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Discussion: ONA and Other Things

in: Orienteering; General

Jan 3, 2020 1:37 AM # 
I am just wondering about what the replacement for ONA is going to be. I like having print around so people see it and if it only shows up on my computer, no one else sees it. I am a life member of OUSA and one of the benefits I got was ONA. While I confess that I probably never read every word, there was plenty there to read and enjoy. I would read an article or two before going to bed and a few more the next night. That won't happen when it arrives in electronic form as it will drop below the radar screen and I will never go back and read much else. Either that, or I will scan the articles that are sent and then delete it. So much for my lifetime ONA subscription. Yes, but times change.....

I also worry about the present structure of our championship events. Now, there is a Masters that is for the 35+ group but why would anyone else show up? At the Masters in NH last Fall, few juniors showed up because there was nothing for them and the 21 - 34 group was noticeably absent. Why can't we go back to the "Classic" format with a two day event for everyone? The Junior Nationals has made it so that the JROTC people don't seem to be interested so participation in that event is also down.

I just wonder how things are really going to keep OUSA moving forward. I think that the new board is a good one but the challenges that they face are huge. How can we as members help our organization to find its way?
Jan 3, 2020 4:07 AM # 
I think our "championship events" issue is extremely important and deserving of a separate thread title stronger than "Other Things".

...but certainly thanks for raising the issue.
Jan 3, 2020 4:45 AM # 
As an OUSA member on the younger side of the average age, I prefer a non-print version of ONA. It fits better into my lifestyle these days.

This has confused me since I've moved back stateside. Why do we still race classic distance at all, even at national events? In my experience, middles and longs are more fun--middles for their technical challenges and longs for their physical challenges.

It also seems best not to go back to more championships. Maybe there's a historic reason for this, but why is the junior championship separate from the normal championship?
Jan 3, 2020 4:56 AM # 
I thought classic was long.
Jan 3, 2020 5:31 AM # 
Ricky, you couldn't be more right.
Despite the US hosted '93 WOC in which the full length long individual event was explicitly titled "Classic", like the rest of the O world used the term, the powers that be in this country thought that "classic" meant a shortened version of the Long, and this is now engrained back asswards in our official lexicon, despite the efforts of at least one member of Rules Committee at the time, when the stated goal, ironically, was to get our terms in line with international standards.

But that is now water under the bridge. The important job is to establish some championship events (possibly "event" singular?) that are not dysfunctional or a living example of entropy.
Jan 3, 2020 7:51 AM # 
Back when "Classic" was the de facto -- and only -- individual race format, it was a combination of detailed ("map reading") and route choice legs -- both primary, macro-level, technical skills. The 2-day total competition meant that consistency also mattered. Then we added sprint (a welcome addition, IMHO), and middle and long which separated the respective skills.

Defining classic as a shorter -- ie, suitable for 2-day competition -- long meant that it was redefined as a mostly route choice format. In practice, however, it is my impression both skills are usually tested; and, for local events, this is especially true. Perhaps the "shorter long" was initially just the way to establish expected winning times.

If classic is primarily an "American" competition format/distance, than OUSA can pretty much define it as we see fit (while sticking to international definitions of sprint, middle and long). That being the case, perhaps it is time to recognize actual practice and re-redefine "Classic" as a test of both detailed and route choice skills.
Jan 3, 2020 9:15 AM # 
I agree on both issues PGoodwin. One of the main things I liked most about my OUSA membership was the magazine and sadly a decision was made to get rid of it. Very disappointed.

Although I was majorly excited about how much the iPad changed my life for the better and started doing all my reading on it, I have gone back to prefering printed books and magazines for several reasons, some health related. I too will probably lose my e-mag ONA in the sea of online articles I wanted to eventually read but never did, unlike the printed mag.

As for the Masters Nationals I would also prefer things like Middles and Sprints instead of just Classic. On a somewhat related note I would also prefer to not combine scores on two different days to determine a champion. I can never go to Sunday races which means I can never compete for a masters championship as currently organized. But looking beyond my own circumstance why cant we have a Middle, Sprint and Long masters champ? Why do us masters folks have to be restricted to "Classic"?? Middles are my favorite so besides the Sunday thing I have a whole other reason for not being too excited about competing at a Masters Champs: I simply dont like the Classic format much... assuming I evenunderstand what a "Classic" actually is... I have heard like 5 different explanations about what "Classic" means including those posted above. But anectdotedly my practical experience going to a few classics is its really just a long course, except slightly shorter, ugh. If they actually were closer to what GuyO explained I would probably like them more.

