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Discussion: Presidential Forum

in: Orienteering; General

Sep 2, 2022 2:37 PM # 
Pondering the future of Oreentering in North America this morning. We have been involved in orienteering at many levels for the past 40 plus years. We have experienced periods of high and low energy in the orienteering community. At the moment it seems that we are in a low energy period with declining "A" meet attendance a few new clubs being created. Exceptions of course exist with the new orienteering opportunities in Montana and the successful World Games Event in Alabama this summer.

We don't have any immediate ideas to change the trajectory of orienteering in NA.

Wondering if we need to turn to our most successful clubs and to ask for their help. Many of the stronger clubs have been around for over 30 years and have many members, offer lots of local events and have healthy budgets.

Perhaps something like a virtual Club President's Forum could garner some ideas and commitment for the future.

OUSA and its dedicated BOD members are working hard to keep our sport going, but maybe they need a little more help from the clubs and the membership.

Rick Worner & Linda Kohn (Rochester Orienteering Club)
Sep 2, 2022 4:54 PM # 
Count me (Suncoast Orienteering) in.
There are two orienteering clubs in Florida - Suncoast and Florida Orienteering. We are among the smallest clubs in terms of membership but unofficially ranked in the top ten of fees paid to O-USA so while we probably make mistakes and have stuff to learn we must be doing something right we could share with others.
Sep 3, 2022 1:47 PM # 
"something right" = alligators!
Sep 5, 2022 2:02 PM # 
SLOC is doing okay, but national meets are not our thing. The club sees them as too much work. We have lots of old maps that we still use. We generally put on one local event a month.

We update one or two maps a year. We have some nice maps if an outside group would like to put on a national event in the Midwest. Rhodes-France Scout Reservation in Pana, IL is our newest map.

What the sport needs is an entity that will put on national events for some or all of the profits.
Sep 5, 2022 3:05 PM # 
It would be great to see SLOC put on a national event again. If GrizO can put on a national event, then surely so can SLOC. We found that it is a great way to give back to the national orienteering community, as well as rally our local orienteers to a common project and cause. Not to mention the revenue!
Sep 5, 2022 3:08 PM # 
And as a competitive orienteer, it is disappointing to see so many clubs not even put on their allotted 'free' sanctioned events year after year. How can we expect to ever develop competitive orienteers if you often need to fly or drive for many hours to get to a quality event??
Sep 5, 2022 6:27 PM # 
The idea of roving, retired (perhaps) orienteers putting on events in areas away from their home came up a few years ago (JJ suggested it, IIRC). I thought it was a really good idea. And, hey, if we can put on World Games events with a small local crew and several orienteers from many states away, I think it can be done elsewhere.
I've course set in North Carolina, Harriman SP, and Kansas while living in Maryland, obviously with some locals helping vet and control set.
Sep 5, 2022 7:30 PM # 
Just to be clear - the World Games was a much larger effort than a fee-waiver NRE day and the 'small local crew' numbered over 40 individuals. Plus another 35 or so of the 'non-local' variety volunteering in various capacities.

But I don't think it would take too many people experienced in hosting NRE's (and willing to 'rove') to help some of our smaller clubs put on NRE's in locations that don't see regular national level events.
Sep 6, 2022 1:05 AM # 
So is this exercise to be hashed out here or are we going with Rick/ Linda's idea of a 'President's Forum'?
I'd love to see a Forum where participants can earn their way in with the promise of at least one 'bring and brag' item.
Q&A's encouraged but NO ONE be allowed to use the phrase 'that won't work in our area'
Brag items to be collected and circulated to all O-USA clubs.
Sep 6, 2022 2:22 AM # 
Gord or anyone else can organize anything they like that people buy into but I feel safe predicting that if a forum of any kind gets organized as an official OUSA thing, no club is going to be excluded for feeling shy about bragging.

Also, I think the phrase "that might work here but we don't have enough willing volunteers to do it in addition to everything our volunteers already do" would be more of a problem.

