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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: Ideas

in: iansmith; iansmith > 2017-01-01

Jan 2, 2017 1:14 PM # 
Good discussion starter.

While I like the concept of group training targets, implementing them might cause problems. We simply have different goals and focuses even within orienteering. For example, I plan on peaking at different races than other team members this year. I plan to have an early peak at the Spanish Championships in mid-April and then not start high performance again until late May at the World Cup in Finland, culminating at WOC. This calls for different distributions of training at different points of the season that may not meet the needs of others.

I fully support training camps and coaching.

In my experience, coaching for orienteering is more effective when the goal is to teach each pupil how to deal with their individual errors and progress towards the point of self-coaching. There is so much variability in orienteering that a standard plan for a group might not be advantageous to many in the group. And a coach who must learn each athlete's peculiarities and develop specific plans for each would require an intense full-time position. It'd be great, but that's not something we can expect.

But I can contribute some to this brainstorming. First, one of the major obstacles in elite orienteering in the US is a lack of maps or continually reusing the same maps to the point that there's little navigational benefit from training there. Or you just get bored from running in the same area. Kartapullautin and other programs can offer an improvement to this situation. Obviously a true orienteering map is ideal. But between no map and a Kpull map, I'll take the Kpull map.

My idea is to make maps of whatever area people ask me to. But I'd prefer to teach them how to use the software. (Teach someone to fish and they'll eat for life, right?)

I've also dreamed of a buddy system where you're assigned a partner on the team and you set weekly courses for each other. For example, you're my partner. We trade maps. We tell each other what training we want that week (middle, corridor, long, etc.) We set the courses. We run them. And we tell each other about them.

Some benefits of this: more accountability, you don't know the course thoroughly before running it, you develop more of a relationship with someone on the team, and everyone would learn to handle OCAD properly--essential for elite orienteer.
Jan 3, 2017 2:34 PM # 
The mindset of the majority of the team needs to change. I would argue that a large proportion of the senior team have come to orienteering through avenues other than competitive sport, and it is difficult to pick up on the mentality needed to achieve success as a grown adult. Better (any?) coaching would be an excellent start, but, you can't bring in a coach if the athletes are not receptive to letting someone else dictate the training.

So while access to new maps is indeed something that would help, just getting out on a map every day is the first start. So maybe one thing that would help is if every athlete on the senior team had some sort of map within running distance of their home (even if it's just a shopping mall or a city park).

Rather than leaving this with a final word of "we all suck and until half the team quits and is replaced with people who come from a racing background", I'd suggest that maybe we can start with better coaching. Theoretically every athlete on the senior team has a personal coach. Athletes should be sitting down with their coaches around now to discuss the athlete's strengths, weaknesses, goals, and race schedule for the next 12 months. The coach should be able to use that information to guide the athlete into a concrete plan that will yield positive change.

Which leads to the problem - we have a serious shortage of qualified coaches. More reasons to enact Erin's coaching certification program as soon as we can.

I have other ideas, but no time to get them all onto paper...
Jan 3, 2017 5:28 PM # 
Thanks for the feedback. @GSwede - training buddies sounds like a reasonable idea. And from Alex's point, getting on maps regularly is also a good priority. Having better coaching would be a good step, but I'm not sure that certification will be the path to having coaches ready to coach the national team. It takes a lot of rapport and trust with a coach to build a successful relationship with an athlete.

But right now, the status quo of each athlete operating in a vacuum isn't going to change our WOC 2017 or 2018 performances.
Jan 3, 2017 5:34 PM # 
Sorry to be a wet blanket, but in competitive undertakings, nothing prepares one better than competition.

It is nice to go through the motions, but unless you are doing those with a sense of urgency, they will not yield results.

As you are a film buff, I submit two scurrilous examples: and basically the entire movie Whiplash.

Pressure or pleasure. One is much more effective.
Jan 3, 2017 5:43 PM # 
Dear wet blanket, please check your email. I need your help.
Jan 4, 2017 10:00 PM # 
I'm with wet blanket. The entire set up here is not ready for advanced team improvement.