I too have wondered why not have all age class championships during the same championship events/days.
Jan 3, 2020 11:13 AM # 
Just to clarify, a decision wasn't made to "get rid of" ONA. The publisher decided to stop producing it, and now the Board is working on finding an alternate method to publish orienteering news.
Jan 3, 2020 11:15 AM # 
The publisher decided to stop publish it AND O-USA decided to not seek a replacement publisher. Right?
Jan 3, 2020 12:00 PM # 
We should probably start a different thread for championships, but as long as it's here:
First, a caveat: I was not in any way involved in the decision to create the separate championships. But to jbhk's comment about masters athletes being restricted to a classics champs, that's not the case. Masters actually get *two* championship events: the 2-day total-time classic event, called the Masters Champs, and the S,M,L event open to all ages. YES, we can--and do--compete in the SML Champs and are awarded champs medals.

Whether all this is too much or dilutes things, that's a different matter. My understanding was one big reason why the Masters Champs exists is because the powers that be believed that we old people don't like change and wanted to stick with the classic. My experience is that the people on AP are usually more willing to do new things and adapt, so just hearing opinions here may not tell the whole story. Just like those of us who prefer hard-copy reading materials, there are very likely orienteers who do still prefer the 2-day format.
I, for one, like them all.
Jan 3, 2020 12:37 PM # 
O-USA decided to not seek a replacement publisher

That's a slightly twisted way of looking at it. Both of the publishers of O/NA (the Bermans, who founded it, and Donna Fluegel, who took it over) did so on pretty much a volunteer basis, neither of them derived any income from the effort, I'm pretty sure they just about broke even (the Bermans were losing money on it for a while). How do you recruit for a great opportunity like that?

The event format that we had in North America for many years was a combined-time format (usually two days). It had some advantages for the distribution of orienteers that we have (very spread out). When it started, in the 70s, there were not different kinds of courses, there were just courses. We later had something called "Long" courses that were very long.

Sprint/Middle/Long internationally arose as a consequence of (what was in my opinion) a misguided attempt to modify the sport to make it more suitable for the Olympics. I'm not saying that it was a bad idea, but it wasn't a useful thing to do in an Olympics pursuit. Although we had something in North America that had been working for a long time, there was a sentiment to get consistent with what was happening internationally, so SML events (and thus an SML Champs) were added, but there were still enough people who liked what we already had, so we ended up with two national championship events. And a couple of years ago some of the folks in charge took an "OK Boomer" approach and decided that the people who still liked the two-day format must be older people, so the two-day championship was rebranded as the Masters Champs.

The Junior Champs had a separate evolution, starting as a two-day meet that was designated as the Intercollegiates starting way back, then a similar concept being adopted later as the Interscholastics, and those two were eventually combined and rebranded.

(And we also used to have the Long Champs, Relay Champs, Night Champs...)
Jan 3, 2020 1:02 PM # 
I may not be part of the younger generation, but I am also in favor of moving to an on-line format for whatever takes the place of ONA. Even if it were to be resurrected as a print magazine, I would hope there would be an option to receive it electronically.
Jan 3, 2020 2:02 PM # 
I had the impression that the intention was that the 'real' Masters champs was the one labeled as such. Is that wrong? I really like that because M21 and F21 are not championship classes at the Masters champs, the masters-eligible field runs their age class (eg M35 and M40) instead of M/F21, leading to the strongest races in those classes possible.

Given that, I had the impression that the Junior Nationals was now the 'true' championships for classes up to M/F-20, the Masters Nationals was the 'true' championships for classes from M/F35-and up, and the Individual Championships was the 'true' champs for M/F21 only.

If that's not the case, can we do it that way? The advantage is that then we get the strongest possible field to an unambiguous championship in each age class and ALSO the strongest possible field at the open championship (including people in the 18, 20, 35, and 40 classes).

And it makes sense if done that way to combine the Individual Champs (for the open classes only) with team trials in forest WOC years at least, and potentially also to combine the Junior and Masters Nationals at a single race. Voila, one championship for every age class and four meets (Trials/Junior/Individual/Masters) reduced to three or even two.

I also don't see what stops the Masters classes running 2*classic while the Juniors run middle + long, either.