Anyway, no doubt there is potential for more productive exchange of ideas between OUSA clubs than currently occurs, though I feel a degree of skepticism that the clubs that, through whatever combination of fortunate circumstances and their own awesomeness, currently enjoy rude health, would necessarily have the most to offer to clubs in more precarious positions. The latter probably have more to learn in at least some respects, from each other than from larger clubs disposing of deep reservoirs of volunteer labor, strong balance sheets, many maps, etc. . Also, happy families may be all alike but I can think offhand of some fairly major differences between the practices of apparently pretty successful by US standards orienteering clubs, e g. NEOC's membership includes entry to all local events system vs the more typical membership yielding discounted entry fees at each event one attends .

I would, frankly, like to see more indication that if OUSA organized a forum some critical mass of clubs would participate than I'm seeing here to date before undertaking to attempt to make something happen in this vein. But Clubnet is probably a more appropriate place to ask for that kind of feedback than here.
Sep 6, 2022 1:44 PM # 
Jon hit one nail on the head...many clubs/club leaders do not partake of Attackpoint. ClubNet seems like it would the proper forum, but again, you need to get all club leaders taking part in that.
Sep 7, 2022 12:38 AM # 
AP thread forwarded to Clubnet. Lets get growing!
Sep 7, 2022 1:06 AM # 
It is great to hear that many individual clubs are doing well in their local areas. It takes a lot of commitment and effort to keep a local club going, but at some point I seems like we need our clubs to pull together with OUSA to expand the sport. Holding an NRE level meet is way of showing another level of support for the sport. I think that almost any club with a desire to try to hold an NRE event would get all the support it needed from OUSA and the orienteering community.
As Boris mentioned, holding a successful NRE event will give a big boost to the energy level of your club and will be helping publicize and expand the sport. When orienteers from other parts of the country and even the world show up at your event it provides a level of excitement that far exceeds a local event.
Sep 10, 2022 6:38 PM # 
holding a successful NRE event will give a big boost to the energy level of your club

This can be true, but it can also backfire. And I think you can get the benefit of accomplishing something big together without it being an actual NRE. The focus doesn't always have to be competition and ranking points.

A few years ago I convinced both AZ clubs to each use one of our free NRE days during Southwest Spring Week. The result was a lot more stress on the course setters, and we got a few nasty comments that I don't think we would have gotten had people not had certain expectations from the "NRE" label (e.g., "OUSA standards for ranking events have really gone down"). There was no desire to do that again, and we see no need–it's more fun to host a week of more laidback events, and we get plenty of people traveling out here who enjoy it, without any NREs. There seems to be zero benefit in doing another NRE as part of SWSW.

I think we're still providing a service to the sport, nationally, and we enjoy doing it. That's not to say we won't some day host an NRE or championship event, but it's not an immediate priority. In fact, I wish more clubs would just host fun orienteering, more often. It's easier to do, and it would provide more opportunities for people to orienteer. Something fun every weekend is better than something big and serious every month or two.
Sep 11, 2022 11:50 AM # 
+1 Cristina. Find what works for your club. Brand it, make it special in some way and have fun with it!
Sep 14, 2022 11:21 AM # 
How about a 5-year effort to focus on school districts and families, perhaps in targeted communities in order to saturate with easy-to-get-to events in local parks?

In parallel, work with the local park people to create maps and semi- or permanent courses, and events.

How about targeting PE teachers to get them to come out to local club events, maybe add on a gathering or workshop to share materials for how they can teach orienteering in their schools (without having to get out to the woods)?
Sep 15, 2022 1:46 AM # 
Barb has good ideas and a great program. A big question is how do you get clubs and individuals to commit to these types of programs? Many clubs including Rochester were involved in the "O In The Schools" program many years ago. This included classroom activities and exercises on school maps. Teacher workshops were part of the program and were very well attended.

Not sure if clubs are still doing these types of things. Wonder how clubs can be incentivized to offer these programs?
Sep 18, 2022 3:36 AM # 
I haven't lost hope for this thread, and would like to see it continue.

My initial comment is that if there is hope for increased energy or growth, I think it will take big ideas like Barb's to make it happen.

I don't have a quick answer to RWorner's big question "who will do the work?", and I'm not raising my hand very high for this either.
However, I am convinced that anything short of big ideas, will produce more of the same, which is ... well you fill in the blank.

