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Discussion: Local Club and Meet success - Sustainable Orienteering

in: Orienteering; General

Nov 22, 2010 3:37 PM # 
What is it that helps some clubs thrive?

That's the gist of this topic - and I'm hoping you can add insights that show some lessons. Things that have worked, and others that have not.

And I'm not certain if this needs to break up into sub-topics, but it might. In any case, this thread would be the global level of areas to consider.

For example:

Club organization - how to run a club such that events happen, people feel welcome, and things are growing even if that pace is slow.

Local meets - how many to schedule, what kinds of events to run, ways to run events.

Marketing and advertising - what works, what doesn't. Relationships to build and ways to talk about the club, sport, and events.

Embracing the competitor and attracting the newcomer - what balance to strike so that we can provide a competitive environment for the experienced orienteer and an introduction for those starting out.

This last seems to often be considered as an "either or" proposition. If we show the sport as having a high degree of competitiveness we push families away. I'd like to suggest that this is furthest from the way it really is.

Consider the youth aspect - how many times have you seen kids running up to the finish? They know it's a timed event, and if they could drag mom and/or dad any faster around they would!

Saying something isn't competitive to them is almost like labeling it as boring;-)

ROC has completed two years of a "Local Club Championship Series" for both regular events and sprints - implemented through 6 of each type of event across the spring/summer/fall. And the reaction is very positive.

People see the competition, and we've filled in ranks of competitors at all levels - even attracting a steady group from nearby areas that might not otherwise make the trip.

And to the differentiation - it is a bit of statement to the younger ones when they see that someone has completed a course that is 2-3 times the distance that they covered in the same amount of time. Rather than acting as a discouragement, I think they use that as a form of inspiration - to get out there and do it like that.

That's my perspective to kick things off. What have you seen?
Nov 22, 2010 4:24 PM # 
Simply put, the two keys to a thriving club are:

1. A large base of skilled course setters and meet directors.
2. An aggressive mapping program

Concentration on these two areas will give a club a solid schedule and good meet attendance over a period of years. The other aspects mentioned by ccsteve are then more easily incorporated into the programs.
Most clubs that continue to rely on just a few people and a few maps flounder. Many of these clubs eventually die when those people move or burn out.
Nov 22, 2010 5:10 PM # 
Critical mass of nice folks who volunteer for ALL necessary activities. Maybe I can attach THIS, something related I wrote about DVOA two years ago for its newsletter:
Nov 22, 2010 5:19 PM # 
>What is it that helps some clubs thrive?

Ask DVOA. They are the true North American success story in my opinion.

Interestingly a few years ago when my club's founder, Jack Lee, was attending an event in DVOA land and he asked somebody in the club how DVOA had developed and become so successful. The response was that one (some?) of DVOA's club 'elders' attended a workshop in Canada in the early 70's on how to develop an orienteering club. DVOA apparently followed the principles outlined in the workshop. After which Jack Lee responded 'I hosted that what did I say to do?' ;-)
Nov 22, 2010 7:33 PM # 
...DVOA. They are the true North American success story...

Interesting....But what are your criteria? DVOA has no A-meets scheduled for 2011, and BAOC is presenting TWO, just as it has for several years.

I nominate do they do it?
Nov 22, 2010 8:13 PM # 
I can see this getting off topic but I would consider pulling off what DVOA proposed in their bid for NAOC 2012 and not hosting in 2011 at all as trumping hosting two 'average' "A" meets in back-to-back years. DVOA has many, high quality maps (offset printing), a large number of members, scouts programs, athletic development and club training, recreational programs for beginners, and national team members. Oh and personalized race jerseys is an added bonus.

Having said that their geographic area is bigger than southern Ontario which has 5 or 6 clubs. So it isn't clear how DVOA achieves community programs. Nevertheless, it is interesting how many people will tend to 'evaluate' a club based on their ability to host a race. When I look at the top sports clubs in the Hamilton area in other sports there are many that are considered National success stories (producing Olympians) but many of them don't host any events at all. GHO will go from 2007 to at least 2013 hosting only one "A" meet but I think we are doing OK.
Nov 22, 2010 8:45 PM # 
BAOC has a very good program. I'm on the board of directors, so I'm not impartial.
A solid membership. (About 300 people)
A large volunteer core. (Over 170 different volunteers in the last year)
A solid schedule of meets (35-45 meets per year)
National level contribution (2 A-meets per year)
On top of that, there are well managed finances and a generally good relationship with organizations that manage our event venues.