We could call the events the 'age class' championships and the 'open' championships.
Jan 3, 2020 2:07 PM # 
But in the short term, at least, it would be great to know if the OCIN meet is going to be the only US champs in classes from 21 up this year. Travel plans need making if so, but if there will be a Masters champs I'd probably skip that meet (since the Masters fields will be weak due to people running M/F21).
Jan 3, 2020 2:45 PM # 
In reading the comments about championship events, I keep thinking that the "classic" format is something that should come back for all age classes. If juniors are racing in a championship, parents should be able to, also. If parents come for a master's championship, then juniors should be able to race in one, too. This is much more "family friendly" and the cost of extra medals would most likely be off-set by more participation. At the last Masters, only about half a dozen "families" were participating. There were about 40 entrants under the age of 20 but about half of those were West Point cadets.

With regard to the differences between S/M/L courses, I really wonder if there are different techniques. Yes, you have to learn how to read a sprint map as there are different symbols but then you have to deal with route choice. You have to deal with route choice on the other courses but the symbols are more familiar to older orienteers. The difference between a sprint course and a long course have to do with endurance or speed. If you run fast, sprint may be your forte, if you have endurance, the long may be better.

Another thought is that two day events (for those who can race both days) show consistency. You have to be good two days, not just one. It may be that in a single race, you were lucky (might have seen someone leave a control or whatever) but you have to be lucky two days or just good to win a two day event. It might be noted that PGA/LPGA tournaments are four rounds of golf. You have to be good for a number of rounds, not just one.

With regard to digital ONA, different people will deal with it differently. Finding a person to do a lot of work for free is not easy if at all possible. OUSA/USOF was lucky for many years to have the work done basically for free. Those editors provided a lot of enjoyment for a lot of people.
Jan 3, 2020 2:53 PM # 
Junior Nationals is really just a rebranded Interscholastic / Intercollegiate Championships. At its core it is a competition between schools, and between JROTC units, which includes competition between individual students. Given that context, IMO, it is not an adequate substitute for 20 & under age-group competition, such as that provided by OUSA Nationals.
Jan 3, 2020 3:02 PM # 
The two-day format also means that sloppy US course setters can have their event salvaged if they screw up and have a course thrown out. That may sound like a comment that you'd expect from yurets, but there have been a depressing number of times when it has come into play, including at US championships.
Jan 3, 2020 3:36 PM # 
Are there more course-setting fails at two day "classic" meets than at other formats? Only if there is a preponderance of inexperienced course setters at those events. Seems to me that well-intentioned course setters can make mistakes if they don't have adequate experience, if there is not useful course consulting help, if there is not adequate vetting (including pre-runners day-of-event), if they are determined to pick control locations that are not supported by the quality of the map.

Courses get thrown out in other places, too, including the Sprint Final this past summer at WMOC in Riga.
Jan 3, 2020 4:02 PM # 
PGoodwin, Webmaster,
Can we PLEASE have two separate threads, appropriately titled ?!
I recognize that many comments have been made, and many apply to both, but I am very sure this worthwhile discussion is just getting started.
Jan 3, 2020 4:09 PM # 
feet, I think you might be on to something important that I agree with, but I am confused by your comment, and terms.
No need to respond until we get a dedicated thread.
Jan 3, 2020 4:14 PM # 
Hasn't the discussion moved to National events so maybe just the title should be changed.
Jan 3, 2020 4:17 PM # 
I'd be satisfied with that, because I believe "events" is the more important topic, not that this is the only possible solution.
Jan 3, 2020 4:18 PM # 
One thing I enjoyed about the Master's Championships is seeing many people running in their own age groups. Perhaps another format could be found to let this happen.

Related to this discussion would seem to be the scheduling of the various chosen events. It appears to be increasingly difficult to find clubs willing to schedule these multi-day events.

As I recall ,the current group of events was created in part to enhance the marketing possibilities of the sport when OUSA had an executive director trying to promote the sport on a national level.
Jan 3, 2020 4:28 PM # 
"As I recall ,the current group of events was created in part to enhance the marketing possibilities of the sport when OUSA had an executive director trying to promote the sport on a national level."

