Adventure Running Kids kicks off our 7th year today! What started as a pilot project in 2010 with 17 kids has now grown into North America's largest kids orienteering program. ARK is now offered in 8 locations in Ontario's Golden Horseshoe with sessions offered in each of the spring and fall. There is also an ARK summer camp in Hamilton. ARK is for kids aged 8-12 while our Adventure Running X (ARX) program is for teenagers 13-18).
Our spring session last year had ~900 kids and we are on pace to equal that again this year. Over 6,500 kids have signed up for our ARK and ARX sessions since 2010.
DontGetLost Adventure Running runs this program through the hard work of our three full time employees (Patrick Saile, Meghan Rance, and Ashley Bruzzese) and the incredible dedication of over 100 parent and student volunteers. We also have a facebook following of over 1600!
In celebration of the start of lucky year #7, and in an effort to encourage more orienteering clubs to start junior participation programs, I have updated our 'How we built an ARK' presentation that I presented at the 2013 Canadian Nationals. The presentation (in PDF format) explains the approach DontGetLost Adventure Running took with Adventure Running Kids including some examples of our curriculum and how we aligned with Orienteering Canada's LTAD. The presentation also includes some new approaches we are undertaking to grow our ARX program and to develop our four Team Canada JWOC athletes.
ARK web: http://dontgetlost.ca/index.php/youth-home/ark
Presentation (available until mid April): https://www.dropbox.com/s/l4rj0t2q3s2ihcy/How%20we...
This is phenomenal, thank you!
What an incredible way to bring children into the sport. How many more years will it take to get to 1K kids?
@rhombus, not this spring as our capacity is about 900 kids and we currently are at around 780.
one thing I didn't put in the presentation is that we worked/partnered with Foothills Orienteering in Calgary to help them develop a kids program called SOGO Adventure Running. i believe SOGO has over 300 kids now.
Are 780 & 900 the totals for all programs and locations?
Guy, Yes that is correct. Though I checked that our capacity isnt 900 but actually 975. Capacity varies by location depending on the number of evenings and hours offered. Hamilton is 285. Burlington, Oakville, Waterloo, and Niagara are 135. Milton and Stoney Creek are 75. Hamilton remains our most popular location which is currently at 97% capacity.
Thanks! Evenings/hours as capacity parameters leads me to...
On how many weekend days / weekday evenings, each week, in season, does a typical ARK/ARX-er have an activity?
Our ARK kids have one hour a week and a fun ARKfest with the kids from all locations at the end of the season.
We have changed our format this season so that we can expand our ARX program to all of our locations. ARX used to train 1 hour 2 nights a week. Now they train 1 hour a week and have the opportunity to travel to another location and race the ARXers there every 2 weeks. Our Xcel group has weekend training once a month and then are encouraged to attend races (local and travelling). This ends up meaning they are doing something most weekends depending on the time of year.
Yes and the keenest of the ARX group also have other training opportunities with the club. 2x/week run training and volunteering options at other ARK locations where their coach (Atropos) often organizes special O training exercises for them. That gets them on extra maps and is also introduces them to other kids. We haven't been nearly as successful as Cascade OC has been with getting kids to race. But the aim of the ARK program isn't racing so not too worried about that.
with Ontario champs having 2 races - in town or right next to town(finish near a school)- maybe ARX from all locations could use that meet as 'dipping their toes in the racing water'. early bird prices will go up in 10 days ( or so)
Ontario Champs is definitely on the list of races we are encouraging the ARXers to do!
The Ontario Champs are this May?
All kinds of orienteering opportunities can be found on the Orienteering Ontario events calendar! I see that Orienteering Ottawa doesn't have the Champs on their events calendar and has scheduled a meet that weekend so I can understand your confusion!
The Orienteering Ottawa events calendar only shows Orienteering Ottawa events (not even Loup Garou). However, the link to the Ontario Champs is pretty prominent on the front page of the website.
Ah thanks, I've found the link now - also the links to COCs and NAOCs.
Btw the earlybird entry fee deadline for the Ontario Champs is April 4!
