Editorial: “I Wish I Knew He Was Sick”

August 1, 2018 by  

Former BMX Track Location

Inside a solemn funeral service for a well-liked member of the community, mourners file past a photo of the deceased. Some kiss the portrait, others make the sign of the cross on themselves in silent prayer, and many dab tears from their eyes, knowing they will never see their friend again, in this life, at least.

Among a group of mourners outside, one friend says to the others “I wish I knew he was sick; I would have gone to see him.”

A BMX track requires two things to survive: participants willing to pay for the services they consume (practice and racing) and volunteers to staff the various positions. Without both, a terminal condition exists that puts it in genuine risk of becoming like the dearly-departed noted above.

In fact, we have heard similar sentiments expressed by locals AFTER their local track announced it was shutting down: “I wish we knew they were in trouble, we would have been there more/done more.” Of course, by that time, it’s too late.

Track Operators are an intrepid breed. They want to provide a great experience for the families coming out to the track, and know they will often need to water/drag, shop for concessions supplies, paste on a smile, then work registration, move over to work concessions, then announce, then do the paperwork—for every single-point race day, year-after-year. We usually don’t hear about it, and just show up, expecting all that to be in place.

Volunteer at Sandy Ridge BMX

A volunteer drags the track at Sandy Ridge BMX in McDonough, GA

TOs don’t like to complain (publicly, at least), and it is often uncomfortable to ask for help. But they need the help, just the same.

As BMX families, and consumers enjoying the service our local tracks provide, we have a duty to get involved in the long-term survival and success of our track.

To do that, News offers five ways you can get involved:

Every-Once-In-A-While. Volunteering at your track doesn’t have to be a full-time commitment. Your TO will understand that this is family time, and you want to spend it with the family, coaching and cheering-on your rider. Let them know you’ll help out once or twice a month. They’ll understand, and appreciate it.

Offering to volunteer once a month, or whatever is comfortable for your family, will make a big difference–especially when it becomes part of the “culture” of the track, and everyone jumps in for one or two “shifts” a month. Maybe that means mom volunteers in registration or staging one week, and dad works a turn, or runs the gate the next week. That’s TWO positions filled by just one family.


Speak to Your HR Department at Work. If you work for a large company (and some community-minded small companies), there’s a good chance your company has a Volunteer Time Off (VTO) program in place, or other program that recognizes your commitment to the community by volunteering your time. These “Corporate Social Responsibility” programs vary widely from company to company in their specifics, which is why you should have a discussion with HR about what program your company offers.


Go Deep. Some families revel in the full experience of getting as involved as possible. They ask “where do you need us?” each week, and their contribution shows-up immediately in races running more smoothly, a better experience for everyone, and a track that is obviously firing on all cylinders. Everyone will be able to feel it, when just a few families step-up to this level. Be careful of burnout, and do your best to see your kid race while you’re working your assigned post.


Use Your Skills. Maybe you’re a web developer, ace mechanic, videographer or marketing guru in your 9-to-5. Volunteerism at the track doesn’t always have to be about pushing a broom in turn one or making walking tacos in concessions. Most tracks desperately need volunteers to keep the website up to date, service the ram, make ongoing videos that can be posted to social media or figure out the best way to activate the community to come out in droves for a League or new rider open house event. That said, would making a walking taco now-and-then on race day kill you?


BMX After Hours. If it is not convenient to volunteer on race day, there are a TON of things your family can do for the track when the gate is not dropping. Perhaps it’s shopping at Costco or Sam’s Club on a Tuesday afternoon to stock concessions. Maybe it’s going out to the track after work to water, weed-whack or perform other maintenance. Or any one of the dozen-or-more tasks that every track needs to do between race, practice or League events.


Before You Complain...
Every effort BMX families can offer helps the track get things done that may otherwise go undone— or may even cause cancelation of events, due to lack of staff. Please, don’t wait until the bulldozers are ordered to get involved at your track.

—Mike Carruth

Top Photo: Former location of a BMX Track in the Midwest, now an empty field. Photo by John Freewalt.