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Discussion: USOF Long-Range Plan and the High-Performance Program

in: Orienteering; Training & Technique

Apr 14, 2006 9:06 PM # 
USOF is now (almost in secret) considering a Long-Range Planning proposal. It seems to be mostly prompted by the fact that USOF is nearing ~$.5M in the bank, and it isn't being very well spent. Judging (personally) by the postings I see on the BoardNet, there is significantly more goodwill among Board members towards the Teams now than in the past; the 1997 Long-Range Plan spoke in veiled tones possibly about eliminating the Teams altogether.

I think it is imperative that the LRP include a High-Performance Program. I wrote something on it to the Board. I don't have any vision particulars, just a general idea. I see the HPP as a tree. The horizontal plane is geographical and the vertical axis is increasing performance. On the roots level, there is recruiting, both for juniors and young(-ish) adults. On the trunk level there is training, also regional but with a strong centralized component. The various Teams are the branches of the tree. The fruit of the tree is WOC medals! Note how this is different from the current structure, in which the various (Sr., Jr., Ski-O) Teams are disjoint and share no apparent common base other than the general USOF membership.

But, I may be wrong about whether the HPP should be a current/near-term (10-yr) USOF priority. There is one key realistic understanding among the Board members that has been missing in the past, that it is impossible to fund/direct every desirable program well. So, for example, money is floundering in O in Schools, and there is still little O in schools (non-JROTC). If there is no realistic hope that the HPP will be able to take off and bear fruit within the limits of USOF's talent pool, org. wisdom, and finances, it should not be started only to be destined to become an expensive failure.
Apr 14, 2006 10:42 PM # 
Long overdue! Having real High-Performance Program in the USA would be such advance forward. Establishing geographical training centers would be, probably first priority right now. Northeast, Southwest (Texas), Nortwest, and Central (Ohio) come to my mind as prime candidates. Texas has quite successful junior program for a number of years. I hope that big clubs such as BAOC and DVOA will take a lead in forming real training groups aiming primary at juniors. They already have enough resources and muscle to afford it.

Here in Northwest we have a number of prospective juniors. I will try to establish regular training camps to bring them together. I think that at least three training camps in spring, summer, and fall would serve for the beginning. If we combine these regional training camps with Team training camps we may successfully establish juinor-senior generations link.

I don't know who reads these threads from Nortwest but if you are interested to help with the regional junior program - lets start working together. I plan to organize a traning camp 4th of July weekend (4 days) that would be open to everyone. Any help and suggestions are welcome!

Financial and moral backing of the program by USOF is vital. You can not be successful solely based only on patchy volunteers' work.

Most importantly these efforts should be part of system/program with certain goals, schedules, support, and a network of willing coaches.
Apr 15, 2006 4:00 AM # 
HPP sounds a bit like the bad word "Elite". The Tree analogy might go over better with USOF. E.g. the Competitive Growth Tree, or even Competition Growth Tree or something. I wouldn't change the things you plan to do via the program - just the name. "Growth" is good, and Competition is (just barely, still) good. "High-performance" though sounds like it's possibly excluding someone, which probably won't fly.

BTW, I don't mind the name HPP nor the word Elite - I'd just like this program to succeed and I'd hate the name/first-impression thing to kill it within USOF.
Apr 15, 2006 4:20 AM # 
How about the Tree of Excellence? Sorry I don't particularly like "growth". It is so vague and USOF has been demanding it for so long, nobody is sure whether anything is still growing, or whether it is still desirable to grow something.
Apr 15, 2006 11:37 AM # 
Financial and moral backing of the program by USOF is vital. You can not be successful solely based only on patchy volunteers' work.

Sergey -- if you put together a more concrete plan, or template other regions could use, including budgets, etc., (i.e., how much will travel, room and board, coach stipends etc. be subsidized), my guess is that the USOF board would find that valuable.

Likewise for Vlad's idea or any others.

While we probably are at the abstract stage, I know I deal much better in the concrete on this sort of stuff -- it would be an easier sell if it were easier to quantify in terms of costs and goals (and it particular sustainable costs and goals -- I'm not particularily interested in a program that runs for a year).

Apr 15, 2006 6:32 PM # 
Well, in practical terms, I would come up with (1) an org. structure and (2) a proposal for 2 half-time positions: a half-time Recruitment Director (Stage 1: Recruitment) and a half-time Coaching Coordinator (Stage 2: Training). The latter would NOT be similar, or equivalent to, the current Team Coach, Junior Coach, or even less the WOC Team Coach. Again, the Teams are as proposed under Stage 3: Competition. The Teams are well established, and I see no need to mess with their workings.

The Coaching Coordinator's job would be to coordinate training programs for athletes in the HPP (sorry: Tree).
Apr 16, 2006 7:57 PM # 
OK, so to me it seems that just about everyone is asleep. This item is really important; wake up. What is going on, as I understand it (I may well be wrong):

USOF Board is trying to come up with a Long-Range Plan (through 2010; to me it is more like a medium-range plan). They will talk about it at a meeting at the Trials in May. The discussion is as of now not public, and rushed. The discussion goes almost along the lines of "Unless you have a specific proposal, detailed down to funding levels and training frequency, we won't put it on the agenda and we will vote on the proposals accumulated as of now". As of now, the accumulated proposals/directions seem vague, redundant, and clustered around more support for juniors, without specifying exactly what kind of goals this support would aim to pursue. I.e. "more junior training camps." Well, directed at what? Getting more kids from Yellow onto Orange? More advanced orienteers? Reaching top 10 at JWOC? Building a strong base for adult competition? Reaching top 10 at WOC at some later date? Rearing more event volunteers? Those are all distinct goals, requiring quite different approaches; USOF does not seem capable of pursuing all at the same time within the available resources, and will spread thin trying to get a fraction of this done.

Corollary? Unless we act right now, competitive orienteering "older than" the junior level will be declared a USOF non-priority, and given the shaft until at least 2010. Do you want that? The Plan proposal will go to the membership for duscussion, but I see little chance that things would change dramatically at that stage.

What this all means is that between now and the Board meeting in St. Louis, someone has to come up with a detailed competition-focused proposal that would include the disclaimed preference for junior-level support, but be something that is actually accomplishable within USOF, and not nonsensical in its exclusion of "adult" competition. I guess that this someone has to be me, since I have spoken, but I need your input!! I will write up something preliminary this week along the above lines. But, my opinions alone may be misguided, incompetent, ill-informed, pushing personal interests, or plain insane. Speak up!

In essence, I think the following is appropriate and achievable:
  • A program consisting of 4 levels: (1) Recruitment, (2) Regional Coaching, (3) High-Performance Coaching, and (4) International Competition.

  • The Competition level is the existing Teams and should only be minimally modified.

  • There is no distinction between Jr. or Sr. levels, all are in a single program working with the same staff.

  • Each of the first three levels has a paid (1/4 time?) coordinator, plus a single unpaid overall coordinator.

  • On the Recruitment and Regional Coaching levels, the Coordinators work with local clubs. Recruitment Coordinator finds regional representatives to find potential talented orienteers and bring them into contact with local O-clubs, then herself, or through those regional representatives, follows up on those kids/young adults to make sure they remain interested in progressing. On the Regional Coaching level, the Coordinator is in charge of orgainizing and maintaining local club-based training programs, again herself or through regional representatives.

  • After an athete has been discovered by Recruitment and shows talent and interest in orienteering, she is admitted into the HPP on the Development level. Development level for the athlete = Regional coaching level of the program. Those athletes communicate with the Regional Coaching Coordinator and volunteeer regional coaching staff, and are under their supervision. Their goal is to make it to the next, High-Performance level through training and advancement.

  • The HP level has three sublevels, A, B, and C. These are roughly eq. to the current A, B, and C Team levels, except the former address training, not competition. On this level the coaching is centralized. The athletes and the Program have certain responsibilities to each other. E.g. (I'm in fantasy-land now)
    • A level: Only a small number of athletes; start with 1–2 M, 1–2 F. Must attend 2–3 training camps yearly, all expenses paid. Have full support for WOC and all World Cup events and travel.

    • B level: Can attend the training camps on full support. Partial support for world competition (same level as the current US Team, so no add'l funding).

    • C level: Have access to HP coaching and some support.

Note how you don't want to do on a national level what the clubs themselves can/should do. You only want to pick up things that the clubs cannot or normally don't want to do. Also, I don't want to mess with established structures like the Teams. Thus Teams remain, within the proposal, working pretty much as they have, with the same sources and levels of funding (in the case of the Sr. Team, $15–20k gained mostly through fundraising).

I think the funding for the HPP/Tree itself can start around $50k/year and be structured so as to get levels 1 and 2 off the ground; they need the most help as USOF hasn't done anything like that before. As the program develops, hopefully (dreaming) there is sponsor money to fund Levels 3 and 4. So, we are not going to USOF asking for elite training money right away. But, it would be stupid to just have Levels 1 and 2 feeding into nowhere. And, we should finally be able to go to a sponsor and say "Help us fund our future medal winners", instead of presenting the organization as an educational/recreational one.

I have high hopes for your input, everyone.
Apr 16, 2006 8:19 PM # 
Vladimir and others who are crafting this proposal: Please don't forget about the World University Orienteering Championships every two years. Although part of the FISU structure rather than IOF's, the level of competition is very high and it can provide an additional international competition for top orienteers in the 18-28 year age bracket, provided they are in college or grad school.

Current information for the 2006 event is at Bulletin #2 will be out in May.

Unfortunately it is being held late in the summer this year, so it will be difficult for orienteers who are also going to JWOC (like John F) to make a second trip to Europe.

However, Ross Smith, Boris, and several other good orienteers are eligible to compete, so I'm hopeful we can put together a strong team.
Apr 16, 2006 8:26 PM # 
WUOC is just as much a part of the focus in my proposal as are WOCs and JWOCs; I'll make sure to specifically write it in, thanks Liz. But, with a proposal aimed exclusively at juniors, I don't see how you would maintain interest in WUOC beyond age 20. And, it is no secret that the current junior program seems mostly focused on school-age kids, down to the proposal of basing JWOC selection on the Interscholastics even though the kids at the Scholastics are 2–3 years short of proper JWOC competitive age.

I'd say if there is a HPP squad member who is not good yet for the A level in relation to the demands of WOC, and not a junior anymore, but has a good shot at the WUOC, this person should be supported on the A level with specific focus on the WUOC. This is all, of course, pure speculation.
Apr 17, 2006 7:00 AM # 
I think Vladimir's proposed program would get measurable results. What I'm not sure about is the cost-effectiveness of the proposed paid positions. How would these people do their jobs on a national level. Clearly, most of their work would have to be via phone and e-mail contact with athletes, potential athletes, and volunteer organizers and coaches at the local/regional levels. Their main job would be to get other people to do things by calling and e-mailing these other people. Two (related) questions:
1. Would it work?
2. Are coordinators who ask other people to do stuff via phone and e-mail people the best personnel positions for USOF to fund (versus look for volunteers to fill)?

