I am so excited to bring you the first ever (and first of many) podcast episode for Do Good, Be Good. In this episode I interview Maggie Twomey. She currently works as the Volunteer Coordinator for the City of Flagstaff Sustainability Program, but she started her career with an internship in Arena Football. She has a couple of great stories to share.
Thank you to Volunteer Pro for sponsoring the first season of Do Good, Be Good. VolunteerPro is offering our listeners $100 off an annual membership. Go to volpro.net and use the promo code PROPOWER. If you work with volunteers, you need to check out Volunteer Pro.
Full transcript of the episode:
ANNOUNCER: This is Do Good, Be Good, the show about helpful people and the challenges they face in trying to do good. You host is Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom, a career do-gooder who also loves craft beer and a good hard tackle in rugby. Ms. Tewksbury-Bloom speaks to everyday people about why they do good and what it means to be good.
TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: This season was brought to you by VolunteerPro. VolunteerPro provides online volunteer management training, coaching, and community to leaders and volunteers at all levels. Learn more at volpro.net and stay tuned for later in the show when I will tell you about a special discount for our listeners
TWOMEY: …..1996 was the best summer of my life. Loved that summer.
TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: Was it the job or something else that made it the best summer of your life?
TWOMEY: I think it was just a whole bunch of things in the cosmos coming together. I was graduating from college, I got to work in arena football. I primarily focused on promotions and so I did things like golf tournaments with these athletes and player appearances and kid football camps and all kinds of things like that that were event coordinating types of things, which is now what I do for a living and I really love it. That summer, because of the arena football connection – it was at the Target Center in Minneapolis, and so we got free tickets to all these concerts. And so it was a really great summer.
TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: Arena Football, free tickets, what does that have to do with helping? Trust me, we’ll get there. Today’s guest is Maggie Twomey. She now works as the Volunteer Coordinator for the City of Flagstaff and has worked in service and volunteerism for many years. Keep listening for the turning point she faced that led her to a career in service.
TWOMEY: I had probably been working as an intern for arena football for about two months, I want to say it was in August, it was the end of the summer. My supervisor, who was a paid professional, sales and marketing manager, he came to me on either a Friday or a Saturday afternoon – I don’t remember what day the games were, it was so long ago – and he said Our halftime show canceled. And I was the last one in the office, and I was terrified because he was looking at me to fill this void.
You have to remember, it was the mid-Nineties, there was no internet – well there was, but it was in its infancy – people didn’t have cell phones, you had to catch people sitting at their desk or sitting at home to communicate with them. There was no email or texting, none of that. So I had very limited resources.
I knew that what I had was a hot tub in the end zone, which I had arranged, and it was being occupied during the game by fraternity gentlemen, if you will. The compensation we gave them was we had beer delivered to them throughout the whole game and so they were happy with that. So they got to be in the end zone during the game in this hot tub.
I had two tickets to Alanis Morissette to use however I deemed fit.
So I was just really trying to put this all together, what can we do? And if you don’t know arena football, it’s football meets hockey meets WWF wrestling. It’s very dramatic and showy and there are fireworks and loud, loud music and it’s a really fast game. And so I had that to kind of compete with, like it needed to be spectacular.
And our demographics, I had to think about that. The demographics were men ages 15-16 to 25-26 and that’s our primary demographic.
So I called a friend, a roommate, who I knew her little sister was in 4-H and I didn’t know what her capacity was, I just had my fingers crossed. And she said yeah, my little sister has a calf, you know like a baby steer. And I said do you think she can bring it downtown Minneapolis to The Target Center and she said yeah, she can do that. And she arranged it for me and it was really that easy.
And I had this idea that I was going to take the Alanis Morissette concert tickets and tie them to the cow somehow and these fraternity brothers were going to chase the cow around the football field during the halftime show – that was the halftime show, to try to get the tickets off the cow.
And the more I thought about it, I thought, okay that’s entertaining, but it would be more entertaining if it was a woman out of the hot tub who was chasing the cow. And this went against every moral fiber of my body. Not only were they terrifying this cow, who is not used to fireworks and loud music and astroturf and being chased by young men, but I’m thinking about putting a woman in a bikini running around and exploiting a woman as well for entertainment value.
And I called a friend of mine who I knew wouldn’t look at it that way and she was excited to do it and tickled pink to do it and, of course, she got to sit in a hot tub full of fraternity brothers, you know, and that was good for her.
TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: And free beer.
TWOMEY: And free beer, yes.
So, you know, that’s what I had to work with.
And so the halftime show went off without a hitch and the crowd was crazy, it ended up on two news stations locally in the Twin Cities and the game was being broadcast on ESPN2 already. They didn’t show very many game clips, they showed the cow being chased by my friend in a bikini.
