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Discussion: Thoughts on the OUSA ED initiative

in: Orienteering; General

Jun 23, 2016 11:57 PM # 
Jun 24, 2016 12:25 AM # 
Out of curiosity what is amount (and trend) in OUSA total revenues?
Jun 24, 2016 1:14 AM # 
Thanks very much to everyone who contributed to the article randy posted. I think this discussion is very long overdue, and I'd strongly encourage everyone who have given the OUSA ED position and strategy thought to contribute to the discussion. It's not clear that this AP thread (or any AP thread) will have an impact on policy, but this seems the best forum for the conversation.

@Hammer, from Randy's message:

Jan-Dec 2015, operating income of $336k, expenses of $327k.
Jun 24, 2016 1:22 AM # 
Jan-Dec 2015, operating income of $336k, expenses of $327k.

Lou Pataki's report as VP Finance is an important footnote to this though. His thought seems to be that, after taking into account restricted funds and other accounting nuances, the "real" bottom line is tens of thousands negative for 2015: "spendable income last year missed budget by $16,000 and missed covering expenses by $30,700". I'll let others read and form their own understanding.
Jun 24, 2016 1:31 AM # 
Just looking at the 2015 data, 48.8% of OUSA's income came from contributions. This doesn't seem like a sustainable source of income.
Jun 24, 2016 5:57 PM # 
It is true that a large part of the income is from contributions. If the major gift(s) are not forthcoming, then things will have to be re-evaluated. Presently, with the increase in fees, we look like will will have a balanced budget. One of the issues that is not clearly shown in the accounting is that donations to the Endowment Fund are counted as donations but then this money is then an expense as it is transferred to the Endowment Fund. (The Endowment Fund gives a percentage of their money to OUSA each year.)
Jun 24, 2016 10:34 PM # 
One MUST commend Randy on continuing the struggle to make sense of how the OUSA justifies keeping the current ED. I have done a similar, but perhaps not as extensive, look at numbers over the years and have yet to find anything that comes close to justifying keeping him. I would like to add a couple points that I didn't see mentioned in Randy's article.

Morale....When you mention our current junior coach everyone gets all hyped up and happy. i.e.Good Hire! When you mention the ED you get groans and I don't want to talk about it. The negativity I see towards our ED is a good indication that he's the wrong guy for the job.

Fees..... In 2009 the cost per runner at a local event was a quarter of a dollar. That is, all OUSA clubs paid that tax for each start at local events. The tax is now $1.50, a 600% increase in 7 years. The local clubs aren't getting tangible payback on those taxes. It is mainly paying one person's salary. The increase in fees PGoodwin is talking about above is this year's 50% tax increase on local club starts. If they have to re-evaluate as he says, I'm sure it will likely mean another tax increase on clubs. It wasn't a good solution this year and won't be a good solution in the future.

History.....The push to have the ED position back in 2009 was based on two foundation stones...growing the sport and the position paying for itself. Neither of these seem to have happened in the past 7 years. If either of them had, I don't think we'd be having this conversation. How long do you wait to get results?

For me the only measure of the ED that matters is whether the sport has grown due to things done by the position. I don't believe there is any evidence that the ED has done anything that has been effective in growing the sport.
Jun 25, 2016 1:42 AM # 
Hey, come on and try to be fair. Nobody has mentioned the important detail that during the past seven years, we got rebranded. That's got to be worth at least $675,000... right?
Jun 25, 2016 5:21 PM # 
I'm not sure of all the details but as I understand it the ED got himself invited to a Sports tourism council meeting in Florida at their expense, included Florida Orienteering members in the delegation, made a presentation that generated a lot of leads and potential for help growing the sport in several new areas including the panhandle where the best terrain is. Those contacts have been passed on to the clubs. Now it is up to us, particularly FLO, to grab the opportunity and plant the seeds for the sport. Anyone reading this live or spend part of the year near Panama City or Ft Walton Beach? There are some tourism people who would like to help you grow orienteering there.
If growth doesn't happen in Florida it won't be for lack of ED effort.
Jun 25, 2016 6:07 PM # 
The effort of the ED is laudable, but the data has made it clear that the initiative as a whole has not been successful. The two goals of growing the sport and the position paying for itself both have spectacularly failed; the sponsorships and grants don't even cover the ED's travel fund, to say nothing of his salary. Furthermore, a $675k investment has a massive opportunity cost, and I can imagine many investments of that magnitude that would have far greater returns.
Jun 25, 2016 6:43 PM # 
The case that the results of the ED initiative have, thus far, fallen well short of what was hoped and that the prospects for that changing markedly in the forseeable future are slim seems pretty indisputable. However, it bothers me to see the situation exaggerated - local event starts have not declined 18% since 2010, despite what some unidentified OUSA member may have communicated to Randy. Since I have no data to the contrary, thanks to OUSA being, to its discredit, very unforthcoming with this sort of data since the era of the late, unlamented 2010-2014 strategic plan, I have no quarrel with the 2014 and estimated 2015 start totals, but if there were 53165 starts in 2010 then based on rechartering summary data I have from Robin Shannonhouse, 10594 of them were not reported to OUSA.

BTW those with the power to edit it (Randy? Ken?) the title of this thread being short a "t" is also annoying.

Although not an OUSA member, neither am I a disinterested observer given my long-time membership in and volunteering on behalf of QOC (which fortunately is in fairly rude health whatever may be the latest status of metrics of orienteering activity nationally). To those of you who are OUSA members and are dissatisfied with current policies and practices, not necessarily limited to the continuing employment of an ED (or of the current ED rather than a hypothetical better-performing ED), the levers of power within OUSA exist, shouldn't several of you be trying to seize them? Running for seats on the board, in contested elections if necessary? If nothing else, surely you could force the existing board to make a public case for continuing the ED initiative.

Personally, I feel a certain sympathy for the ED based on the mismatch between the results desired of him and the powers at his command, i.e. no one in his position could possibly directly improve start numbers or any other metrics of the health of orienteering but as an ED rather than a CEO, even supposing he knew exactly what the best possible course of action to follow in order to grow orienteering was, he doesn't have the power to give orders to/demote/sack/replace the people out there in clubs who could move those numbers by following it. Responsibility without authority. Okay, fine, that means part of the job is having the political nous to persuade people to do what would be good for them but, given that people are often set in their ways and reflexively hostile to criticism, that's not an enviable thing to have evaluations of your job performance based on.

Update: having procured 2014 and 2015 data, Randy's figure for 2014 local event starts matches the rechartering numbers, the estimate he was given for 2015 is lower than what actually happened by ~2100. Local starts have been essentially stagnant nationally since 2004, varying upwards or downwards by 2000 to 3000 starts. Of course, that statement conceals a lot of variation between clubs. Prior to 2004, I don't trust the numbers that have been provided to me - they claim that local starts surged by ~33% year on year between 2000 and 2001 then declined back to fractionally less than the 2000 level by 2004 while no similar surge then decline occurred in memberships, so I assume the instructions on how to report starts were in flux somehow and/or there were compliance issues (in addition to the obvious one that some large clubs apparently failed to report starts at all for one or more years during that period).
Jun 25, 2016 9:21 PM # 
It seems valid to have a discussion of costs versus benefits for a national federation's expenditures. As posters have pointed out, the results of spending on a junior team development person seem well received. If another expenditure's results are less satisfying to some, then it's worth discussing whether others feel the same, and how that situation might be improved. Indeed, it would be nice if there were volunteers willing to follow up on marketing initiatives, but in my experience, marketing is a task that gets the fewest volunteers in orienteering (at least in America). If that's the case, then it may be worth accepting that initiatives that require volunteer marketing follow up aren't likely to succeed, and instead putting our money and efforts elsewhere. Programs like ARK and SOGO (in Canada) seem to have tremendous benefit; maybe that's a different and more effective way to market, given what orienteers are willing to volunteer for, and what has shown among the best results in recent decades. (Of course, that's local rather than national, but maybe it's better pushing that money back locally.)
Jun 26, 2016 2:33 PM # 
"given that people are often set in their ways and reflexively hostile to criticism, that's not an enviable thing to have evaluations of your job performance based on." this seems particularly accute in orienteering, though certainly not unique to it. Perhaps it seems more accute to me because of the general absence of many of the more median social norms evident in less quirky activities.
Jun 26, 2016 6:06 PM # 
It is not clear to me that someone unfamiliar with OUSA's accounting would read PGoodwin's comment near top and correctly understand what is going on. I will attempt here to add some clarification (and hope that if I have it wrong, either PGoodwin or others will be quick to point it out, as well as why I am wrong.)

PGoodwin writes: "One of the issues that is not clearly shown in the accounting is that donations to the Endowment Fund are counted as donations..."

What is happening is that all donations are counted as *income* on the income/expense statement. You can see this in the statement (link) below from Dec 2015, with the first lines for various types of contributions: unrestricted, restricted, and major gifts. Of these three, only unrestricted contributions can be truly thought of as readily spendable income.