My take:
1. Would it work? I somewhat doubt that the Recruitment and Regional Coaching coordinators would be able to have more than a spotty impact. Recruitment, in particular, is hard to do on anything but a local level.
2. Worth funding, over other possible funded positions? It's hard to say, but I would guess not. Compare to the following options:

A. Pay someone to work in a single large metropolitan area to promote orienteering among kids. The focus would be on first exposing thousands of kids to orienteering (perhaps through elementary or middle school programs), then giving the kids (and parents) an opportunity to follow up on their enthusiasm in a well-developed competitive forum (could be a school league or simply a full schedule of events put on by the area club), where provisions would be made to cater to the care and feeding of the new recruits, so that they would 1. develop social connections with their orienteering peers, and 2. be offered adequate instruction/coaching opportunities to improve. Such a program would surely get results, and it would stand a good chance of inspiring copycats, especially if they key materials and actions could be packaged and some encouragement/consulting provided to other regions' implementors by the pioneering staff person.

B. Pay someone to sell sponsorships for USOF. This is low-hanging fruit, since USOF (events, teams, etc.) is way under-sponsored. I bet there are tens of thousands of dollars worth of sponsorships out there, if USOF would make a concerted effort to go after it. On the other hand, many orienteers, who themselves make very good money, would object to the commercialization of the orienteering environment that would take place in order to raise sponsorship money for the events and teams that currently must run on a shoestring budget.

C. Pay someone to go around a region training and equipping interested teachers and youth program leaders to conduct orienteering with their kids. This effort would not only reach tens of thousands of kids, but it would start a word-of-mouth wave about how great orienteering is among people who have a big impact on what activities kids do.

To back up a step, I think funding Vladimir's proposed coordinator positions is a lot better than funding no coordinator positions. But the theme of my examples above is that it would probably be more effective to fund someone to do work directly, rather than to try to convince already busy local volunteers all over the country to do more work. Besides, there are already volunteers within USOF who are in a position to implement the initiatives in the "tree".

Also, 1/4 time payment doesn't get you much more work than most club and USOF leaders put in. If we're going to pay someone, let's pay someone to put in a lot of time on something.
Apr 17, 2006 1:26 PM # 
Personally, I'd like to see people get paid to organize week-long orienteering training camps. That is entirely achievable.
Apr 17, 2006 3:27 PM # 
Thanks Eric—at least there is some input. I understand well what you are proposing and would agree with a lot of things, in particular the preference of local direct impact over the spread-out and indirect national one in terms of recruiting efficiency. Your ideas actually complement mine, as they are more in the educational realm than performance. I think mine are closer to implementation, though. Do you want to formulate an alternative proposal? Again, it seems that one has to be in place by May lest we are left with something extremely vague.

To Liz: If you organize it, will they come? Sometimes they do and sometimes, they don't. Not many, at least. A weekend camp, yes. A week.... many still think "I better take off a day per week to go to 5 A meets". In my proposal, there are carrots and sticks.

Too bad this has to be so rushed.
Apr 17, 2006 3:45 PM # 
Somebody has to play devil's advocate.

These days, I think of myself as a recreational orienteer ,and so I've started to see the other side of these proposals. I have to say, you have an uphill task persuading me, or 90% of USOF's membership that this much funding for a HPP is worth it. Heck, you haven't even persuaded me that this is a good use of USOF's money at all, and isn't just a way of funding a few expensive holidays in Sweden and other places. You need to come up with some better-expressed arguments about how this will benefit the average orienteer. Those arguments may exist (more events and better events put on by more motivated team members, and so on), but you need to make them. Again. And make them strongly enough that it is apparent why this is a better choice than (say) paying to make a few more high quality maps in interesting terrains, something which I think a lot of people in USOF would benefit more from than a putative HPP.

Sorry to be negative, but I confess I just don't get the focus on supporting high performance among a group of people who say by revealed preference that all but one or two of them don't care about it. You know who you aren't. I'd feel better about supporting a HPP if, say, Vlad's Alabama training camp had actually had some takers, for example. Arguments that other countries, where government funding of sport as a matter of national identity is more common, can justify wasting (other people's) money on this are irrelevant, so the argument that 'we need to spend our (USOF's) own money on a HPP because other countries have/had one' just doesn't cut it.
Apr 17, 2006 4:27 PM # 
In considering all of this, take a look at a recent post on The WaterStop about juniors in Moscow: It's amazing to think about having that many trainers and coaches available to juniors in one city.
Apr 17, 2006 4:52 PM # 
I very much salute Vlad's evidently already well considered, and likely to be even more polished proposal. This is the sort of enthusiasm and vision that is in short supply. And thus, I wish this poject the best of luck.

But, since feet had the audacity to issue constructive criticism, I'll just weigh in with my own inclinations (which are inchoate now, and will likely continue to be.)

The HPP program is great and I'd like to see it achieve great things. But, it doesn't necessarily (it would take some explaining to show that it does, as feet noted) improve the overall climate of orienteering in this country. And, while my own dreams for the sport in the US is to field world-class competitive teams (that is my #1 outcome--and probably the goal of the HPP program) I think it might realitically come about in a different manner.

Like feet noted, the US doesn't have the traditional or inclination to do state-sponsored sport development things. So, expecting we can replicate the French result is just not going to happen. Sure, get us a couple MM $ and we might, but I don't know where that is going to come from. Anyway, America is a market-driven place. If we want money, we need participants.

I think that short-term solutions that might generate short-term results will at best breed misplaced confidence. Without greater numbers, we will never, given the features of the American media/consumer/sport landscape, be able to produce a sustainably high level of international performance vis-a-vis the European countries.

Unfortunately, I have no bright ideas how to achieve this. The flip suggestion is promotion of some sort, but that isn't my forte. My impression, however, is that USOF is far from being media-savvy or effective or interested in marketing. Is American orienteering marketable? I'm not sure, but I think it could be.
Apr 17, 2006 5:18 PM # 
Vlad and Eric, thank you for your thoughtful input!

Here are some of my thoughts on the regional training centers as being part of the overall national program:
1. Regional training centers has mission on spotting and nurturing best orienteers in the region. Including both juniors and seniors.
2. Additionally regional training centers are open to anyone who is interested to profess in the orienteering sport. The main focus here is SPORT as oppose to the recreational activity.
3. Regional training centers are loosely coupled conglomerates of local orienteering clubs, coaches, and volunteers and are coordinated by the designated person/board.
4. Main focus of the regional training center is to provide connection between volunteer coaches and prospective athletes, as well as high level training opportunities.
5. Coaches and athletes use established systems in organizing the training process, for example, Attackpoint. The training process of each athlete is transparent and open for the tracking by the coordinator.
6. Center organizes at least three training camps per year with major emphasis on the orienteering technique and preparation to the main competitions. Preferably these are three days to week long camps centered aroung long weekends (4th of July, etc.). Note: Major national and international competitions should not conflict with these camps. These camps are good places where USA Team Members residing within the region can contribute and get training. Ballpark figures per each camp is about $1000 that would pay for permits, camping, food, maps, and equipment. That amounts for $3-5,000 per year. These camps are also open to anyone interested to work on their orienteering skills on the self-paid basis.
7. Center supports top regional juniors and seniors in their quest to compete at the national level through the competition grants. Something like supporting 2-3 boys, 2-3 girls, and 1-2 seniors with $1000 yearly grant each. Grants will go toward paying expenses to compete at the meets conducted in North America. That amounts to another $5000 per year.
8. The budget for such center should also include some money to organize 1-2 coaching seminars per year with consequitive certification by USOF.
9. Overall minimal budget of such center thus will be around $15000 per year. This is solely based on the volunteering labor.
10. All these efforts will make sense only if they are supported by USOF both moraly and financially for prolonged time. At least ten years.

As I already mentioned such centers can encompass:
Northeast (seed is DVOA/CSU), Northwest (seed is COC/WIOL), Center (seed is OCIN), West/Southwest (seed is BAOC/SDO), South (seed is NTOA).

Thus we may have five centers. That would require around $75,000 per year from USOF for ten year at least.

Just some thoughts.
Apr 17, 2006 5:38 PM # 
Liz, all these coaches in Russia are paid by the government. It is their job to work with kids. The main selling points here is not international results but keeping kids off street and providing sport/health opportunity. In the USA there is similar system that is done in schools via coaching and teams. Mostly that is for the game sports, tennis, field and track. It is paid for by the local government through the salaries to the coaches and equipment buys, as well as organized competitions and trips on the local regional level. Unfortunately, the system is twisted :( For example, all training and competitions done on the seasonal basis. Spring - basketball, fall - track and field. Wierd! And, of course, orienteering is not included :( Somebody needs to pay big money before O as sport can go mainstream. Either government or USOF.
Apr 17, 2006 5:46 PM # 
I have in the past, and continue to liken the state of US Orienteering to the state of US Cycling in the late 70’s. About 2000 national members, 20-30 events of high caliber per year, a diffuse national organization where most of the work is done by local clubs, low barriers to entry (that is, a new competitor can get good results quickly), low exposure, and an envy of European programs and results.

Two people changed all that: 1) Greg Lemond and 2) Eddie Borysewicz (known simply as “Eddie B”). Lemond was a product of the status quo. He paid his own way (well, actually, his dad did, but that’s typical for a 16-year-old), coached himself, won Junior World Championships and moved to Europe where he showed that it was possible for an individual to overcome the system.

Eddie B was the opposite. A coach from the Eastern Bloc school. USCF hired him to bring discipline to their national program. The approach was decidedly top-down (or “elitist” if you care to use the derogatory term). Despite only modest gains in membership, he built the US Team into respectability and then, by the 1984 Olympics, dominance (aided by the boycott and some questionable blood doping practices, but a lot of medals nonetheless).

It’s not clear which of these two things was more instrumental in the rise of cycling’s popularity in this country. USCF membership peaked at around 100,000 in the late 80’s, but is still pretty robust. US riders continue to score results at the highest levels of the sport.

Personally, I like the Lemond approach, because it puts the responsibility clearly with the person who has the most to gain. As a semi-pro, I was delighted at the growth of the 80’s. It would have been much more difficult to sustain myself on the scraps available in the 70’s. However, having now returned to the sport as an amateur, I can’t say that I find things any better now than when I started in 1978. Yes, there are more races and the fields are larger, but missing is the tight-knit camaraderie and the general sense of fair play. Even in the 40+ fields, it’s pretty cut-throat competition. I don’t even race open any more because it’s just no fun at all.

I don’t think that USOF can expect the same results from any program for three reasons: 1) The exposure is never going to be as good (the Tour de France made decent TV, even before Americans were winning it), 2) There isn’t a big-money payoff for an athlete the quality of Lemond, and 3) the sport is just plain weird to American tastes.

So, if USOF wants to dump some money into an elite program, that’s fine with me. It might work to some extent. But be careful what you wish for. Not all change is for the better.
Apr 17, 2006 6:06 PM # 
If USOF will not do something in the respect to growing juniors in the sport I can see only declining membership numbers and slow death spiral. The sport is already aged to the extremes!