And so it was this challenge I had that I did something really great for business, for the business
I was working or volunteering for, but it went against every moral fiber of my body. And then the next day the owner of the team sought me out. This man is very prominent in the entertainment industry and I knew him by name but had never met him. And he shook my hand and he said Now that was the best halftime show I had ever seen or something along those lines and I was so proud. And as soon as he walked out my stomach hurt because it was – it just kind of rubbed me the wrong way and it, you know.
TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: Now was that the first time you had ever had that feeling, like, this goes against everything and I feel icky with this?
TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: Okay. So you knew that feeling.
TWOMEY: I knew it. I was able to ID it. And the other time that that had happened to me was also in arena football. And it was during a ticket sales campaign and there was a dad and his little boy who — we’re having the conversation about how expensive the tickets were, and it was like an open house kind of event and this little boy clearly needed a new pair of shoes. And my boss was kind of pushing me at the time to make the sale, close the sale, close the sale, close the sale, and I couldn’t do it, I walked away. And so it was that same kind of feeling that this is morally not okay and I can’t do that. Which was a good life lesson, because I learned that sales is not the avenue that I need to pursue as a career but service, you know, being of service and being helpful is something that makes me feel good.
Here I was just newly graduated with a degree, specialty in sports management and I knew I needed to find a different way to apply my education because that, professional sports didn’t lend itself to being of service or — and the rest of my career has pretty much been in the service industry.
TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: Since you got into the service work, doing work that by definition is to help people, have you ever felt that pit in your stomach again doing service work where you felt like oooh.
TWOMEY: That’s a great question. I’m not sure. Nothing is glaring that comes to mind.
TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: Different kind of challenges, but nothing that just really hit at your core of like uuuh I don’t know about this.
TWOMEY: No, no.
TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: So it was a successful transition.
TWOMEY: Yes, it was, it was, a great way to look at it.
I think with trying to help people and be helpful or working in the service industry I’m so glad that I’m middle aged, because I think my experience has really, like I really feel like I’ve grown as a person, also as a servant in recognizing so many other pieces other than just my role as a volunteer coordinator or as an event coordinator working with people who want to help and be helpful. I think it not only — all of that experience has made me a better person and allowed me to learn so much about humans. Humans are pretty rad. They’re pretty interesting people.
TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: Where do you think you’d be today if you had stayed with professional sports, sports management?
TWOMEY: I don’t know. I think I’d be very unhappy. I think I would. It takes a really special person to work in any field and I know that would have been a bad fit for me.
TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: I am so excited that VolunteerPro is our sponsor. I have taken a webinar with them and it was seriously the best webinar I have ever experienced. Amazing content and helpful take home resources. If you work with volunteers you need this in your life. VolunteerPro is offering our listeners $100 off an annual membership. Go to volpro.net and use the promo code PROPOWER. That’s volpro.net, promo code PROPOWER. Thanks VolunteerPro! Now, back to our show.
TWOMEY: Growing up I was always on a sports team or playing sports. I had wonderful coaches growing up, often the kind of relationships with those coaches that I shared things with them I didn’t share with my parents, you know. They were that confidant kind of person. And I have a lot of fond memories of playing sports growing up. So as a parent I always wanted my kids to at least try it, you know, if it’s not for them great, but let’s try it.
And so I picked microsoccer. The microsoccer organization here in town really relies on parent volunteers to be the coaches. I’ve never played soccer in my life at this point. Never watched a soccer game. But I thought okay they’re three or four year olds, it can’t be that hard and the skillset needed is not huge. And I wanted to be a part of their sports experience.
And so the first day, the first practice was a disaster, complete chaos. I had probably six three- and four-year olds and, you know, the object is to keep them engaged. And I learned that right away. I went in there with all these coaching plans like we’re going to run this drill and we’re going to talk about the rules of soccer and all of this and I had all these high expectations and I learned right away that that wasn’t the case. A good example, we were running a simple drill where there were like three or four cones and the kids had to zigzag in and out of the cones and then the ball was waiting for them right in front of the goal. And so they’d run as hard as they can and they kick that ball into the goal.
Well it doesn’t take much to distract a three- or four-year old. You know, a butterfly is like a number one distractor on a soccer field. And shortly after we started the drill a little girl is like completely engulfed in this butterfly and she’s, you know, not paying attention and she takes off. And then pretty soon the other kids are looking, well where is she going. And I decided that we were all going to chase the butterfly.
And this was my moment of transition as a coach of three- and four-year olds, that we’re all just going to chase the butterfly because that’s what they really want to do and they’re moving their bodies, they’re getting some exercise and maybe the chase the butterfly and then they come back and kick the ball into the goal. And so I had to really incorporate those kinds of things into the coaching. And sometimes the parents were okay with that and sometimes they weren’t, I would say it was like 50/50.