I think Barb makes very important points related to targetting.
As to who or what gets targetted, that could be a bigger discussion. but I will yield to whoever is willing to do the work.

My other comment is that I think we need to pay more attention to our medium and not just our message. (Marshall McLuhan said it even stronger.)
Web sites are important as was addressed recently on another AP thread, but they are places for "the message" or secondary linking, not a means for making initial, primary contacts.

Where does the rest of the world promote itself for business, politics, or whatever?
I think the answer is many forms of social media where we have zero presence that I am aware of, much less any aggressive programs.

So who will do the work? Again admittedly not me, being one of the most incompetent in this area, but I'm rather sure there are many orienteers, mostly much younger, who know this terrain a whole lot better.
Sep 18, 2022 1:08 PM # 
I thought this discussion was to be moved over to the club presidents' forum where we could have a good show and tell of great working ideas. Well let me tell you that no one is showing. So thank you Eric for keeping this going.
I think there is a kernal of truth in that old 'medium is the message stuff'. For instance orienteering clubs communicate through websites and Facebook pages. I have a great-niece who tells me with authority that no one under 40 (or was it 45) goes on Facebook. Is it a coincidence that our numbers in that demographic seem to be in freefall? At least the numbers showing up at national ranking events are falling.
But we cannot ignore that, despite MacLuhan, THE MESSAGE IS THE MESSAGE and our message needs refinememt.
For decades we have urged people to come orienteering to enjoy the outdoors and learn to use a map and compass.
Now we find the parks people sometimes pushing our activity out of the outdoors and people relying on their phone for their navigation needs. That old message is not selling.
All is not lost. I find orienteering has promising appeal in at least two areas. Surely there are more.
1) Parents want their kids to get exercise, get outside away from their computers/ phones, and get to think for themselves. Orienteering better than any other activity meets those three wants in one package. It's no surprise that clubs who organize them find some of their best success with the youth programs.
2) Organizations, from schools to the military to corporations want to develop leaders and employees who can think, solve problems and make decisions. How do you solve problems and make deisions? Collect information, concentrate on the important information, decide on an alternative, follow through on that decision and make adjustments when necessary and often do it under the pressure of time. Well, look at wht I just described: that's orienteering route choice in a nutshell. What better way to hone one's decision-making skills than go orienteering?
Want to sell an orienteering program for the young? Market the three 'gets' , throw in fun and friendship and you have a winner.
Want to sell orienteering to the military like JROTC and ROTC leaders. Market the decision making. (When I described orienteering to one National Guard sergeant he quipped back, "that's what we neeed: officers who can make decisions."
Orienteering can't be all things to all people all the time but we can pick our target audiences and create appeal for them. Yes the message can be the message.
Sep 19, 2022 4:51 AM # 
posted by jtorrance on OUSA-ClubNet...


Discussion has proceeded at a moderate but definitely not brisk by historical standards pace on Attackpoint.

A text-based discussion forum of some sort for the specific purpose of exchanging ideas between clubs could certainly be set up, whether by OUSA or independently of OUSA. That's assuming we don't think Clubnet is fit for that purpose.

Alternatively, OUSA could host regular discussions - monthly? every other month? - via Google Meet. Or someone could do something along those lines independently.

However, any such effort will come to nothing much unless more than a handful of people actually participate in it.

My question to Clubnet as a board member is therefore, if OUSA were to organize such a forum, would at least one representative of your club be a regular active participant?

Or alternatively, if OUSA were to schedule an online meeting some evening this fall to spend a couple of hours discussing the problems orienteering clubs face and solutions for same and brainstorming topics it might be useful to go deeper into in hypothetical future online meetings, would someone from your club leadership take part?

Answer here for all to see or privately to me.

I'm not sure how many positive responses it will take to make me think it's worth trying but wherever that threshold is - 20% of clubs? 25%? a third of clubs? at some point the numbers could get unwieldy though I understand online meetings these days can have functionality to let groups break up into smaller discussion groups if necessary- every positive response will bring us one closer to meeting it.


