Since I started training for an Ironman, one of the consistent criticisms I hear is how this large corporation uses volunteers to make a ton of money.  I’ve always had mixed emotions about that stance because, frankly, every volunteer I’ve talked to absolutely loved their experience.

IM volunteer
Volunteers keep Ironman triathletes safe. Click picture for story. Photo Gregory Shaver for The

Something that bugs me about the way our world seems to work now is this constant obsession with “maximizing our value.”  Usually this means, we should charge more more money for our services.  “If we’re not getting paid for what we do, we’re getting screwed!”

This morning I stumbled on an article about volunteers at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straights in Wisconsin who PAY to be volunteers for the golf tournament.  That’s right, they pay $204.74 for the privilege of working for someone else.

Volunteer slots sold out in March.

The reason they do it is because the event wouldn’t happen without their generosity.  The reason they pay is because they perceive extreme value.  They love golf and want to make sure it stays around.

From the article:

“If you’re a golf fan, it’s the ultimate volunteer experience,” said Allan Scheurell, 82, a retiree from Manitowoc.

The ultimate volunteer experience.

Volunteer means to give your time to help a greater cause.  That’s exactly what Ironman volunteers do, and it gets them up close and personal with a sport they love.

Sure, Ironman makes a lot of money, but races (as we know and love them) wouldn’t exist without volunteers.  And that means, you probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to do an Ironman.

Think about that.

My dad was the first General Manager of a minor league baseball team in Beloit, Wisconsin. It was in the early 80’s and a big deal at the time.  The only way that operation existed was because of volunteers.

I was always skeptical.  Why would someone volunteer precious time to serve hotdogs behind a hot counter?

Because they wanted the team to be successful.  It was good for the community and of course part of the hot dog sales went to their favorite charity or cause like Little League.

The reality is, Ironman volunteers are conscientious people who understand the purpose of a greater good.  It’s like helping your neighbor get his car out of the ditch.  Why is most people’s first thought, “He should pay me money or buy me some beer for that!?”

Great rewards come from giving back and paying it forward.  In reality, that’s the reason I have written nearly 700 posts on this blog.  Because it makes me feel good, and at the core I love to exchange thoughts with passionate people about triathlon and life.

It truly is greater to give than receive.  I understand this more and more as I trade in my ego-centered lifestyle.  Putting others first is ultimately putting yourself first.  The insecurities, guilt, and anxiety all fade away and make you a happier person.

So, next time you hear someone say Ironman should be paying volunteers, turn to them and say, “Yeah, well, maybe the volunteers should be paying Ironman.”

And go thank a volunteer.





Should Volunteers Have to Pay Ironman?