Almost certainly some significant portion of the "restricted", and "major gifts" categories have been designated to the Endowment Fund, though it is not possible to determine what that amount is from the statement alone.

Dec 2015 financial statement:

PGoodwin continues: "... but then this money is then an expense as it is transferred to the Endowment Fund."

I believe what he was trying to point out is that the money being transferred to the Endowment Fund *should be* counted as an expense, but that it is not being shown as such under this accounting treatment. And, indeed, if you scour through the expenses in the financial statement linked above, you will not see any entry for transfer of contributions to the Endowment Fund (similarly there is no accounting for Life Membership dues to the Endowment Fund.)

The effect is that, at least in years with large donations designated for the Endowment Fund, the income part of the statement significantly exaggerates the amount of income that is actually available to be spent, also making the financial health of OUSA appear better than it actually would be in those years.

This is the exact point then VP-Finance Lou Pataki made at last year's AGM:

"The Board of Directors approved a budget for 2014 which allowed a deficit of $17,700. Our results were far worse. While the financials show a deficit for the year of $1665.73, this figure is very misleading. Our income in 2015 included $41,700 restricted to the endowment (largely due to the generous Ringo family gift) and $700 in Life member dues which, by Board action, are also placed in the endowment fund. Under the accounting rules applicable for OUSA, the transfer of these funds to the endowment fund is not an expense item. This $42,000 of 2015
income was not available to pay our 2015 expenses. What I would describe as our effective deficit was about $44,000."

I will add that I am not suggesting that there is anything formally incorrect about the accounting treatment--I don't know if that's the case or not--but just that it is important to be aware of accounting limitations when they occur, and to understand the practical impact of any such limitations.
Jun 26, 2016 6:28 PM # 
Separately, another gauge of overall financial health is to examine changes in net worth, or equity, of OUSA.

From the Feb 28, 2011 financial statement (chosen because it was the earliest monthly statement I could find on the OUSA web site), equity is shown at $412,431.

From the June 30, 2016 statement (don't ask me how figures for June 30 are already available today, the 26th of June--maybe it's wizardry!), equity is shown at $350,974.

So, over a period of 5 1/3 years of time, there has been a decrease in net worth of about $61,000, or about 15%.
Jun 26, 2016 7:21 PM # 
I usually find jtorranc's posts on these subjects well-thought-out and germane. But his 4th paragraph above leaves a few points unstated:

1. I agree with Jon as long as we continue to call this guy an Executive 'Director' with no hire/fire authority. But his title is all wrong. Don't we really want an Executive....Educator?
2. I agree that if we want more starts, more events, more revenue, etc it is only in the Clubs themselves that levers exist for improving these metrics. But what percent of the ED's time is spent working with, motivating, and educating the Clubs?
3. Would granting the ED the power to hire & fire on the Club level really improve those metrics? I think not.
4. Sure some club officers are lazy and dysfunctional. But perhaps it is only because they really don't know how to effectively do their jobs. Maybe they don't even know how far short their club is performing. Perhaps they'd work harder if only they were motivated and taught a bit more.
5. At the same time, there are some fantastic O leaders at the local level in OUSA; we all know who they are. To what extent have their good ideas been promulgated to the the underperforming clubs by the ED?
6. How about new territory? Has the ED prospected the US for fertile new ground for new O clubs? For instance, some local events in Chicago used to be so popular that no legal parking existed within a mile of registration. Such is a perfect environment for considering starting a second club...but who do we expect to initiate it? Are we waiting for CAOC to spontaneously divide into two like an amoeba?
7. Six years ago ccsteve I believe, analyzed individual club metrics vs regional populations. It was a work of love, and a rough first-pass. It pointed out some very interesting potential questions. Could the ED inspire more effort from individual clubs by periodically publishing this kind of data?

Throughout the corporate and political worlds people are persuaded to do better by others to whom they do not report directly. If the ED did his homework, and spent more time in the trenches, teaching, coaching, cross-pollinating, perhaps he could be as effective, and as well-received, as our current junior coach!
Jun 26, 2016 9:56 PM # 
Don't we really want an Executive....Educator?

Hard to say what we want now but what OUSA set out to hire back in ~2008 was, IIRC, a marketer/administrator.

But what percent of the ED's time is spent working with, motivating, and educating the Clubs?

I don't know about the first two but the ED isn't qualified to educate the clubs about most of what they need to do better, with the possible exceptions of marketing what they have to offer and something(s) that's not occuring to me at the moment.

4. Sure some club officers are lazy and dysfunctional. But perhaps it is only because they really don't know how to effectively do their jobs. Maybe they don't even know how far short their club is performing. Perhaps they'd work harder if only they were motivated and taught a bit more.

And can we blame anyone for being reflexively hostile to being called "lazy and dysfunctional"? I expect the least functional clubs generally have very hard-working officers since dysfunctional clubs tend, I think, to have relatively few committed volunteers, leaving the few who are left having to do all the work to keep the club tottering along.

5. At the same time, there are some fantastic O leaders at the local level in OUSA; we all know who they are. To what extent have their good ideas been promulgated to the the underperforming clubs by the ED?

Not as much as they ought to be (by anyone - I'm not agreeing with the implication that that would properly be the ED's responsibility, though it's certainly a job someone ought to be doing and the ED watching them to it attentively) but I hope no one is claiming it's easy to tell people they need to change the way they do things, which will almost certainly mean some period of doing even more than they already do before they see a signficant payoff for the effort (if they ever do - it's not as though running a successful O club is a solved problem like playing perfect tic-tac-toe).

6. How about new territory? Has the ED prospected the US for fertile new ground for new O clubs?

This is Greg Lennon's responsibility as VP Club Services, if I understand the current division of responsibility correctly.

Six years ago ccsteve I believe, analyzed individual club metrics vs regional populations. It was a work of love, and a rough first-pass. It pointed out some very interesting potential questions. Could the ED inspire more effort from individual clubs by periodically publishing this kind of data?

Maybe, though I can understand a reluctance to pursue a course that might be perceived, however good the intent, as OUSA naming and shaming dysfunctional clubs.
Jun 26, 2016 10:16 PM # 
Could the ED inspire more effort from individual clubs...?

To press this point a bit more, I don't think what is needed is more effort from the officers and members of less successful clubs. I think we (OUSA as a whole) should give them material assistance, to the extent it can be delivered mostly from afar (given that we don't have the ability, with current technology, to genetically engineer clones possessing the combined abilities of Tom Hollowell, Eric Weyman and Valerie Meyer and give every club a few of them).
Jun 26, 2016 11:42 PM # 
I'm amazed by how much club volunteers do. I don't think that's an area to squeeze more out.

Rather than starting with what OUSA decided several years ago, I wonder if it's worth discussing what American orienteers' priorities for their national federation are now, what OUSA's resources are, and what feasible activities are likely to have the most benefit.

The topic of how many orienteers per thousand population in various regions is an interesting one. It's often raised in terms of major metropolises (and whether major city amoeba should split as NEOC did or merge as Ramapo and Westchester did, becoming HVO). The spreadsheet shows little Los Alamos up high in the list. (The Jemez Mountains near there are beautiful and seem to have wonderful terrain.) Driving through Alamosa, Taos, Santa Fe and nearby nice terrain, I've wondered whether such smaller cities could sustain orienteering. A New Mexico orienteer that I chatted with expressed pessimism about young people having any interest in the age of GPS, geocaching and social media. Big city clubs survive by hosting enough events for their members to stay interested. Small city clubs might only be able to host one simple event a year. Would that plus any events hosted by other nearby cities suffice to keep small city orienteers interested? I've long wondered. Often, from what I've seen, small city clubs suffer, driven by a few intensely motivated individuals until they relent. Scandinavia seems to support smaller city O clubs, but maybe just because orienteering is more popular there, and thus even small cities can host enough events. Perhaps ROGAINE would be different though. Some Alamosa people organized one a year or two back. What's the minimum size orienteering club within what radius that's viable long term? And what population is required to field that many orienteers? How much do demographics matter?
Jun 27, 2016 12:03 AM # 
One may just have to build it from the bottom up, start like ARK with a bunch of the youngest and grow from there. Or like Barb in Cambridge, from scratch in the schools. The age of the GPS exists in Switzerland and Finland and Sweden, too, but they get the kids orienteering already in the school. Look at any Swiss club and they have tons of SCOOL (OCAD 6 large scale maps), for pretty much every elementary school in their neighborhood. So do schools in Finland, as far as I know. But then again, their entire structure for sports and clubs is entirely different, so I guess hard to compare.
Jun 27, 2016 12:48 AM # 
That seems overly pessmistic - there are certainly OUSA clubs out there proving that given favourable geographic and demographic circumstances, it's possible to keep an orienteering club ticking over with enough volunteers to run it and enough attendance to justify their efforts without large scale junior programs a la ARK or the ability to introduce orienteering into schools. Not that those aren't both great things to have if they can be had in a given area.
Jun 27, 2016 1:23 AM # 
If that were a pessimistic thought, then I would not believe that programs like ARK and Cambridge schools O could not be enacted more broadly. These are, though, programs that offer training and practice, thus opportunities for people, here youngsters, to get together more often than just for races. Ultimately, involving youngsters may also increase the volunteer base. Development of such programs, however, need a core structure around them which clubs with already overstretched volunteers will not be able to help provide. There are many youth leagues with OUSA clubs, but not that many that I know with the training structure some of the Canadian clubs have developed. The question is how much of what they have learned and developed over the past years can be applied south of the border. How could one build a national support structure for clubs who do not have leagues and/or youth groups to be able to develop them without spooking an already thinly stretched volunteer base.
Jun 27, 2016 1:49 AM # 
That's a very confusing conditional double negative to work through (largely since I don't think it says what you meant to convey once you cancel out the two negatives). All I'm saying is that, while junior programs are obviously good to have if you can get them, the suggestion that they are obligatorily part of any successful program for growth (that we "may just have to build.. from the bottom up") is contradicted by real world examples of clubs that are doing pretty well without O in schools programs or large junior training programs outside schools, such as ARK or SOGO or the Ottawa program (Kids Running Free, IIRC).
Jun 27, 2016 2:43 AM # 
Indeed, but it's about growing beyond the clubs that are doing well and have done well and have the necessary and historical density of orienteers, maps, etc., isn't it? I thought the idea is to hopefully expand and grow, and for small clubs such junior programs would be a good from the bottom up option.
Jun 27, 2016 2:53 AM # 
Maybe so, but before anyone gives up on other approaches and invests a lot of effort into creating fertile demographics for orienteering where they don't currently exist by indoctrinating youth in quantity, there's a lot of potential growth if only we could restore all existing clubs (well, the large majority which aren't currently as big as they've ever been or nearly so) to something close to their historical peak levels of activity. Getting a club (ideally lots of clubs) back to what it (they) once was (were) has got to be lower hanging fruit, pluckable more quickly, than focusing on training children and waiting a decade or however long for them to become a net source of volunteer labour to advance the orienteering cause rather than a sink for same.