OK so back to a discussion on kids and orienteering OK. ;-)
I have received a few emails asking about the numbers of kids in each of the different age groups. Our numbers are apparently quite similar to what is seen in other sports. i.e., a big dropoff once youth become teenagers. The drop off is due to leaving sports completely or focusing on 1-2 sports. Our numbers:
U8 (30%), U10 (33%), U12 (24%), U18 (13%)* Note that our U18 numbers are primarily U14 as the program just started in all locations last week (previously only in Hamilton where we have higher numbers in the 15-18 age group).
13% (of several hundred) under 14 is still amazing, a good retention that increases the number of teenage juniors. A hundred thirteen and fourteen year olds in a structured program ameliorates the youth deficit of the sport, if even a fraction of those stay on after the program. And those who drop out before their teens may bring their family out to an event in fifteen years.
The first year or two of output of such programmes, in Helsinki experience, don't necessarily lead to lots of college students orienteering. But once a few stick with it, things start to really take off. Persevere!
Congrats on 7 years ARK gang!
I added "ARK/ARX" as a "school" to all the DGL juniors coming to the Pig. :-) (and most adults, though I had to guess on coaches vs chaperones)
Btw, kudos to Christian, Owen & Noah for sticking with it for several years! Any of them in HPP yet?
DontGetLost Adventure Running currently has 3.5 HPP members (one of our juniors is in two clubs) and yes we are pretty happy that Christian is one of those athletes. Several of those athletes will be attending JWOC but Orienteering Canada hasn't made the official announcement yet.
Imagine if there were five or ten such programs across Canada or America.
Jim, there are already programs that have tens of juniors all across North America.
Here is a list of Canadian communities that I an aware of that have junior orienteering programs (west to east):
Whitehorse - Kids Running Wild (YOA)
Vancouver - Orienteering Adventure Kids (GVOC)
North Vancouver - Orienteering Adventure Kids (GVOC)
Kimberley - Junior Adventure Runners (KOC)
Edmonton East - Kids Run Wild (EOOC)
Edmonton West - Kids Run Wild (EOOC)
Calgary South - SOGO Adventure Running (FWOC)
Calgary North - SOGO Adventure Running (FWOC)
Calgary Central - SOGO Adventure Running (FWOC)
Waterloo - Adventure Running Kids (Stars/DGL)
Niagara - Adventure Running Kids (DGL)
Hamilton West - Adventure Running Kids (DGL)
Hamilton East - Adventure Running Kids (DGL)
Burlington - Adventure Running Kids (DGL)
Milton - Adventure Running Kids (DGL)
Oakville - Adventure Running Kids (DGL)
Arnprior - Orienteering Ottawa Kids (OOC)
Ottawa - Orienteering Ottawa Kids (OOC)
My, this has expanded quite a lot since I left Canada. Well done to all. Are there similar American programs?
Great results at the Flying Pig Sprint for ARX kids.
@Jim: I'm not sure what kids O programs exist in the US but Navigation Games organized in Cambridge by Barb Bryant is doing some amazing things bringing O to schools and yesterday took several titles at the US Schools champs!
CascadeOC organizes a league each winter with about 200 juniors at each event. It's been slowly growing over the past 30 or so years.
However, I want to emphasize that it is what it is: a series of eight races. It's not an after-school sports program. The schools, teams, and individuals do their own training.
So happy to hear that participation in Calgary's SOGO Adventure Running is now over 400 kids for their spring program!
Wow, how that program has grown.
There has been much discussion of DontGetLost's Adventure Running Kids (ARK) program in a number of threads recently on Attack Point. In one thread in particular it was suggested that junior programs are not a good way to grow the sport and ARK was listed as the main example of not being successful. Instead of hijacking that thread I thought it best to discuss the potential value and importance of junior programs, and ARK in particular, here instead.
