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Discussion: Momentum for OUSA best practice guides?

in: Orienteering; General

Jun 12, 2017 4:02 AM # 
We've got 60+ clubs in OUSA. Some are great in one area, some in another, and while we may ask a lot of questions up here on Attackpoint, we have generally not done a good job documenting in a persistent way the common challenges of starting, running, and growing a strong club.

It's time we did that, pooling our experience to create a set of topical guides that are light enough to get you started or use as a self-check list, yet deep enough to improve the participant experience. If attendees have a better time across the US, everyone wins.

Below are sample basic outlines of five possible guides, starting with what we'll call the "OUSA Club Handbook" about starting and running a thriving, newcomer-friendly club. Two questions... Would this be useful if it existed? And would you be available to help document a specific area? If there is interest, we'd like to define the right level of depth and start creating these in the next few weeks.


• Becoming “newcomer ready” (Volunteer roles, messaging, signage, reliability)
• Making some events more social (mass-start score-o, pairs orienteering, food table, training)
• Important demographics (runners, x-country, hikers, students/parents, retirees)
• Using and maintaining a club newsletter
• Using social media (Facebook, meetup, Instagram, Groupon) with mini-videos
• Developing new leaders (course design, meet directors, mapping)
• Regionally coordinated meet schedule
• OUSA contacts for help (free or consulting if travel needed)

• Top park issues (new social trails, erosion, user complaints,
• Best general practices (club jerseys during clean up day, maps to rangers, integrate with Friends of Parks, listen to rangers, start line briefing)
• Course design guidelines for avoiding erosion, hillside damage, riparian border damage
• Suggested staffing & event actions (someone to review concerns with rangers, mark out-of-bounds on map, someone to look for damage and remediate)
• Sample Memorandum Of Understanding for multi-year park usage
• Sample videos on recognizing damage, properly remediating a social trail.
• OUSA contacts for help (free or consulting if travel needed)

• Sample design format for permanent controls (appearance, materials, costs)
• Guide for good permanent course design (features, best practices)
• How to work with a park manager for permission & planning
• How to work with Eagle Scout candidates (and common scouting-related issues)
• Building in awareness (main sign, QR or codes)
• Building permanent courses into your training & promotion
• Using permanent controls, coaches, and Purple Pen to build new course designers
• Sample videos of setting up a permanent control, start sign
• Long-term maintenance expectations for permanent controls

• Optimal season timing
• Optimal demographics
• Proven marketing approaches & messaging
• Sample set up
• Suggested roles & staffing
• sample e-punch code for team/event/season results processing
• Sample videos on setup, running, roles
• OUSA contacts for help (free or consulting if travel needed)

• Minimum necessary roles & skill sets
• Minimum effective timeline
• Course design guide
• How to get to a good map
• Using the OUSA registration tool
• ?
• ?
• OUSA contacts for help (free or consulting if travel needed)
Jun 13, 2017 6:17 PM # 
Yes, this is a need. Much of this stuff already exists within one club or another. Once upon a time, every club received a binder of such resources from USOF. Much of what was in that binder still exists, either on the OUSA site somewhere or with Robin Shannonhouse, but it would be pretty out-dated and in need of revision. Once compiled, it is important that someone keeps it updated as technology and practices change.

One thing that I have found consistently annoying, however, is the tendency for us to use the term "best practices" to mean "whatever my club happens to do." I would be very interested in an effort to actually quantify and compare the differing and similar practices across the country to determine what is "best" and what practices might actually be hindering clubs as opposed to helping them.
Jun 13, 2017 11:09 PM # 
I think it's a great idea, and as much as I live for trial and error and fumbling my way through the learning curve, it would be nice to have a guide like you describe. I'm in the process of starting a new club and would love a one stop shop.

What about a wiki? That format seems to be a sustainable form of documentation that everyone can contribute to, keep current, and honest. Just a thought.