ETA: shorter version, the clubs that have done well in the past but aren't currently doing as well constitute a large pool of potential growth.
Jun 27, 2016 3:06 AM # 
volunteers would be the parents - as happens in many other sports. OK, you can't have them mapping or setting, but ARK and OCIN and also Georgia non-orienteering parents are a huge volunteering resource
Jun 27, 2016 6:44 PM # 
My sense was that Glen was hired to market orienteering on a national scale at conventions and business meetings. In order to do this, he needed to brand orienteering so he had something tangible to offer prospective sponsors. I seems like he still spends the majority of his time doing this marketing. One success was the initiative in Kentucky where he got permanent orienteering courses installed in many of the state parks. They are featured prominently in a state park brochure and orienteering course signs appear at the entrances of these parks.

On the local level he helped Rochester secure over $5000 in funding from our local tourist /sports promotion agency for thee of our events. He was also very helpful in working out a contract with the World Deaf Orienteering Federation that protected our club against any losses the might have incurred from hosting the event.

We are not familiar with his entire job description, but as far as marketing it seems like he is doing that aspect of the job. I imagine that is quite difficult to market a sport with such a small number of participants and clubs. The BOD needs to judge if the sponsorship income justifies the salary expenditures.

The number of clubs, starts and "A" meets are important measures of growth and sustainability. Perhaps they justify a paid staff position that is evaluated on the annual improvement in these areas.

The Rochester Club is holding its own due to a cadre of older dedicated volunteers and energetic local promotion. That being said, it would be great to receive more support and ideas from OUSA. A couple of years ago at the US Champs we offered awards to the clubs based on participation and performance at the event. We hoped that it would spur some club competition and lead to recruitment and growth for the clubs. In Glen's early tenure OUSA offered some promotional, brochures, posters and banners for local club use. We used these for a couple of years. The same was true with NOD materials. It seems that over time we might have gotten lazy with these things without someone at OUSA pushing it.

Bottom line is, as it has been since the beginning of orienteering in the US, is that we need more, clubs, maps and orienteers so we have something to market. Many of you may recall that during the few years that it appeared that orienteering might find its way into the Olympics we had K-Swiss step forward with large amounts of money and merchandise.
Jun 27, 2016 8:22 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
I wager facebook ads will have a bigger influence for less money than new maps on improving start count. Our annual starts show as much. Of course this is "in general" and you can envision any number of specific scenarios in which this is not the case.

I speculate in some areas that USGS + facebook ads will beat national meet quality map + club schedule page or whatever currently announces your activities.

I personally am no facebook fan, but I don't recall an easier time in human history to reach potential participants.
Jun 27, 2016 8:33 PM # 
One success was the initiative in Kentucky where he got permanent orienteering courses installed in many of the state parks. [...]

On the local level he helped Rochester secure over $5000 in funding from our local tourist /sports promotion agency [...]

I imagine that is quite difficult to market a sport with such a small number of participants and clubs. The BOD needs to judge if the sponsorship income justifies the salary expenditures.

This seems like a good highlight of some arguments either way.

When local orienteers are enthused to follow up, such initiatives often bear fruit. But, as Rick alludes, it's quite common for enthusiasm for such marketing to be lacking or quickly wane. I think that we should be realistic about this, and ask ourselves whether grants and partnerships, with the associated prescribed work, or tourism initiatives, are the types of marketing that orienteering volunteers are motivated towards, and if not, figure out what does work within the interests of our volunteers and our available resources.

It's OK to change direction upon reflection (sometimes that's even good while orienteering ;-), and I get the impression that much of the reason for continuing this endeavor may be inertia rather than a feeling of success and enthusiasm. I haven't read much extolling this as the best that's happened to USOF/OUSA. We don't need to fret, just decide what best to do next, whether that's more of what we've been doing or something else.
Jun 29, 2016 12:44 AM # 
@barb, the link is to something on your local machine, not a global link.
Jun 29, 2016 2:05 AM # 
A link to Barb's NRF document:

Barb, could you comment specifically on what conclusions you draw from the National Rowing Foundation? NRF is interesting because they seem to exist exclusively to fund athletes, whereas US Rowing is the analog of OUSA. You could argue that Orienteering is a small enough sport compared to Rowing that OUSA serves both functions.
Jun 29, 2016 1:55 PM # 
I think it would be cool if there were an equivalent to NRF to fund elite athletes/programs/camps. I also think it would be cool if there were a body to fund and provide other support to youth orienteering efforts nation-wide.
I am also curious to take US Rowing and other relevant comparitor organizations to see what OUSA might learn from them, in areas such as modernization of systems (PR/web, financial, governance, ...), support of local clubs, growth, whatev.
Jun 30, 2016 7:48 PM # 
Having a bit of experience with US Rowing and on the NRF solicitations list, there are a number of differences with OUSA.....
The rowing Team is MUCH bigger, about 60 athletes to a World Champs.
They have nationwide funding support for youth programs.

Their programs and fundraising are focused on the Rowing Team which represents the US at the World Champs and the Olympics.
They only send boats which they think will medal, which you have to prove by finishing well in a World Cup race beforehand.
"In addition, USRowing will host an Olympic Day Meet and Greet on Sunday, June 12 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the finish line tent. All are welcome to meet and greet Olympic athletes, pose for photos and get autographs. Fans will have a chance to meet the U.S. men's eight, fresh off its performance in Lucerne, Switzerland where the crew qualified for the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro"

I am quite frankly, disappointed with OUSA support of our Teams, I can't even get them to send out a press release about the WOC Team members.
Jul 1, 2016 1:27 AM # 
Rowing being an Olympic sport makes a big difference in terms appeal to sponsors. And I think rowing has a wealthier demographic than O.

That said, I'm not sure I want O to be an Olympic sport with all the associated consequences. And why the obsession with growth? Is it for our egos? Is the sport dying? I know the demographic is aging, but if the starts remain constant, or even drop a bit, is that necessarily a bad thing?
Jul 1, 2016 3:07 AM # 
We could grow orienteering in the US to be 10x as big as it is now and it would still be a cosy, niche sport, with all its current charms but with more opportunities to orienteer closer to home.
Jul 1, 2016 5:24 AM # 
The problem with zero growth is that the same people are continuing to do all of the volunteer work. It's even a little worse than it might sound, as some people are aging out, and their numbers are being replaced by successful JROTC programs in the south. That means there's actually shrinkage in the traditional areas, and the new people, while very welcome, may not be self-sustaining.
Jul 1, 2016 7:02 AM # 
JJ, Why does it have to be volunteer work when you have a paid ED? ;-)

i'm curious what people think is the best ROI in terms of
increasing membership, participation, and perhaps most importantly, revenue.

Randy has made an excellent case for that not being an ED (or current one's performance).

The reason I wanted to see OUSA revenues (thx Ian for link I missed it) was to try to evaluate that ROI question.
Jul 1, 2016 12:14 PM # 
I yearn for an Executive Director with quasi-dictatorial powers, or at least teeth, who might bring in a mirror and snap his or her fingers to make orienteering wake from its trance.
Jul 1, 2016 1:18 PM # 
Yes, I think the sport is dying in its current form in this country.