It was suggested that ARK was not a success because junior participation in traditional orienteering events was low. As Meghan Rance (our ARX program manager, aka Atropos on AP) nicely pointed out in the other thread that statement is false. As Meghan mentioned our ARX group (~ 70 teenagers) has a large number of kids that are attending races. This despite the difficulty in getting parents and athletes to commit to drive the great distances and pay the associated costs to attend out-of-town races. As has been stated elsewhere on AP there is great value in developing a local racing and training scene vs. the long distance travel to "A" meets. I would also add that over half of our ARK (U12) kids are under the age where racing is part of the athletic development ladder. It is also worth noting that our local schools race attracts over 1000 kids each year and our ARK Fests get about 150 kids under the age of 15. We feel these are stepping stones to building a strong local and regional junior-friendly race series.
But I think there are other "success metrics" to determine if the money and time of developing a junior program or investing in any type of hiring for that matter (mapping, Exec director, etc.) is a success or not. Here are some metrics and a discussion of how it relates to ARK.
Revenue. Revenue has to be an important metric of success because without money it means relying 100% on volunteers for everything from map making to programs. DontGetLost has about 1500 kids sign up between our two ARK seasons each year. At $100-125/kid that means that revenue is pretty decent. At the current exchange rate our ARK revenues alone are about a third of OUSA revenues. Or put another way the revenue from a junior program that serves a population of about 1.5 million people is about 33% of a national federation of a country with >200 times that population. When we add in other revenues from kids races and other events we exceed 50% of OUSA revenues.
Employees. Paid positions in North American orienteering have generally gone to executive directors and map makers. We wanted to have paid program managers that allowed for programs to be delivered consistently and sustainably. We now have three full time employees that run ARK and ARX, elite training, race organization, map making coordination, promotion and much more. In comparison, Orienteering Canada has one part time employee, OUSA has two full time employees and some provincial associations have government supported staff. I believe that DontGetLost has the most employees of any orienteering organization in North America. Because our awesome employees have taken on a lot of the tasks that volunteers were required to do in the past we feel we have created sustainability within the club.
Volunteers. Each season Adventure Running Kids gets at least 100 volunteers. We have found it is a lot easier to get people to volunteer for a local and regional kids program than for hosting an out-of-town race. Also the way we designed ARK the time commitment for these volunteers is minimal and achievable. Some of those volunteers that were introduced to our sport via our junior program are now on various boards of directors (e.g., our club, Orienteering Ontario) and/or are assisting with event hosting and in some cases map making. Moreover, the volunteers have taken on tasks such as registration, course planning, trip organization, etc. providing much needed new blood (and even more stability) in our organization.
Sponsorship. While we don't seek cash for our sponsorship the value of the product and in-kind sponsorship provided by our sponsors is comparable to OUSA sponsorship $ (I don't have info for OC). Since starting ARK we have grown from 100 members to a club of over 1500 (mostly juniors)! That certainly attracts product sponsorship. For example, we have three branded Rav4 vehicles provided (in part) through Milton Toyota.
Membership. Membership numbers are very important for Orienteering Canada. ARK now represents about 20% of the total Orienteering Canada membership. Without ARK Orienteering Canada (OC) would have trouble meeting some of their Sport Canada funding membership number requirements. That is an important success.
Communities. Because ARK is hosted in 7 different communities we have grown membership in communities that previously had no orienteering 'infrastructure' (maps, equipment, sponsors, volunteers, etc.). This has a positive growth effect because not only are there brand new sprint maps and forest maps to train and race on locally but it also means that the distance to races (we host about 18 weeknight races a year) is greatly decreased. This serves to decrease the need to go to as many out-of-town races.
Performance. The four longest running junior programs in Canada (Calgary, Hamilton, Ottawa and Whitehorse) are the four clubs that formed 100% of Canada's JWOC team this year (and all of the coaches as well). That suggests athletic development performance success. On a Canadian domestic level take a look at the medals won by juniors at COC's the last few years and you will see that the clubs without junior programs have not won many medals.
Families and community. We have a strong community built around our junior program that involves parents, coaches and athletes. Every week in the spring and fall hundreds of kids are orienteering and getting muddy and learning nav skills, and becoming stronger runners and having fun and laughing. Regardless of the other metrics I've presented above I'd argue that this is the most important measure of success you can have. After all one of our goals should simply be to get people out enjoying navigation on maps.
