around to learn some of what goes on behind-the-scenes of the tournament.
Created by Benjamin Franklin, right after he demoed electricity with a kite, the ancient software we use at the karate tournaments is still in service because there’s nothing newer that does the job. If you didn’t use a computer until the 90s, you’d be completely baffled by this program. Every time you reach for the mouse, the application laughs in you face: we don’t need no stinkin’ mouse. Instead, it’s tab, tab, tab, enter; tab, tab, tab, enter; tab, tab, tab, enter. Pavlov’s dogs would have adapted quicker to this program than I did.
But even before the tournaments, there’s software fun to be had. All the information on the paper forms has to be manually transferred to the program’s database. Guess who does that? Some is done by staff, but a lot of that tedious exercise is done by volunteers who, over the years, have included Peggy, Leigh, Donna, and Denise. I learned that, besides the overall organizational responsibilities of Shihan Joni and Coach Alan, womanning the computer center is probably the most stressful job at the tournament. Record the results! Print that event form! What? Not ready? Where is the Print command anyway? (Pre-Windows applications had no menu standards.) Also, I learned that those at the computer table don’t get to watch the events. Despite all that, I had a lot of fun.
The tasks don’t always center around tournaments. Every year, USA Karate has a week-long summer camp, run by staff. Adults are needed to help with supervision and transportation for outings. Usually, the same women mentioned above are the ones who help at the summer camp.
Another example concerns the dojo itself. When USA Karate moved the dojo to its present location, Mike, Tanya, Kate, and Ryan spent their weekends helping the Sharrahs turn a store into a dojo. And a few years later, when the dojo was remodeled into its present form, the Brehms did it again.
Last, Marty’s contributions span major clean-ups, tournament preparation, and twice helping with remodeling the dojo.
I’m sure that for every voluntary contribution that I know of, there are a hundred of which I’m unaware. But as Denise reminded me, Shihan now needs more help than ever. If you’re in doubt, ask Shihan Joni how you can help. You won’t get a parade though you might get a photo-op if Linda or Leigh are around, and the Sharrahs are generous with their gratitude and with their great parties. And you’ll have a bigger stake in USA Karate.