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Discussion: Competitive events schedule

in: BorisGr; BorisGr > 2016-09-15

Sep 16, 2016 11:31 PM # 
Ed and I have been discussing this over the last few hours, actually.

We'd like to initiate a schedule of championship events that stays pretty constant, for a variety of reasons -

- predictability helps with event branding/selling the brand (i.e. approaching sponsors)
- predictability helps with people planning for things
- predictability allows for a competitive bid system
- predictability is good for competition (building training plans)
- predictability means you don't crowd your championships schedule
- a defined championship schedule is good for OUSA to sell its brand to people and sponsors because it's a plan
- predictability is better for long term strategic planning

For example, we could define a window for classic champs in the spring, and SML in the fall, with expectation that a TT event would take place in late spring, to ensure that timing doesn't disqualify regions of the country from hosting a championship event because of timing. I would definitely like to see good geographical distribution of events, with good temporal distribution.

I would also like to see us soliciting bids for those events that we have set up to be predictable. This also helps avoid conflict, and ensures that there will be high quality events.

From a sanctioning point of view, I'd like to see three tiers of competition:

1. Basic National Ranking Event - sanctioning ensures that you're following the rules and that the orienteering will be good.

2. Premier-level events - the orienteering has to meet/exceed the base expectations, but the focus expands to the production of the event beyond just the racing (think arenas, food trucks, sound systems). Our championship races should fall into this category. Sanctioning should assign event controllers to these events (we don't have a process right now for trust between events and event controllers... this needs to be developed). These events could be co-branded with OUSA, in some form of responsibility, risk, and profit sharing, along with high levels of professional services sourced by OUSA.

3. International events (NAOC, WRE) - expectation is top-notch orienteering and maps, and services to the competitors have world-class expectations. Sanctioning should encourage hiring professional services for most of the event stuff.

With tiers of expectations, you can bring more events into the fold of OUSA sanctioning, so you can expand beyond the traditional "A-meet" format into more inventive formats. This is good for the events because it guarantees quality, and it's good for OUSA because it pushes their brand. The financial aspect of sanctioning an event needs to be tweaked to make this viable by guaranteeing that increased fees to OUSA are worth it in terms of increased attendance and increased services provided. (National Ranking Events are not there for charity to OUSA!)

And while we're talking competition...

RANKINGS! Why should people want to get on the ranking list, and how do we sell that to clubs considering hosting a National Ranking Event? What does a ranking get you? What are the rankings used for? Why don't we use ranking to seed the start lists of US championships?

These are all questions that need to be addressed and hopefully answered by OUSA. I don't think the answer should just be a patch.

Another question for OUSA - what does OUSA need to provide to clubs to make it easier to host a National Ranking Event?
Sep 17, 2016 9:19 AM # 
I agree that predictability/more of a set schedule is good for a lot of reasons and I hope there's a way to make it work that really allows for all areas to host these events. There are places in the US that can really only host in the summer (e.g., Laramie, Tahoe, Idaho) and others that need to be closer to winter (most of the south and midwest). A survey of clubs and their preferred + possible months to host a major event is probably a good way to get a picture.

I've always liked rankings and agree we should find a way to make them more meaningful! There's no reason we couldn't have a lot more ranked races -- they wouldn't have to be "A" meet in all aspects.
Sep 17, 2016 12:34 PM # 
one thing I suggested to Orienteering Canada is that they keep the same race name, URL and web site design for every year's COCs. ie instead of Ottawa O Fest, GLOF, Icefields
O Fest. "Orienteering Canada Nationals". that way OC is the brand rather than some
name. also, lots of the work of building and rebuilding web pages is simplified. You could do something similar with OUSA.

A lot of the issues that are being discussed for this OUSA election are similar to Canada and it would be great to see
more collaboration between countries on them. e.g. joint team trials? race schedule, youth programs, ....

good luck with the board elections and of course the actual races.
Sep 19, 2016 11:41 AM # 
There's a lot of issues which are common with us, too.