So I personally feel that more clubs or groups should start junior programs. While this isn't necessarily the only path to growth (there are a variety of route choices I'm sure) it has been a success for DGL. We still would like to increase participation at traditional orienteering races but we are working on it. Having said that I feel that if there were more successful junior programs close to ours (Ottawa is 'close-ish' BUT it is still five hours away) our success would be even greater since we can decrease the distance between races and activities. This would allow more inter-regional competition and sharing of resources.
What I have discussed here is a local club-driven bottom-up approach to growth vs. the top-down approach at the Federation level. Both are probably needed for a variety of reasons and can/should build off each other. For example, from an athletic development perspective we can only develop our juniors so far. As they reach the international level there is a need for strong regional and national development opportunities that Orienteering Canada does a good job of through their High Performance Program. Also from an American perspective I think it is fair to say that Erin's hiring in the US has been particularly successful. He is providing opportunities to develop and recruit the top end of US junior orienteering. Growing the base of youth through club-based programs can only be an important way to feed into what a great job he has done.
While I feel ARK has been a success the bad news is that starting a junior program can still be quite daunting. Having said that the good news is that I'd argue we know how to do it now and we have developed a good model and this is why I have posted how DGL "built our ARK" (the link earlier in this thread is still active). OC has also recently developed a skills matrix to assist clubs or organizations in developing junior programs. With that said DontGetLost Adventure Running is happy to partner with groups, clubs, and/or individuals that are interested in developing a junior program. For example, two years ago we partnered with FWOC in developing SOGO Adventure Running. Their program is growing greatly and that is providing funds for salaries that benefits the entire sport.
... the bad news is that starting a junior program can still be quite daunting.
If it was easy, everyone would have done it by now, notwithstanding the opinions of a stray person or so who hasn't been paying attention to what DGL (and others) have achieved to date.
I want to add my support to Hammer's post. Junior programs are the BEST way to increase participation in our sport. I want to add my perspective from Yukon Orienteering Assoc because it backs up what Hammer has been saying but in completely different context. Whitehorse has a population of 25,000. At its biggest our junior program had 50-60 kids. Our population simply means we are not going to get the kind of numbers that ARK has. However, the same basic phenomena happened albeit at a much smaller scale. Our club size more than doubled. Yes, the kids added to the numbers. But we also got members and volunteers because the parents and siblings also joined. We then had enough participants that we could employ our older juniors to run the programs for the youngest kids. Again this year one of our JWOC athletes is running the program. This gives her a summer job with an employer that is understanding and flexible to her training and racing schedule. It gives YOA a chance to support our older junior athletes and build their capacity as future organizers, course setters, etc. One of the main volunteer coaches this year is a current HPP athlete who used to have the job. We have also employed another former Junior Program Coordinator to do some mapping updates for us. Basically, what I am saying is investing in a junior program is good even if you are in a relatively small club. We more than doubled our membership and participation. What club wouldn't want to do that? As Mike mentioned there aren't many jr programs in Canada. We have a lot of clubs who don't have junior programs. If every club established one, we would have a huge increase in membership and participation.
The Yukon junior success is what inspired us to focus on juniors and communities.
Brent mentioned "if every club established [a jr program] we would have a huge increase in membership and participation."
totally agree but I would argue we should try and go a step further and have communities that currently don't have O develop youth programs. I don't believe we only need clubs to create jr programs. We just need an individual or three that sees a job and revenue opportunity where O currently isn't.
Filling in the geography between the existing clubs is critical to decrease distance to races and to share resources.
Really great to see how ARK has grown! Thanks for all the info!!
A few people were asking about USA based programs. I started one last year that was once a week. We have done two seasons so far and only targeted one school in Petaluma. We had 17 kids season one and 50 season two.
You have to do a little ground work but it's not that hard to create these programs. In the US you see tons of kids running programs poping up all over with pretty good attendance. Along the lines of what Hammer said I encourage all clubs to look into these types of inititives. Reach out to ARk or email me if you need ideas or curriculum support. Keep it simple. In the US even starting at one elementary school can get you 50-100 kids.