It takes money, program, and professionals to grow. There are willing people who want to work. USOF should come with well defined program and raise money. I am more than sure that some of the gambling money can be appropriated for this sport. USOF need to work more on getting sponsors both private and on the government level.

So far, unfortunately, all the monetary support is done through the membership that is not in general interested in the sport side of orienteering. It is more of the recreational activity for majority of the USOF membership. Which is fine but will dominate the course of this organization unless other financial sources can be found.
Apr 17, 2006 6:38 PM # 
Just a couple of thoughts:

1. Too bad this has to be so rushed. What are the costs of rushing a plan? It strikes me that rushing to develop a plan could easily result in a plan that might not work (although any plan might fail) and might not be well accepted.

What about proposing to the board that over the next x-months, a group will identify different options?

I suppose that sounds like a cop out, but if the issues are complicated and important, taking more time up front seems reasonable.

2. ...the membership that is not in general interested in the sport side of orienteering.

I can't really speak to this with a lot of authority. In my limited experience (i.e. people I know of at the local level and in a few other clubs), there is support for the sport side. People are interested in how the top U.S. orienteers do, they look up to the best U.S. orienteers, and they provide them with support. It may not be perfect and there probably are some people who don't think orienteering should be treated as a sport. But I would hesitate to conclude that there isn't "general interste in the sport side of orienteering."
Apr 17, 2006 7:42 PM # 
how this will benefit the average orienteer.

Ah, so hear me again. The HPP proposal is exactly in response to the now-apparent newly found desire among some (a large number!) on the USOF Board to pay more attention to (1) high-level competition, and (2) competitive junior development. These are specific items in the LRP! in addition to, not instead of, others along the lines of making more and better maps, fostering more and better-organized clubs, and having more and better-conducted competitions, the latter all being indeed intended to address the "benefit the average orienteer" side. Spike's local observations translate well to the national level. There has been a shift in popular support for better-competitive USOF athletes in the past 10 years. I think, on the root level, it is from those parents whose kids have grown from age ~10 to age ~20 and seem to be losing interest in part due to/correlated with mediocre results, stemming from poor/lack of proper training. It is easy to introduce a kid to the sport, a parent can do it. But, a parent cannot keep the kid progressing past a certain point (unless the parent is also a good coach), and neither can most local clubs with the limited range of programs they offer.

the overall climate of orienteering in this country

My proposal is absolutely, I repeat, categorically, not intended to be a "what is the be best direction for USOF/US orienteering to "grow" ". I am not proposing that I know how to cure the sorry state of American orienteering! Mine is a narrow plan for coming up with better-performing athletes of all ages. To that, I think my proposal will work.
Apr 17, 2006 7:48 PM # 
What about proposing to the board that over the next x-months, a group will identify different options?

This seems very proper. But, consider this: At the STL BOD meeting, I/someone just shows up and says "Well, we think we know how to rear better juniors, and this here plan may as well benefit the senior-level athletes and pull along a bunch of other things; but give me another x months, I'm not ready to discuss the specifics as of yet."

What will then happen—and I'm willing to bet on it—is that the LRP gets written without our input with some generalities like "Have more training camps... have Team members present training plans to some Deity... make quality training available to every junior..." (don't laugh—this is almost verbatim from current BOD correspondence). Then, the LRP goes to a happy vote at an AGM in late summer, and when we come back with x > 3, the response is "Sorry... not sure how what you have fits into the LRP".
Apr 17, 2006 9:06 PM # 
To Spike,

It is same 200 or so people who travel to and attend national competitions. From 5000? of general membership. There is something to draw conclusions...
Apr 17, 2006 9:24 PM # 
Again, I think this effort, the immediacy, and potential specificity isjust what is needed. And I realize that it is a focused initiative aimed at HPP not improving the overall climate of orienteering in this country. But...

I think that latter condition, while not necessary in the strict sense, might be important to long-term success of this program. It just seems to me that developing elite Orienteering athletes over the long term takes a hardcore, well-funded program -- maybe like France, and even that could be a flash in the pan. Where else have we seen a HPP like this, in an abysmally small market like the US, be successful? I don't think it has been done.

On the other hand, we can generate pretty good basketball players, runners, etc... just through force of numbers. India generates good cricket players, and so forth.

I guess my concern is that we build a great HPP, but it is like having a Ferrari with no gas stations. You'll be cruising until you get to empty, but then you are out of luck.
Apr 17, 2006 9:29 PM # 
There is luge and similar; small, directed programs with tiny masses and well-supported elites. True, they have Olympic funding. But, they also have to compete against other countries with Olympic funding of their own.

I'm sorry, but this emphasis on numbers has been there for ages, and at this stage sounds more like a convenient excuse to leave things as they are. In a few years Canada may very possibly have its first WOC medals, with a base and a talent pool even tinier than that of USOF, and no recent government funding. What are the excuses going to be then?
Apr 17, 2006 9:30 PM # 
Fortunately majority of the USOF BOD is represented by the people who are interested in the sport so we have chances that not everything is lost :) Lets try to be constructive. The one will succeed only while doing something.
Apr 17, 2006 9:41 PM # 
Why do we need excuses? Why do we care whether Canada wins WOC medals? Why do we want Americans to win them? I personally couldn't care less (and nor could I care less whether Australia wins any). The subject just is of no interest whatsoever to me. If anything, I'm proud that we are not wasting money and time supporting a HPP program.

Now, if other people care, and they encourage the BOD to act on that understanding, then, fine - others disagree with me. I just feel like I personally care about whether there are a lot of high quality events to go to, preferably at the local level, and this is, as far as I can see, completely unaffected. And I think most beyond the team and its immediate families are like this.

No more from me, since I don't think Vlad and Sergey and I will see eye to eye on this. (And finally, one reason why I am very grateful for the existence of the team, because it has led to the existence (via Vlad and others) of two great meets in AL and FL over the last sixteen months. Also, the desire of people to put on good meets for things like the Team Trials is great. But it's not clear we need a HPP for this since we're getting it now without one.)

Apologies to anyone whose feelings are hurt by this comment. I just didn't want it taken as axiomatic that a HPP was a Good Thing.
Apr 17, 2006 9:44 PM # 
Ah, the acknowledgement of de feet...
Apr 17, 2006 9:52 PM # 
Sorry, maybe I'm just in a bad mood today. Dissertation not finished, y'know...
Apr 17, 2006 9:56 PM # 
The most succcessful HPP-like program I can think of is sending as many people to Scandinavia for school or extended living as possible. Many of the top US orienteers (and Canadian too) have spent time or are currently living overseas. Mikell, James, Karen, Sandra, Boris, Kristen, Spike, Sandy, Peggy? As far as results go, simply shipping people to "where the O is" has produced more tangible improvement in NA orienteering than any other program I have seen. It may very well be that an overseas orienteering scholarship program of some kind (i.e. go to school in Sweden, join TYRTOM's club there, enter regular training program) may pay higher dividends. Certainly the folks listed above have brought back tangible, measureable benefits of their time overseas. Still its hard to think of how to execute something like this in a practical sense.
Apr 17, 2006 10:06 PM # 
National pride, development of the sport, ehh...

I am personally thinking about my daughter who might need such program in place. I truly believe she has great potential. As well as couple three other kids here at NW right now. Seeing Evalin B. at the Flying Pig was another motivation. And I am, probably, altruistic – I do things for other people free of charge. Is it good to say this way about myself? :)

I am more than sure that if successful this program will enrich local competition and level of local meets giving back to the community.
Apr 17, 2006 10:06 PM # 
No Eddie, this is counter to what I am proposing, sorry... the goal is the establishment of a program over here, not there. Although I would agree that your suggested way of doing things *may* be more efficient on the cost/benefit ratio, at least while the numbers are small, it is not the one most politically acceptable (free Scandinavian vacations for the elite? I know this is not the way, but can be perceived as such), nor will it remain particularly feasible as the numbers increase.

This is similar to what happened in E. European countries in the 1960s/1970s, and in Australia/NZ in the 1990s. Most of their movers and shakers got started in Scandinavia. But, once you got the right amount of talent going, or are about to as is the case with Australia now I guess, it becomes unnecessary to go far. The French HPP is a prime example.
Apr 17, 2006 10:07 PM # 
Interesting observation. Getting back to my analogy, Greg Lemond stated in 1984 that the US Cycling Team could have got the same results for half the price by simply sending the team to live in France for a year and using local coaches there.

Of course, we'll never know if he was right, but the idea makes some sense.
Apr 17, 2006 10:11 PM # 
And this American team would still be based in France, and UCSF membership would still probably be in the low 1000s, if not for this Eddie B type, right?
Apr 17, 2006 10:16 PM # 
The USA will never win building its own nuclear bomb in Iran - sorry couldn't resist that :)

Vlad is right - for the long range results you must build the SYSTEM HERE.
Apr 17, 2006 10:19 PM # 
Thats right. Its certainly distasteful and would never sell to USOF. I don't especially want to move away from home myself. Just an observation of tangible results from a particular course of action.
Apr 17, 2006 10:24 PM # 
Just wait 3-4 more years when China athletes start outperforming both USA and Canada as a direct result of their national program. Just an observation.
Apr 17, 2006 10:26 PM # 
But you're not biased, or anything...
Apr 17, 2006 11:05 PM # 
I don't pretend to be an expert on training high-level athletes, but it seems to me that a necessary part of this HPP program would be to increase the weekly opportunities for participants to train in terrain, on a map. From what I can tell by an occasional perusal of training logs and interviews, successful elite orienteers train in terrain on a map most days of the week, at least leading up to the competition season. Is this part of the HPP? If so, I would expect it to involve a little more than volunteer regional coordinators to put on such a density of events. It looks like ebone's plan seems to be concerned with this problem, and his answer of making the program geographically concentrated seems to me like the best approach. Providing a higher density of quality events would also benefit the recreational orienteers like feet in a direct way. (My use of "events" is meant to include competitive courses as well as training courses.)
Apr 17, 2006 11:07 PM # 
I just didn't want it taken as axiomatic that a HPP was a Good Thing.

Not only that, it is not even axiomatic that high performance at international races by USOF athletes is a Good Thing. (I get my axioms from the USOF mission statement).

Perhaps we should move to Mozambique ...

Apr 17, 2006 11:37 PM # 
I wouldn't envision the prime responsibility of the volunteer Training Coordinators to be putting on training events; successful elites in other parts of the world train in groups, members of the group rotating the responsibilities of organizing training sessions. The Training Coordinator is essentially a prod; s/he makes sure things get going, and keep going, only occasionally chipping in for a more formal training camp, weekend event, and such. The real carrots for the athletes, aside from continuous personal improvement, are the possibilities of advancing in the program and the increased support such advancement brings.

But, I 100% agree with Eric that there are areas fertile and conducive for branches of a Performance Program to thrive, and there areas that are not. The former should be pursued first. The HPP, as I see it, should have geographical and timeline milestones. The first two levels come on line first, and only in the suitable areas... thinking DVOA (incl. its NYC branch), CSU, COC, hopefully GAOC or Houston. Some of those areas will need a lot of help, and in some, things will be easier.
Apr 18, 2006 12:42 AM # 
OK, I need to blurt out my ignorance rather than cloak myself in the self assured posture of the jock in the back of the room. I am still missing something about this concept.