But I'll tell you what, BAOC is far from being perfect. We are the sole orienteering broker in a densely populated region with 7 million residents that prides itself on outdoors ethic. What works here now wouldn't be sustainable in less densely populated regions, or clubs that don't have a preexisting infrastructure. BAOC's membership core is also buoyed by the presence of a large European expatriate community and frequent injection of new blood, due to the presence of San Francisco, several major research universities, and Silicon Vally.

If BAOC was operating anywhere near it's potential in terms of event promotion, membership cultivation, and so forth, I think you could see a lot more out of us.
Nov 22, 2010 9:47 PM # 
I'd like to add Quantico to the list of thriving clubs. Whenever I have visited back east I have found both QOC and DVOA having a full schedule of events, high quality maps, high quality events, nicest of people.

How lucky for you Mid-Atlantic orienteers to have both DVOA and QOC.
Nov 22, 2010 9:58 PM # 
Hmmm. There are COUNTRIES with less than 7 million people. Which have beginner programs, A-meets, and world champions. There may be no universal answers, just individuals with rare combinations of insight and dedication.
Nov 22, 2010 11:53 PM # 
I think having a modern looking, fully functioned web site helps.
Nov 23, 2010 2:27 AM # 
Geoman has pointed to perhaps a core aspect - if a club does not have enough "umph" to design courses on and hold meets on an interesting set of maps, it may well be improbable to sustain the effort.

I'm not sure that necessary criteria is enough though - I doubt there is a single action or resource that is enough on its own.

Perhaps to compare organizational success we should consider events per capita.

Hmmm.... ok - if someone posts:
club name,
# club members,
# events in 2010,
# participants in 2010,
# A events in 2010,
region covered,
population of region.

(And I know that not all events are equivalent, it you have a suggestion on how to rate a score-O as one level of event and a set of WYOBGR(B) courses as another, please offer it)

I'll build a little table... (and no, I don't know how this will turn out;-)
Nov 23, 2010 2:31 AM # 
All this data minus region covered/population is collected every year with club recharters. How about asking Robin S for last year's numbers to start filling out your table? Then all you have to add is region/population. You'll get limited responses here.
Nov 23, 2010 2:47 AM # 
BAOCs key to success has always been the existence of a core group of older folks such as Geoman, who are no longer working, and thus have large amounts of free time to devote to the sport. As we all know, orienteering is an activity requiring huge amounts of volunteer man-hours from organizers to hold quality events, and its hard to find those hours if you also have a full-time job.
Nov 23, 2010 5:03 AM # 
This thread is based on a very sophisticated assumption of what "orienteering" is.

It's entirely possible that "orienteering" could exist on a more basic level. Think of "athletic clubs". Yeah, same worries about structure and programmes. Now think of "groups of mates who go out running together on a semi-regular basis". Or walking groups. Or riding groups.

See thread on orienteering without infrastructure.
Nov 23, 2010 6:50 AM # 
Orienteering clubs are like leaky buckets. You have to keep pouring in water and fixing the leaks. People 'leak' because of lack of interest, burnout or the advance of years. The latter is difficult to counter, and given the age profile of many clubs, we can expect to see more of it. So it will become ever more important to counter the other two leaks. So a successful club needs what Geoman nominated to stem the leaks, but something more.
1. A successful strategy to keep attracting potential orienteers and seduce them into the sport..
2. A great event fixture and good maps to retain the interest of the already involved orienteers.
3. A culture that involves many members in running the club, to minimise burnout and build redundancy.
I doubt any club can sustain itself without success in all three areas.
Nov 24, 2010 7:51 PM # 
Janet - thanks for the suggestion, I've done that.

The organization just above is also what happens for Scouting - every year scouts move up and out, lose interest, or pick another activity to be involved with.

When I took over the Cubmaster role in my son's pack, we worked with a philosophy to make it easy to participate, scheduled fun and interesting activities, and broke as many "you can't do that" barriers as we could reasonably find.

The pack was successful in many different ways.

