I get asked about working other matches all the time and I always encourage folks to get out of their local match comfort zone and go work bigger matches. If nothing else you will meet some new friends and see some new ranges. There really isn’t a downside other than cost.
Face it folks, none of us get rich running shooters. Point of fact, we generally end up paying at least part of our own way to contribute to the overall good of the sport. Bigger matches can often do more to defray these costs but smaller matches often cannot. Maybe you wonder why this is; well, it is simple. There is no such thing as free money despite what some people try and tell us.
Match Directors often need to walk a tight rope between high match fees and compensation for staff along with all the other costs incurred in putting on a match. Raise the match fee too high so you can offer a better compensation package and you will likely lose shooters and not fill the match. Whether this is entirely true or not remains to be seen. Some recent examples indicate that perhaps it is not as cast in stone as some think. It is no secret that for a match that does compensate staff, even if it is just with half a double occupancy hotel room and lunch on the range, that the staff constitute the largest single cost item on the budget sheet.
So let’s say you are interested in gaining big match experience as you work toward your next certification level be it Chief Range Officer or Range Master. I strongly recommend you work everything you can get accepted to and are willing to travel to. Mix in a number of Level III (Area) matches and plan to work at least one Nationals each year if possible. Level II (State, Section) matches are Majors and you can gain excellent experience working them as well. Often, your first taste of being designated Chief Range Officer for a stage will happen at a Level II match. Nationals work experience is just about a requirement if you are thinking of moving toward your RM certification. There are only so many RO slots for any Nationals so you may need to apply to more than one, for more than one year, before you get accepted. But it helps the Nationals RMs if they know you and your reputation. Be sure and update that RO Work Record on your Profile page at USPSA.org too. Someone with lots of experience is likely to float to the top of the selection pool ahead of someone with no experience we have never heard of.
When you work those bigger matches it is generally best to keep your eyes and ears open…which is to say, be open to new experiences and learning from the more seasoned staff. There is a LOT to be learned at bigger matches that isn’t in any course we can teach because nothing duplicates the controlled chaos that is a big Major match.
If there is a job to do, pitch in and help. Be one of the first staff on the range and one of the last staff off. You do not want to be the RO that we are always looking for only to find they are late arriving or took off the instant the last shooter was run.
Staff teams have to function as a cohesive unit. Your CRO is your team leader; listen to them and learn from them.
And finally, just because it says Chief Range Officer on your NROI card; don’t expect to be assigned as a Chief Range Officer at your first major. Might happen, probably won’t. There are plenty of Range Masters and even Range Master Instructors that end up working as Range Officers at majors. It’s about experience level and in some respects about the level of trust the Range Master(s) for the match have in the individuals we name as Chief Range Officers for our match. It also happens now and then that senior staff are placed in a subordinate role to act as mentors. Take advantage of that opportunity to learn from them.
Hope we see you on the ranges!