Register | Login
Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: State sanctioned high school sport?

in: Orienteering; General

Dec 22, 2021 2:17 PM # 
Hello friends!
The Cambridge MA athletic director has raised the idea of making orienteering an MIAA sanctioned sport. MIAA is the body that sanctions high school sports in Massachusetts. Here is the MIAA handbook.
The Cambridge high school has had an orienteering team for a number of years, and it is operated as a spring and fall varsity sport. The athletic director has been treating the team like a regular sport - paying a coach, providing bus transportation, and applying rules like concussion testing.

Ethan and I are excited about this possibility, because we see it as a way to reach more kids with orienteering. It would be a nice complement to the elementary school PE unit that we have been doing: kids who start learning about orienteering in elementary school would have team competition to look forward to.

However, there are pros and cons to being a sanctioned sport. The biggest "pro" is expanding orienteering. But, how would competitions work? What if one school wanted it to just be a club, and not a sports team? What rules might MIAA impose that would be problematic?
Our experience of the orienteering team at the Cambridge high school is that it is more about individual growth, being in the forest, and being relevant for kids who do not consider themselves "athletic" - as opposed to a highly competitive team. MIAA does talk a lot about the value of sports outside of winning -- I also feel like we have an opportunity to create a culture of cooperation and outdoor exploration as opposed to an overemphasis on who wins.

Anyway, we would love your thoughts on this.

If you are a NEOC person, there are pros and cons: pros -- more people orienteering. cons -- more people orienteering at NEOC meets. NEOC may or may not feel ready to take that on. Would especially love to hear what NEOC people think.

Dec 22, 2021 2:21 PM # 
I am not a NEOC but I can't see too many negatives in this! Perhaps this could spread to nearby states if approved?
Dec 22, 2021 2:33 PM # 
I'll need to read through the handbook again, but one big difference between MIAA sports and non-MIAA is when students are allowed to participate, and how many sports they can participate in.

Currently we try to do activities in the off-season (winter and summer) to keep the team bonding and maintain excitement for the sport until the spring season rolls around, but this is more difficult to do arrange when off-season training is not allowed. This could damage the team in its current state.

There are also (rare) cases where schools have a student who is already a proficient orienteer who decides to run track/cross country instead of joining the orienteering team. This would make it difficult for elite juniors to participate in Junior Nationals (we currently have only 1 elite junior in the high school system).

It will also require a lot of work to make it happen, and we only have so much time and resources to dedicate to such a project. This could be biting off more than we could chew.

All this said, this is one of the best opportunities we've seen to expand orienteering throughout schools in Massachusetts, and it would be a shame to pass up the chance. I think it would be worth it if this means orienteering expands to other schools throughout Massachusetts as a sanctioned sport.
Dec 22, 2021 2:37 PM # 
I remember Erin Schirm having some concerns about getting too embedded with the traditional approach to sports, and I'd love to hear from him.
Dec 22, 2021 3:40 PM # 
Suncoast Orienteering would support orienteering becoming a FHSAA sanctioned sport in a heartbeat if that is what the schools wanted.
So far the sport works really well being in the hands of the JROTC but perhaps it could get better, if the JROTC were behind the change. (I know ours is a rather unique situation and not all areas have the JROTC program as strong as it is in Florida)
Last time it was checked we needed 50 schools across the state participating in orienteering to become FHSAA recognized. That was six years ago and we were just under that threshold. Now we have well over 60 participating schools.
The big advantage is for the students who go orienteering and get good at it. They get to earn their Varsity letters and the prestige that goes with it. The next is that students who like orienteering but are not in JROTC get to participate for something other than the pleasure of participating.
The advantage for orienteering is that we get some more publicity and probably more participants and that of course equates to dollars.
It's a non-starter for orienteering if they try to pigeon-hole us into one of their three seasons or limit the number of participants the schools can have on a team. A bus full is the only thing that works for many of our schools.
Dec 22, 2021 7:54 PM # 
Seems like a possibility. Wondering if you might have any luck encouraging private and prep schools to start teams. Many prep and private schools in NE have large campuses for maps and training. There might be fewer rules to navigate.
Dec 23, 2021 1:06 AM # 
I think this is how it works in Sweden and it's great. Kids love to be competitive so if they can compete in orienteering then it would be loads of fun for them. The hard part is getting coaches to a lot of schools.
Dec 23, 2021 7:17 AM # 
My initial shot from the hip is NO! DON'T DO IT, because I suspect the red-tape, bureaucracy, etc would not be worth any possible growth benefit.