Orienteering is unfortunately not quite as popular as scouting, but we can work on that;-)
Nov 24, 2010 9:01 PM # 
Pink Socks:
CascadeOC is very successful at local meets (641 starts this month, from just two events), but we're lacking with the national level events (not very many A-meets for a club our size, and those that we do have aren't favorably reviewed).

After reading some of the earlier comments, I can list a few reasons why this is the case:

Club & Volunteer focus. We have a very successful winter season of eight events. Seven courses at each event, a school league with 200+ participants, and it's a lot of work, which starts well before the season gets underway. This is where we put our focus, and it shows in event popularity and quality. The key folks who make this happen generally aren't motivated enough to tackle A-Meets, in addition. (Plus, we have spring and fall seasons we need to produce, too).

Typical Volunteer Profile. Taking a look at our most active and capable volunteers, just about all of them have real jobs and are not retired. And most of those volunteers are also involved with a number of other activities, too. Very few, if any, "all orienteering, all the time" volunteers.

Seasonal Orienteering Attendance. Seattle is has a very large outdoorsy community, and we'll get a good number to come out in the winter time when there aren't a lot of other recreational options, even though the weather is generally lousy (40 degrees and drizzle). But there are so many other outdoor options in the summer, that "regulars" in the winter don't come at all in the summer, as they'll head out to do other outdoor things. It doesn't help that our best orienteering terrain is 2+ hours away from the city. We've got world-class hiking/backpacking trails that are closer than that.

Seattle is very similar to the Bay Area in terms of demographics and resources, and like them, we could do a much better job than what we've done so far.
Nov 24, 2010 10:48 PM # 
Don't sell COC short, Patrick - WIOL is awesome. Particularly in view of the demographics of North American orienteering in general.
Nov 24, 2010 11:01 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Yes, which is kinda what I said: Winter (WIOL) is awesome. The rest of the year, in comparison, is average at best, compared to the other large clubs in the US: BAOC, DVOA, and QOC.

WIOL is run very, very well, I think.
Nov 24, 2010 11:54 PM # 
As everyone said, all thriving clubs have one thing in common. A core of dedicated people that make things happen. Whatever the definition of thrive (# of members, Number of maps, Number of volunteers, Number of A meets, financial stability....) the real question is how do you achieve that measure. It all starts with the dedicated core. The larger the core the easier it is keep going. This is why it is hard to start new clubs as it is hard to grow the core from scratch.
From my viewpoint, to grow that core, you need 1) sufficient events to draw people in, and 2) sufficient interaction to make those people feel a part of the orienteering community.
To achieve #1 sufficient events, you need both maps and advertising. Events require maps. You don't need a lot of maps but more does help. The critical part is the map has to be good. Once you get people out to an event you don't want to loose them because they get fustrated due to bad map (there are plenty of other things already to be fustrated about without adding to it). How you get people (new people) to the event is hardest part. Others can talk about this more but advertise any and everyway you can. Word of mouth/bring a friend seems to be the most sucessful but anything that gets the word out helps (flyers, ads in the paper, notices in the park.....) Some clubs target certain segments of the population (kids, runners, park users, scouting groups...) so they can focus their advertising to those mostly likely to come out.
Once you get someone out to the event you have to make them part of the community (#2). This mostly means friendly interaction. Provide Beginner training is the start for a brand new person but then follow up after the course. You want to establish a rapport. They come for the orienteering but stay because of the friends. In todays busy world there are lot of other activities people can choose which is why orienteering has to more than just about orienteering. You need to make everything possible at the event a pleasant experience (registration, parking, post race discussion...)
Succeed in getting the sufficient core of people then the rest is much easier (training meet directors/course setters, handling finances....)
Nov 25, 2010 12:09 AM # 
New Mexico Orienteers is one of those young clubs (founded in 2003) and not near any major metropolitan area. For us, a great meet is maybe 100 people or 50 starts.

It is so easy to fall into bad habits, especially the bad habit of trying to do everything yourself rather than risk spending your effort on recruiting helpers and maybe not succeeding. I tried that in the past, and the result was not satisfactory. Now I am working on developing helpers; I have to, or I will burn out. Recruiting and training volunteers is a lot of work all by itself, but the result should be a far more sustainable club, and a club that is capable of growth.
Nov 25, 2010 2:03 AM # 
Very very good point Una. The tendecy to do it all yourself is a truely bad habit that is so tempting.