I guess Hammer's post is in part a response to my comment
. First of all, let me clarify that I did not mean to say kids programs (including ARK) were not successful. As I said in my original post, I do not doubt that they make money for the clubs and keep so many kids active; these are good enough reasons to keep them going. What I am less sure about is whether these programs create committed orienteers, those who are serious enough that they want to train to participate at the highest levels and those who will stay with orienteering as adults. It may be too early to tell. But let me note the following. Hammer mentioned that 100% of this year's JWOC team are members of the four clubs running junior programs. However, correlation is not causation; these four clubs are also among the best in Canada in other respects - they are among the biggest and run the most events. Moreover, if we look at the names, many (most?) are from orienteering families; they did not learn about orienteering because of the kids' programs; while these programs may have made some contribution to their development, they would have likely become orienteers and made the JWOC team even without them, just by participating in local events and training individually. So the question is: if there are thousands of kids who went through these programs, including many who are now old enough to participate in the JWOC, then why do most of the actual JWOC team members come from a much smaller pool, that of orienteers' kids? Also, looking at my club (Ottawa), while our kids' program is not as large as ARK, there are still hundreds of kids that went through it, but when I come to our local meets, I can't help but wonder: where are all these kids? Why are there so few teenagers who participate regularly in our events and again, while I don't know everybody, it seems that the majority of those who do come regularly are orienteers' kids. I am not talking about traveling to A-meets, just local B- and C-meets. So this does look like some sort of failure to engage the kids enough that they fall in love with orienteering and want to continue (even at the local level) after they "graduate" from the program.
Staying with orienteering into adulthood is a good thing. Competing at the highest level is less so. I think if we could get a whole lot of people like me, for example, to start orienteering, that would be great for the continuation and growth of the sport. I've certainly never competed at the highest level, and my training has been sporadic and halfhearted. The top competitors are not nearly as important as the masses (and you could argue that very, very few from North America have ever participated at the highest levels anyway). But I've orienteered a lot, and at times I've done a fair bit to help out. (And how did I get introduced to orienteering? High school phys ed class. No family involvement at all.)
I will add that as a child of an orienteering family that stuck with the sport, there is indeed great value in having a critical mass of juniors in the same age range. When I was a junior, I was not very talented at first, coming in overtime on the occasional yellow or orange course. I really enjoyed coming to meets though, because that is where my friends were. I became competitive only because I stayed with the sport long enough.
Which I guess is a way of saying that even if the kids involved with an individual program do not last in the long term, they can do a lot to strengthen those that do remain.
Fantastic. Thanks Hammer.
"I really enjoyed coming to meets though, because that is where my friends were." --> adding my support to Ross' point.
I didn't start as a kid, but the social aspect of orienteering was still important for me starting out as an adult. Any program, whether it targets young kids or interscholastic competition, or 20-somethings, needs to have a strong social component. That's going to be the answer for many active orienteers, but we should also be asking the people who've left the sport what would have helped them stay!
Regarding success and retention, I feel like I see a lot of unrealistic expectations for recruitment from kid to adult. Consider how many kids play a sport (any sport) in middle school and then how many of them are still doing that sport 10 years later -- it's generally very, very few. (I can fairly confidently say that not a single member of my middle school softball team was still playing in their early 20s.) However, a lot of them will end up driving their kids to practice or even coaching in that sport 10 or 20 years later.
For a large youth program I would consider 1% retention from middle school age to early adult to be successful, 5% outstanding, with the realization that there's a long game: that percentage will increase as those people age and get their kids out. Assuming there are events for them to go to...
In my mind, if orienteering is as great as we think it is, I'd still consider ARK a success if there was a 0% retention rate. I don't do all the same things I did when I was a kid, but many were transformative and made me who I am. ARK seems to be a able to deliver a high quality experience for a large number of participants. That is worth celebrating. And needless to say, there are numerous direct and intangible benefits as Hammer and others have described.
