Volunteers

Isn’t money just the worst?

No one at the Essex Spartans is paid. Not in sterling, or Euros, or any other currency you can get from the bank or Thomas Cook or those hideous ‘Bureau de Change’ that seem to pop up everywhere now, that is.

Our Head Coach doesn’t sleep an enormous amount in the off-season, let alone during the actual season itself. He sorts out the playbooks and hires the coaching staff, meets with the Chairman and sits through all the committee meetings, and gets pestered by journalists (guilty) and makes rousing speeches and suffers the consequences when the team doesn’t win.

Some of our committee members are mothers and fathers to little ones, husbands or wives to people who really just don’t get American Football (“It really does stop and start a lot, doesn’t it dear?”) or have to miss Sunday lunchtime pub sessions to be chain crews or sell programmes in the rain.  Their committee meetings start at 8pm and could easily last until gone midnight – most of them do, actually.

Our academy head coach runs two teams and the club website,  has a wife and a full-time job and the long-standing misery of being a Chicago Bears supporter. In fact the only one without a desperately uncool (compared to American Football) grown-up job is our Chairman, and that’s only because he worked an uncool grown-up job for a really long time before.

Our players are volunteers too, of course. They’re volunteer players and volunteer chain crews and ball boys and water boys, and when they win a game they don’t go home to a fridge full of champagne. And when they lose a game, they don’t go home to their ‘Beckingham Palace’ and think never mind, I’ll soak it off in the jacuzzi or drive it out in the second-best Ferrari while I wait for my £80,000 weekly wage to appear regardless.

When it all goes wrong we’ve got nothing else. We haven’t got fat salaries and all the time in the world to make things right. Everyone involved always has bigger and better plans than they’re ever able to execute in real life, because no one has as much time as they really want to give. The stuff we have to do for money always gets in the way.

On Saturday night we’re honouring our founding father Tony Palmer – probably our greatest volunteer ever. He didn’t die a disgracefully wealthy man in money terms, and in all the obituaries I’ve read of him and all the words written and spoken by people in British American Football circles no one ever mentioned what he did for a ‘living’.

He lived as a selfless unpaid worker for the team we love; I don’t know what the Chairman’s job was before he retired either. If we could all be full-time Spartans we probably would be, but I think we’re defined much better by what we do for no money and no glory.

Everyone in the Spartans is paid – but not in money.  How rubbish would that be, compared to what we get?