More people, more racing opportunities, more training, more maps, more of everything. Local scenes are the key in such a large country - the British team improved in enormous leaps when we concentrated almost all of our elites in two places. People complained about restricting talent pools to certain areas, but if your aim is to improve your team, that's what you do. And yup, you take resources away from other things to provide it. 1-2 midweek training sessions, one being a race, training camps/meets every weekend.

We spoke about this with ref. to the Juniors and then the AGM happened and I've not heard anything else.

Currently OUSA has essentially no resources to make this happen. Want to improve now? Move to Sweden.
Jan 6, 2017 1:06 AM # 
Indeed, focusing elite training on, say, HVO area and RMOC/LROC area, or on Europe, would likely yield more athlete development than having elite training in small handfuls around the country. In terms of competition, the eastern seaboard from New Hampshire to DC seems to be the region that can sustain much, or again (better yet) Europe. Neither a popular statement, though, I suspect. People live where they have careers, family, etc. Rarely do they move to where they can train for orienteering, at least in America. So, ideas may need to largely exclude those two.
Jan 6, 2017 1:32 AM # 
Actually, basically half of our national team has lived or is living in Europe, having moved there at least partially for Orienteering reasons. (Greg, Giacomo, Ross, Michael L, Boris, Sandra, Samantha, Alison Campbell). If we had an elite training center here in the US with all of these people, that would be a damn good starting point.
Jan 6, 2017 1:51 AM # 
Becks gets my one point, but my bigger point is that it doesn't really matter how we train (although going to Sweden is helpful, all things equal.) Moving to Sweden does signal commitment, which counts for something. But, it is not necessary or sufficient. I sort of think it might be counterproductive long term actually. The only way to expect better success is to improve our odds, and it doesn't take fancy statistics to reason out what that means.
Jan 6, 2017 3:27 AM # 
Fair enough.
Jan 6, 2017 1:01 PM # 
Oh, I was trying to agree with that point too. I guess I'm not as eloquent as j-man! More of everything was supposed to be my catch all!

I also agree with the counter productivity statement, and it's a problem we discussed in the UK too. The Centres of Excellence were partly an answer to that. But our biggest success story (outside sprint) of the past five years still moved to Sweden as soon as possible.

The infrastructure and competition opportunities are probably 10 times larger in the UK even than here in New England, but it's still not large enough. But in some places we can try our best to mimic it, IF you want to do something.
Jan 7, 2017 8:21 PM # 
I certainly don't want to malign people who move to Europe to improve their orienteering lot. It is a big commitment and sign of dedication. It may make some improvements on the margin. However, I think it chips away at the US' overall wherewithal for the simple reason that you lose the only role models you have for the next generation. True, the phenoms like Greg may come back occasionally to the US to rub shoulders with the locals, but they will make next to no impact on the marginal up and comers. Orienteering isn't like basketball where a young fan can have virtual connectivity with his/her idols; in orienteering, the only thing we have is direct contact. And if our best are no longer here, the only people they can impact with their success are those who already know them.

For me (and I don't certainly don't mean to put myself in any elite company), the reason I was motivated to get better at orienteering is that I could see on a weekly basis how good Eric Weyman was. It wasn't abstract but it did seem unreal.

For long run development, nothing beats an esprit de corps and being part of something more than the individual (the odd misanthropes of US orienteering aside), and nothing improves the odds in a melee better than a lot of compatriots.

That's why, and perhaps it is a minority opinion, I don't like the idea of selecting people for JWOC that don't live in the US, but that is a trickier issue, I suppose.

In any case, I think that vesting our hopes in those apart from the community somewhat mortgages the future, and is akin to one step forward, two steps backwards. But, maybe that is the prisoners' dilemma.
Jan 7, 2017 9:58 PM # 
I agree with you, Clem. So, yeah, no offense taken because I know how harmful me being out of the country can be. I hope to have a big positive impact whenever I move back.