I would suggest consulting some WIOL folks, since that league has been around for decades, and has somehow avoided making orienteering a school sport. Although their reasons might be specific to Washington, I suspect they are not much different from Mass.

@aj: I thought there were no school sports in Europe other countries.
Dec 23, 2021 9:52 AM # 
It just occurred to me that back in the last century I actually ran a high school orienteering championships. For fourteen years I ran the Carleton High School AA orienteering championships in the Ottawa area. At most we had seven of the some 12-14 schools participating, usually five or six but each event would produce busloads of students to a spot in the Gatineau Park where we would have an afternoon of orienteering followed by awards and student retrieval from around the park.
The event was helpful in forwarding a number of orienteers to the local clubs (Ottawa and Loup Garou) and on to the national junior and senior teams, most notably the late Brian Graham but also a few who are periodically seen at orienteering events to today.
How did the event get going? Al Gravelle started it as part of one of Ottawa OC's regular Sunday events. I was a member of the CHSAA so I got it incorporated in the district's regular sports schedule and it went from there. It was important but I don't think crucial to have someone on the inside.
The important thing when going to ask a school district about including orienteering is to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes. Come with a report or demonstration that answers all their questions and provides a positive outcome for their participation like the growth their students get in the exercise, the confidence and the learning to think and problem solve on the run that comes with orienteering.
Dec 23, 2021 4:35 PM # 
Thanks for everyone's thoughts; keep them coming.
Dec 23, 2021 6:32 PM # 
Pink Socks:

Early on in my days on Cascade's board (~10-12 years ago), I seem to remember that we talked about getting orienteering into WIAA, but we decided not to pursue it.

I don't remember any particulars, but I suspect a few reasons against it:

1) Geography (and climate). Washington isn't a small state, and our 35 years of WIOL events have been neatly tucked into a pretty narrow band of the state: east of Puget Sound and west of the Cascades. We just can't make our winter sport of orienteering easily accessible to the entire state. Which leads me to...

2) Organizational Network. 20 years ago, we had 8 clubs throughout the state, but today we're down to just 2, and EWOC is so tiny now that it almost doesn't count. We don't have the breadth to organize orienteering state-wide.

3) It's not really necessary. Our WIOL season is basically at capacity already, so we're not really in a position to accept growth during our Winter League. We could use some growth in our other orienteering seasons, though, but that doesn't really fit the framework of a WIAA sport (eg: events in the summer, longer travel times)

4) Paperwork and Bureaucracy. It's a lot of work to make this happen, and I'm not sure that we have people willing to take this on.

Looking at existing WIAA sports, there aren't that many (just 14), with some notable absences, such as mountain biking, lacrosse, and ultimate.
Dec 23, 2021 6:37 PM # 
Re: Schools in Sweden
There´s generally very little competitive sports in Swedish schools - at least not to the same extent as in North America. There are no school leagues or conferences but in many sports there are Swedish School Championships. I guess they have their place but I don´t think they are ranked as highly as other major competitions.

Orienteering is part of the curriculum in Sweden and regarded as an important skill similar to swimming. That doesn´t necessarily mean that all Swedish kids would be great competitive orienteers but at least they´ve been "forced" to try it.

There are several schools that are creating a training environment especially for orienteering (three on the national level and a number of regional/local alternatives). They have daily training - both technical and physical - and often get their regular classes planned so they can train in the daytime.
Dec 23, 2021 9:39 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
Norway is very similar to Sweden here, i.e. swimming and orienteering are the only two required sports, since they are both considered potentially critical for survival.

I have never heard of school orienteering leagues though, it has always been a sports club activity, including having the local O club come in and organize orienteering days for secondary/high school students.
Dec 23, 2021 10:28 PM # 
I'm always interested in different ways of doing things, but successful ideas dont necessarily transplant. For what may be trivial or unknown reasons.

Around here, getting a club orienteering event onto the school sports calendar for the wider urban area (pop 300,000) is a guarantee of high numbers. 4 or 5 courses on a mediocre area is enough, but it has to be within an hours drive. Doesnt seem to be much bureacracy - two neighbouring clubs organise an event schedule and an orienteer keeps a league table. There are regional and national school championships which attract the cream.