Jon Torrance
Sep 19, 2022 12:23 PM # 

Thanks for pursuing this idea. ROC will attend and I will be happy to be the representative. As you point out the response has been tepid and mixed to this point. The clubs remain the engine for growth and OUSA exists to help and support them. The top down approach with an ED while it helped organize and brand the sport did not seem to enlist the clubs enough to produce significant growth.

OUSA needs to find ways to help and encourage clubs to grow their membership and to attract families and younger members. Recognition and incentives might help. Which clubs are the largest and offer the most events?. Which clubs have the most junior and family members.? Which clubs have the most ranked or elite members? Which clubs have hosted the most NREs? Which clubs have the most interesting club shirts? Which clubs have the most equipment and financial resources and would be willing to share with other new and existing clubs? Which clubs have veteran course setters, mappers and meet directors who would be willing to help and advise other clubs? Which clubs have coaching resources? Which clubs have a junior program? Which clubs have reached out to area high schools and colleges? Which clubs offer a form of string o or something similar for young children? Which clubs offer some sort of cooperative daycare for families? These are just a few of many questions that could be discussed.

My greatest fear is that we may be in a grow or die period for our sport. When we are only able to attract 250 people to our national championships, what does that say about us and why would a club bother to offer these events for such few participants?
Sep 19, 2022 3:39 PM # 
From my perspective we are doing fine. My club puts on an event every month for everyone to enjoy. The only thing we look to the national organization is insurance.

Why would I want to go to travel to a national event when I can do all the orienteering I want in my area.
Sep 19, 2022 5:53 PM # 
One thing it says about our national championships is that it was a serious mistake to split it into three national championships/events (elite or whatever it's being called, masters, and juniors.)
Sep 19, 2022 6:24 PM # 
The good thing about changes like those, which are akin to rearranging the furniture, they are often reversed or supplanted, while the house continues to look more dated.
Sep 19, 2022 7:56 PM # 
Remember that the real reason for splitting the elite champs from the masters champs was to resolve the disagreement about whether the championship format should be our traditional two-day, versus the sprint-middle-long that grew out of the IOF's misguided reworking of the sport to try to get into the Olympics. But that was offset by the elimination of the Long-O and Relay. And the Junior Champs was just an expansion of the Intercollegiates, which we had all along.
Sep 20, 2022 12:24 AM # 
… or OUSA’s misguided decision to hold onto a champs format that was never an IOF format in the first place. ;-)
Sep 20, 2022 2:57 AM # 
In my previous life, I was mainly a consumer, rather than a contributor, to orienteering. On the plus side, a few years here and a few years there gave us a detailed look at a number of US O-Clubs: Cascade OC, CSU, USMA OC, COC (again), Quantico OC, NEOC.

One observation: you can't tell too much about a club's day-in/day-out from its NREs (aka A-Meets). They are one-offs, except for maybe OCIN, which is an absolute machine in pulling off yearly Flying Pigs, often with Championships attached.

I will say that each club that we got an inside look at had its own particular strengths. And, blindness to simple things that someone else was doing that made life easier on volunteers, made the orienteering better, attracted more participants, etc.

There is probably something to the essence of this thread--sharing good ideas in a way that might pique interest enough to motivate an overworked volunteer to do something differently. But, it's a tall order to experiment rather than fall back on routine or what worked in the past. Identifying and packaging those good ideas is no small feat either. My hat's off to those trying.

Second observation: Most common definitions of orienteering involve a variation on: " unfamiliar terrain." At many local events, I've found that my first few times on a map were really hard to compare with someone's 15th or 25th time on that map. On occasion, I'd hear: "Oh, everyone knows:
-you don't go through that area
-that way's always faster, etc.
I came to the conclusion that in many cases, the club regulars were not really navigating with the map in their hand...they were navigating from mental maps.

My points?
-Orienteering is still fun to me, which is why I'm still at it.
-Invest in high quality orienteering maps. Hint: Saying it has "aged well" is probably a sign that a comprehensive update is in order...want a house to be worthless--let it "age well," untouched for 2 or 3 decades.
-And get out of the small pond sometimes--travel to and orienteer in some unfamiliar terrain (NRE or a local event combined with some business or leisure travel). Really look at how they do things & steal a good idea to bring home. That might be as useful as the best packaged idea...