In my case, I had to live in a Spanish-speaking country for professional reasons. But, I also know I need a training group that doesn't currently exist in the States. This is something I will change.

Edit: I don't think I've earned the title phenom yet. Working on that.
Jan 8, 2017 3:37 AM # 
I think the jwoc thing is tough but the real contact you describe does exist in the present jwoc training camp. These juniors link our juniors to their local scenes and show them what the sport can really be about, and by the end of the trip and jwoc, they are absolutely a team with real meaning.

I know you weren't outwardly criticizing the jwoc team, but actually I think the personal connection is achieved - it's just in an intense burst as opposed to year round.
Jan 8, 2017 2:50 PM # 
Yes, I think there are some pluses and minuses to the JWOC dynamic, but the immersive trip is a good thing; easier to achieve and a lot more impactful with juniors. That achieves a number of goals.
Jan 9, 2017 4:46 AM # 
For me personally, the most inspirational thing I've experienced on Attackpoint was BorisGr's Uppsala logs day after day. I don't know how "we" can compete with a geographically compact club model with almost daily training opportunities. Having a clubhouse means you tend to use the same map over and over, so you need either a really good home map, or some other model where you don't have a clubhouse and yet still are able to organize training events that people can attend. To me, the two ends of the continuum are a European-style compact club model like OK Linné, and a Swampfox model where you single-handedly train for hours everyday and also manage to create maps and put on annual events. Oh, and also work.
Jan 9, 2017 1:16 PM # 
Cedarcreek>>Awww, thanks! That's really kind. I do think we can emulate that model in localized environments, like what Jim is alluding to above, and what Erin has pushed for in recent years. Yes, creating an elite center in San Francisco, Seattle, DC, or Boston may not be very popular with clubs from Georgia or Minnesota, but it is the best way we have to create environments in which athletes can thrive. Look at countries like France or New Zealand - they have relatively low orienteering populations, but great success in terms of international results. These countries brought athletes together in designated localities and created environments for training and success, such that the athletes did not feel the need to move abroad. We can have this too, but to start with, we need athletes who have the commitment and drive to shape their life around orienteering, and not the other way. We have a handful of those right now, but probably not enough for a thriving elite center...
Jan 9, 2017 4:29 PM # 
But, more may decide that they are keen on improving if there are the conditions in which they may begin to do so...
Jan 9, 2017 4:31 PM # 
Agreed. (See wet blanket's example above.)
Jan 9, 2017 5:19 PM # 
Greater Harriman may be the best location for a first such senior training center. Living costs may be lower near me (the USOC maps) or Laramie, but job opportunities are probably far greater near Harriman. A chemist, say, may be willing to take a job north or west of NYC in order to train hard for orienteering, but have fewer opportunities near Woodland Park, Colorado Springs or Laramie. Denver and Boulder have more job opportunities for specialists, but are further from maps, and are getting pricey too. And there's a huge variety of well mapped terrain in western Connecticut, Albany, the Poconos, Delaware Water Gap, northern New Jersey, Westchester and of course Harriman/Fahnstock. On the other hand, a junior JDT center (for an annual development camp) might do well near Atlanta, which seems motivated to promote junior training, and also has a number of maps. A JNT center might do well any of a number of places.
Jan 9, 2017 6:38 PM # 
Hi, everyone - thanks a bunch for the input. I think everyone agrees we need "more" of everything, especially more densities. In a perfect world, we could instagrow the US community to 10x its current size, but I'm more concerned with short (this year) and intermediate (5 year) strategies.

I think in the near term, better coordination of efforts by the team and team supporters would be a good step. That means:
1. A set of local and regional training camps, with a calendar published well in advance, and every accommodation made to get the national team folks (esp. juniors) in that region. I like a one-stop model, where instead of organizing transportation, housing, food, and training individually, one person or group coordinates the whole thing.
2. Better engagement with the community by the national team. The easiest and most mutually beneficial way I can think of is national team folks organizing events, being conspicuously national team-y, talking to everyone about what they do, and making arrangements with the host club to donate some fraction (half? all?) of proceeds to the national team. Clubs are always looking for qualified event organizers and course setters, and everyone has a great time. Events like the Billygoat and even national meets are more ambitious but higher profile.
3. Maybe group trips as the national team? For instance, a subset agrees to go to Oringen, Portugal O-meeting, or some similar multi-day as a group for intense training. Unfortunately, this is expensive.

