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I Yelled at Them, and They Thanked Me For It

By Paris Becker

I was that bossy kid in the neighborhood–you know, that kid who made all the decisions and told all the other kids what to do and no one questioned her authority. Not bossy in the terrorizing-other-kids way, but bossy with the so-called “wisdom” I claimed to have by being slightly older than the other kids. Many years later, naturally, I find myself thriving in a variety of leadership roles–with some actual wisdom though (or at least I like to think that’s the case). So when the opportunity arose for me to be Deck Captain at Dance Fest 2017, the bossy kid inside of me didn’t hesitate to say, “Yes, I’ll do it! I’ll be Deck Captain the whole weekend!!”

Deck Captain, on paper, is the perfect job for me: I’m right in the center of all the action, I get to tell people what to do, and I’m important enough to have a name tag with my name actually on it instead of just “volunteer.” Dream job! I know! But, oh gosh…you guys, Deck Captain is arguably the hardest job of any competition.

Deck Captains have to line people up! Not calm people, either, but people who are in the highly stressful and therefore highly emotional state of mind that is brought on by the word “competition.” And one person–the Deck Captain–has to line up more than 200 of these anxious individuals into pairs, in a specific order, and communicate who is missing to the emcee…all within only 90 seconds, usually.

So, let’s take a moment to discuss the “Please Do’s” in the On Deck area, and hopefully everyone–especially the Deck Captain–will be have a much happier and relieve a bit of the stress and anxiety.

  1. Pay attention to the line that you are standing in rather than what is happening on the floor – high stress situations tend to make us listen with our eyes rather than our ears and you can easily miss the deck captain’s requests and therefore may get marked absent.
  2. Notice that the above job description does not include “hunting missing couples down and placing them in line or on the floor”–it is the competitor’s sole responsibility to get to where they need to be throughout the day, and it is not the Deck Captains fault if you miss an event. So, do not take out your frustration on the Deck Captain…ever!
  3. Never assume the Deck Captain knows your number even if you have been through the line many times. The Deck Captain sees hundreds of numbers every 90 seconds and most likely did not have the time to look up at the face attached to that number…probably because your number is pinned to your back (and honestly, the only numbers that I remember are for not flattering reasons).
  4. I’m not entirely sure why I have to address this problem, but the On Deck area is neither the place nor time to be on your phone. Not only are you not paying attention to what is happening around you, you are being completely rude to your dance partner! Where does your phone go when you are dancing, anyways? In your pocket? How does that not affect your dancing? Stop it! Stop it now!

All in all, I lost my cool once or twice, maybe six times, during Dance Fest. And by losing my cool, I mean that I actually growled while I yelled at people to pay attention to what I needed them to do. That is a very rare state for me to be in because although I am a natural born leader, I am also plagued by a severe case of Minnesota Nice. I can guarantee that all of my friends and family who are reading this article right now just rolled their eyes and chuckled…it really is that bad. I care far too deeply about other people’s feelings that I felt absolutely terrible every time I had to growl at someone to get their attention. Nearly everyone that I growled at received an apology from me after I finished the line--and if you are reading this and I was not able to get back to you in time, please know that I am sorry if I embarrassed you, and I am sorry for embarrassing you now by calling you out in this article.

I’ve never understood the phrase “herding cats” until I served as deck captain, and let me tell you, it’s difficult. But I walked away after the weekend was finished with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride that my volunteerism affected someone positively. The competitors made this possible by honoring me with their sincere gratitude as I yelled at them to turn around or get in order. I’m not going to lie, it was shocking to receive so much appreciation for yelling.

Thank you all for recognizing your volunteers! It is only a small gesture that makes volunteering that much more fulfilling, and then those volunteers can create a better experience for you in return. So, Dance Fest 2017, thank you for the opportunity to be your Deck Captain…maybe we can do it again next year?