As Cristina says, growth means more opportunities for orienteering close to home.

I would love to move away from the volunteer model. But for that we need $$, and for that we either need much larger numbers of entrants or sponsors.
Jul 1, 2016 3:46 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
And why the obsession with growth? Is it for our egos? Is the sport dying? I know the demographic is aging, but if the starts remain constant, or even drop a bit, is that necessarily a bad thing?

It seemed , since we lost a good chunk of our aging regular hosts to: other retirement interests / fatigue / injury, that if we didn't try to stem the start slide to create potential new hosts by growing the club, eventually it would just be me and a couple friends tying tape for each other.

If that's all you need to get your fix, then don't worry about it.
Jul 1, 2016 8:44 PM # 
@j-man: As someone who (IIRC) was on the committee that recommended the current ED, how would you change the job description, if you were conducting the search today?
Jul 1, 2016 9:14 PM # 
How can one talk of obsession with growth if the main point of this discussion is noting decline? I think the obsession is about not seeing something that one grew up with together with other teens dwindle or disappear for one's own teens. Yes, indeed, it is about our egos when we want the sport to be there for US, but could care less whether it will still be there for THEM, the next generation
Jul 1, 2016 10:02 PM # 
Excuse me for butting in to this discussion. However as best I can I want to bring up up to date on an initiative that seems pertinent to this discussion.
I can best think of it as a club striking the mother lode of official cooperation. I am going to paste in below a copy of an e-mail I came across. All references to places have been xxx'ed out as I do not have the permission of the writer or the main recipient to forward this e-mail. But I assure you the contents and offers are genuine.
They also come to orienteering 100% because of the ED's initiative to meet with state sports councils. It builds on local governments' increasing interest in pursuing the sport tourist dollars.
It remains to be seen whether the local club will act to take up the offer.
Here is the (edited) e-mail from the county official.

"Good Morning xxx,

My name is Josh and I work for xxx County Tourism and Sports Marketing. M Z from our office met with some of your reps at the (State) Sports Foundation conference a couple weeks back and thought xxx County would be a great fit for your events. We have a lot of great venues like xxx reserve, xxx Reserve, the land at xxx, the land at xxx Ranch and xxx Ranch as well as many more.

The great thing about our County is our central location in the state. It is very easy to access our venues from Interstate xx and the xxx Parkway. We are only 40 minutes from either the xxx or the xxx Airports. The same distance applies to our proximity to all of the xxx Parks in the state, each about a 45 minute drive. … portions deleted…. With our affordable accommodations, it is very easy to stay and experience all (the state) has to offer.

Our Sports Commission can be a great partner as we not only offer financial assistance but we also help with acquiring venues, accommodations at discounted rates, meeting space, discounted attraction tickets, and event promotion on our websites, social media sites, radio show, and Sports Central TV show.

We would love to help host one of the Orienteering events and to have you guys out for some site visits. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to ask."

Some of you will have attended the 2014 NAOC in Arnprior, near Ottawa. Orienteering Ottawa was able to get that same type of support from the local community. The support is often there for the asking but in this case it is the local commission that is doing the asking.
Jul 2, 2016 2:21 AM # 

I would love to move away from the volunteer model. But for that we need $$, and for that we either need much larger numbers of entrants or sponsors.

In Oslo, someone ran local events weekly as his business, and seemed to make it work with attendance of 50-100 from what I recall. Oslo had far more orienteers than American cities, but those attendance numbers are similar to many American cities. The entry fees didn't seem particularly high. So, maybe not as far from feasible as one might assume, at least for many bigger clubs, or multiple nearby clubs.
Jul 2, 2016 3:52 AM # 
The great thing about our County is our central location in the state. It is very easy to access our venues from Interstate xx and the xxx Parkway.

I'm going to guess Interstate 75, Suncoast Parkway, and either Hernando or Citrus County...

Jul 3, 2016 4:57 AM # 
As one of six "public" guests who attended the Gainesville, GA, meeting that precipitated Louis Pataki's resignation, I want to point out that in my opinion, there is a dubious connection between the ED question and Mr. Pataki's resignation.

I'm not judging Randy's analysis for or against, but when Randy ends his writing with "He resigned shortly after submitting this to the board," he is implying that the ED question caused the resignation, and I don't see it that way. I don't see any indictment of the ED in the linked minutes or in Louis' report included in the minutes. I don't think it's fair to make that implication without at least asking Louis and including either his response or that he refused to comment.
Jul 3, 2016 5:38 AM # 
Lou's resignation was more likely related to a decision tbe Board made during the meeting. And, frankly, I had no idea he had resigned until reading this thread. A change of leadership at the VP level deserves more than just a footnote...
Jul 5, 2016 12:49 AM # 
andreals, Mr Wonderful, JJ - Replacing aging participants with new blood is obviously important - and in my 30 or so years in the sport, I do see new faces taking over. Yes the same people are continuing to do the work, but that's the nature of O - it's a lifelong sport. I think the people who age out are, for the most part, being replaced.)

I'm sorry I haven't been tracking the numbers, but if starts are about the same, (as per jtorrance) and unless it is literally the same people starting each year but getting older, it seems like we are around steady state. Maybe there is a demographic shift to the South and JROTC participants, but it's not catastrophic.

Then to Christina and Alex's point - if O participation increases by 10X it will still have the same character it currently has, then what does it matter how many participants there are X or 10X? As for more bodies to enable more local starts - my sense is that for every 100 newcomers to an O event, only (order of magnitude) one becomes active enough to make a significant contribution to increasing the number of events. (i.e. becomes a director, mapper, etc.).

So if your goal is to get more local events, then we need to focus on recruiting that 1 in 100 person, and just boosting start numbers is an inefficient way of doing it. I think you are better off paying someone to put events on. (as per JimBaker) (btw, lower start numbers make for easier events to direct. I've always felt that the solution is more self-service events).

I'm afraid I'm coming off as elitist and exclusionary. I'd be happy if the number of O participants organically and spontaneously grew, but my point is, if it doesn't, and we are not shrinking, does it justify all the acrimonious debate the ED discussion has engendered?
Jul 5, 2016 1:18 AM # 
People have different expectations from their recreational activities. For the most part, I'd think the competitive crowd would want as many competitors as possible. As a fan of US Orienteering, I certainly want it to be as competitive as possible--which requires more bodies (a lot.)
Jul 5, 2016 2:58 AM # 
I wouldn't be so sanguine on the question of whether we're experiencing a (slow-moving) catastrophe. Starts are more or less stagnant nationally, though I'd caution that if one looks only at national numbers one would miss that some clubs are growing, many are holding steady or slowly declining, and a number appear to be on a path to extinction in a not very large number of years if current trends continue. Also, I believe jjcote is right about the shift to JROTC participation in some areas, though I haven't looked at the numbers in detail. However, club membership numbers nationally are definitely declining and I see no reason to believe aging won't continue that trend and cause the local collapse of orienteering in more and more places over time if US orienteering doesn't somehow increase the recruitment of new blood.
Jul 5, 2016 3:13 AM # 
... and don't forget to factor in (out) the windfall of Eastern Euro immigrants who have made huge contributions over the last 20(?) years, obscuring the sagging domestic situation for some time.

"...does it justify all the acrimonious debate the ED discussion has engendered?"

Well the "acrimony" part is debatable, but otherwise, absolutely yes, the discussion is clearly justified, if not overdue, because the fundamental rational for the ED hiring was to grow the sport.
Jul 5, 2016 4:10 AM # 
@jjtong: more orienteers => more money => more (and better) maps made and more frequently updated => more fun
Jul 5, 2016 10:28 AM # 
Having come back to American orienteering after 16.5 years outside the country, I see many of the same names and faces (and it was fun to see many of them this weekend), but also very many new ones. It's definitely not just the same people getting older (though I'm one of the latter :-).
Jul 5, 2016 1:06 PM # 
But take a look at which age categories have the most entrants at national meets. The high point of that bell curve has been steadily marching upwards. You could argue that it's just the baby boomers aging, but they'll eventually disappear. Used to be that Red was the only color for which we needed multiple courses and there was no Brown, now Red is small, Brown is big, and there's call for a new color that's a shorter version of Brown. The replacement of the aging Red runners hasn't happened.
Jul 5, 2016 4:00 PM # 
When was the last time we had more than 10 elite women at an A-event? How can that be a healthy sport?