Intermediate term:
- Big question: what is necessary for a "center?" Maps and terrain are clearly the biggest obstacle, so let's confine the discussion to places with enough maps, like Suffern and Peekskill, Colorado, Laramie, Boston, or wherever. If we had a few hundred thousand dollars to spend, we could buy/rent a clubhaus, though that seems premature. What kind of startup capital is necessary? A part-time paid staff person who could coordinate several training sessions per week would be ideal. Maybe some money for a van or vehicle? Obviously, you also need orienteers, so places with existing populations like Boston and Atlanta are appealing. But a dedicated group of even 5-10 of people 15-30 who could commit to 2+ trainings per weeks, competitions at local events, and travel to national events could make a huge impact on the competitive scene in the US.
Jan 9, 2017 7:45 PM # 
Regarding 1):. Are there individuals that can be identified who can and are willing to help? Former team members? Never-elites who can organise logistics, or are strong enough navigators to design, set, vet, draft and/or collect training sessions? Personally, as a semi-retired person living in Woodland Park, Colorado (near the USOC maps), I'm glad to help with a training camp each year if desired. (I often organise minor training sessions for local orienteers anyway.) I can also offer two spare beds, a sofa, an inflatable mattress and floor space pretty much anytime a team member wants to come out and train. (No smoking or gluten in the house; I have celiac. Leave house in good condition.)

Regarding 2):. A goat here seemed somewhat popular last year, and some people who came remarked that the price seemed low, even though it covered costs. I could inquire whether RMOC would countenance a goat in 2018 that charged twice as much, with some fraction going to the teams. We no longer have Kris Beecroft as president, losing her to QOC and OUSA, but I suspect that at least some are pro-team.

Regarding Big Question):. And what steps can be taken in the next few years to bring that closer? 1) may be one such step, by making training camps a regular thing in potential centers, and identifying volunteers happy to support such training, as well as identifying and refining logistics such as housing. Are items such as portable toilets (eww...but the Edmonton club had some collapsible handmade ones that could be transported in a car) useful toward being able to train from more staging areas, and thus have more accessible terrain using existing maps? Could a center develop from an annual training camp progressing into two per year, or into a longer training camp, or into weekly weekend trainings?

Can the size of America be turned into an asset, by having training camps in January or February or March in the far desert southwest, or in Texas or Georgia or Alabama or Florida? Some places might need additional top quality maps, but free Lidar data might help. Experienced orienteers live in or near many of those places.
Jan 9, 2017 7:48 PM # 
@JimBaker - I really like the idea of identifying a list of super-supporters. I have been continually impressed by the generosity and hospitality of the orienteering community when asked for a place to stay and shower. Travel is expensive and limiting for developing orienteers, but even a floor to put a sleeping bag and a bathroom to shower in can make a huge impact. The US team body should also make an effort to thank all these amazing supporters.