We do a lot of short (3hr) peri-urban rogaines round here and one provincial region gets 1000 kids to an annual schools event. It would seem to tick a lot of boxes - do it in teams, no DNFs, no waiting for stragglers etc. As a result a former national president decreed there would be a national school rogaine champs. It flopped.
Dec 24, 2021 5:02 AM # 
One other issue in many areas - how would State Athletic Assoc control of the sport affect the many schools with JROTC units that do orienteering? A school team would likely have to be open to all students; the JROTC almost without exception (at least around here) won't allow students who aren't part of the JROTC program to participate in JROTC activities.

Pros would be official recognition, perhaps greater publicity, perhaps attract some students who only play "real" (officially recognized) sports. Maybe. For me, it would mean access to school transportation for events, but it would also mean more official oversight (example, if Friday was a snow-day, kids wouldn't be allowed to go to a meet on Sat or Sun).

Cons mentioned by Ethan and Pink Socks are certainly plentiful: mandatory training for coaches might reduce the availability of people to coach; a requirement of N mandatory practices before being allowed to compete; limits on participating in multiple sports at the same time (Many young orienteers here also do cross country or soccer, sometimes football, wrestling or basketball, sometimes track or baseball), limitations on organized off-season activity (eg trips to NREs), having to organize state-wide (might be a bit easier in a relatively small state like MA), and general govt oversight and bureaucracy.

We've kicked the idea around a bit with our youth league here in Ohio and Indiana, but haven't found a lot of enthusiasm to pursue it. That said, what you've got going in Cambridge is a whole different (and very powerful) animal, and that might just be the place it could work?
Dec 24, 2021 3:20 PM # 
Currently the schools are dependent on orienteering maps provided by the local orienteering club. Would being an official sport, mean that each school would need to have an orienteering map of their campus? Since most schools are mostly open athletics fields with buildings and parking lots, the campuses should be easy to map. Each school map will make a good sprint venue. The schools can develop an elective that trains the student in how to make an orienteering map. The first project would be to map their campus.

This fall I have mapped two high school campuses. The only issue I had was how much detail to put on the map.
Dec 24, 2021 4:45 PM # 
Strongly oppose the idea. USOF must be the only governing body, setting all the rules of every orienteering event held in this country. Exclusivity is very important.

Besides, pretty much everyone in the education industry in a progressive state of Massachussetts is already poisoned with Marxism. Just imagine they will start using orienteering for indoctrinating American youth.
Dec 24, 2021 6:46 PM # 
Yurets, by chance are you two different people?
In one paragraph you champion totalitarian control of the sport of orienteering.
In the next you decry Marxism and the possibility of indoctrinating American youth.
So like many on the 'right wing' you have no problem with totalitarianism so long as it is your side of the ledger that is pulling the strings? Now I get you.
Dec 24, 2021 7:46 PM # 
Gordhun, you're confused by MSM propaganda, I am not on the side of totalitarianism. The details are spelled out here , very well written, I recommend.

Re exclusivity, we do not want multiple competing federations, like in boxing or wrestling.

You want an example of totalitarianism? Ukrainian Orienteering federation bans solo orienteering for people over 50 y.o., only teams/groups are allowed
Dec 24, 2021 8:30 PM # 
Yurets, You say USOF must be the "only governing body", setting all the rules but already that ship has sailed long ago. Scouts have their rules. JROTC have their rules, each club has nuances in the differences of their rules but you want USOF to be the only governing body.
You may not recognize it but totalitarianism can and does exist outside of politics and you embody it.
Boy Scouts of American ban solo orienteering as well.
Dec 24, 2021 9:03 PM # 
What's USOF? ;-)
Dec 24, 2021 9:40 PM # 
Entity Name:
Entity ID:
Entity Type:
Nonstock Corporation
Entity Status:
Series LLC:
Reason for Status:
Active and In Good Standing
Formation Date:
Status Date:
VA Qualification Date:
Period of Duration:
Industry Code:
0 - General
Annual Report Due Date:
Charter Fee:
Registration Fee Due Date:
Dec 24, 2021 9:52 PM # 
Thus the winking smiley face.
Dec 25, 2021 1:02 AM # 
Yurets,.. totalitarianism can and does exist...and you embody it.