Who will participate in the HPP program? Obviously, it is predicated on the promise that if we build it they will come, right? Because I hope you aren't trying to convince me that this is going to make the current identified population of elite or advanced juniors into real world class orienteers. I don't want to be rude, but a little bit of beer loosens the inhibitions... if you were to take 30 (at most) -- this is the level -- and five (again at most) -- this is the annual flow -- Swedish weekend warriors and stuff them into a HPP, you are not guaranteed good results. It won't work better for Americans. Right now we have a self selected population of people at the "elite" level in NA and they are not necessarily the most talented people out there. When you are competing against a Swedish orienteering population x some factor (being the other orienteering countries) you will not prevail by polishing our current crop of athletes to a blinding lustre. Maybe you get one success story.

Also, I don't get the Canada analogy on several levels. First, I don't see how they will get a WOC medal in several years (although I darn sure want them to and will gladly be reminded of my "doubt" when it happens.) Second, what is their HPP? I think it must be in GHO? Is there something else? A non-affiliated runner is not going to get one? I don't see how what they are doing is different than what we are doing now (except in degree) and therefore, putative anticipated success needn't validate a HPP as proposed.

Anyway, how will you sustain the HPP program? The money isn't expected to magically regnenerate somewhow? Isn't this a presumably one-time windfall?

In any case, I want competitive results. To me, that is axiomatically a good thing. And, I don't want to let the good sacrificed on altar of the best, so I would nominally support this proposal. I know USOF could figure out many ways to blow this money I would not like. But, as an investor of my own money... I would hesitate to write a check.
Apr 18, 2006 12:54 AM # 
I don't see how they will get a WOC medal in several years...

Sandy Hott-Johansen is a very likely candidate for a WOC medal within the next couple years. 9th place in last year's classic should only be a hint of what is to come given that she is involved in one of the best training programs in the world in Kristiansand.

But how can we replicate that without marrying off our best prospects to Norwegian orienteers?

Personally, I think that attempting to replicate what GHO is doing in Hamilton may very well be the most cost-effective way to support a portion of our current elite athletes.

I particularly like Eric Bone's plan for acting locally.
Apr 18, 2006 12:59 AM # 
See, you already proved me wrong. But, I have a hard time remembering that Sandy H-J is still "Canadian." And if Boris, Sandra, etc... stay in Europe too long, they'll be American in name only.

I really like the GHO program, too, but it seems like it is more idiosynchratic and driven by individual personalities rather than systemic, and by extention, extensible or sustainable. If Hammer and Sudden weren't there, would it still be there? What sort of institutional support undergirds it?
Apr 18, 2006 1:15 AM # 
The money isn't expected to magically regnenerate somewhow? Isn't this a presumably one-time windfall?

My understanding, and I have not delved into the numbers as deep as others, is that with the recent structural changes in the way USOF is funded by its base, and the assumption that insurance costs remain benign (as compared to a few years ago), is that that there is some measure of sustainable free cash flow per annum for the funding of one or more initiatives. There is also, I believe, a fixed sum. I do not know the magnitude of either, but I believe the latter is substantially less than the previously quoted 500K.

My thinking has always been based on the assumption of a recurring, sustainable, free cash flow. If it is only a lump sum, I'd be in favor of simply refunding it, unless it is so substantial that it could act as an annuity.

Apr 18, 2006 1:24 AM # 
Someone wrote early in the discussion: “You can not be successful solely based only on patchy volunteers' work”. If you remove the word patchy, I would say you can. That is what creates most of the successful orienteering in Sweden. There are not many professional coaches in Sweden and the big majority of the work is done by volunteers in the local clubs. Today, there was a national junior elite meeting in Sweden and if you look at the results, you will see that many of the top runners come from small clubs, without any big staff of coaches behind them.

I think that well organized clubs, with a lot of activities, is the way to success. Even if you travel a lot to different meetings, you still do the majority of the training at home. And if you want to get new people engaged, you need to start at a local level. One task in the Long-Range Plan should be to improve the training culture in the local clubs.

A typical schedule for a club here in the US is a local meeting every weekend, if it is a very active club. In Sweden (from where I moved in October last year) it is more common to have two or three scheduled training events, even for a rather small club (but one of them may be just running ). However, at the local events you have here, the number of people showing up is something most clubs in Sweden could just dream of. You seem to have 100 people or more on most of your local events. That is impressing.

Even though there are longer distances here between clubs, I think it is necessary for a club to have maybe intervals on Tuesdays and some kind of technique training on Thursdays in addition to the weekend meeting if you want to be successful in the long run. The only club in America, which seems to have a schedule like in Sweden, is GHO, and I think we can agree that they were rather successful at The Flying Pig. If you want to attract talented young people you need to make it competitive. Running once every weekend is recreational. And you don´t create a national team in soccer based on teams that come together once every weekend for 2*45 minutes of playing.

Good coaches are necessary, but a lot of the work in typical Swedish clubs is done by the runners themselves. In my club, OK Linné, which is one of the largest (and one of the best, if I may say it) we don’t even have a main coach. We have a group of people coordinating the trainings and travel arrangements and all of the runners do their part of the work, even a world class runner like Mats Troeng.

I agree that more U.S. orienteers should move to Scandinavia more frequently, and stay there for maybe one or two years. We have good universities, no fees and lots of courses taught in English, so why not? I think more or less the whole Australian team lives of has been living in Scandinavia. And there are lots of other nationalities there too, but very few people from USA. However, that is a personal decision and should not be a part of a long-range plan.
Apr 18, 2006 2:28 AM # 
Ottawa has started a junior program modeled on the GHO program, except only for juniors, once you hit 21, you're on your own. A problem that is synonymous with individual club sports in Canada.
Making the jump from 100% volunteer based to someone getting paid is a big hurdle. Last year the local ski club here in Ottawa, Nakkertok, decided that with 1000 members they could hire a coach for their junior racing program. He's about 25 and his salary means that he lives in his parents basement, but they have been happy with the move and might hire a part-time admin person this year.

Mappers are paid right?
Apr 18, 2006 5:44 AM # 
I'd like to follow up on Mata's comment.

I like Mata's point about club level training. I think most attackpoint regulars understand the benefit that regular local training could bring to indivdual performance, club integrety, general fun, and membership retention. But, with a few exceptions (GHO?, others?) training and practice are not seen as a primary functions of the north american orienteering club. Mata suggests that this is different in Sweden. It's also in stark contrast to most US running or cycling clubs, which organize few competitions but train together regularly.

So, having established that the USOF club model is different, my questions are: Why are we different? Historical reasons? Geographic distribution? Is it hurting us now? Should clubs focus more on training? What would it take to change focus? Must change occur on a club by club basis, or can USOF policy decisions play in?

I think this is relevant to the discussion, because we are discussing training programs, and as Vlad said "you don't want to do on a national level what the clubs themselves can/should do."
Apr 18, 2006 8:57 AM # 
I think there are several questions being discussed here all at once, so I'll start by saying that I am only trying to state a possibility for an answer to one of them. I am NOT trying to answer the question of "How do we improve orienteering training throughout the country?" or "How do we recruit more people to the sport?" Those are excellent questions and, I think, mata's observations are right on in that department. Instead, I'll throw out (or rather back up) an idea that answers the original question stated in this post, which is "How do we use the limited amount of money we have available to achieve world-class WOC results?"
At the moment, the US Team does its best to support those making an effort to get better: a number of people get some support for travel to training camps, our WOC accommodations are paid for, and so on. This is great, but not earth-shattering. Speaking personally, i would not choose to go or not go to a training camp based on whether i'd get $200 from the Team to travel there. Simply put, spending $200-$500 each on a bunch of different people just isn't going to accomplish anything. So what about Eddie's idea of orienteering scholarships? This may sound extremely unpopular and elitist, but perhaps it can work. Identify one or two juniors or young seniors (under 25 or so?) who have the most "potential" (I know that this isn't easy to do) and offer them funding on the level of a 50% salary (similar to what Vlad is proposing for a recruitment and training coordinators). If they choose to accept this money, they do so on a condition that they make orienteering their #1 priority for the duration of the funding (ideally this would be several years...) This can, but does not have to, mean moving to Scandinavia. It does, however, mean, possibly adjusting your lifestyle so that you have access to high quality maps and terrain on a daily basis (could be in Hamilton, could be in Laramie, could be in Harriman.) Perhaps we could also require these athletes to make their training public and to represent the US in certain races should they qualify (WOC, JWOC, so on). It would be a ton of pressure on the people receiving the scholarship and may cause envy from those that don't, but it may be the best way to get world-class results. Now, Clem would object that this would lead to maybe one or two very good orienteers being developed, and no more. However, the success of one or two may lead to greater exposure, perhaps, even, to sponsorship so that a third and fourth person can get this funding, or to increased desire among others to train hard and get the same funding. For example, the tone of a number of posts in this thread mentions Canadian achievements and states that elite orienteering in Canada is better than in the US. This is mainly due to one person: Sandy. Not only has she shown that a North American can achieve world-class results, but her example has led other Canadians to train their butts off because they see what is possible (ok, in some cases, it may just be sibling rivalry :). But, this does go along with Eric Buckley's Greg Lemond example. Maybe it'll work, maybe it won't, but in my opinion putting some effort into getting high-level results even with the talent pool we have may be worth it. Yes, it means asking someone to make a lifestyle change and take on a lot of responsibility, but that's the way to success in sport, isn't it? As for talent, give me John F., Leif, or Robbie right now in Uppsala, in the same situation I am in, and at least one of them will make a habit of WOC final appearances within 2-4 years. They have the talent! This is probably a very unpopular idea, and one that is not guaranteed to improve the number of competitive orienteers in the US (for that, listen to Mata), but in my opinion this is the best way to get world-class results with what we have. Sorry for the length and if this sounds elitist.
Apr 18, 2006 11:07 AM # 
But, Boris, is there really that much you can do with that kind of scholarship you are suggesting, that you cannot do without it? You can move to a place with good training and lots of maps and you can do the amount of training needed without the money. It is just a matter of commitment and planning. If you look in OK Linné, the people there have not had any scholarships to reach to the position they are in. On the other hand, many of the best runners in Sweden are either working maybe 80% of full time or studying at a slower pace than normal and there is a cost associated with that. But I am not sure that the money would make the difference.
Apr 18, 2006 11:23 AM # 
Yeah, but it is a much greater commitment for a young american to move to Sweden (or simply near great terrain) and give up a lot of what they are used to than it is for a Swede to join a club that already exists in his/her town. The money would serve as an incentive for someone to make that lifestyle change to and to provide him/her with the time that he/she doesn't have while studying or working full-time. Additionally, a Swedish 80% job is equivalent to a maybe 50% job in the US, just due to the nature of the American workplace.
Apr 18, 2006 2:46 PM # 
It's also much easier to justify "neglecting" study/work and prioritising orienteering if one is semi-professional. And funding can provide a goal that mere glory doesn't. Offer 5000 $ (orienteering grant) to the best M18 at US Champs and juniors will start trainign. Do likewise for clubs/relays champs and clubs might organise training.

