I just got back from an annual conference for Jaguar timers and can't remember a better and more memorable experience. It is always great to see and visit other timers from around the world. It's a time where we learn about new technology and brush up on our techniques. Jaguar is the product line from Innovative Timing Systems; the company that we buy our hardware and software from for timing races. In my personal opinion, they are the best in the world and produce great products. As their name implies, they are incredibly innovative and are always looking for ways to improve the experience that runners have for races. Timing races is both an art and a science and much harder to do than most people would realize. They have done an exceptional job with their product line and continue to build even better products. That translates into a better experience for you as a runner, cyclist, triathlete or other competitive sport.
One of the my favorite parts of the conference, much like any conference, is the networking that you get to do with other timers from around the world. It's great because you get to hear about experiences other people have with races, race directors, participants, etc. We learn from one another about best practices and how to deal with the numerous situations that can come up before, during, and after an event. One of the topics that all of us as race management and timing companies face is how to deal with the different personalities that we run across with our events. Primarily the race directors. It got me to thinking this week about what makes a good race director. I've directed many races over the past 15 years and have had dealings with more directors than I can even remember. Some have been really good while others should never have even considered taking it on.
It's a challenge to be a race director and requires many personal skills to be able to be an effective director. When you think about directing an event, it's primarily a job of project management. More importantly though are the personal skills that are needed. There are a lot of people that can manage the many tasks that are required to pull off an event, but those same people often do not have the personal skills to make it work. There are also some great people with incredible personal skills that couldn't manage themselves out of a wet paper bag. An effective director has to have a good combination of both project management, leadership, and personal charisma to bring it all together.
Probably the most important skill though after all of that is the ability to act under pressure. It's easy to manage the various components of an event when everything goes well. It's really hard though to be cool under pressure. In competitive events, it's not a matter of it things go wrong, but when. There are so many moving parts to an event and any one of them at any time can simply fall apart. I've talked about this before as to the kinds of things that can happen, but it would amaze you how even the most insignificant of things can have a snowball effect on an event. The best race directors are those that can simply look at the issue and make quick and effective decisions to rectify them. Part of it comes from experience but a lot has to do with the personality and character traits of the director. Some are born to be good leaders while others should simply follow.
At Athlete Guild, one of our jobs is to make sure that all of the parts that are needed for a successful event are in place. That means it's our job to cover for the director to make sure everything goes well. If something does go wrong, then it is our job to provide a guiding hand to help resolve the issue. Even if everyone else is running around like a chicken with their head cut off, our job is to remain cool under the pressure and work to correct it. It doesn't matter whether it is something as simple as a lack of volunteers or something more serious such as an injury on the course. Our job as well as the directors is to take care of it and resolve it in as efficient and cool manner as possible. We have the experience and track history to make it work. We often say that we can make even a bad director look good. We work hard to make that statement true. After all, the important thing is that you as a participant have a great experience and come away from that event feeling good about it and will want to participate again in the future.
See you at the race!