Gordhun, may the divine presence of Jesus Christ be with you throughout this holy season and make your days as beautiful as the sunshine! Merry Christmas!
Dec 25, 2021 9:25 AM # 

Is that true about Ukraine?
Dec 25, 2021 4:42 PM # 
Is that true about Ukraine?

Copy-paste from the Bulletin:

It is strongly recommended to taste the dishes of the national Ukrainian cosine: borsh (red soup with beets, cabbage and pork); vareniki (Ukrainian version of big ravioli with various fillings: from cottage cheese or berries to meet with onion); pechenya (home-made sausage from different varieties of large chopped meat); honey vodka with a chilly pepper; uzvar (compote made from dried fruits); wine and many kinds of beer.
Mike, this does sound like quite an adventure
Dec 25, 2021 9:26 PM # 
What? No perogies? Ukrainian culture on the Canadian prairies is all about perogies.
Dec 25, 2021 10:00 PM # 
vareniki=p(i)erogi?=big ravioli?
All related to state sanctioned high school sport?
Dec 31, 2021 4:34 AM # 
My 2 cents:
-It’d be great to have this in the schools if…. All the barriers listed above were magically removed, or on a glide path to be removed. I’d say they are collectively too great to overcome without significant funding and/or a change . If it was to work, you’d have to start in one area (Like MA) and then hope it spreads.
-I tried to get it just in my school district and failed hard. And I tried HARD. Too many barriers for a working man to have time for. And I spend a LOT of time anyway. I also got PE teachers trying to help. And I had my wife helping me. We failed. So I just decided it was easier to have a school team without bothering the school:). And to be honest, just having an orienteering team without adding the school district or state athletics in the mix is overwhelming. “Why didn’t I coach soccer” is my mantra when I am looking for kids in the pouring rain near dark:).

The juice is not worth the squeeze in the current conditions. I think most would ultimately come to the same conclusion.
Dec 31, 2021 8:55 AM # 
soonerjcb: (Does that name suggest you are from Oklahoma? ) Yes, it is not easy and sometimes we come up against a large wall. It is gut-wrenching to get turned down, I know.
However your experience may not be the next person's experience.
I'm not a religious guy but in my youth I attended Sunday School and listened to a lot of sermons. One of the lessons that stuck with me most was the parable about the farmer who goes out throwing seeds on the ground. Some find good soil. Some don't. The ones that hit the good soil grow strong and healthy. But the others wither and die. Because some of our efforts fall short of fruition does that mean we should never try? That farmer would have had no crops if he let the seeds that did not take root affect his 'business decisions'. No, perhaps we learn from your lessons and try somewhere else.
Dec 31, 2021 9:09 AM # 
Another lesson I learned in life: One of my former students is a leading personality in the Canadian beer brewing business. He took a dormant family business, dormant for 50 years, resurrected it and became a multi-millionaire in the process.
One year he came back to his old high school to talk to the business classes about his lessons learned and no it was not an easy process to get a business going. I was one of the few old fossils still around who had actually taught him so I got the honour of thanking him for the presentation.
Just like the spreading seeds parable, I thought his lessons had some pertinence to our situation in orienteering.
I'll share a few: Lesson#1 If you do not ask the answer will be no.
Lesson #2 Make it as easy as possible for the person to say yes.
Lesson #3 When asking for something be offering something at the same time. Each side should have something they win.
Dec 31, 2021 4:25 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Soonerjcb lives in Washington, and believe me, when he says he tried hard, he's tried hard. He founded the "unofficial" Tahoma School District teams that you'll get familiar with at Junior Nationals. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone else who has worked harder with school teams over the last 5-6 years.

The WIOL regular season is only 4/7 over, and his teams and individual athletes have already built commanding leads (or in some cases already clinched championships) for High School Varsity Boys, HS Varsity Boys Team, HS Varsity Girls, HS Varsity Girls Team, HS JV Boys, HS JV Boys Team, HS JV Girls, HS JV Girls Team, MS Boys, Middle School Boys, and MS Team.
Dec 31, 2021 4:34 PM # 
Part of the Tahoma crew from Tahoe this summer
Dec 31, 2021 5:26 PM # 
@gordhun. Yes, the “sooner” means I am from Ok:).

