Updated: December, 2008
Copyright 2008 by Race Across America, LLC (Colorado). All rights reserved.
No sugarcoating here - being a Crew Chief is probably the hardest job on RAAM. Like everyone else, you will have the experience of a lifetime and you will learn a lot about yourself and what you are capable of. You may finish and never want to hear of RAAM again, or you may well get hooked into trying it again (and again … and again)! This document will help you be prepared for the realities and challenges of being a Crew Chief.
The Bucks Stop Here
The Crew Chief is the boss, the CEO, the president. A RAAM crew is not a democracy, and it’s not a dictatorship either. There should be cooperative decision making with the best ideas and experience, and then the Crew Chief makes the decision in a firm (not bossy) way.
When making decisions the Crew Chief has to balance the needs of the Racer and Crew, and always consider safety. The Crew Chief must make the final decisions, even the unpleasant ones – and the Crew Chief may not be liked for the decisions that are made. This doesn’t mean the Crew Chief makes every decision, but certainly the big ones. The Crew needs to function well, even if the Crew Chief is in another vehicle or sleeping.
An important piece of the role of Crew Chief is that everyone has to agree who is Crew Chief. There can be no undercutting or side deals – it will severely impact the teamwork and ability to finish the race.
Crew Chief Roles
While making decisions is a challenge, the real challenge lies in all the roles to fill – coach, parent, friend, logician, strategist, accountant, counselor, negotiator, drill sergeant, and more. In sum, a leader and a people person. The Crew Chief needs to know when and how to step into each roll. Not everyone has all these capacities, with that the Crew Chief needs to know their limitations and get the help of those who are stronger or more experienced in a particular area to fill those roles, and still know that the Crew Chief is the leader.
The Team – The Crew
The Crew Chief is the leader of a Team – the crew. To get the Crew to function, the Crew Chief must train them, watch them, and trust them. First, show them what they need to do and good ways of doing it. Then watch what they do and offer suggestions or improvements. Watching them is also a way to assess how well any particular person does in a particular role. Then trust them – let them do their job. If the Crew Chief micromanages or watches what everyone is doing at all times, it will be very tiresome and the Crew Chief doesn’t have time to do that.
Each Crew has a number of roles to fill – Driver, Navigator, Cook, etc. Refer to the article on Crew Roles for ideas of what these roles are and how to assign them.
As a team, everyone has to work together and part of the job of a Crew Chief is managing and encouraging that teamwork. There are many ways to encourage teamwork. Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Pay attention to the crew – who gets along with who, who’s awake, who’s sleeping, who’s not, who’s on the edge.
- Find a few moments with each crew person a couple times during the race for a short personal one-on-one. As Crew Chief, these one-on-ones let everyone know they are cared for and they are critical to the team.
- Fun and a Sense of Humor – Crew have to have some fun. Goofy costumes, state line crossing celebrations, reading jokes over the PA, etc. These are important to the experience for everyone.
Just like everyone else on the crew, the Crew Chief must get sleep. To make good decisions, they need rest also. The Crew Chief must trust their crew to function without them. When the Crew Chief is sleeping, they should designate someone as Crew Chief.
For a Family member
Crewing for a family member is always a challenge, being a Crew Chief for a family member is even harder. If you are considering this, talk through it carefully. It would be good to talk with other Racers who have been in this position to learn what the challenges and rewards are.
A Family – RAAM and Crew Chiefs
Being a Crew Chief is a challenge and ultimately rewarding. Get your Crew to the finish and you’ll have a new respect for yourself! No matter what happens, you are part of the RAAM Family. Whatever happens on the course, you can always ask for support from the rest of your RAAM family, you are not alone!