BAOC is large enough that you can identify the effects of this within the club structure.

We have certain jobs (like starts, finishes, course setter, and even meet director) which we seem to handle very well. BAOC has a team of event coordinators who's job is to recruit meet directors and course setters. The meet directors are expected to recruit the starts workers and finish workers. As a result, we have a wide stable of people who assist with each of these jobs. (In the last year, we had 75 different people work starts, 35 different people did finishes, 34 different set courses, and 25 different meet directors)

We have other jobs, where a team of experts has been assembled who handle the job for every meet. This team is expected to do the job themselves and nobody is designated to recruit assistants. This includes the E-punch crew and the registration team. The volunteer situation for these groups is far less healthy (In the last year, only 17 people volunteered with registration, and 15 people volunteered with E-punch). In fact, there has been considerable discussion on the BAOC email list recently about whether E-punch is sustainable at all of our meets, or if it is too much work because the E-punch team is getting burned out.

My conclusion for this is exactly what Una says. You've got a much better long term situation when you get your experienced volunteers focused on recruiting and developing new volunteers, instead of just doing the job themselves.
Nov 25, 2010 3:43 AM # 
Yup. Meet directing is a whole other job. Meet directors need to know their staff's jobs (planning, logistics, operations) inside and out, but meet directing is about managing staff. During the meet, if all goes well, the meet director should be doing nothing but networking with people. Talking to competitors, talking to volunteers, encouraging staff, asking questions, finding out who can be recruited, receiving complaints and compliments. Talk talk talk, and take notes.

Everything about orienteering that involves technology is at risk of increasingly narrow specialization. I see that happening with online registration, and with e-punching, especially where registration and e-punching are integrated. NMO still is using punch cards, and on the whole I am glad. Not as sexy as e-punch, and I do wish we had data on splits, but the punch cards are far more robust.
Nov 25, 2010 8:47 AM # 
Nov 25, 2010 11:02 AM # 
You can make electronic punching hard, or easy. The standard school kit makes it easy. The full OE20xx method might be necessary for big events, but for club meets is dramatic overkill.
Nov 25, 2010 2:57 PM # 
Easy is relative. None of our meet maps has electricity nor any indoor space to set up computer and printer. So that means we would need a generator or battery and solar panels, and possibly we would need to borrow an RV or an operations trailer from a SAR team, which further requires rounding up someone with a suitable tow vehicle and the necessary driving skills.
Nov 25, 2010 6:28 PM # 
You don't need electricity! If you have one of those GeBe printers or something similar then that's all you need - runs on a rechargeable battery. Like many other clubs, the Tucson club has used such a set up with great success, and it was *much* less work than using pin & paper punch.

Last winter I tried this out for the first time with TSN, as a course setter. I set out the epunch boxes mostly by hanging them on the control hanging string. In some places I used control stands, so the epunch box was attached to that. This was far easier for me than trying to figure out in advance which controls had which codes and whether the pin punches were still attached, and making master punch cards. I just made sure the right numbered box went in the right place. Major stress reducer.

The meet directors/registration/results crew had never used epunch before. Ever, even as a competitors. I gave them 5 minutes of instruction on the printer and they were GTG. Each person self-started, punched a finish box when they were done, then printed two sets of splits. The first set was attached to their registration card, which served as proof that they were off the course (we also had a roster going at the finish), and also to generate results. The second set was for their own use. The pair that dealt with the registration/download/results commented afterwards that it was awesome - so much easier than dealing with punch cards!

Because of epunch we were able to use less volunteers. I stood in the start finish area handing out maps and directing people to self-start and pointing out the finish punch. I think I shared the responsibility of taking down names with one other person. The registration/download was 1/2 mile away, and the two that worked that handled it all on their own without issue. That's it. People volunteered for control pickup, of course, but for the actual meet we had 3-4 people, low stress.

Now, we didn't bother trying to get the splits off of the download box for the results - we still had to type up names and times for the website. But people who were interested were encouraged to add their splits to AP for comparison, and a good number of people did. We got a lot of comments about how nice it was to have splits afterwards, and not a single comment that we needed to have the full computer/printer/splits online setup.