In Australia, we have a rotation system for our two major national competitions (our national championships in September/October and multi-day at Easter) - the larger states do these on a 6-year cycle and the smaller ones on an 8-year cycle. This means that each region knows what it is going to be hosting and can plan accordingly; for example, Western Australia knows that it will next be hosting Easter in 2019 and the nationals in 2022. We're fortunate that by accident of Australia's political geography, we have seven regions which are all viable hosts (the Northern Territory doesn't yet have a large enough orienteering community for that), and all have suitable terrain and suitable climate at those times of year (although some who went to Easter the last time it was in Queensland might argue with that....).

The impression I get is that the disparity between club sizes in the US would make it hard for you to introduce such a formalised rotation, but I could be wrong.
Sep 19, 2016 11:57 AM # 
Another issue is that we don't have State or Regional associations, so the hierarchy is just clubs-->OUSA. Makes it harder to have natural divisions for sub-championships, junior teams, trainings, etc., etc... There used to be defined regions used for various purposes but there was no real administrative function. I don't know whether we need or whether it would be helpful but it does mean we can't function the way a lot of other countries do.
Sep 19, 2016 4:07 PM # 
There was one regional function which disappeared somewhere along the way. It used to be the BOD members were elected by regions to serve as their regional reps on the board. Not advocating going back to that model. Ultimately it's probably a good idea, but not if it's too hard to find someone to represent and ends up weakening the ability of the BOD to right the ship. I don't honestly know when or why regions disappeared.

Alex's seasonal scheduling proposal sounds an awful lot like what Larry Berman has been saying for as long as I can remember. The difference being that she's backed it up with more justifications for why it's a good plan. The idea has met with resistance before and Cristina has mentioned the typical objections. I do have to say that scheduling the SML Champs 1 week after the Ski-O Champs is a perfect example of what not to do.

One example of what I like: Most years Canada has their SML Champs in mid-late summer and bookends it with another national level meet and a junior training camp in between. This is, I think, an awesome idea.

Two years ago somebody plopped the US Champs down on one of the summer weekends of the Canadians week and we had to make a choice. We picked the one with the junior training camp. Sometime late in the planning process the US decided to add a junior training camp, after we'd already booked flights. Oops, too late. Whistler was a blast. I wonder which camp got more juniors.

I see no good reason for us to be competing with Canada (except at NAOC!!) when we should be working together at every opportunity to raise the water level of our shared NA orienteering pond. There have been some good examples of cooperation/coordination in the past. There should be even more in the future. E.g. see Hammer's post above.
Sep 20, 2016 8:50 AM # 
"scheduling the SML Champs 1 week after the Ski-O Champs is a perfect example of what not to do."

Sure, but it's not as if someone in OUSA sat down and said, "I know, let's have the SML champs a week after the ski-o champs!" If clubs don't bid, and the BoD or Sanctioning can't find people willing to submit bids for a better time, the BoD is going to approve whatever bid they get (in this case as late as October!) This has been an issue for a long time. This means the first problem is making champs events easier and more appealing for clubs to put on, so we can actually plan ahead and have a good schedule.
Sep 20, 2016 3:13 PM # 
From the club point of view, why host a national event? What's the motivation?

And, what are the reasons why they might choose not to if they're considering it?
Sep 20, 2016 3:26 PM # 
I think we actually have disincentives from OUSA to host a championship now. The sanctioning fees are double, $10/start, and the standards expected of the event production are much higher, without any additional resources or help from OUSA. This is supposedly justified by the higher turnout you can expect at a championship, but I'm not sure if that is really true, or if it is enough to offset the additional costs.
Sep 20, 2016 4:29 PM # 
This is an excellent discussion. A big part of what I would like to address while on the Board is increasing the value that OUSA provides to clubs with regards to putting on high level events.
Sep 20, 2016 4:34 PM # 
Agreed that the sanctioning fees are too high.

It would be nice to transition to a model where timing, results, and possibly other aspects of the technical presentation could be outsourced to someone like Ed, Valerie, or other qualified parties for some fee. Perhaps OUSA could subsidize this initially.
Sep 20, 2016 5:15 PM # 
One way to partially fund such things is getting a title sponsor (a la IOF with WOC and Nokian Tyres). We're such a tiny sport that it probably wouldn't be easy, many people in OUSA would probably find it distasteful, and perhaps Glen has already tried, but it's something else to look into.
Sep 20, 2016 5:38 PM # 
Pink Socks:
COC hasn't hosted a national meet since the IS a few years ago, I think; but they have the school league and so they are doing great things there.