An alternative, and something motivated by the French model, would be to select a region with orienteers and maps and to pay a coach.
The coach could be paid to organise one Wed/Thu training session and to organise (plan, put out controls, time) two sessions each saturday. Regional Squad members would be expected to compete twice on Saturday and at a Sunday local meet in the same/nearby area. Stronger runners should help take in controls.

Even only doing the Saturday sessions would be a major step forward and could be done on a part-time basis. And perhaps only 10-20 weekends a year.

Somebody should then fund athletes transport/accommodation costs

By the way, three french team-members were in the same class in the same primary school. At present it's not just about talent. Training is more important.
Apr 18, 2006 3:23 PM # 
But how can we replicate that without marrying off our best prospects to Norwegian orienteers?

As you might have observed, there are plenty of mediocre Norwegian orienteerers. The main reason why there also are a lot of very good Scandinavian orienteerers is that the sport is so big. This makes for both a higher level of competitiveness, and a larger pool of competitors from which the best emerge. Oh, and better funding too.

Hence, I think one good long-term strategy for improving the level of the top US orienteerers is to improve recruitment.

Regarding China, I think the biggest threat here is that the Chinese demand for oil will make in more and more expensive to travel by plane to orienteering races.
Apr 18, 2006 3:37 PM # 
Not that I'm much of a catch, but mindsweeper, please let all the single Norwegian gals know I'm available. I'm over person. :)
Apr 18, 2006 4:19 PM # 
The ideal to have good local training programs ala Scandianavian clubs should be supported by the proposed High-Performance Program (err, Tree) on the regional level. Local HPP coordinator would identify, motivate, and support such initiatives. However, it will righfully require lots of volunteer work. Unfortunately, realities of the American workplace put a lot of strain on the people with 50-60 hour workweeks and long commuting hours. People literally have to juggle their lifes and priorities to get something accomplished. Coupled with short vacation times (2-3 weeks compared with 4-5 weeks in Europe) that always poses big question in front of these prospective volunteers. I saw (and felt myself) how the one can easily be burnt out by all the commitement it places on people. Do we need twice the number of volunteers to have something successful comparing with Scandinavian clubs? I don't know.

One another aspect of the successful training centers would be their location around or near major university areas in the country. MA (CSU), CA (BAOC), and WA (COC) have, probably best universities in the country. Having good local training programs there supported by USOF would, probably, help retain promising juniors who transition from school system to the higher education one. Unfortunately, we loose good kids during this time frame of their life.
Apr 18, 2006 4:20 PM # 
What? You are looking for Cat Woman or something?
Apr 18, 2006 4:49 PM # 
At present, I see maybe 2 people I would want to support in the HPP on the A level, about 6–7 on the B level, dozens on the C level, and over a hundred on the Development level. It's safe to say the average age on all those levels would be in the low 20s, but I would not want to keep anyone out if s/he fits the criteria. For example, in the hypothetical situation that the dudes who kicked our butts at the 6WRC were (1) in their early 30s instead of late 30s and early 40s, and (2) showed serious interest in competitive orienteering, I would quickly waive them through to the A level simply because either dude is so much more physically talented than anyone on my current A or B list, and used to much higher levels of conditioning than most. So, I would see a high chance that after 5–10 years, one of them would medal at a WOC—still being in late 30s/early 40s, which as we know has been done several times.

It's interesting to compare the models for competitive development in the three largest (by participation) O-nations, curiously all socialist or communist. In Sweden, most of the focus is on strong local clubs and volunteers. Central programs exist but clubs do most of the work. The numbers are high and the results are great. In Russia, the focus is mostly on coaching, but within a similar club structure. The coaches have government support, but athletes have little of such. The numbers and the sport's penetration are medium; there are some success stories. In China, everything is commanded and centralized, the numbers are huge, and the results are so far none (cf. US JROTC).

I think for various reasons, parts of those models are appropriate for the current US situation and parts are not. Obviously there is no government support, but other sports organizations in the US survive and excel without it. In particular, it seems to me that a proper mix of volunteer and paid positions is key; I would want to go as far as possible with volunteers, but hire professionals where you've reached the max of what voluteer contributions can do. For various reaons, this threshold level of contribution maybe different in the US compared to Sweden. For once, as Sergey mentioned, people have real jobs to do.

The $500k I was referring to is actually in the low 400s, and refers to the total USOF cash on hand. The net free/unallocated cash inflow, by many estimates, is in the $15–20k yearly at the lowest. To me it seems sufficient to seed the Tree. As the Tree grows, additional funding sources may/should be revealed.
Apr 18, 2006 5:10 PM # 
What do you think about putting money into marketing and publicity. For instance, providing a grant to expand CatchingFeatures as a widely publicized and available video game?
Apr 18, 2006 5:21 PM # 
I stated this in a thread a few years ago (which I can't find now): there are almost no barriers to entry for someone who wants to be come a full-time professional orienteer in THIS country. Buy OCAD, learn to map, spend all your time in the woods. You could easily make $25-30K TAX FREE (if you're always on the road mapping, everything you do is a business expense) this way, which is plenty for a 20-something to live and race off of. Given that nobody seems to want to do this, I find it a bit hard to justify using member dues to provide an alternative route.

I think Vlad's ideas of putting the money into coaching and coordination, combined with the existing map development fund make more sense than directly funding competitors.
Apr 18, 2006 5:34 PM # 
"It's all opportunity cost, baby..." as a wise fool once said.
Apr 18, 2006 6:54 PM # 
Eddie - we should create a new dating website specifically targeting sporty people. (We can donate the proceeds to the high performance program.) I don't know much about website design, but I do know about search...
Apr 18, 2006 7:41 PM # 
:) An online matching service based on 5k times? "A great way to meet fast women"
Apr 18, 2006 7:54 PM # 
On a side note, if you come up with a personal flier I can post it all over the Jukola '06.
Apr 18, 2006 8:03 PM # 
The one who wishes to find a match don't need to go far from Attackpoint - just browse carefully ads presented randomly by Ken below :)
Apr 18, 2006 10:12 PM # 
new matching game - "find me in the woods..."
Apr 19, 2006 12:58 AM # 
"Buy OCAD, learn to map, spend all your time in the woods. You could easily make $25-30K TAX FREE"

Eric, sorry, but you are obviously talking about something you have no clue about. Right next to me I have one of the best mappers, who worked professionally as a mapper in USA for 3 long years - Stefan Slutskiy ,and he was making not more then 10K a year, trying to feed the family - if you do not believe me ask people who know - Pat Dunlavey, Swampfox, Eric Weyman and Mark Dominie - they will tell what it would take to make 25-35K a year as a mapper. If you make maps all the time then you have no time to train - it is a grueling work makes you tired at the end of the day like nothing else.

Stephan just made me type this: You buy OCAD work for 6 month non stop in USA, make 10K then go and live in Kenya or Ethiopia, were you can train for another half a year without burden on $8K left, that is the only way he sees mapping and training fit together :-)
Apr 19, 2006 1:41 AM # 
I haven't done much mapping, but I can imagine that it would make for poor training. Whenever I worked physical jobs (such as strawberry picking or plate metal work), I would always feel drained and could not put in many training hours.
Apr 19, 2006 4:26 AM # 
I've made enough maps to understand the effort. Perhaps the market has taken a turn for the worse, but five years ago SLOC couldn't get any mapper at any price to remap Hawn, so we had to import Zoran. We paid him something on the order of $20/hour (I don't remember the exact rate, but it was close to that). Perhaps other clubs aren't as generous, but we sure tried to round up talent that was already here and had no success.

My apologies to any mappers who might have been offended, but my statement was based on experience, not speculation.
Apr 19, 2006 4:25 PM # 
Intensive mapping and intensive training process are incompatible as both require substantial physical efforts. If the aim is result it is better to have part time job and stipend support as it is done with many top scandinavians. Even better for top ones to have full support via stipends/sponsorships but this is possible only when sport is popular and attracts businesses. I don't know if juniors realized this but 5 or so years in the university are best in terms of time opportunities to penetrate to the international elite. After the educational phase in the life come much harder responsibilities.
Apr 19, 2006 4:39 PM # 
I think Sergey is right both with regards to the PT work aspect and the benefits of elite-level training/focus while at university. It definitely is more difficult afterwards, espcially if you haven't built the momentum and experience when the going was easier.
Apr 19, 2006 4:53 PM # 
Well, if you don't like the mapping idea, that's fine. I think it's workable, but that's not the point. You can do something else part-time.

I know this works because I did it. And I did it in a sport that requires a LOT more training time than orienteering. From 1988-1991, I was logging 1200-1400 hours a year. Any reasonably talented runner who did half that should see some excellent results in orienteering.

Yes, there was and still is a lot more funding for cyclists in the form of sponsorship and prize money. But I never made much more than $10K in a year from prizes and sponsors (not counting equipment which, while substantial, is a cost that orienteers don't face). I can't see that being the difference between what is and isn't possible. The rest was just squeaking out an existence on a rather modest part-time income.

I didn't say it was easy, just that it's possible. And the fact that nobody's doing it indicates to me that we don't yet have the level of dedication that warrants federation sponsorship of athletes.
Apr 19, 2006 5:03 PM # 
I am just finishing up my first year in University, and I can definitely verify what Sergey just said. I took a year off of school after high school with the intention to focus on training. I ended up working part-time to support my habits (don't even go there Clem). I have found that I have much more time and energy for training while at University than when I was working a mere 25-30 hours a week (as a waiter).

Now I am thinking that the best way for me to be able to focus on my training is to stay in school for as long as possible. Even if I have to take out lots of loans, I don't pay any interest on them until I have finished school. This means that I can focus on learning some interesting stuff and becoming a kickass orienteer without having to worry about the costs until it is all said and done. And if what they say is true, the longer I stay in, the more capable I will be to pay off the debts in the long run, and if that means a great training setting as well, it is definitely the ideal setting for any elite athlete.

The only problem is that it is hard to get enough Orienteering specific training. If we focus on certain university-thick areas (as some people have already mentioned), and provide excellent opportunities for training for students in the area, we may be able to get much more bang for our buck. I would really like to get my campus mapped so that I can start having Orienteering events here, which I think would be the best way to recruit people, but I haven't been able to figure out how to get started with that yet.

If USOF payed someone to build University Orienteering programs in one specific area, you would definitely get huge results. And one nice thing is that the schools will provide funding for any program that you can get established (usually after 1-2 years). I know that the Jewish group on my campus has a full-time club leader who is funded by the national Jewish organization, and he is responsible for organizing tons of events which make the group the biggest and most active on campus. You don't have to be Jewish to appreciate all the awesome events that they have, and we could easily do something similar with one full-time person focused on several colleges in a small area. Worcester has 11 schools, all of which would be great candidates for such a program. 1 person could easily handle groups at several of these schools and would probably get huge results.