Such a list would help orchestrate the training camp schedule, but if an orienteer is traveling in an area and wants to do some trainings, this list would also give them some local support at a much lower cost than hotels or hostels.
Jan 9, 2017 8:29 PM # 
Perhaps identify first a person to assemble, publish and maintain this list? Do the teams (senior, JNT, ski, bike) have a private-to-members website for such? I don't think that volunteers would want to be listed on the main OUSA website. Perhaps categories for the type of volunteering offered...floor space, bed, training camp registrar, housing coordination, food coordination, permit request (where required), training design, setting markers, vetting markers, collecting markers, drafting training courses, printing training courses, storing maps?
Jan 9, 2017 9:16 PM # 
I'd suggest a team member posting this (Ian's three enumerated items and big question, as well as anything else from this thread that people would like to raise for wider discussion) to a team mailing list or to a main thread on AttackPoint, to see if the team as a whole agrees, and then to seek volunteers, training camps, etc.
Jan 9, 2017 10:04 PM # 
Jim: if you're volunteering to put on a meet, the club should be happy to let you do so no matter how much you charge if the proceeds are going to a worthy cause. Anybody who doesn't want to pay the entry fee can stay home.
Jan 9, 2017 10:28 PM # 
I'll raise the idea with the club next year. It's a bit late for this year, as permit requests are already going out, and I've already volunteered for enough for RMOC this year (two summer events back to back, a snowshoe event, plus an orienteering class).
Jan 10, 2017 12:29 PM # 
So make a list of people that already do a lot, to make it easier for them to do more?

I'm not sure I was hoping for this as the outcome of the conversation.
Jan 10, 2017 1:24 PM # 
I am sort of with Becks on this one. We already have a very small number of volunteers stretched very thinly. What you'd want to do is find the current or former team members who are less active and see if they can step up and help (I can think of some, but won't post names here). And of course, this would be a smaller issue if we had more people to choose from to begin with.
Jan 10, 2017 3:22 PM # 
I need someone in Cambridge to teach after school classes and summer programs, handle some in-school classes, teach teachers, and coach local kids. Can provide subsidized housing. Ethan is great - and he's going to move on at some point and I don't want to be left in the lurch. The person could also be actively supporting 'elite' orienteering in the area. Maybe that Australian "intern" idea would work here to get foreign orienteers an opportunity to be in the USA for a while.
This is sort of an aside, but also meant to be nucleating.
Jan 10, 2017 3:40 PM # 
I think that a list of people willing to support would actually help spread the load. The tendency when something is organised in the absence of such a list (I.e, usually) is that the most frequent volunteers are called on yet again, because people think of them. Yes, former team members and others should be sought out to make the list as big as possible. Such a list might prove to be bigger than you anticipate, and make people more willing to volunteer to organise a training camp (or whatnot) knowing that there are several others who've indicated a willingness to volunteer. At least it would make it quicker for such a prospective organise to check whether enough others are willing to assist.
Jan 10, 2017 4:25 PM # 
Barb, are J1s easier for OUSA to get than H1s? There's probably a view kids from all over the world who would like that job if visas weren't a problem.
Jan 10, 2017 4:31 PM # 
I have A TON of Spanish friends who would love to do what Ethan's doing. So the interest is there from the rest of the world.
Jan 10, 2017 5:58 PM # 
I can also imagine that some people interested in Navigation Games (or similar program in other cities) might be interested in and competent with mapping.
Jan 12, 2017 2:14 PM # 
Isak and I have started talking with an immigration lawyer about how to bring him/others to the USA officially to help with orienteering. For a work visa, she recommends a P (athlete) visa, Q (cultural exchange) visa, or O (foreign national of extraordinary ability) visa.

It seems to me that it might also be possible to get a visitor visa. B-1 visas allow speakers to come, or people to come for training, and get reimbursed for the expenses. And, there's the visa waiver program, which would allow visit of up to 90 days without having to get a visa, if you are from certain countries like Spain or Sweden.
Jan 13, 2017 5:13 PM # 
To Jim's idea of creating a list of supporters, I just have to say that I've been amazed at the people who have come forward to help OUSA in the past few months or who have readily agreed when we asked them. I think people are out there who want to help. You just have to ask them one on one.
Jan 13, 2017 10:02 PM # 
Asking one on one is a good idea. But if you're just depending on your own memory about who to ask, you may end up just asking the same ones. A list of potential supporters could widen the list of who you'll think to ask, in addition to making it easier to think of people to ask. It needn't exclude asking additional people that one thinks of, nor the human touch. But anyway.

On that same topic, it's good to ask well in advance, even if every detail isn't definite. Last minute requests might be OK, but people may have made plans, or want more notice.

This discussion thread is closed.