I certainly support (and would support) anyone who wanted to give it a go. I just think I am not capable of it, but acknowledge I am a limited person:). But I am getting g a bit worn down too. Fresh energy and “seeding the ground” as you mentioned probably couldn’t hurt. I pretty much do this because of the kids I’ve been lucky enough to be around. It’s been a great way to spend the last 8 years or so. So hopefully I don’t come off as pessimistic.
Dec 31, 2021 5:37 PM # 
Efforts to make orienteering a sanctioned school sport should come from inside of the school system. They are the people who will be running that sanctioned sport if they succeed. In places where orienteering already has a significant school-based presence, this might be the next eventual step. But I doubt we are anywhere near the level of youth participation necessary to convince any state to sanction it. I can't imagine it working well in the other direction - i.e. convincing a state to sanction the sport in the hope that will create orienteering that doesn't already exist.
Jan 2, 2022 3:31 PM # 
Interesting conversation! I have been watching this process occur in MA school districts for cross country skiing. Mori Finlayson-Johnecheck, my 15-year old son, who also orienteers will be skiing his first cross country ski race in the MIAA league this week (sports body Ethan/Barb are referring to). I have worked with a group of parents, engaged with 'club directors' and athletic director at the school to best figure out how to make this happen. I also asked around to the 8 or so other local schools to find out how they handled this phase of the process (benefits of club vs MIAA sport). Mori belongs to the local club ski team (similar to local orienteering club) but couldn't compete in local MIAA sponsored races unless he went through the school system. He could only compete in regional races open to all skiers (sponsored by USSA). We now have enough athletes in Arlington, MA (high school) skiing that we could legitimately create a club. We have opted to not be MIAA for this year for a lot of reasons. Barb/Ethan, happy to discuss more. There are definitely drawbacks for some athletes if a team becomes a MIAA team.

My personal perspective is that at this point in time in MA it makes sense to continue building leagues through our existing club systems and encourage school clubs or teams to join these leagues. That is my 2 cents anyway!
Jan 2, 2022 7:49 PM # 
When my kids were in HS, they were on the school XC ski team, the only one in a public school system in CT at the time. They competed in a league in western MA with all competitions in MA or VT, depending on snow conditions. CT conditions were too unreliable to try to schedule anything. I am not aware of the organizational aspects of this nor how it got started. It was there and my kids were into skiing, still are 30 years later. Very popular at the time, a school bus was easily filled to go off for the meets. I don’t know if it is still in existence. Looking out the window at the green grass, training in these parts would be difficult.
Jan 6, 2022 11:14 PM # 
It is a lot of fun when there is snow:-) Interesting to hear about a CT team going north for competition.
Jan 9, 2022 1:09 AM # 
Okay, I'll qualify this immediately by admitting that I haven't read most of the posts in this thread after Barb and Ethan's. I think there are surely benefits in terms of inspiring orienteering programs in more schools, however, there are a lot of potential downsides. The MIAA (speaking as someone who lives in, teaches in, and has put kids through schools in Massachusetts) doesn't have a reputation for flexibility or open mindedness. This may be a stereotype that is not entirely true, but I'm certain it has some basis in reality. I'm also pretty sure that the track & field coaches were up in arms a couple of years ago with the red tape and lack of understanding of what it takes to put on a quality track meet. I also think about sports like gymnastics, which are a part of the MIAA, but still in very few schools (thus inclusion does not automatically equate with there being lots of programs). It may still be a good idea, but I think Ethan's points are good ones. These should be considered seriously, along with doing some research into the MIAA itself, what sort of rules, governing structure, and personnel make up it has. Costs? And Benefits? Not a decision to be rushed. BUT having said all that, very cool to be asked!!! Kudos to Barb and Navigation Games for increasing the presence and visibility of orienteering in MA schools.
Jan 9, 2022 4:01 PM # 
I will be echoing the inflexibility of school sports and their conferences, where a small sport will be impacted even more so, especially if living at the border of 2 states. We live in one of the 2 counties in WI which are considered as part of the "greater metro area" of the Twin Cities in MN. Club soccer was able to have a mixed travelling league spanning across the state border. That was not the case for the school soccer conference. With skiing, too, the rules of who could participate in which races on which side of the border was different, too. There are differences also in the rules on either side of the border for homeschool students enrolled in schools for access to some non-core courses, athletics and after school enrichment offerings.
Maybe there are some other 2-state or 3-state corners that have a joint school sports rules formula; MN and WI do not.
Jan 15, 2022 7:52 PM # 
Wendy's points are great, too (finally got around to reading more of the posts).

This discussion thread is closed.