I would also agree with that!
As the human behind the info@OrienteeringOntario.ca email ID, I receive messages from the general public. I've heard from a number of adults who were exposed to orienteering when they were young. Although they didn't become regulars then, they enjoyed it enough to search out our website when their busy university and career/family starting years had passed. They wonder what is available for adults and they often want their kids to try it too. I only wish Ontario's orienteering activities were available over a wider area since I don't always have great answers for these inquiries.
There are tons of kids out there doing stuff like ballet and gymnastics (as well as many other things). Almost none continue into adulthood, and very few ever do it at the top levels. But that doesn't mean they aren't worthwhile, or that they should be targeting a different audience.
I think it's really wonderful that ARK isn't just about orienteering, but about kids running around in the forest off-trail getting muddy.
Similarly, I love that part of Alex Jospe coaching skiing is inviting kids on the team to go run up a mountain with her and some of the other coaches.
I like that it's not just about what you can do within a particular team or environment but that it's more about opening up the world of what's possible for kids.... and sharing the things that you love.
if there are thousands of kids who went through these programs, including many who are now old enough to participate in the JWOC, then why do most of the actual JWOC team members come from a much smaller pool, that of orienteers' kids?
CascadeOC's junior league has been around for ~30 years now, and we've sent several kids to JWOC, most of which aren't from orienteering families.
Tyra Christopherson (2015-2016)
Katrina Weinmann (2014)
Anne Wilkinson (2013-2014)
Danielle Spencer (2013)
*Holly Kuestner (2007-2010)
Tori Borish (2008-2009)
*Kelsey Breseman (2009)
*Will Enger (2005)
Leif Anderson (2004-2005)
Eric Bone (1994)
*from orienteering family
@MChub: I'm not surprised that, of the juniors whose parents take them to national events and European festivals, a large percentage are from orienteering families (though @PinkSocks points out significant counter examples). That requires the parents being interested in spending their vacations and money going orienteering. But, following on what @Christina suggests, those juniors from non-orienteering families who become interested, may become the orienteering parents of subsequent juniors, willing to take them far and wide to orienteering beyond the school/junior/city programs. As @Christina says, it's a long game. @PinkSocks points out how long (and successful) that game is. (But I'll also note that junior achievements in North America already seem well beyond that of a few decades ago. There seem to be several juniors having very solid races internationally each year, where decades ago it would have been one or two, or none, in any given year. The depth of the pool is impressive, as are many of the individual results.)
I don't see anything else currently driving orienteering growth to the same degree as the junior programs of various cities. All the other promotion is well and good (social media, calendars of events such as newspapers, radio or city, city park events, etc.), but despite doing them for at least four decades, orienteering is flat or declining. @Hammer, @theshadow and others give hard numbers and specific examples of how their respective areas' junior programs have improved various key metrics. It seems clear that juniors programs help, and I can't think of other kinds of development that yield remotely similar levels of benefit.
The topic of spreading orienteering to other cities (as @Bash raises and others have raised elsewhere) is an important one, but may need a deep think. Many smaller cities seem to depend on having one or two super keen orienteers, which puts a lot of burden on a few. (And when they leave, orienteering can collapse in that city, from some examples I can think of.) I've wondered whether small cities could develop orienteering on a basis similar to what I perceive in Scandinavian cities...each city runs one "major" event per year (maybe a B meet or ROGAINE or goat or junior/interscholastic meet), attracting orienteers from other cities in all directions, and helping pay for a good map or two, in addition to doing a lot of training. Small cities are often within driving distance of a half dozen other small cities, plus perhaps a major city or two. Maybe these gaps between big cities can be bridged. @Hammer points out the spread of ARK to numerous previously non-orienteering cities across southern Ontario. @theshadow describes the success of smallish Whitehorse. Kimberley BC seems to have retained orienteering and started a junior program. New England orienteering seems to have spread from its historical strength of greater Boston further into New Hampshire and Vermont. But I think that it'll take a lot of thinking and experimentation to find the right formula (if there is one).
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