I am willing to believe this is part of the truth, a great sounding rationale to justify a solution seriously disconnected from multiple realities. Is it unfair to say we now have 3-5+ US champs, none of which are marketable, well attended, nor have willing, competitive offers to host?
Jan 3, 2020 6:29 PM # 
seeing many people running in their own age groups

We've also got too many *^%*& age groups, but that's its own topic.
Jan 3, 2020 6:37 PM # 
Yeah, color me totally uninterested in championships as anything more than just another A-meet until we have 10-year age groups... or an order of magnitude more competitors.
Jan 3, 2020 6:46 PM # 
The current set of championships of US Nationals (SML), Masters Nationals, and Junior Nationals were reorganized by the competition committee under VP Competition Alex Jospe in a proposal adopted by the Board on September 16, 2017.

Briefly, the problem that the reorganization was intended to solve was that there were as many as 6 events (8 if SML were broken up, as was true in the 00s) that were termed national championships - SML, Classic champs, IS/IC, Ultralong, Night, and Relay. Adults could theoretically attend 5 different events to be considered national champions, and juniors could attend 6.

The intent of the nomenclature was also to make it obvious for people outside of the community what the events were. If you approach a media source to advertise your "Sprint, Middle, Long champs event", it's entirely unclear what is happening. "US Nationals" is much more obviously the national championship. Relabeling "A meets" as "National Ranking events" was also intended to mitigate jargon.

There clearly are many problems that remain in competitive orienteering in the US; the numbers of both overall events and clubs willing to organize them have declined in the past ten years. I'm not entirely sure what the point of this thread is, but hopefully this provides some context.
Jan 3, 2020 11:20 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
With regard to the differences between S/M/L courses, I really wonder if there are different techniques

Wondered the same, especially for M & L, given the same people crush both. It's medal count padding, like the 5000/10000 m in track or most of swimming.
Jan 3, 2020 11:22 PM # 
Re, less age groups...easy to say if you are 40 or 50, but try being 78 and competing against a 70 year old....
I really have no problem with someone winning a medal in a small age group, and as C pointed out, the real problem is a lack of competitors.
Jan 4, 2020 12:09 AM # 
The age groups don't need to be the same size. If we need five year age groups (or smaller) from age 70 on up so that all the old people can win, fine. But nobody is slowing down between 35 and 50. Look at the results (all running the same course) and see who's turning in the best times. It's people in the 45+ category (who are often in fact over 50). 35+ should be a 15-year category. Then have 50+, 60+, and from 70 on up everybody can have ther own category. But it ain't gonna happen.
Jan 4, 2020 11:55 AM # 
"It's medal count padding, like the 5000/10000 m in track or most of swimming."

Mr W, I completely agree with the swimming comment, and I would add skating (long/short/roller) and probably a couple other sports as well.

As to the orienteering M/L situation, I'm afraid the evidence supports you as well, but with one comment. M & L course design is all too frequently the same, not as different as it could and should be to follow the technical criteria laid out in the definitions. Middle courses tend to be "Middle" in time only, with little/no attention paid to terrain selection, which admittedly is sometimes difficult.
On the other hand, Long courses tend to be very technical as well, with too many controls, to give them a distinctly different character.
Sprint, and Ultra Long design also tend towards the technical, which further limits the range of people that can be competitive, counter to the whole point of providing an array e of formats.

In my opinion Downhill Skiing should be the model we emulate. The character in their courses is consistently different, as much as a single terrain/slope can provide.
Jan 4, 2020 3:36 PM # 
On the difference in courses that brings to mind. How long has it been since there has been a meaningful course setting conference in North America.
I've been looking through Route Gadget an Livelox at courses across the continent and eww! I have to say that many, including me, could use a refresher and a lesson on how SI allows different and better course setting than back in the pin punch days.
My go-to guide on course planning is an IOF publication from 1981, a translation of a SOFT publication called Banlaggning (with two dots over the second a) It is good but I'm sure there have been changes in the last 40 years and different standards, of course for S-M-L. Are they collected in one place? Are the great course planners (like SBerg) open to giving clinics?
Jan 4, 2020 8:16 PM # 
I’ve been enjoying this discourse including its diversity.

Gordhum mentioned how-to course planning guides. What are the best guides that are readily available?
Jan 5, 2020 1:32 AM # 
Girl Guides? I hear they make good biscuits.
Jan 5, 2020 1:33 AM # 
Over their heads trickY. In the States they are called Girl Scouts an the biscuits are called cookies.
Jan 7, 2020 9:56 PM # 
For the record, gordhun, I understood the Girl Guides reference. We're not all that provincial. :-)
Jan 7, 2020 10:12 PM # 

This discussion thread is closed.