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Discussion: Thanks for this write-up, I...

in: iansmith

Dec 25, 2016 5:50 PM # 
Thanks for this write-up, Ian.

I don't want to place this issue in a teams vs. clubs dynamic either, because, really, we can feed off each other.

But you're right; the message sent to the teams is clear.

I've sacrificed a good deal trying to improve in this sport: free time for relationships, better career opportunities, time to do a Master's degree, vacations not spent at orienteering meets. I'm willing to continue to sacrifice for this. However, it's a huge hit to my confidence to see that we're officially given no support. Of course, my private fundraiser for the WOC training camp was a huge boost. It helps to know that I'm not just fighting for my dreams, but also for the dreams of some in our community.

The house I'm living in this year makes this even more painful. The Spanish elite are getting funding for the house as an Elite Training Center. When it comes to expenses for training and international competition, there's no question; their expenses are paid for. And Spain is not a major orienteering federation either.

The principal effect that this will have on our teams is worsened performance. Lack of funds has been the root problem blocking me every step of the way when trying to train and compete. I need to work more to earn enough to travel, when working more I have to train less, and so on.

While representing the US in elite competition, I've never expected 5-star treatment nor a free "vacation" (as I would probably vacation elsewhere in the world) but I have hoped I wouldn't risk going into debt while trying to compete with semi-professionals.

I'm 26 now, not old, but the years I can hope to compete as an international elite orienteer are dwindling away. This year's reduced support may shut me out of the dreams myself and others have for my orienteering career.

Thank you for your message of support. I'll keep fighting knowing that some out there want to see us succeed!
Dec 25, 2016 7:24 PM # 
Thanks for writing, Greg.

The federation has just fired someone. Presumably a bunch of restricted funds will be directed to the team, so given the circumstances, saving pennies for other causes may not be unreasonable. Of course, the symbolism is terrible.

As you know, many in the federation (and beyond) care how you do. So keep the spirits up and kick ass in Estonia and beyond. You're on the right path.
Dec 25, 2016 9:06 PM # 
Thanks Ian for providing continuing insight into the inner workings of the organization. More has been put forward in these three months than in the prior forever. The dirty nitty gritty exposure is good for all to see.

The suggestion that clubs will take a hit in services? Other than insurance what service will be lost. The recent tax increase on club meet and A meet starts? Otherwise it becomes difficult to put forth benefits.

We have and will continue to support the Teams, Juniors and Seniors. The continuing difficulties of these cohorts require all the support that can be provided. Please keep up the efforts all.

And Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, to all.
Dec 25, 2016 11:33 PM # 
Good point and thanks for the support, Neil.

And thank you for the support also, George.

I get really riled up about this stuff. I want to support the rest of OUSA, especially since resources are scarce. It's tough for me when the already scant financial support we receive is cut.

That's my standpoint, but the goal is obviously to get a fair slice for everyone.
Dec 25, 2016 11:34 PM # 
Thanks for the context - GSwede; as you say, one of the key differences between our national programs and competitive ones is support. Imagine if our committed athletes were presented with even limited financial support for travel and food and their only responsibilities were to train and become as good as they can be. I think growth is critical to build up a sufficiently large pool of athletes and develop is necessary to make them good. But the current deal we're offering elite orienteers in the US is to pay their own way, do fundraising, have a job on the side, be visible in the community, and train. At the recent US Team ESC meeting at NAOC, we were told that we have to fundraise a lot more just for WOC, to say nothing of the athletes trying to get to world cups, training camps, and elite competition. It's a joke.

And then, it's suggested that OUSA use the national teams as a resource even more, e.g. Peter Goodwin's recent comment in the main budget thread that the teams can be used to make up for lack of ONA content: "If people want to see how people run courses with the maps that go with it, someone has to provide that content. Perhaps, the teams should assign one team members to write one of these articles for each issue."

Now, I have written articles, and many other team members have. But to suggest that this be a requirement - in addition to all the other crap they have to address in addition to trying to be an elite athlete - without any support from the national federation is a injustice. And people wonder why our elite program isn't improving. A conservative estimate of the WOC 2017 entry fees and accommodation comes to 6300 Euros for 4 men, 4 women, and 1 official, and I'm pretty sure the Estonian WOC is cheaper than others recently. Finally, Restricted Contributions - while amazing and incredibly generous donations by various supporters - are NOT OUSA. They are superlatively supportive acts of private donors and clubs, but the national federation gets almost no credit for that. A counterpoint is the 50th anniversary fund, which while restricted, was a donation solicitation campaign entirely orchestrated by OUSA; the end of year donations, while they include a team option, are a minimum of effort. I also suspect a vast majority of the donations are independent of OUSA's end of year solicitations.