Not that this was great, but this is the sort of fields that I'd like to recall:

If I were still interested in being competitive, I wouldn't find orienteering worth the time.
Jul 5, 2016 5:46 PM # 
Thanks for that walk down memory lane :-).
Jul 5, 2016 6:11 PM # 
aHHH! 2001 those were the days when some of us would run up an age class or two so we would not be competing against PG.
But where are the teens, 20 and 30 somethings today?
Clearly over the last 30 years or so orienteering has been out-marketed by a succession of new sports such as triathlons, adventure races, spartan/ mud runs etc. Although all of those sports are more expensive they offer much more 'glitter'. Orienteering is interersting but dull and in many places once a newcomer finishes an event there is no effort made to engage them further., no souvenir tee-shirt, no post race meal, no prizes. Participants probably realize that the absence of such bling is the reason their entry fee is so low but they don't care. They are there for the sizzle, not the steak, to borrow and twist a marketing phrase.
There are some other problems
In areas where one event a month is offered that is just not enough to build and sustain interest.
The introductory White course has been dumbed down to the point of no interest. A white-type course should be offered for free at each event so the participant can get the feel of a map and then venture out on a more advanced course.
I suspect in some areas the small volunteer base does not want to grow the sport as that means more work for the few volunteers.

If O-USA is looking for a new goal I would suggest that each club be targetted with working with students to form orienteering sports clubs at all the universities in their area. So many colleges and universities have associations of student sports clubs that are supported by the campus recreation associations and thereby by student fees that it is crazy that orienteering is not among those clubs. The criteria for forming a student sports club usually seems very easy to meet. One university I know well has some 35 student sports clubs. SOAR plans to make orienteering the 36th and then hold an event on their campus.
Jul 5, 2016 8:08 PM # 
Imagine if US orienteering could advertise on Amazing Race.
Jul 6, 2016 12:34 AM # 
JanetT you are on to something there but not as advertising. I have thought for some time that orienteering could pitch to the Amazing Races that they do an orienteering segment. For instance the teams have to use an orienteering map and compass to find a certain number of control points to assemble their "next clue" or it could be a challenge "Who wants to navigate theri way around a golf course?" then the team member instead of playing golf gets to navigate using an orienteering map.
Just a thought.
Jul 6, 2016 4:35 AM # 
Backstreet Boy:
Making orienteering relevant to the non-orienteering public is what needs to happen. In its current form, it makes it a near impossible task for our ED to get traction.

You can put on map-based activities that people would come out to and enjoy.

How do you get customers to come back?
Jul 6, 2016 4:09 PM # 
Thanks for that walk down memory lane

Perhaps not what Brian was alluding to, but one of the things that jumps out at me from scanning that list is the number of friends who were in their 30's or 40's at that time who have since passed away. I count 4 if I include one non-competitor who was most likely present as a volunteer meet worker. And this is overlooking folks who were older than that at that time.
Jul 6, 2016 4:10 PM # 
Saw this article in yesterday's NYTimes. What is so different about what this guy has done that has energized 65 000 people in 'Walter White' country, and what we do every weekend? Is it only the supposed 'reward?" Aren't we all just trying to 'get families off their couches?' Is this the kind of event Swampfox will be presenting in 25 years?

...Forrest Fenn, who buried the clues to the whereabouts of a bronze chest loaded with riches in a poem printed on Page 132 of his self-published memoir, “The Thrill of the Chase.” The poem has 24 verses. There are nine clues. Or so he says. Mr. Fenn, 85, a successful art dealer in Santa Fe, had no better explanation for hiding a treasure than to say he wanted to give families a reason to “get off their couches.”

He estimates that 65,000 people have joined the search. He has only his word to show that the treasure is real. Embarking on the search is as easy as buying a state map at a gas station off scenic Route 285, unfolding it on the hood of a rental car and looking for the place “where warm waters halt....."
Jul 6, 2016 4:37 PM # 
The last couple of years ROC has been hooking up with local running stores that offer numerous running and walking clinics. We offer an orienteering workshop in their stores in return for publicizing our workshop in their monthly newsletters. One of the stores has over 25,000 people on their mailing list. We have attracted over 50 people both years. Most buy a permanent course map and many return for one of our meets.
Jul 9, 2016 12:25 PM # 
Regarding why it would be better to have a lot more orienteers and orienteering going on (for those who don't think the betterness of that is self-evident), if there were enough orienteers and therefore enough demand in the US for new and updated orienteering maps, there might be US citizens interested in making a living as orienteering mappers. Right now, at least one person, maybe a few people (I'm not sure how much money is out there if the mappers with a rock solid right to work in the US were available at the drop of a hat), could probably make a reasonable living with orienteering mapping as their sole occupation but only if they were willing to live out of a suitcase more or less year-round. Get 10X as many active orienteers/as much orienteering going on and it might be possible to be a full-time professional orienteering mapper (or a mapper seasonally with some other kind of seasonal work filling in the snow season or the excessive heat/humidity/vegetation thickness season) while living a settled life and commuting to mapping sites on a weekly basis.
Jul 9, 2016 2:08 PM # 
Are orienteers sufficiently interested in following up on marketing and development, though, or are expensive marketing initiatives more of a salve for people not so interested in such things, an avoidance behavior, a way of spending money on something distant in order to say that you're doing something without actually having to do much of a task that you don't particularly enjoy? Why else the lack of concern over results?

I have seen two rounds of USOF/OUSA marketing person efforts...the hotel discounts, the sponsorship efforts (such as K Swiss), the tourism/government contacts. I've heard the talk about growing the sport tenfold for forty years. Is it so unreasonable to ask what's the best use of a federation's money, or how much a federation can sustainably afford, or what the benefits have been versus the costs (compared to other possible uses)? Didn't US Team coach Bob Turbyfill say that it's insane to keep doing the same thing expecting different results?

I certainly don't want to hold anyone back who's keen to market through stores, tourist bureaus, social media, conventional media. But I do think that expenditure of USD75000 a year in a tiny sport calls for periodic review of how effective it's been for us. Unless this money is from some sugar daddy/mommy. (Even then I'd gently suggest they take a trip to see a junior program like Calgary's, and consider whether starting another such program might be a better target of their money.)
Jul 9, 2016 3:56 PM # 
First of all, note that growing orienteering is a hard, unsolved problem everywhere in the world, including Scandinavia. Nordic countries certainly have a much higher rate of orienteering participation per capita than NA, but the growth rate is pretty low as well and I think it is correct to say that most new orienteers come from orienteering families or learn about it from friends and not because of some marketing efforts, just as in the US and Canada. I read a Swedish forum at occasionally using Google Translate and they discuss some problems similar to those that are being discussed here, e.g., how to compete with obstacle races that are becoming too popular or why traditional Nordic sports like orienteering and XC skiing fail to attract immigrants and their kids.

Second, there is an anomaly in North American orienteering: Whitehorse, Yukon, population ~30,000. Despite the size, it has produced many Canadian national team members and is now organizing the NAOC. What is special about that place and can this success be replicated elsewhere? I apologize if this has been discussed before in this forum.

Third, I have to question the success of the kids programs in terms of growing orienteering. It is certainly great that they are keeping so many kids active and they probably make a lot of money for the clubs running them, but if we look, for example, at who the most successful young runners for the Hamilton club are, many if not most of them still come from orienteering families, just like elsewhere - there are not many kids who only learned about orienteering because of the ARK program and now are regular participants in orienteering competitions. Correct me if I am wrong about this.
Jul 9, 2016 4:10 PM # 
Well, Whitehorse has some great terrain, and what else is there to do there? Get into drunken brawls at the Kopper King?

Jul 9, 2016 5:06 PM # 
J-man, it has been a little over 7 years since the ED was hired. I believe you were one of those very closely involved in the interviewing, selection, and hiring process (though I'm not certain of that.) I realize you may not wish to make any public commentary, either here or elsewhere, and I am not trying to put you on the spot. However, you would seem to be as well informed and objective as anyone about what the hopes and expectations were at the time of the hire, and with the ED position consuming approximately 1/3rd of OUSA's annual income today, it is a matter of the highest significance--especially when weighed against the negative trends over this period detailed in the brief referenced at top.

So if you are willing to make some public comments on the matter, how would you evaluate the results achieved over the 7 years with the ED initiative, and, in your opinion, have they or have they not met expectations at the time of the hire?
Jul 9, 2016 5:39 PM # 
Indeed. However, I am not currently inclined to comment on this publicly.

I will say, to Guy's question above--I probably would not substantially change the job description if I were involved in this process again today.
Jul 9, 2016 5:59 PM # 
MChub, Emma Waddington and Isak Fransson are the only 2 of around 70 in our ARX program for elite juniors in southern Ontario whose families were involved in or aware of orienteering before the ARK program. This year, we are sending 3 Hamilton kids to JWOC, Emma Waddington, Nicole Whitmore and Christian Michelsen (Jan Erik Naess has associations with our club but lives in Chicago). It may seem as though many of our elite juniors come from orienteering families but that is because we have worked hard to have the parents and siblings buy in to the sport and that has meant that they have become orienteering families because of the program. This is even more true of our next generation of ARX juniors who are in their early teens and those in the ARK program, which only has a handful of kids from orienteering families (maybe 10) in a program that draws well over 700 kids a season. We are trying very hard to develop a culture of attending local and regional races with our program because we believe that this is the way to get people to the larger events. There are not too many sports where a kid does a couple of events and then is encouraged to travel half way across the country to a national or north american or junior world championships.