(that's from the other thread)

From the club point of view, why host a national event? What's the motivation?

And, what are the reasons why they might choose not to if they're considering it?

I don't claim to speak on behalf of CascadeOC, but I'm on the board, so I'll share my perspective, at least.

1) It's not on our agenda. We reorganized how we schedule and direct our events about five years ago. Before, we had a scheduling committee who determined what events we should do, and then we'd scramble around to find meet directors and course designers for them. Now, we have a series coordinator for each of our four series (Winter, Ultimate, Wednesday, and Choose Your Adventure), and these people (I'm one of them) aren't necessarily looking at the bigger picture for National Meets.

2) We don't have any National Meet "champions". If someone in CascadeOC wants to lead something, it'll happen. Ten years ago, Debbie Newell wanted us to host an annual adventure race, so she organized it and it happened. The juniors wanted to direct a National Meet in 2008, so it happened. And personally, pretty much anything I want to do, the club allows me to do, from MoboGoGlobo! (2009-2011), the Choose Your Adventure Series (2011-present), IS/IC Champs (2012), a corn maze race (2012-present), SART (2015-present). But when it comes to National Meets, we just don't have anyone who really wants to organize one right now. We've also been recently burnt on this. For the 2009 and 2010 National Meets, we had people who talked the talk at the beginning, but didn't end up walking the walk, and we had to scramble around and replace the event director (same one both years) in both cases.

3) Terrain Accessibility. Our best stuff isn't close to town (~2 hours east), and it's on the other side of a mountain pass, so that limits when we can reliably use and access it (May-September). Our 2010 National Meet involved events in Moses Lake (~3 hours away) and Fishtrap (~4 hours away). When our events are farther away, attendance goes down, volunteerism goes down, so there are fewer events and fewer maps to justify those events. In 2012, we hosted a National Meet in pretty nasty terrain (per national standards), but I really wanted to host an IS/IC Champs for our kids, and it had to be in the spring.

4) Local Timing. Our highest (by far) orienteering participation rates are in the winter (November-February) because the weather is generally lousy and there's not a lot of other stuff going on. And our lowest participation rates are in the summer, despite access to our best maps. Summers here are so amazing weather-wise that we lose participants and heavy-lifting volunteers to other weekend outdoorsy pursuits (kayaking, backpacking, etc).

5) Our BFF's are Canadian. Since we're way up here in the corner of the country, the most club cross-pollination comes from Vancouver, and they don't really care about US National Meets, and we don't really care about Canada Cups. If they put on a good event, we'll come, and vice versa.

6) We're great at other things. Sometimes I'll get people ask me, "Why don't we do more National Meets like BAOC?" or "Why don't we have weekly trainings like Vancouver?". And I'll mention something like, "Hey, we're great at other things, like WIOL. Why don't BAOC and GVOC have that?". We essentially host the equivalent of 8 National Meet days every winter. Each one averages more participants than last weekend's Classic Champs. There are course-setting teams, assigned start times, bibs, live results, tons of volunteers, and usually in rainy weather. It's pretty incredible. But it also takes a lot of work and the club's focus.

7) We don't really need National Meets. CascadeOC had the most starts of any club in 2015, without any National Meets, and we're going to break the club's record again this year. Our junior league and winter series is solid, and making one/all of those National Meets really wouldn't make them any better, just more expensive (and honestly, who would travel to Seattle in the winter for a National Meet?). We had a handful of two-day event weekends this year. We tackled the national Navy JROTC champs in March, which brought us 933 more starts over two days. It was another huge event, but it's not required to be a sanctioned National Meet, so it wasn't. We had a weekend in Teanaway, but those maps are currently 15-20 years old, so they aren't worthy of National Meet status right now (perhaps we'll do one when they are remapped in a few years). And we just had SART weekend, which already has national buzz without the sanctioning.