Jun 13, 2017 11:41 PM # 
Doing a good process of finding out what clubs do, and determining what works best, would be valuable. (True best practices.) Just compiling how one club does it would still have some use. It may turn out that things need to work differently in different circumstances. (For instance, my latest club needs to apply for permits for most of its maps once a year, rather than a couple of months ahead for another landowner. This affects the whole scheduling process.)
Jun 13, 2017 11:48 PM # 
By the way, the metrics for determining what's a best practice are key, and a very interesting question. Least effort? Most new orienteers? Happiest existing orienteers? Some weighting of all those? Will that weighting vary for different clubs, with different numbers of volunteers, different numbers of keeners, etc.? Some clubs might prefer a process that saves effort at all cost (as the alternative might be little or no o for them), another very keen for top quality elite events regardless the effort, etc. But a guide that helps a new club get going with good success is probably valuable almost regardless of the exact weighting of objectives; many clubs may have much of this.
Jun 14, 2017 6:34 PM # 
Some great observations here. Yes, the guidance would absolutely need to be adaptable to the differing needs of a small, overstretched club AND a large one with ample volunteers. The perspective of "best" differs based on trade-offs.

These will be living documents, adapting to new learning and inputs, so I particularly like the wiki approach. Is there a consensus about the best wiki platform to build around?

One of the first steps (after choosing a platform) is to identify folks with successes to share from their clubs in the topical areas mentioned for Guide 1: Newcomer readiness. Social events & social media. Reaching different demographics. Volunteer development, etc.

If we do this right, this first guide will be a quick hit by folks from a wide range of club sizes. I can organize, but it will be our diversity of experiences far beyond my club--or anyone's club--that make this project widely useful across clubs with differing needs. Who's in, and what can you bring to the table for Guide 1?

Jun 14, 2017 11:26 PM # 
I could probably write a bit about old school promotion via calendars in newspapers, radio, etc. Old school, but still seems to bring a few newcomers.

I know many clubs have manuals or videos on various how to topics. Does anyone already have any of this? Then we could compare the existing guides and start from there.
Jun 15, 2017 9:11 PM # 
The Orienteering USA website has:

New to O section

Videos, some of orienteers in action; some instructional

I know COC (largely thanks to Rebecca Jensen) and BAOC have good resources for newcomers. What's currently on the OUSA site is a good place to start, and to add to.
Jun 15, 2017 11:00 PM # 
If you are looking for best practices and are willing to look north of the Great Lakes you/ we would do well to look at Hamilton, Ontario's Adventure Running Kids. That program is being copied across Canada including in at least one area that does not yet have an orienteering club.
A town in the Suncoast area of Florida recently asked me for information sources as they endeavor to add orienteering to their parks and recreation program. Something is happening out there which makes this best practices project very timely.
What is happening? I think parents desperately want their kids outside and active and the word is getting around that orienteering is a great way to teach people to think, not just to navigate but to look at information, make a decision and put that decision in to action.
If you need help with topics such as making quick, simple and cheap maps and instituting a ranking system for youth orienteering series count me in.
Jun 16, 2017 1:32 AM # 
+1 on gordhun's idea...a guide on setting up an ARK or SOGO type program would be the most worthwhile of all. (Or also interscholastic leagues, school programs, JROTC programs, etc.)
Jun 16, 2017 4:12 AM # 
I love the wiki idea. SharePoint's wiki is very easy to use - I used it as part of an assignment with 80 new students per semester, all of whom seemed to catch on very quickly. It doesn't have to be that particular one, but something that creates links to new or existing pages [[just by putting text in double brackets]] can grow pretty fast.

Of course, fast growth doesn't necessarily equal best practices. But it might be a good way to get a lot of ideas out there, with the "best" getting linked to a best practice guide.
Jun 17, 2017 12:45 AM # 
Thanks for the great resources, folks. We're drifting a bit into youth leagues and programs, which I was going to devote a guide of its own to (See Guide #4, first post). The first emphasis (aka Guide #1) will be about "should have" processes and actions for a welcoming orienteering club. Of course, that means welcoming to youth too.

Interesting observation from @cmpbllv about an expandable resource for collecting practices, before we determine what works best for different sizes of club. Organizational structure will be key.

This discussion thread is closed.