Whitehorse has also had a lot of success because of the outdoors culture of the town, a great junior program run for many years by Brent, Ross, Pippa etc., an active and progressive club that is often covered by local newspapers and the truely world class terrain minutes from town.
Jul 10, 2016 4:38 AM # 
This is really fascinating: Average weight of a US female now exceeds the average weight of American male in year 1960. It looks like human evolution greatly accelerated over the past decade or two, in this country.
What does it have to do with the topic? I think a connection is very visible.
Jul 11, 2016 1:10 AM # 
Yurets it may look as if that is the case but sadly hunan evolution has almost nothing to do with the increase in average weights over the last 56 years.
But I think you know that.
Jul 11, 2016 2:06 AM # 
jtorrance -

It's not clear to me that more orienteerers = more maps. Right now, the current O population would love to have new maps, particularly in the NE and where the O population has aged in place (i.e. run the existing maps many, many times). NEOC was flush with money a while back and did spend some for some new maps. I think the bottleneck was lack of suitable terrain - everything good and available nearby has already been mapped - and lack of available mappers, no matter the price.

So I think one could make a full-time living in the US O-mapping if you wanted to. (It's a hard life though... lots of travel and physical work) I would think runners who are willing to travel across the county to run on a new map would spring for an increase in dues or event fees to pay for new maps in their own regions if suitable terrain and mappers were available. Of course, adding participants in new areas of the country will mean more maps, but only for those currently unmapped regions. The majority of runners would still not have easy access to them.

At the end of the day, I fear O is becoming like the classical arts (ballet, orchestra, opera etc.) We all feel that it is a great sport, worth preserving for future generations and a cultural treasure, but if the future generations don't agree, what is to be done, "educate" them? It's a recreational choice, not a measure of a person's character or worth.

But unlike the classic arts, O can be kept alive at low participation levels. Mapping is the main fixed expense that needs to be covered, and with most suitable areas already mapped, they only need to be maintained. Variable costs are covered by entry fees, so a small event can support itself almost as well as a bigger event.

So rather than fight the tide and try to drag in new people, let's put our energies into making the experience the best we can for the current participants and grow organically. I'm not saying don't do any marketing or outreach, but recognize the limits of what can be done in that area. With a better experience, those who do find us, and are into the sport will be more likely to stay and get more deeply involved.
Jul 11, 2016 3:09 AM # 
Hopkinton State Park and Georgetown-Rowley State Forest are possibilities in eastern Massachusetts. But new big areas, probably a bunch further. Scandinavia has dealt with reuse of areas for decades. It's surprising that the WOC 2016 Middle terrain doesn't list a previous O map.

For those wanting endless mappable fantastic terrain, come to Colorado. It's almost silly to keep scouting for potential new terrain there's so much. And plenty of jobs nowadays, apparently, even after the oil bust.

I agree that incrementalism is likely to yield the best fruit, in terms of attracting new blood. Get people out to events to try it. Use social media and conventional newspaper/radio/chamber of commerce calendars of events. Try to find people who like maps.
Jul 11, 2016 4:09 AM # 
There is fine terrain to be mapped in eastern Massachusetts, but maybe an hour or more from Boston. That's just what happens with an urban seaport. But what's mapped around Worcester? Not much.
Jul 11, 2016 7:24 AM # 
How about SE Mass (Fall River, New Bedford, Plymouth, Cape Cod)?
Jul 11, 2016 8:20 AM # 
jjtong, I think it's dangerous to overstate the current popularity of orienteering in the US. If O were as popular as opera or ballet then I think we'd have a very healthy sport and might agree that we shouldn't focus so much on bringing in new people. As it stands our sport is much closer to extinction than the classic arts, and unlike the arts most of the population has no idea O exists. Seems like we should be able to tap into that population to get a little boost, and that does take some kind of concerted marketing and outreach effort.
Jul 11, 2016 9:48 AM # 
@jjtong - I'm just curious, how do you characterize the recent (past 5 years) activity within NEOC in regards to the active marketing vs. organic growth spectrum?
Jul 11, 2016 10:01 AM # 
@GuyO: Nickerson State Park on Cape Cod is mapped. @jjcote and I scouted Wompatuck, a large forest south of Boston, but it had dangerous long concrete trenches designed to protect tastings full of munitions during WW2. They weren't visible from very far, making them a life threatening hazard to people running at speed reading a map. Some of SE Massachusetts is cranberry bogs, but I haven't scouted many areas there, or don't recall.
Jul 11, 2016 10:01 AM # 
jjtong, a benefit for growing the sport (and therefore growing local clubs) not related to getting more maps is that the larger the club, the more frequent events it makes sense to hold. Not to mention that there are presumably more people available to help put on events when the club is larger. (And our club has in fact found that to be the case.)

It's not THAT much more work to put on a local event attended by 200 people than it is for one attended by 30 people. (And it's much more satisfying for the people who work to put the event on when there are more people who show up.)
Jul 11, 2016 10:38 AM # 
The forest at Wompatuck has opened up considerably (as of when I was last there, 12 years ago), and many/most of those trenches had been filled in.

Nickerson virtually never gets used, because it's too far from where any existing orienteers live (and always was, really).
Jul 11, 2016 11:12 AM # 
I always had a hunch that a club like DVOA is just too spread out geographically. Though he have a lot of events (for now), there are only a couple within 30 minute drive per year. It certainly makes sense to have an organization covering a large area to help with things like shared equipment, etc ( and own some mapped destination terrain) but- given there are enough people, having (formal/defined) smaller groups that focus on a few maps in a concentrated geographic area gives more time to have weekday training, socials, beginner clinics, create our own brand, own their marketing, create the local network, etc. Then that group hosts a certain number of DVOA events per year. Has anyone done this?
Jul 11, 2016 11:18 AM # 
And perhaps these smaller groups would have a little more room to host map based events outside of the competitive sport of orienteering
Jul 11, 2016 11:46 AM # 
ErikEddy, you have hit the nail right on the head. People may cross town or cross the county to attend something they have heard about called orienteering But they are not going to cross the state or cross the country.
They are not going to make orienteering a regular activity if nearby events are only held once every several months.
Maps don't have to be expensive or great but events have to be fun. As the old marketing saying goes: Sell the sizzle, not the steak.
Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Hamilton in Canada are four metropolitan areas in Canada that each had their first tastes of orienteering about 50 years ago. Two are relatively thriving orienteering markets; the largest two are not. There are interesting lessons there for all areas.
Jul 11, 2016 12:42 PM # 
I should note that we do-or did- have a twice a week running/hiking group followed by a group meal that I believe bred a lot of great ideas and DVOA events. Just a bit too far for me to attend regularly. Our geographic region could support multiple versions of this type of sub-group. I suppose this idea is the opposite of the thread which is " how is the larger organization helping"
Jul 11, 2016 2:09 PM # 
No problem with the thread being stripped from its original topic. It happens often on AP.
It seems most of the orienteering clubs in North America are regionally based. That is a strength as it gives strength in numbers but it is also a weakness in that one club has one schedule, one executive, and one set of ideas.
I think the way to have the best of both worlds is to have a regional club such as DVOA for example with local chapters - Philly, Reading, Poconos, Jersey, Lehigh Valley, for example where each local chapter would be responsible for a series of local events but dealings with O-USA would be through the parent club. I'm not picking on DVOA I just mention it as the name came up.
It can even be a temporary arrangement. Suncoast Orienteering started as a branch of Florida Orienteering until we got strong enough to stand on our own.
If I were setting goals for the next few for O-USA (and I'm not) it would be to direct efforts to having each regional/ state wide club establish a chapter system within its organization and to establish at least one, hopefully more, student orienteering clubs at universities in their area.
Jul 11, 2016 2:20 PM # 
NEOC used to have chapters. Eventually, as Gord says, separate clubs make sense (like UNO and WCOC). Multiple clubs per city is how Scandinavia seems to work. I recall someone mentioning a European club splitting up so that each club could have about 50 members.

"Filling in the map" might be a sensible development goal. It requires a keener in each new locale, though. There are lots of places with terrain, but only those with someone motivated seem likely to develop. A nearby club became far less active when the keener couple left, nearly defunct.
Jul 11, 2016 6:58 PM # 
Much of the membership in ROC was introduced to orienteering in small city park maps of less than 100 acres. With e-punching it is possible to devise at least some activities on these maps for more experienced orienteers as well. Any event more than an hour away has lower participation rates and fewer new people.
Jul 11, 2016 7:11 PM # 
Pink Socks:
One thing about the ED first:

Are there any SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timeline) about the position? I know there was talk about finding enough sponsorships and opportunities to have the position pay for itself, but is there a list of specific goals that O-USA wanted to accomplish by hiring an ED?


I've written a lot over the years about the aging of orienteering, and I even dug into the data on the O-USA rankings page with graphs going back decades showing just how much we're aging. (Unfortunately, an ill-timed computer crash right after I compiled it means that this is the only thing I can show, which might require a Facebook login). Orienteering as we know it is dying a slow death, and you're in denial if you don't see it coming.