8) The last time was insulting. When CascadeOC hosted the IS/IC Champs in 2012, many of us were offended at how O-USA leadership treated our bid and our event. I don't want to rehash the details, but essentially they gave preferential treatment to other events/clubs.


That's not to say that National Meets don't come up in conversation and at board meetings. They do come up, and the first questions are usually "Who's going to direct it? And where's it going to be?" (relating more to items 1-4 above). The first questions are not "Why should we do one? And what are the economics of one?"
Sep 20, 2016 6:01 PM # 
I have to ask why we as a community wouldn't want to find a way to bring the large COC WIOL events into the national ranking system. If the current sanctioning process and fees are what is preventing it, then that needs to change. I really think we need to expand our focus to not just be on premier national events, but also on regional level events that are high quality.
I'm a huge supporter of the massive event productions that are the national championships, but I also want to see the OUSA community recognize other levels of events and create some system that makes them visible to everyone, and brings them into the rankings. No one seems to care much about the rankings now, and they are not used for anything, so what is preventing us from changing them to be a more inclusive system that people may actually support?
Sep 21, 2016 3:52 AM # 
Years ago the incentive to hosting A meets, at least for a smaller club, was that roughly speaking two A meet weekends would pay for a new map. Clubs want/need new maps and maps are expensive so A meets happened.

Lots of the variables have changed over the years and I don't know if the above budgeting short-hand still applies. Maps are smaller now because of e-punching, basemaps are cheaper if you don't have to hire your own LIDAR flight, and you don't print several years worth of maps in a single print run, to name just a few changes.

Bigger clubs seem to be doing local events at or near the technical level of national meets, so they must be meeting their mapping costs without having to import participants. Smaller clubs, I don't know. How are they getting their mapping needs met in order to support their local meets and training?
Sep 21, 2016 9:00 PM # 
To complement Patrick's points - I agree that Cascade has a special set of circumstances, different from most clubs, which make putting on National Events less attractive to us than many. However, it seems to me that we also have a general sense that OUSA doesn't really have much to offer us, nor is particularly interested in what we're doing. I have seen little engagement or cooperation in the past few years between ourselves and OUSA - even with our current president on the OUSA BOD.

Obviously this isn't a productive situation and I would like to see it change - from both ends - and I have already seen encouraging anecdotal evidence of this when at last weekend's board meeting I witnessed both Boris and Ian proactively engage with Bob Forgrave on the topic of WIOL. I hope and believe we have a lot to offer each other.
Sep 23, 2016 2:13 AM # 
Pink Socks mentions a kind of event scheduling that my club currently does, in which the club sketches out a schedule of events and tries to find organizers for them. Would similar work for OUSA...decide roughly where and when the championship events should be, and seek organizing clubs? This takes acjospe's concept of a time of year for each championship, and geographical distribution, a step further. This might succeed better in terms of getting bids and in terms of creating a nicely spaced schedule. Maybe mix that with a notion of a regional rotation, so that clubs know when to expect a call.
Sep 23, 2016 2:28 AM # 
Actually, in addition to a bit of geographic rotation, it would be nice (and maybe even more valuable) to have a terrain type rotation for championships, in some way.
Sep 26, 2016 12:00 AM # 
Alex, I love your definitions at the top of this thread. Chatting in the car with our world-class marathoner, she really commented on how much effort goes into pre-race expos and post-race (even next day) festivals. Huge undertaking, to be sure, but it's got me thinking.

+1 on restructuring sanctioning fees and figuring out OUSA support for such events.

I'd love to see events like WIOL ranked without making the hosting club crazy. Jon and I've been chewing on how to do that with WIOL for years...
Sep 27, 2016 11:56 AM # 
Things to keep in mind: not every club has terrain appropriate for the type of event you might want them to host. If they do, it may not be mapped, or if it is mapped may not be currently accessible. They may have maps but no good course setters to design proper courses. Be prepared to provide advice, or "here's how we can help you with what you might need."
Sep 27, 2016 12:11 PM # 
Janet, you are absolutely right. That is exactly what we want to focus on: how OUSA can make it easier for clubs to put on events.

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