In that vein, I bet Clint M, who has been to effectively every NRE in the last 2(?) years, could quickly nominate a short-list of ideas worth sharing he has seen.
Sep 20, 2022 5:04 PM # 
After 40+ years of participation in orienteering at the local and national level I guess I just worry that the base of the pyramid is shrinking when attendance at our major championships is so low and so heavily populated by people over 50 years old.

Some of that may be attributed to the configurations of the events, but it seems unlikely that this is the primary cause.

I understand that people not longer need to travel a great distances to run at a well organized event on a quality map. This is a great thing. It is true in my own club where we offer 20+ events a year and few people travel outside our area to attend sanctioned events.

Somehow though ,isn't there some obligation on the part of my club to grow the sport outside our immediate area?

Many successful sports like soccer, swimming, gymnastics depend on their clubs to grow the sport and expand the base of the pyramid and to develop higher level orienteers. Why can't we do that?

Clubs depend on OUSA to provide insurance for their events and the clubs that offer national events get the benefit of sanctioning committee review. There are some other perks like mapping grants, course design criteria, a youth program, permanent course design information and a coaching program available on the OUSA website.

Maybe I just worry too much and have too much time to think about it.

I accept that orienteering can be just a great outdoor activity, but can't it also be a great sport?
Sep 21, 2022 8:23 PM # 
I too have been orienteering for 40+ years and usually don’t get involved in these discussions. This one has my interest however. It seems that the topic has moved from getting club ideas for improving attendance to the importance of NRE’s. And if we judge the state of the sport by the attendance at NRE’s (which may be a mistake), then perhaps the conversation should be about improving attendance at NRE’s. I hate to say “back in the day” but years ago I went to “A” meets for one of the following reasons:
-High quality maps
-High quality courses which had been reviewed by a seasoned orienteer
-A chance to compete against high level competition
-The opportunity to meet others with the same interest
-National ranking points and the chance to earn gold/silver/bronze ranking in my class

Most of these no longer apply. Compare the same reasons today:

-Local meets are all held on high quality maps, many previously used at NRE’s
-Most clubs seem to have their courses reviewed by others, some even vetted.
-I can get all the competition I need by attending local events
-I meet many other people with the same interest at local meets (I’m not including my home club). At times the local meets even exceed the NRE’s in opportunity to share orienteering or travel stories with each other.
-Ranking points, while still computed, seem to have fallen by the wayside. There was a time when I would strive to achieve the 70% necessary to reach the bronze level. I would even attend a national event in an effort to improve my ranking and achieve a goal. What was once heralded is now hardly even mentioned. We don’t even designate gold/silver/bronze in the rankings anymore.

So what then are the reasons for attending (or not attending) an NRE? For each of us it is different. If we want to know how to improve attendance at NRE’s then this is critical information. My reasons have certainly changed over the years. I am trying to visit all 400+ National Park Service sites and when I can combine a visit with an orienteering event then I’m there. This includes both NRE’s and local events. (Over the past few years in my travels I’ve attended local events held by QOC, NEOC, OCIN, MVOC, NEOOC, AOC, VOC, ALTOS, WPOC, INDY, OCIN, TUS/PHX, COK and SMOC – all of which I consider quality events) So obviously my reason for attending NRE’s is different than most. If it’s an NRE, great but if it’s a local meet, that’s fine as well.

One thing that will make me try to attend an NRE is location. If it’s a state that I have not orienteered an NRE, I’ll try to make it. To that end, perhaps OUSA needs to put effort in helping new clubs such as Nashville or New Mexico, among others, to host an NRE. Not only would it attract others like myself, but would be a publicity boost for new clubs. I’ll also try to attend any event at an NPS site. I doubt many others have this criteria on their list. Next, I look for interesting locations. West Point campus and Dartmouth campus sprints come to mind of areas that drew me to the NRE. Finally, previous attendance and experience. GA Navigator Cup and OCIN Flying Pig are yearly events for me because of my enjoyment at them previously.

The point is, find out why people attend NRE’s and try to use that to encourage greater attendance. That should be our starting point. Why do you attend an NRE?

This discussion thread is closed.