A New Mexico orienteer that I chatted with expressed pessimism about young people having any interest in the age of GPS, geocaching and social media.

Ok, so our product is stale. We can either complain about younguns or we can build bridges to where they are. If they are into social media, GPS, and electronic devices, then we should probably incorporate those things. Here's the thing: there are other people who have essentially re-invented orienteering for the current times, and we're sitting around complaining about a lack of orienteers. I've mentioned here before about Road Runner Sports, the national running store chain, and their "adventure runs", which use maps and checkpoints. Well, now 5 years later, they've re-invented e-punching, as all participants wear NFC bracelets and all checkpoints have internet-connected devices with NFC readers. I've participated in another event here in Seattle that involved an app from Geocaching, running around with phones to find checkpoints, and Instagramming team photos at certain checkpoints. And currently there's the global Pokemon Go phenomenon.

More people have maps in their pockets now more than any time in history. More people interact with maps now more than any time in history. More people are playing location-based games now more than any time in history. Adapt or die. Tennis evolved from wooden racquets. Basketball now has dribbling and 3-pointers. Volleyball expanded to the beach.

If we look at what's happened to orienteering in North America in the last 10 years, what's the biggest success story? Undoubtedly, it's what DontGetLost has been doing with Adventure Running Kids. They decided to adapt instead of die. Yeah, they don't call it orienteering. Yeah, it's not all about the navigation. Yeah, old-school, pajama-wearing, stick-in-the-mud orienteers thought it was stupid. But here we are just a few years later, and they have something successful enough where they have sold out races, have huge youth participation numbers, they have paid employees, and in that traditional orienteering thing, they have some kids currently at JWOC. Adapt or die, folks. (And mapping new terrain isn't adapting, sorry.)

Imagine if US orienteering could advertise on Amazing Race.

The Amazing Race is on CBS, which has a median viewer that's 59 years old (the oldest of major networks). I'm 35 and I don't have cable or watch traditional TV. Most people my age or younger don't, either.
Jul 11, 2016 7:33 PM # 
I wish you had an ability to deploy the resources of a larger organization to realize some of those ideas.
Jul 11, 2016 7:55 PM # 
@Pink_Socks...I actually agree with everything you say. (Regarding slow death, it seemed to have slowed enough since the 1980s (the years of roughly maximum O-Ringen participation) that I had stopped worrying as much about it dying before I did (given the resurgence of O-Ringen, its spread to countries like Portugal, and a continued liveliness here in North America despite a slow aging and slight decrease in numbers. I agree that it's worth doing some things like you suggest (junior programs like SOGO and ARK, which I remember from my time in Calgary, and other sensible approaches). I'm not sure whether the ED experiment (which in my mind is essentially a second try at having someone in USOF/OUSA do many of these things, albeit with someone with similar specific experience and apparently success with Lacrosse) has shown a reasonable ratio of result to expense. Indeed, maybe if there were zillions of volunteers willing to jump on the opportunities raised by the ED, like responding to the tourist bureau of a county wanting O introduced, and if O didn't effectively require a local keener for such opportunities to succeed and continue, then maybe things would be different, but there it is, and I don't see it changing. If the route is ARK, then it would be right to put the money there ( isn't necessarily as simple as OUSA changing its activities and employees as this is likely a local activity, but deciding on a path is the first step). The reason for continuing the ED experiment seems to boil down to inertia. Please anyone correct me if you think I'm wrong. I don't mean personal attacks in any of this, just discussion of the pros and cons of an important and expensive subject.)
Jul 11, 2016 8:46 PM # 
Re:Nickerson State Park on Cape Cod is mapped
I'm puzzled to hear that you are not using the map. It is an amazing place, much different in flavor from the rough and difficult for beginners forests I see in this part of the country. It is mostly coniferous runnable forest, sandy "footing", reasonably technical, contours are good, some new trails are missing. BTW, I got the map @ park office.
Jul 11, 2016 8:55 PM # 
I think we need to consider the motives and incentives of tourist bureau administrators before bemoaning our inability to execute on those opportunities.
Jul 11, 2016 9:25 PM # 
Yep , they are corrupt and expect stream of bribes (legalized as"donations to good causes") . I recall someone here described how it worked in California? Some of them, I suspect, may be expecting to benefit personally for permission to use "their" property.
Jul 11, 2016 9:35 PM # 
Or, to come at it from a different perspective--how many times have you visited an attraction or engaged in an activity thanks to the efforts of a tourist bureau (aside from the odd garage-sized ball of twine somewhere?)

You may have been the happy recipient of one of their glossy tourist brochures, in your manila O-event envelope. That's a job well done for the administrator.

It also is likely the case that you've gotten those glossy brochures from places no one (aside from orienteers) wants to visit. So, a job really well done for that administrator.

Benefits to orienteering over the long run? Someone else can figure that out.
Jul 11, 2016 10:20 PM # 
Yurets your comment two above here is slanderous, unfounded and way out of line. Don't recall someone else's description. That is hearsay and not credible. Give evidence of what you personally know if you want to make such an inflammatory statement.
Here is what I know: In many jurisdictions Tourist/ Visitor Associations are funded by the local hotel tax that you find on many of your hotel bills. Sometimes those funds are supplemented by local, state/ provincial grants. Almost without exception they are using your money to draw more of you to their area. When they are successful the occupancy rate of the hotels goes up. They draw more people in by different way depending on the strengths of the area. For some it might be going after convention business, others might be promoting local attractions, others it might be building a regular schedule of weekend festivals. Some have decided to put some resources in to going after the sport tourist. Sarasota and Bradenton where I spend my winters are big on that and have had great success attracting rowing, canoe, soccer, baseball and other sports. These sport tourists help fill the hotels and pay a percentage of their hotel bill to help re-fill the Visitor Bureau budget.
Every club planning to bid for a national event should prepare a proposal and pitch to the local visitor bureau. You may then get something, you may not but one thing is for sure if you do not ask them you will get nothing.
I hope this information is helpful. (PS I was a member of the Ottawa Visitor and Convention Bureau for eight years.)
Jul 12, 2016 12:17 AM # 
@yurets. I gather you have run recently on the Nickerson map. From what I remember, there were considerable thorny areas, and along with the pond, made route choices limited. Perhaps we should take another look if the vegetation has improved, thanks for checking it out.
Jul 12, 2016 1:01 AM # 
Re: Nickerson...
From the A-event back in May 1995 I don't remember thorns as much as thick underbrush that made the off-trail going rather slow (that was back when I could still run a bit). Reminiscent of the NJ Pine Barrens, but with a lot more relief.

Would probably be fun now, if the intervening 21 years took out the undergrowth.
Jul 12, 2016 1:28 AM # 
Adventure Running Kids ... old-school, pajama-wearing, stick-in-the-mud orienteers thought it was stupid.

Really? I remember some initial skepticism, but calling it "stupid"?...

BTW, ARK/ARX doesn't hide the fact that much of what they do is orienteering. ARKers I've asked said they found that out within the first month of participation -- or quicker. They just don't use the o-word in promotion/publicity. It is my understanding that was at least partly due to a widespread association of "orienteering" with scouting.
Jul 12, 2016 2:09 AM # 
@bshields - I think it's been a little of both. There have been some experiments with social medial recently (Meet-up) and CSU has been doing some good things with the Park-O series. (Not NEOC, technically, but some overlap in members and obviously terrain) and Barb Bryant has been very active getting O into Cambridge schools. Not sure where you were going with that question.

@RLShadow - I'm not against growth per se. The original point of the thread was whether the expense of the ED was worth the result, and I'm positing that it isn't, because the growth need does not impact the sport enough to merit the expense and rancor the ED position seems to be creating. Many in this thread disagree, and say the sport is dying, and desperate measures must be taken. They many not agree that having an ED is the right solution, though.

@ErikEddy, @gordhun - I was in DVOA for 15 years before moving to Boston. DVOA was (is?) essentially running a chapter model, just not officially. The meets in Central Jersey were largely run by the local DVOA members in the area, as were events in the Poconos. (albeit a brief experiment with POC). SVO spun off as well, but it still has a lot of DVOA dual members. RMOC is kind of the same with the Colorado Springs and Wyoming 'branches'. NEOC, on the other hand, seems to have split into UNO, CSU and WCOC, each rather independent of the others. Both models work - I think it is personalities as much as practical logistics that determines whether a region supports one club or many. I think the participation in a region is dependent on the ratio of the population with a propensity for outdoor activities to maps within a driving range of 1 hour or less. DVOA and QOC hit the sweet spot there - NYC, BOS and SFO are too close to the coast, (as per jjcote) vs. PHL and DC. Maybe this bodes well for growth in the south (ATL, Texas?)
Jul 12, 2016 2:19 AM # 
Nickerson had a lot of greenbriar (smilax). It's possible that it has gone away, but it doesn't seem too likely.

RMOC doesn't have a Wyoming branch. The one orienteer in Wyoming belongs to a different club (LROC). As do I.