And even if you think that this is only recruiting people who are probably too old to reach the elite level, first of all I don't think that that argument is true, and secondly you would still be acheiving an excellent goal of establishing a great training environment in one area that could be utilized by all the elite runners.
Apr 19, 2006 5:06 PM # 
The irony of Sergey and Clem's point about training hard while at university is that many US juniors actually put orienteering on hold while they're in college. This has been an ongoing issue in trying to expand the College Development Program.

Several very good college orienteers were not present at the recent Intercollegiates (including some in New York and Massachusetts) because of other college sports, studies, money, etc. If we can find a way to help fund and motivate promising juniors so they can continue to train while in college, it might make a big difference in US performance down the road.
Apr 19, 2006 5:11 PM # 
Liz, I think that that would drastically change if there were Orienteering programs at Colleges. College students have plenty of time on their hands, and they look for ways to fill it. This can be anything from partying, to organized sports to club activities and events. I think that any Orienteer who went to a school with a serious Orienteering program would find it easy to excel in such a program.
Apr 19, 2006 5:18 PM # 
Habits, John? Well, as long as it was legal work...

Seriously, though this is something for another thread/coversation -- if you want to be a longer-term student, think about grad school (without loans.) Be a Boris. Don't extend your undergrad for any reason if you are paying for it because more time in school is not always understood by employers even if you wear a WOC medal around your neck. So, it may increase your debt and dampen your earnings. Anyway, sorry for being a wet napkin.

I hear what Liz is saying. I also drifted away from orienteering a bit in college, so I know about how distractions can get your attention when there is no organized orienteering outlet.

Apr 19, 2006 5:25 PM # 
when there is no organized orienteering outlet

Exactly my point.

And what's wrong with graduating in 8 years if that will give me the opportunity to become a World Champion in Orienteering? Who said none of our elites are dedicated enough. I may not be an elite yet, but I have the dedication.
Apr 19, 2006 5:30 PM # 
John: I don't know if that's true, but I hope you're right. A lot of college orienteers are involved in cross-country, track, crew, and other team sports and like being part of activities that are already well established on campus.

At the other end of the equation, I tried early on to identify competitive orienteers who work on college campuses or live nearby to actually help start programs on their campuses (I won't name names publicly but that included some Attackpoint regulars). That didn't work either.

Obviously I'd love to see something materialize on college campuses, but it will take a concerted effort by all of USOF's clubs and some of our best orienteers to make it happen.

P.S. Now that the Intercollegiates are over, maybe you and I can get something going at Clark and on other campuses in Worcester.
Apr 19, 2006 5:39 PM # 
I suppose "nobody" was too strong of a term. Let's just say it's not a common practice. In cycling, there are several hundred semi-professional riders in this country who are putting the rest of their lives on hold to pursue the sport. Even in the late 70's, of those 2000 licensed riders, there were about 50 living the life I've described.

Most of them came up short (as I did) and did not make it to full-fledged professional status, but it wasn't because they didn't try. From those 50 or so came George Mount, Jonathan Boyer, and Greg Lemond who managed to crack the pro ranks. Dedication doesn't guarantee success, but it is a requirement.

I think that a college development program fits fairly well with Vlad's ideas and is certainly worth exploring. It's the direct funding of athletes that I'm struggling with. I don't see the payback until there are more like John who are willing to put the sport first.
Apr 19, 2006 5:43 PM # 
BTW, John, I don't think there's anything wrong with graduating in 8 years. I took 5 (although that's becoming normal for engineering majors).

I'm not sure I like the grad school idea. I suppose it would depend on where you went, but grad school pratically killed my cycling career (although it did finally allow a 2-year case of tendonitis to clear up).

Seems to me that if you really want to stay in school AND orienteer, a move to Sweden is in order.
Apr 19, 2006 5:49 PM # 
And if what they say is true, the longer I stay in, the more capable I will be to pay off the debts in the long run, and if that means a great training setting as well, it is definitely the ideal setting for any elite athlete.

Mean returns to education are high through the first grad degree (the usual estimate is 10% higher expected salary per year of education for the first 17 years of it). A PhD cannot be justified on financial grounds - it arguably decreases your earning power. If you were making this decision on economically rational grounds, you wouldn't consider anything beyond 5-6 years of post-secondary education. Since you are considering becoming an orienteer, this cannot be the case...
Apr 19, 2006 5:52 PM # 
A lot of college orienteers are involved in cross-country, track, crew, and other team sports and like being part of activities that are already well established on campus.

Exactly. If Orienteering were an established club sport on campus, you would be able to compete with those sports. Colleges really want kids to be involved in clubs, and so push hard to support those clubs and to convince kids to join them. Orienteering can't compete with that unless it is part of the group.

Eric, I was actually joking about taking 8 years to graduate, not that that would be a bad thing. As much fun as it is to be here, I can't see myself in Van Wilder's shoes. I have much better ideas for supporting my training lifestyle after a couple years of college. However, I do think that it does provide a great training opportunity which would be even better (dare I say perfect?) if Orienteering were a part of it.
Apr 19, 2006 5:54 PM # 
I have to disagree (with Eric's last post). If you paying for school (and loans count, because interest will accrue in many cases even if you aren't paying it at the time) stretching out undergrad is a risky proposition. As an employer, for anyone but John, I would look askance at this. I think you would have two strikes (more debt, less potential income) under this scenario. One strike is manageable, so if someone is paying for undergrad, go for it.

Anyway, I like the Boris grad school example. I forget who is paying for him, but it is only two years so it doesn't much matter. In any case, it hasn't hurt his training.
Apr 19, 2006 6:03 PM # 
Well I'm no fan of running up a lot of debt. My point is that taking more than 4 years to graduate is getting pretty common. Many students work their way through undergrad and that certainly can slow things down. I see lots of resumes with work experience and graduation dates intermixed and don't think anything of it. I suppose if I was interviewing a 30-year-old with very little work experience, I'd at least ask some pointed questions. But, I got a professional job at age 28 with nothing but two degrees, part-time contract work, and a whole lot of training in my past, so it can certainly be done.
Apr 19, 2006 6:04 PM # 
A PhD cannot be justified on financial grounds - it arguably decreases your earning power

In most sciences and humanities, correct. In most engineering disciplines, probably no, not yet. Choose carefully what you pursue...
Apr 19, 2006 6:15 PM # 
Is there some way we can either bring top-level coaches over here for some period of time, or send coaches overseas to learn?
Apr 19, 2006 6:36 PM # 
As one of those AP'ers lizk referred to, I can say that universities do indeed want to promote & support club sports - but these groups need to be student run & organized with staff/faculty advisors to qualify for official status & funding. As a staff member, I can't just start a campus O club and hope someone joins in.

What you need is a starter group of orienteering students to seed the club, then a permanent advisor to help keep it going & grow the membership once the initial group graduates. Having maps available close to campus would help too as would having an active local club.

In terms of Vlads proposal - I think that identifying 'regional centers' with an existing map network adjacent to campus would help this goal. Choose a couple of schools that fit this description and focus efforts in those areas, and hopefully prospective O-elite will choose to go to school in those locals

perhaps ask orienteers currently in school why they chose their current respective schools. Would they have chosen differently if 3-4 options had been available with maps/clubs in place?

fwiw - if a couple orienteering juniors wanted to select UConn, I'd be more than happy to help set up a club, get some initial mapping done and go from there.... there's plenty of terrain in the area...

Apr 19, 2006 6:44 PM # 
There already are some top-level orienteering coaches around, they are just doing other things. It is my understanding that they will coach orienteers and run the program, given two necessary incentives: financial and the potential for a real impact on results. The latter cannot be underestimated. I.e. most will not be interested in running a "get kids to know O and not get lost in the woods" program with 100s of participants, neither are they particularly excited to consult the existing Team members who end up doing things their own way; but will eagerly take on 15 high-prospect athletes with a sports background and a strong discipline and motivation.
Apr 19, 2006 8:05 PM # 
Hopefully, these coaches live close to educational centers of this country. Forming really training groups of young athletes based on some university areas would be a blast for orienteering. This may motivate others to join and broader the impact.

One other positive aspect of the proposed program is that these same high-performing athletes will be future moving force behing orienteering development in the country after retiring from the active elite competition. So our numbers should multiply :)
Apr 20, 2006 12:22 AM # 
My son Scott is now a junior at Univ. of Md. When he was in middle school and just starting high school, he liked orienteering and was reasonably good but in high school he ended up on the cross country team and when he twisted his ankle at the US Champs one fall, that was it - no more orienteering - didn't want it to interfere with cross country (and track in the spring). And admittedly his coach put a little pressure on him.

I asked him about orienteering the other day and was surprised by his answer. He thinks he'll start going to events again when he graduates and starts working - and has a car and can get to events. He said he probably would go to events now if there was a college club that provided transportation and he had other kids to go with. QOC holds lots of nearby events, but nearby for an adult with a car is a lot different than nearby for a college student.

Not sure what my point is here - I guess just echoing the earlier comment that ease of access is a big issue for college kids and also that losing the kids when they get to college doesn't mean losing them for good.
Apr 20, 2006 1:23 AM # 
My suggestion for long range planning is to expand the number of maps, clubs, and therefore members in the U.S. Maps are the first thing that has to exist before any new clubs can be made. A few maps would eat up all available funds each year.
After an area has new maps then it will take dedicated, hard core volunteers to get a new club going. Granted these are very hard to find.
Once clubs exist, membership will (hopefully) follow as it is more convenient for the recreational orienteer. For every X number of recreational orienteers, you may grow one competitive one. I don't have stats but I suspect this is true of every sport (except maybe boxing).

I could be wrong but from what I experienced and have seen, college campuses only support orienteering while there is a core number of dedicated students. Once those students graduate the program dies. West Point is the only college I can think off that has truly institionalized orienteering. College clubs have lasted longest when there was strong local orienteering to host events for the students. To make more college clubs possible means more local clubs around all colleges. Yes, you can start in the orienteering "hot" areas but don't forget about all the universities.

A couple of other relevant points that affect our area, More orienteers at local meets can be a bad thing. We are encountering more problems with environmental issues and it is hard to deny the potenital affect of 100 people on a rainy day. More clubs will to some degree spread the numbers/events around so each park/club will be less impacted.(a partially flawed argument).

I don't care about WOC medals. Yes I would like to see the U.S. and Canada win some but that wouldn't be my goal for USOF.
I am all in favor of helping juniors just don't ask the local clubs to do all the work. It is hard enough to find volunteers to cover the events we hold without any 'extras'. We already have more ideas than we have volunteers to implement.
Apr 20, 2006 4:50 AM # 
I think this is a very useful discussion, so Vlad, thanks for starting this off.

My perspective is that the key problem facing the US Team (and in fact any High-Performance Program to be) is that there are so very few people coming through the pipeline to be recruited into the program. It seems to me that USOF (and COF too) needs a much more productive "Basic" Performance Program before it is worth putting much more resources into a "High" Performance Program. So, I would suggest just calling it a "Performance Program", one that can satisfy both Basic (now) and High (future) needs.