And I had parents that would come up to me and say You know, the kids are chasing butterflies and I’d say and they really like butterflies and they’re running and they’re getting some exercise, I hope I’ve worn them out enough for you. And we’re not going to worry about the rules of the game right now or the fundamentals, that will all come later, you know, we want them to like soccer, that’s the goal here. I want you to like soccer and I want you to come to practice and be excited about it.
And so the second practice I knew they were getting their uniforms and I brought puffy paint for them to all decorate their uniforms and the parents helped put the name on the back. And you know looking for that buy in, like trying to get them to buy into it and be connected and connected to each other and the parents on the sidelines to be connected to the kids.
And the kids loved it and some of the parents liked it but a lot of the parents still were really all about, you know, when are you going to teach my kid how to pass the ball. Well, your kid’s not going to learn how to pass the ball until they’re like six, in reality, after watching the other kids on the field. And that’s what I finally started to tell the parents, like why don’t you go and walk around and see what the older kids are doing and what the other young kids are doing and if you see some drills that they’re doing that you think would be helpful bring it back to me. And so giving them a job was really helpful.
And so it was not what I thought it was going to be walking in as a parent coach. I thought — I had all these grandiose ideas about how I was going to make a difference and how I was going to be the best coach ever and these kids were going to remember me ten years down the road. And some of the parents still remember me, but probably because of my unorthodox teaching skills.
But I think as a leader, whether that’s being a volunteer coordinator or a group coordinator, I think that that taught me a lot of valuable lessons, those three year olds. You know, they teach you that you have to think on your feet, you have to be willing to switch directions and change your game plan and figure out what works for the collective whole and I find that today working with volunteers: everybody’s different, everybody’s there for a different reason, it provides different value for each person in their life.
TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: Yeah, that story really resonates with me. I played soccer as a kid and I played with a very laid back soccer league.
TWOMEY: Oh good.
TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: We went with the flow, we loved the pizza party and what I remember most about being a soccer player at age four was that we got to have snacks.
TWOMEY: That’s it, exactly, right.
TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: And I remember as I got older, for me soccer ended up meaning different things. I remember, I struggled with anxiety even as a little kid. And so I’d be seven or eight years old and I’d just be in a funk and just say oh I just don’t want to do anything right now, mom. And my mom would say just go to soccer because you know that when you get back you’ll feel better. And I wasn’t good at all, I was not a good soccer player, but just getting out and being outside and running around and seeing other kids, it just lifted my spirits. So I kind of did it almost as a medicine at that point.
TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: And I know that if I had had a coach that was really drilling into me all the fundamentals and the importance of the essential pieces to be the best soccer player ever probably wouldn’t have done as much good as the coaches that I had that just let me be me and get some exercise outside.
So yeah I love that you were saying that people come, the kids even are coming for all their own reasons.
TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: And also managing those other stakeholders, the parents, who have their own priorities, their own reasons for being there.
And the other thing I was thinking when you were mentioning following the butterfly, I like that metaphor.
TWOMEY: Oh, the butterflies.
TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: Because I think it’s also looking where the energy is, you know, you’ve got a group of people, whether they’re three-year olds or whether they’re citizens that care about litter, whatever they are, it’s like where is the energy because if you’re working with volunteers, you know, you’re going to really need to go with what people are motivated to spend their time and energy doing. And if you just keep trying to push them in one direction that they don’t want to go in, it’s not going to be very successful.
TWOMEY: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. That’s a good metaphor. I like it. I like it too.
TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: Well, that’s a wrap. Thank you for listening to the first ever episode of Do Good, Be Good. It was a pleasure creating this for you. I really enjoyed hearing Maggie’s stories about her path towards service work and her lessons in managing expectations as a volunteer leader. For show notes on this episode, including a transcription of the episode, visit dogoodbegoodshow.com. That is also where you can find the discount code for Volunteer Pro and more information about Do Good, Be Good. The next episode will launch next Wednesday, October 4th. I will be interviewing Joy Knudsen. Joy grew up in Finland and has a very touching story of the sacrifice she made in trying to help her son. Subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts in order to get the next episode when it comes out. Thanks again to Maggie Twomey for sharing her stories. Thank you also to my aunt Anne Bloom for transcribing the episode.
This show was brought to you by me, Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom, as well as our host, Sun Sounds of Arizona. Every day Sun Sounds reads newspapers, magazines, books, and grocery ads to those who have vision loss, dyslexia, arthritis or another disability that prevents reading. Thanks, Sun Sounds. You can learn more about them at SunSounds.org.