CSU was never part of NEOC, in any manner (I'm pretty sure CSU is older). UNO was, and WCOC formed from a piece of NEOC and a piece of HVO (which itself had formed from the merger of two other clubs).
Jul 12, 2016 3:16 AM # 
Unless I'm mistaken, CSU is not just an orienteering club -- or it wasn't originally, but more-or-less is now.
Jul 12, 2016 3:28 AM # 
CSU has a very active running and skiing sections beyond the orienteering section. The skiing section is probably the largest, and supports a very successful junior program.
Jul 12, 2016 3:42 AM # 
CSU is a great model for a multi sport club that has orienteering as one of its components. Interesting that some Scandinavian Clubs do the same. For example, "Nnn--- VIK" is literally "Nnn--- Winter Sports Klub", which does cross country ski and bandy in winter but orienteering in summer. I could see potential for other USA "Outing" or "Outdoor Sports" or "Adventure" clubs to affiliate with OUSA with O' as one component in a multi-sport setting.
Jul 12, 2016 3:48 AM # 
I think there's great growth potential in the club multi-sport model. But it would mean some Orienteers having to give up control within clubs and that hasn't traditionally been easy.
Jul 12, 2016 6:19 AM # 
As is typical on AP, the thread has wandered a bit. Trying to bring the thread back to the point, there are a few key questions I want to have answered. First of all, I think the data supports the conclusion that the two primary objectives of the ED - to fundraise enough to sustain the cost of the position, and to grow the sport - have not been met. If this thread is to have any impact on the community, it must have consequences outside of attackpoint. What I have in mind is *at the very least* a recommendation, petition, or request to the OUSA BoD. Nothing will change unless we make it happen.

0. Is there any reason to think that the future returns or performance will be different from the past six years?

1. Apart from the two (vague) goals listed above, what are the objectives and responsibilities of the ED? On a day-to-day basis, what is the definition of the position?

2. What is the ED empowered to do to achieve the objectives given by the Board? Are the goals unrealistic given the ED's powers and the structure of OUSA?

3. More generally, what can and should the federation be doing to grow the sport?

Like most of you, I have devoted most of my attention to the club and regional organizations, including serving on the BoD of my local club. I'm well aware that it's very difficult for a volunteer or non-profit organization to engage its membership. I find the management and communication pertaining to the ED position highly unsatisfactory; I have almost no idea what the ED does or what he should be doing. From what I do know, the position cannot effect the objectives defined for it. I often see the ED working on tasks which in my mind are well outside of the scope of the role - things like senior team uniforms in 2011-12, national team travel insurance (per the July 2016 minutes). Who dictates what the ED should be doing, what the objectives are, and how we will measure them? Per Pink_Socks and JimBaker, are any of these objectives SMART? Most of the 2015 Strategic Plan does not strike me as satisfying the SMART criterion.

I welcome comments to my questions above, but as things stand, I think it is time for OUSA to end the ED experiment, reevaluate, and redirect the effort. Question (3) above is key - what should we do? The problem has been discussed ad nauseum above and in other threads - briefly, that the sport is in decline, we have insufficient manpower, knowledge isn't shared, etc - but I am not satisfied with the efforts of the national federation to address this problem.

I could imagine - instead of the ED role - paying for two (lower-cost) part time positions:
1. A publicity person - whose sole responsibility is collecting and distributing information, press releases, social media, both to the orienteering community and the public - about orienteering. Results from international competitions, national championships, club activities, and so on. I could also imagine this person organizing or coordinating a (or similar) campaign at the club level - as has been very successful in NEOC.

2. A technical coordinator - to manage the various membership and competition databases, the website; to provide resources to clubs about making websites and technical aspects of the sport, and to coordinate clubs. There is plenty of technical expertise in the community, though it's not necessarily obvious how to connect to it.
Jul 12, 2016 7:49 AM # 
@Pink Socks - was there a committee formed to decide on what the SMART acronym stood for before deciding on SMART goals for the ED position? (I'm joking, but always thought that having achievable and realistic in there together was kinda redundant. A could also stand for Agreed Upon (by all relevant parties), which is sounds like might have been a good idea 7 years ago, or whenever this all started...)
Jul 12, 2016 4:47 PM # 
Ian, I think that the best question is simply "what best can OUSA do with the income streams it has"? The other questions steer the wrong way, into prolonged justifications versus critiques regarding the ED role...acrimony rather than productiveness.

For a specific proposal of what to do, I'd suggest budgeting USD 50,000 a year (the amount that appears to be affordable) on the following (in lieu of the current ED role):

Mostly, a person to investigate what's worked with ARK, SO GO, and other successful junior programs, and how they get started, and then to aid interested places in starting such programs over, say, a three year period each, maybe taking on assisting one to three such programs at a time (or as feasible). The local clubs would be required to contribute and eventually run the programs by themselves.

Partly, a person to issue team press releases, respond to press inquiries at a national level, and maintain the Web site.

That splits the money a bit thinly, perhaps too thinly. But, the benefits appear to be enormous if several such programs could get going across the country over several years.
Jul 12, 2016 6:08 PM # 
Hi, Jim - an excellent point; I'm trying to collect as much information as possible relating to the question. Acrimony is certainly not a desired objective. Many have people - including Glen - have put tremendous effort into the experiment of the position, and I laud and thank them for their efforts. That said, at some point, we as a community have to recognize that the experiment has failed. I definitely welcome other inputs and information pertaining to this question, but based on what I have observed so far, this conclusion seems clear.

I think you've made a great point about the role of OUSA - that much of what OUSA currently does is provide resources to clubs, which then must apply volunteer resources to achieve any meaningful outcomes. In my experience, orienteering clubs do not have a vast surplus of volunteer resources. Efforts like the various junior programs materialize because a group of people come together to execute them. In much the same way, finding new connections which clubs can "leverage" (to use a buzzword) doesn't actually achieve anything if the limiting factor isn't the opportunities, but the capacity of the clubs. Any opportunities which rely on action from 66 disparate member clubs with vastly different capacities, organizational frameworks, sizes, and so on will be hugely limited. Relatedly, I suspect engagement with OUSA by member clubs is minimal. How much information flows along the OUSA to club channels? How much of what clubs do is affected by OUSA?

Maybe it's a good time to contemplate the role of the national federation in the community. I argue that making a resource available - while a laudable effort and often a tremendous undertaking - does not itself effect change. What can the federation do entirely on its own? Providing insurance is an excellent example where the effort requirement from the clubs is small, amounting to a few forms. The Junior coach and ONA are other examples where the federation executes what individual clubs would find insurmountable on their own, and require negligible resource cost from member clubs (apart from the money in dues).

I think publicity and event quality are two underserved areas where the federation could make a decisive impact with relatively low resource cost to the member clubs. Competition quality is the harder of these goals, as it requires the competition organizers to engage.
Jul 12, 2016 6:54 PM # 
Foster innovation and keep the lights on. Don't try to imitate yesterday's breakout performances. You can't move forward if you try to lead from behind.

But, at the end of the day, and it goes without saying (and this thread should make it obvious) orienteering is about as virile as a giant panda.
Jul 12, 2016 9:34 PM # 
Orienteering seemed to grow rapidly in Portugal. Perhaps it's worth asking what they did.

In terms of the junior programs, it does require volunteers especially at first, and hopefully eventually grows to be closer to self supporting using paid help. Canadian clubs and provincial associations may have access to more money (from casino or grant money). It would be interesting to know how much outside funding they require. But replicating what's been successful sounds like a promising path. No knock on innovation, but I wouldn't fail to try to expand the most successful endeavors. Junior programs (like most O activities) would be at the local level, but it could be valuable to have one person learn what works and help clubs get going. Or not, I dunno. But what else, other than social media advertising, has had significant success in recent decades? Park World Tour (which became Sprint), perhaps.
Jul 14, 2016 4:39 AM # 
SMART This abuse of cheap marketing tricks is nauseating.
I like this definition: SMART is an adjective added to make something sound new, trendy, or better when it's really just the same warmed-over crap. Way overused these days, to the point of being corny.
Stop Money and Resource Trashing , I suggest to adopt a new strategy:
Doable Uncompromising Manageable Beneficial (edited:)
Jul 14, 2016 5:29 AM # 

You're terrible at acronyms, yurets.
Jul 16, 2016 4:38 PM # 
Foster innovation and keep the lights on. Don't try to imitate yesterday's breakout performances. You can't move forward if you try to lead from behind.

Since after several days no one else seems inclined, huh? What the hell kind of theory of human progress doesn't have room for quite a lot of imitating the successes of others? We'd presumably still be making crude stone tools (not the highly sophisticated stone tools - making those surely required a willingness to learn from and build on the successes of past stone tool makers) if everyone thought like this.
Jul 17, 2016 2:23 AM # 
I have no idea. Good luck finding something successful to imitate if that floats your boat. I'll check back in 10 years to see how everyone is doing.
Jul 17, 2016 8:17 AM # 
Best practices can coexist with innovation...
Jul 20, 2016 6:52 AM # 
I loved most of the ED related comments above. Thanks for posting.

This discussion thread is closed.