Even if the rest of the Board buys into my (and others') agenda for team funding, it's hard to imagine more than $10k unrestricted going to the senior and junior teams for the foreseeable future. In light of other priorities - especially growth and junior development, I would consider it imprudent to give more than say 10% (somewhat arbitrary) of unrestricted funds total to the teams, which at present is in the neighborhood of $20k. In terms of priorities, I am looking at OUSA and its agenda through a certain lens - as is everyone, and the idea of naive realism - that different presented with the same data will arrive at the same conclusions doesn't hold up. Each of the 12 people on the Board and the 1200 in OUSA have different lenses and perspectives on what matters, and trying to synchronize all those priorities requires a lot of deliberation.

I think the best way is to get involved. @Walk: I can't thank donors and supporters like you enough for everything that the community does to make elite orienteering in the US happen.
Dec 26, 2016 12:47 AM # 
So the team, in your opinion, is not sufficiently valued by ousa membership. What can the team do to change this? They already volunteer lots, and train enough to be the best in the country. Presumably the visibility isn't high enough. Maybe publicity, then? What vehicles do you have? Attackpoint readers would already know what team members get up to. What else is there? *ONA*

So perhaps fun interviews with one team member each issue and, yes, race reports would be a good idea.

Venting will only get you so far.
Dec 26, 2016 12:52 AM # 
I was sort of hoping that running for the Board might let me directly impact policy. I'm not giving up; hopefully 2017 will be atypically austere, and there will be more funds in 2018 for a variety of important programs.
Dec 26, 2016 12:09 PM # 
You are directly impacting, but you won't direct. ["Venting" wasn't a criticism, and not suggesting you aren't doing lots personally. Just saying that if the team feels it needs more widespread support, it should look for some easier ways to generate this support. Gswede's writing is one such, but ought to be more widely read. Anything that builds a sense of connection to team members will help.]
Dec 26, 2016 12:53 PM # 
Sorry to jump in here on what is an OUSA matter but Neil is absolutely right. Orienteering Canada recently brought in a steep price increase for clubs and since my club (DGL) is by far Canada's biggest club this meant thousands of dollars more a year in fees for us.Money we wouldn't have available for our junior program,
athletes, mapping etc. So how OC planned to spend that increase was important to us. A part time ED and national teams was most of the planned increase. We get that an ED could be good or bad since we have seen brilliance and waste in that type of position in North Americs. But with no less than four former national team members on DGL's board this OC spending increase and allocation one would have expected instant acceptance from us for the huge fee increase. But it wasn't because most of our club members had almost zero "connection to the team". When we asked why increase $$ on national teams we were told something like "so they can help grow membership and because they are our top athletes". Well that was not the right answer because many on our board know that just having a team doesn't build membership but, like Neil says, "building a connection" to the team can help immensely. But if those top athletes aren't racing annually in North America, aren't on social media or are writing in newsletters how do they grow the sport? It isnt just results and training and life sacrifices racing and training in Europe that bring the respect but is those other (relatively small time wise) efforts where real connections can be made. Attending awards ceremonies and hanging out medals to the top juniors. Signing autographs with kids. Assisting a club by testing an upcoming race course. As such we have found that building a connection is (ironically) best done at the club level.

So instead of clubs vs. teams people should be thinking "clubs for teams and teams for clubs".

If there wasn't ARK there wouldn't have been a few members of Canada's JWOC team last year but there wouldn't have been ARK if it wasn't for the former Nat team members on DGL's board and several of those former nat team members wouldn't have been racing for Canada if it wasn't for the support they got from the club a few decades ago.

Hope that advice helps.

Oh and as an outsider I would scrap ONA and replace with social media options (blogs, tweets, FB posts) and take the previously ONA allocated money and use it as matching funds required seed money for a club to start an ARK (like) program. Then involve current and former team members in promo material and as coaches or guest coaches. That way you are building "a connection" and also adopting what we have shown in multiple locations now is the best way to bring in money to the club level and to develop lots of juniors.
Dec 26, 2016 9:38 PM # 
I agree with what Mike says, especially the latter.

