FIFA Women's World Cup: Team Leading for the Win!

The 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup has come and gone. Just like last year's FIFA U20 Women's World Cup, I volunteered as a guest services team leader. This experience is right up there with the 2013 Brier, the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship, and the 2011 Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship as the best sporting event volunteer experience ever!

Since I had volunteered last year, the sign up process was super easy. Basically, I just said yes I'd like to come back and that was that. I was notified of a volunteer orientation evening, which was less than exciting but I did get to meet with our supervisors and got briefed on being a team leader. I also attended the accreditation/uniform pick up night. Weird, so last year my uniform was too big so I went down a size on my volunteer profile account. Turns out last year everything was unisex, but this year it was all mens/womens, which meant going down a size screwed me. I was super anxious everything was going to be too small, but when I got to where I was to pick up my uniform, it turned out they were still bundling the 'S' last names. And they'd run out of all the sizes I'd chosen, so they had to give me bigger sizes which magically fit! Seriously, everything fit was a miracle because there were a lot of clothing SNAFUs and swapping throughout the entire event.

So here's what I got - FIFA is really good to their volunteers!

Plus a red rain jacket a couple days into the event. Everything is a keeper this year!

A lot of volunteers returned from last year, so I knew a lot of people. And the other team leaders were fantastic - we clicked pretty quick! Sadly, I missed the opening double header because I was away at a conference - and this meant missing the opening ceremonies! I was sad about this but was told it wouldn't be much and from what I heard it was short so it's all good. That day was the craziest for working out the kinks of the event, and had the largest attendance. Wish I could've been there.

But I was at the other 7 or so days of action. I was assigned the same gate, so that was nice: I got to figure out how everything flowed and positioning volunteers was easy. I also got used to the stadium staff and it was nice to see familiar faces every shift. This event was really all about the great people I got to work with - here are some highlights:

- The volunteers were all amazing! The team of team leaders was supportive and relaxed. We all got along really well. Our volunteers were also enthusiastic and a great bunch to get to know. That's what I remember about the event: hanging out with the people in the red shirts. And this is what to this day I miss. Event volunteering is special. You spend a lot of time with the same people in a condensed manner and then you may never see them again. Yet, this doesn't deter people from forming friendships and sharing their lives. I almost can't put it into words. Special.

Team Leaders for the win!

- At the volunteer party, I won the FIFA flag that hung outside the stadium as a door prize. That's right, 5 ft x 8 ft! It was cool, but really I had no idea what to do with it! I knew right away who would want it though, and gave it to one of my volunteers, who was going to give it to his grandson. Karma achievement unlocked.

My 5mins with the flag. Yes it is a person tall!

- The second day of the event there was a rain storm. Like one of those storms that comes with thunder and lightning, so they had to evacuate all the people into the stands into the concourse for about 20minutes. It was packed; no one could move, but everyone seemed to be in mostly good spirits and besides a bunch of lost kids, there were no problems. Very exciting.

The calm before the storm. Lookin' good Commonwealth!

- At times I felt like we were running the FIFA daycare! The volunteer information booth I was supervising seemed to get all the lost kids. By the end of the event we got the procedures down (and the gates stepped up their lost child bracelet system) and everyone went home happy though.

Game ball!

- Before a game, one of the ushers came to us with a fist size piece of concrete that had fallen from the ceiling. These falling rocks happen from time to time due to the freeze/thaw/heat expansion cycles of the stadium in accordance to the weather, but it kept us busy wondering where it came from. No spectators were hurt in the making of this episode.

Bronze Medal action.

- I got an opportunity to hold the peace flag during one of the games. I left my shift a bit early, and then walked down on to the pitch with the other volunteers. We watched the game from the sidelines for a bit and even got to see a goal right in front of us! Then after the match, we carried out the flag and held it as a backdrop and the designated players shook hands with each other and the official. Then we walked it back out and folded it up. It was cool. Actually, it was hot, stupid hot that day so I look ridiculous in the photos because I had to put my hat on. I also got to kneel on that artificial turf and realized what the controversy was all about. It's not super forgiving. And I was picking rubber bits out of my knee for a little while after. All in all a cool experience though!

The Peace Flag. That's me, left middle.

- I saw so many people I knew! Our Oilers game season ticket guy, my curling skip, colleagues, family, classmates, friends, fans from all over the world -  it was great to see so many people come out for the event. It was just a super awesome international event that got people involved and excited, even it they weren't soccer fans!

Every time I look back on my FIFA memories, I smile. It was such a great experience. A chance of a lifetime...unless Canada gets the FIFA World Cup in 2022 like the rumors flying around!