Because the existing competitive pool is so small, I think that any long-term plan needs to focus on developing more competitive orienteers at all levels (Basic and High). Athlete development needs to begin locally (whereever that happens to be), so the focus should be on what is going on in clubs.

We need numbers, but we also need to be recruiting the right people, giving them the information that orienteering is a competitive sport and challenging them to perform competitively, not just recreationally.

What is sorely lacking in any club I have been affiliated with is a any sort of ongoing Training Program. The clubs operate by putting on events and occasional beginner clinics, but rarely (if ever) put any serious effort into developing competitive orienteers.

Club teams (junior and senior) should be meeting 3-4 times a week for physical and technical training. For those that have a competitive interest in orienteering, it should be clear from the very beginning that it is a demanding physical and technical sport that requires significant training to do well. We shouldn't just see our juniors once every 3-4 weeks at meets, and expect them to become great orienteers.

I think USOF would benefit significantly from a coaching system that would:
1) include a coaching certification program so that prospective coaches could learn about what is required to become a successful competitive orienteer.
2) encourage clubs to hold regular training sessions for both junior (absolutely necessary) and senior athletes.
3) encourage coaches within clubs to work on developing competitive orienteering training within the clubs.

An increased emphasis on treating orienteering as a competitive sport requiring serious training would benefit not only our junior and senior athletes (i.e., the ones destined for US teams), but would benefit all orienteers within the club with competitive ambitions. That is, club training sessions wouldn't be reserved for the "juniors" or "elite", but could be attended by any orienteers wishing to improve their performance.

I think having better organized, better structured training programs in clubs would be certain to attract more junior and senior athletes. It would also retain them by providing them with more challenge, better focus and cameraderie of training with like-minded individuals. And, they would become better orienteers too, so ultimately, they might start filling a High-Performance Program with new recruits.
Apr 20, 2006 5:01 AM # 
Sandy wrote:

My son Scott is now a junior at Univ. of Md. When he was in middle school and just starting high school, he liked orienteering and was reasonably good but in high school he ended up on the cross country team and when he twisted his ankle at the US Champs one fall, that was it - no more orienteering - didn't want it to interfere with cross country (and track in the spring).
I was thinking along these lines as well. Any US athlete with enough raw footspeed to perform well at a WOC final will have been a star runner in high school, and reasonably competitive at the college level as well. I believe it is an impossible recruiting goal to convince such people to give up a reasonably high-profile sport at which they are enjoying success, for a sport they have probably never heard of before and for which success is not guaranteed.

Dan Stoll-Hadayia once voiced the opinion to me that our recruiting efforts ought to be geared towards runners fresh out of college, who were fast enough to make their college teams, but not good enough to even think about making a living as professional runners. The pitch would go something like this: "So you think your career as a star athlete is over? Well, here's another sport for you, at which it might be possible for you to reach world-class status. What about it?"

Not sure what my point here is either but I wanted to get this comment into the mix.
Apr 20, 2006 1:50 PM # 
To Brian's point: I tried to set up regular training for SLOC three years ago. It was fairly well attended, but only by the people who already trained a fair bit. I think what's missing is some instruction on how to get beginners and intermediates involved in such programs. I haven't been able to motivate them.

The Steve's point: There's no question that there are some runners who would take such an opportunity and that's worth pursuing. There is a natural pushback from runners who find the prospect of taking an hour and a half to do a 10K so repugnant that they won't consider it. I've encountered such resistance among runners fairly often. I usually don't even talk about courses in terms of distance, just time (which is how we're supposed to design courses, anyway).

My concern with focusing recruiting efforts on folks in their early 20's is twofold. 1) They've already missed the ealier identified "window" in college where they can pour a lot of energy into their development. 2) The pattern recognition centers of the brain are most active in the teen and pre-teen years. Learning to read maps in your 20's is certainly possible, but sub-optimal. A runner who starts at age 22 might get to international competition by age 28, but they'd be racing against folks of the same age and fitness, but with 20 years of navigation experience rather than 4.

Late recruitment is still better than not getting the person at all, but getting them in their mid-teens is surely better.
Apr 20, 2006 2:43 PM # 
Bob Turbyfill tried recruiting college runners many years ago, no real success. As much as I would like to support a HPP or any trainig program in clubs or colleges, I think to get interest in O, it has to some how generate the "right" (for us) picture in the public's mind. Even when we get some one out there and they have a great time (and I've run dozens of sessions for middle schoolers) they are never seen again. I suspect because O simply does not exist in the public's mind. There is literally no pictures, no movies, no television of anyone doing competitive orienteering. As exciting as it is, the medis simply doesn't get it. Not sure why, much of the time they seem to make fun of it, or in treat it on the level of geocaching. At this point in time, I think the public has a more correct understanding of geocahing than orienteering.
Look at curling, I sport I thought was dead before some recent Olynpic TV coverage, and curling clubs now report growing members.
I'm not sure I want to say this, but what if you took lots of money and made exciting ads for TV showing orienteering the way we want it to be shown?
Apr 20, 2006 2:52 PM # 
coach's post very much reflects my concerns. Again, I'm afraid the HPP could be a boondoggle (albeit one that I would likely admire) unless it exists in the appropriate climate. I'm just afraid that we don't have enough talent flowing through from the base to fully utilize it. And yes, perhaps the results will get some people excited, but to me, this is a tertiary benefit. It won't make the sport more intelligible or accessible than micro-o or big screen pictures of maps with dots (or cute icons) showing where runners are in the forest. Those things are preaching to the choir but not converting anyone.

I don't think orienteering is perceived to be cool to the general athletic and/or high school population in this country, though granted, most have no idea what it is.
Apr 20, 2006 2:56 PM # 
Look at curling, I sport I thought was dead before some recent Olynpic TV coverage

Canada has 1200 curling halls...
Apr 20, 2006 3:05 PM # 
Actually they are called curling rinks, and yes, we have alot of them.

If anone in the states is looking to make an Orienteering video to show the sport the way you'd like it shown and have it made by athletes who understand outdoor sports, here's an recommendation: Dave and Lise are two former national team biathletes who have started a film production company that mostly focuses on nordic skiing (just as cool as Andy Newell's videos.) They would be the perfect people to make a video to explain Orienteering to runners, teens and sponsors. Dave and I have talked price a bit as I've tried to get COF interested in it, please feel free to contact me to get more information.
Apr 20, 2006 3:06 PM # 
USOF definitely needs some sort of promotional campaign aimed at the media. I don't know how much ads cost in various media, but I can't imagine print ads in local newspapers are too expensive. If USOF produced a set of ads that clubs could use, along with a manual on how to get started advertising in local newspapers, I think that many could clubs could easily take advantage of it. Perhaps even some small amount of funding to encourage clubs to try it out. Imagine if your local club had a spiffy ad for Orienteering along with the upcoming schedule in every Sunday edition of the local paper. I think that such small campaigns could easily generate results. And then of course you could focus on school newsletters. Every club should make it a priority to advertise in every school newsletter in their jurisdiction. School newsletters are aimed more at the parents than the kids, but kids often read them too, so you could advertise to both of them at the same time. I know that both USOF and many local clubs have cash to spare, and an advertising campaign is one thing that would probably end up generating more revenue in the long run, so it is great in every aspect.
Apr 20, 2006 3:11 PM # 
I really like the video idea. I may be crazy, but even some of these completely amateur videos out of Europe which just show people running really fast with rocking music through gnarly terrain really get me going. Maybe others in our target demographic might not appreciate it as much as I do, but who knows.

What they don't show, however, is (excuse me in advance) people of average american girth wearing pajamas with a compass around their neck standing next to an orange and white kite.
Apr 20, 2006 3:37 PM # 
I really like the video idea.

USOF has already made a video, called O.MOV. As I recall, the budget was rather large. I'm not sure if anyone has done an return on investment on it or not, or if its intended purpose was the same as the intended purpose of the video being presently discussed.
Apr 20, 2006 3:37 PM # 
Can't agree more on J-man's last point. The average 16-year-old takes one look at the turnout for a local meet and says, "not me, not ever." I've tried, with reasonable success, to get all our fast folks wearing outfits that look more like what one finds at adventure races (nylon safari pants, gators (if at all) under the pants, technical shirt, etc.) as I think that presents a more palatble image to newbies (in my view, it's also superior equipment for out terrain, but I'd say that advantage is dubious at best).
Apr 20, 2006 3:40 PM # 
I had never heard of the aforementioned video. Where would I see it? I am eager to do so.

However, I'd feel better if you said "ESPN" or "MTV" has made a video and the budget was rather large.
Apr 20, 2006 3:43 PM # 
Hopefully, athletes who come through the future HPP will provide back to the comminuty by starting new clubs, leading training groups at local level, conducting higher level meets, and nurturing juniors - as it is often done now by our top ones.

Speaking about ads, it somewhat works for our club - we get somewhere around 1-3 new members per month (minus natural attrition) who pick our club schedule from local papers. With bigger publications (newspaper article) we usually get a surge of 10 to 20 new people. Most of them would stop coming after couple meets though :( And they are usually not juniors :(

I doubt that investing lots of money into ads compain will produce any sizable results unless you spend amounts far exceeding USOF reach. Better to invest into people as per mentioned athletes turned coaches/leaders for Basic and High Performance program.
Apr 20, 2006 4:12 PM # 
I'm trying to decide now whether Sandy's son Scott is just shy or whether being seen getting into or out of a car occupied by one or more of us old QOC fogeys would be too mortifying to endure. What if we promise not to wear O suits while picking him up and dropping him off?
Apr 20, 2006 5:12 PM # 
Details on buying the video are here. I also believe DVOA has a copy. I'm unaware of any copies available online, tho I didn't google for it. (IMHO, USOF should be giving it away, not selling it, but I was not close to the decisons or motivations surrounding this project, so I am unaware of any rationale).
Apr 20, 2006 5:29 PM # 
OK, I'm obviously really out of it but this video's existence is a revelation to me. Presumably, everyone else knew about it? Unfortunately, I can't watch it now but will do so at some point.

But, in any case, a video is not the goal I meant to suggest. What I want is Marketing. As far as I can tell, USOF has never marketed the sport effectively or tried wholeheartedly. I'm not a marketing guy, but even I heard of the marketing mix or the 4 p's and all that other stuff. Anyway, promotion is just part of it. You need to work on the product, too. And, for that matter, don't forget the promotion. How many people know about this expensive video? Sheesh.

But anyway ... despite the fact that Sergey refuses to listen to anyone's concerns about the HPP (and thereby risks imperiling its approval by USOF), I am increasingly thinking that I ought to be more enthusiastic.

First, I agree with the goal, viz., better results for US athletes on the world stage. I do dispute the methods, but whatever. The key thing is that, if it did get approved, it would remain misunderstood by USOF and hopefully, out of sight and mind. Therefore, it might enjoy some autonomy and be free from intervention or meddling.