Further change may take more coalition board members. Due to OUSA electing only a fraction of the board each election, one election was unlikely to be enough to get a new thinking majority. So, seek more such candidates, and promote them. Also say what a majority coalition board would do (elaborate and repeat what's been said this year). Fixing the finances has been an excellent step in the right direction.

I'd say that a goal of 5% unrestricted spending on the senior team, 5℅ on the JNT, 5℅ on the JDT, 5℅ on broader, earlier junior development such as ARK/SOGO style programs, interscholastics, training camps like Georgia's, JROTC, proper orienteering in scouts, etc., and one percent for ski and bike teams would be reasonable. That's pretty thin, but to support significantly more we probably need a larger base, which will take a while, and it doesn't include restricted funds (donations).
Dec 27, 2016 8:30 AM # 
It is an interesting exercise to imagine what a budget for OUSA would look like. Despite disagreement over (important) minutia, there is general consensus that growth programs and junior development are two major priorities for OUSA going forward. In addition, OUSA has administration costs (to keep the lights on), membership programs like ONA and hopefully others, club services (e.g. insurance), and teams. A hypothetical breakdown of unrestricted revenue:

Administrative costs: 15%
Membership programs: 15%
Club non-growth programs (insurance, websites etc): 20%
Growth programs (marketing, publicity): 20%
Junior Development: 20%
Teams: 10%
Dec 27, 2016 1:31 PM # 
That proposed breakdown sounds plausible. Is a print magazine really need though? Surely a weekly article online would be more timely, for the same amount of writing? In my decades as a software developer, I noticed that people born in the 1950s and earlier kept computers at a distance, people born in the 1970s and later wanted them on their desk and then their pocket and wrist, people born in the 1960s a mix. All things being equal, some people prefer paper even if it means a wait, but all things aren't equal, the expense is huge for not that much added value (paper versus online). It means prioritizing the old ways over juniors in a big way.
Dec 27, 2016 1:51 PM # 
One thing I have heard, from several sources, about the print vs email thing, is that the printed magazine hangs around the house a lot longer. As someone told me, an email newsletter I may delete before reading or just skim quickly; a magazine I'll put in my bathroom and read all the articles. So I would argue that our current magazine is just vastly underutilized, and we could gain a lot through using it as a tool to communicate with our existing membership. The problem is that as it currently is, it costs a lot of money, and doesn't always contain very relevant articles.
Dec 27, 2016 1:53 PM # 
Agree that there is value in a shiny, relevant print product. Curtently ONA is not very shiny and only sometimes relevant.

Otherwise the option is to kill ONA and push membership down to the club level? Without ONA there's not much to incentivize OUSA membership but clubs can incentivize club membership more easily. All club members are members of OUSA? Must be a club member to get OUSA ranking?
Dec 27, 2016 2:24 PM # 
We've definitely been discussing this. There are some important details to work out, first. As ever. Sigh.
Dec 27, 2016 8:35 PM # 
Rather than an e-newsletter, I'd suggest more frequent, smaller pieces more suited to online media. Although an email newsletter is analogous to a printed magazine in some ways, it tends to be too big a read at once for a phone. Unlike print, there's no need to wait and bundle up stuff (unless someone prefers a digest for mailbox cleanliness reasons, and that can be done automatically). I think that a series of postings a third the length of a normal article (or less), some from team members (I think that they need to accept that a bit of communication in return for support is sensible and commensurate...why not just a map with your route and notes on your run, or thoughts about different terrain types, or comments about the training with the family that put you up in Europe? Needn't be a novella), mappers, course setters, coaches, event organizers and consultants, committee members and so forth. Some could be sent to all interested members of OUSA clubs, and many just to full OUSA members.

If print is essential (and I think that the question needs to not be whether some people like it, nor whether it has some benefits, but whether out of our entire scope of needs and vision its benefits warrant $20,000 a year), then I'd suggest noting that increasing the circulation severalfold may be far less than doubling the cost. Printing costs barely rise, postage scales linearly. Perhaps the outer sixteen pages for all members of OUSA clubs once or twice a year, and the whole magazine three or four times a year for direct OUSA members. Low volume printing is what is so pricey. If print has some promotional value that online doesn't (and that value exceeds the enormous multiple in cost for print over online), then maybe try to maximize that promotional value. (And unless the Canadians decide to join us, I'd suggest returning the name to the less confusing Orienteering USA, which used to be the name of the USOF magazine.)

This discussion thread is closed.