On the other hand, the other thing I want, namely, a real competitive orienteering climate here in the US, across all age categories, hits closer to home. And while it may get lip service, I am afraid that there are some that actually would sooner see efforts to achieve this sort of climate fail. Or, with less paranoia, may "love it to death" and micro (mis) manage it.
Apr 20, 2006 5:32 PM # 
I've seen the video. It's good. Just a very small piece of the whole puzzle, but a good piece.
Apr 20, 2006 8:31 PM # 
Huh, what concerns? :)

Unless you try - nothing will change. I personally believe in working with interested people on regional and local level having long term perspective. HPP should give the perspective, I think, to all people who want to excel in the sport. And it should return back to the general community via highly trained, experienced, and motivated individuals. Who on their turn will help to nurture next generation. Self-sustaining growth process if it works and supported properly.

Only having critical mass of the knowledgeable enthusiasts in place the popularization of the sport will be successful. Otherwise, we will have same picture as we have now. There are hundreds of kids coming to some local events but there is no that someone who would show them the intricacies of the sport and drive to national meets on the constant basis. NTOA program is probably the shine exemption of this. We need regional programs ala NTOA across the country. If I got it right the Vlad’s proposition have this part as “roots” of the tree. Unarguably, “roots’ will take most of the resources. We need to start somewhere I guess.
Apr 20, 2006 8:31 PM # 
You all may be interested in the video collection on TheWaterStop. You can preview here:
Apr 21, 2006 4:08 AM # 
Can I please prod the discussion back on track? The question is not "what is best for USOF in the long term". The question is not whether USOF should focus on promotion vs. broad numbers vs. JROTC vs. cute uniforms. The question is, how do we serve the expressed interest among USOF Board members in improving US international results within a short (5-year) timeframe. I understand that one proposed answer is to strongly suggest to the mentioned Board members that they didn't really mean that they want to see improved results, and if they did, to convince them that such results are not possible for a number of reasons. This answer doesn't seem constructive.
Apr 21, 2006 3:44 PM # 
Before the discussion gets back on track (with humble apologies to Vlad) I have to follow-up on yesterday's discussion.

So - I tried to watch the USOF video and did so (at least partially, but my internet connection seemed so bad I could onlywatch a few seconds at a time.)

Anyway, my impression is, that while not perfect, its decent, and likely casts the orienteering scene in America in a favorable light. But, I wonder I wonder if that light exposes the imperfections more clearly. Specifically, I'm wondering what would happen if we did some sort of focus group... i.e., show this video to different demographics (some with no idea what O is altogether) and assess their impressions. I don't know what the results would be (although I have some guesses) but it would be a first start to determining how good this (single) "promotional" tool is and/or how good the "product" is.
Apr 21, 2006 4:54 PM # 
I can't resist adding to what Sandy said. My 2 sons are now college junior and freshman respectively. They were good enough to sometimes win their age groups in QOC (with no Walker or Strat born their year) but only competed against their DVOA counterparts once or twice. They lost interest in hanging around the old folks, and Tim was injured enough from school sports that he didn't want to risk aggravating injuries and missing high school events. Not enough peer group recognition to motivate orienteering.

I would see utility in a new kind of "B-meet" - some perhaps quarterly events among several clubs to build some camaraderie without prohibitive travel for the new recruits. But that is off topic.

It seems to me that if the HPP were put forth as "scholarships" open to all juniors by competition/audition/evaluation that you might get your 15-20 recruits who would see it as a reward, something unique for their resumes, and a fun challenge. With an open application process you could negate the "elitist" perception.

My brain hurts whenever I try to think like a teenager. But I think you need to for this to be a success.
Apr 22, 2006 7:03 PM # 
After commenting that I think we need both a "Basic Performance Program" (thinking club level here) and a "High Performance Program" (thinking regional and national level here), I thought I would add some comments about why a performance program is good at all, for the average USOF member.

1) A High Performance Program is good because ... it will lead to WOC medals and US/Canadian teams will be dominating the World Cup and yada, yada, yada. This is good (for me the recreational orienteer) because it gives me a connection to the world scene, it gives me reason to keep track of World Cup/WOC results, it gives me local talent to cheer for. Much the same as cheering for Meb when he comes 3rd at Boston, or Beckie when she kicks butt on the World Cup. Simply put, it raises my level of interest in the sport as a spectator. It gives US/Canadian juniors role models to look up to, people who are reaching for the stars and getting there. Beckie Scott and Sara Renner are house-hold names amongst the 3-6 year old population of my household. I'd like to say the same about Boris Granovskiy and Sandy Hott Johansen.

2) A Basic Performance Program is good because it gives me better competition in races close to home and it gives me people to train with. Doing a sport in a vacuum is no fun - doing it with like-minded individuals of similar ability is great. My dream is to have competitive orienteers throughout North America, so that whereever I go, there is good competition. Note, I want that competition now in M21, but my wife wants it in F21, my daughter wants it in F10, and it won't be so long before I want it in M40, M45, ... Having competitive orienteers to compete against is good for all age classes, not just the "elites".

Obviously a Basic performance program is not independent of a High performance program. One (Basic) is needed for the other (High). I think we need to be thinking about both.
Apr 22, 2006 7:34 PM # 
I think having both would give a synergistic effect.
Apr 22, 2006 9:51 PM # 
I agree with Brian, and will incorporate his ideas as best as I can.
Apr 23, 2006 2:15 AM # 
Here are a variety of thoughts I've had while reading all the interesting things people have written about this topic. Sorry, Vladimir, for the fuzzy focus.

1. Paid advertising is a poor use of money, unless you have a lot of it and a more compelling need than orienteering to polish your image (oil, agribusiness, etc.) You have to spend several thousand dollars in one market (e.g. radio in Seattle) to make an impression. Rather than mounting some sort of new, paid ad campaign, why not first do a better job of presenting the sport in the publicity work we already do? Word of mouth and using free media are where it's at. This takes consistent high event quality (not just good maps/courses for us insiders, but handholding, signs, food, friendly atmosphere, etc. for clueless newcomers), some steady attention to (free) advertising, and persistent feeds of info. (e.g. event schedule and blurb) to the outdoors or sports editor.

2. Brian's right that we don't have a large enough flow of competitors for it to make sense sinking a lot of money into grooming them. Getting more competitors cannot be done more easily than by growing our events and clubs. It doesn't work to pass around a U.S. Team development fast-track sign-up clipboard at the local high school track or 10k run. People who are serious about a sport make it a part of their lifestyle, and they do so for a variety of reasons.

3. I agree with William, Brian and others who have pointed out that we can do things locally (like organize trainings and fun competitive events) that recruit more competitors in a way that also helps orienteers at all levels, including those who identify primarily as non-competitive.

4. O.MOV is a useful video. I've shown it to hundreds of kids. It's so much better for them than listening to me talk about what orienteering is (hard to believe, but true ;-). The O.MOV budget was "large" only in the thrify, volunteer world of orienteering, where we're reluctant to ask people to pay real money to participate in our outstanding activity.

5. I'm not that interested in the U.S. winning WOC medals (or placing top 10, etc.), for it's own sake. Given the choice, I would much rather have a vibrant group of enthsiasts with which to partake of twice- or thrice-weekly, year-round orienteering specific training and events and see us struggle to make WOC finals than see us break into the top 10 at WOC but have my only local orienteering take place at events every few weeks.

6. In spite of #5, I agree with Brian about the value of having good performers to root for at levels down to the local level (your local school team, your training partners, etc.) and up to the world elite level (Boris, etc.) There are important recreational/elite and local/national synergies, and the one-or-the-other choice I posed in 5 is a false one and for expressive purposes only.

7. Also in spite of #5, I would rather see USOF adopt a targetted and funded plan aimed primarily at acheiving much better WOC results than adopt no plan at all to improve on the status quo.

8. I've heard/read many people saying that their clubs can't put any effort into promotion or training, because they are struggling just to put on meets. This sort of reasoning is at best beside the point and at worst dishonest. The truth is that it's a matter of priorities, and it would be more truthful to say of those clubs that they do not value spreading the word to others about orienteering or do not value training as much as they value putting on events for their existing following. This could be called the private hobby model of a club, to distinguish it from clubs that see it as their mission to (1) share orienteering with others (implying promotion), and/or (2) practice orienteering as a sport (necessitating training or at least frequent practice; see Brian's comments). Clubs that admit that they are private hobby clubs have integrity. However many clubs hold the illusion that they are doing some sort of public service or that they are offering a sport program, when they in fact just put on events for their own members (or sometimes just the board members who got the e-mail about where the start location would be, in the case of some clubs that have had problems providing timely, complete and accurate information about their events).

9. Environmental impacts of orienteering should be taken seriously. However, in my experience, in the vast majority of cases, well-meaning land managers and neighborhood environmental groups who limit orienteering access due to concern over "sensitive" terrain simply don't know what they are talking about. The shrinkage of real habitat and real outdoors experience, in combination with the proliferation of pet habitat gardens in urban parks, surrounded by fences, ropes and "fragile"/"sensitive" signs is feeding the distorted perceptions of the SUV-driving hobby naturalists that are capturing the regulatory process for parks and other undeveloped lands. This is facilitated by budget cuts and the corresponding abdication of government responsibility (which is usually called "public buy-in" or "ownership" of park management). This is a political problem that we will increasingly have to confront at the local level, and it deserves it's own discussion thread.

10. People in their 20s may not be great candidates for great WOC performances, but they could very well form the core of the local training groups that would faciliate better performance at the WOC (or whatever) level.

11. I just competed in an urban score O event today (Street Scramble) that was sponsored by the Cascade Orienteering Club and mostly organized by my business. This event was notable in a few ways: (1) I was able to compete, because I was not involved in the course setting or vetting (or much else in the way of event preparation); (2) There must have been 250-300 people, many of whom have never done orienteering before; (3) The event had sponsors, who contributed hundreds of dollars worth of cash or merchandise (prizes); (4) The majority of the volunteers were not board members of Cascade or even orienteers, but Kiwanis members or members of a university honor society; (5) The event used a USGS map (with a few map corrections/updates). The Cascade Orienteering Club is currently experiencing significant attendance growth, and I think the way these events are run has something to do with it. For the Street Scramble event in June, there are already 20 sponsors, the chamber of commerce is paying for the event center rental, and there are public service announcements on local radio. Neither Terry or I have done any course setting work.
Apr 23, 2006 2:37 AM # 
I'm not that interested in the U.S. winning WOC medals (or placing top 10, etc.), for its own sake.

But I think there is understanding now on most levels that there is no "its own sake". As Eric Buckley pointed out, Greg LeMond's success brought on tremendous growth though raising the interest of Federation members in competitive self-improvement. As Brian May argues, having good international results will benefit most competitive runners because it increases their level of interest in the sport. If, say, Eric Bone trains hard and qualifies consistently for the WOC Finals, then someone else like myself will be motivated to train harder, since he happens to think there's not that much inborn difference in talent, so things are achievable that were before thought to not be.

This discussion thread is closed.