Anyway, this was supposed to be shorter. Just wanted to demonstrate that epunch does not have to add work at all, and can in fact be a labor saver.
Nov 25, 2010 9:20 PM # 
You can also make pin punching hard, or easy.
Dec 6, 2010 3:04 PM # 
I've got some interesting observations when looking at club data per 10,000 residents - Suggestions on how to make a spreadsheet display well in this thread?. I tried pasting in an html table and that didn't work out so well...

Factors - I looked up the nearby population as best I could find - I make no defense of the numbers and will happily adjust if someone just sends me better numbers.

I counted an A-meet day as 4x a non-A-meet day. This is to reward clubs that hold A meets, and the precise weighting could be modified.
Dec 6, 2010 4:41 PM # 
One suggestion for displaying spreadsheets--post them on a personal (or club) web page and link to it. Google docs can work too, but you need a Google account, and a few folks don't like them.
Dec 7, 2010 9:00 PM # 
Paste in the html table then remove the line breaks so it's all one line. I think ken's working on a fix!
Dec 7, 2010 11:08 PM # 
VO2 Orienteering:
Thx to all of the participants on that topic.
Me and few other orienteers cooperated (core group) and decided to reborn an old orienteering club in Toronto. I took several points from different people and tried to come out with a strategic plan for 2011 with the specific goals. I think it is important for a new club to have a plan of actions and goals to achieve.

I would like to know if clubs, which cooperate with scouts, do something different for this target group or just a regular orienteering events!? if different, how?
Dec 8, 2010 6:28 AM # 
New Mexico Orienteers has tried to just do regular orienteering events, and it has not been satisfactory for us. Most scouts (and JROTC too) are lucky to finish a Yellow course, and floundering around in the woods is not fun. JROTC like to come out for score O's (they like the simplicity of the mass start), but again most of them spend the entire time searching and it shows in their scores. If they get lucky, they can follow an orienteer for a while and beat their peers.

I am planning an orienteering boot camp modeled after a track-and-field meet. If I can get just one local youth group trained up to the point of being able to run beginner courses in competitive time and finish intermediate courses, then I think the orienteering bug will spread among them like a virus.
Dec 8, 2010 1:31 PM # 
@Una: Are you sure NMO's Yellow courses are at the proper level of difficulty? Or, should I say, easiness?
Dec 8, 2010 2:03 PM # 
Ok, I've gone the google docs route and have some data to share.

I took the list of clubs and 2009 participation data - starts, members, and events.

To that list I added four columns of data:

Population (in 1000s) - as best I could find for the apparent Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Often reported by Wikipedia, but I had a couple other techniques for figuring out where the club was and what sort of area might make sense. In some cases I went to the census site and estimated from their color-coded map of the US...

Event fees - non-member and member. Since I was visiting club sites, and this data was useful for our club in revisiting the issue, I noted them. I must stress that many clubs have other categories for things like dibbler rental, youth, additional members in a group, beginners, etc. These two numbers do not do the issue justice.

Membership fees - individual and family. Again, a bit of useful info since I was there. And again there are more options for multiple years, groups, and pre-pay arrangements for the season of events.

Next - I created columns for per-capita measures, except I used per 10,000 so that we weren't looking at decimals for everything. (and it seems more in tune to do something per 10k;-)

Starts per 10k - how many 2009 starts divided by the population.
Members per 10k - club membership divided by population.
Events per 10k - counting an A-day as 4x the value of a regular, number of event days by population.

This last is a nod to weight A events slightly more than regular meets. My rationale here is that A events are more effort and more rewarding. Running the same local park for the eighth time is not the same as getting to a new venue and getting a top-notch experience.

And lastly, I bracketed the results into 20% brackets - 0%, 20%, 40%, 60%, and 80%. (With 55 entries, each bracket had 11 clubs) With the top 5 noted 1-5.

Here it is:

Note - I make no attempt to defend any of the population figures. If you think your club serves a different population, please suggest it with a number and a justification for that number. If you happen to be right outside LA and don't want to consider that population as part of your own, you might want to reconsider... Here in Rochester, we work with people in a 40 mile radius and often draw in those from further out. In some of the western areas they might draw from even further out;-)
Dec 8, 2010 2:05 PM # 
Link doesn't work on my browser
Dec 8, 2010 2:12 PM # 
Hmmm.... Might be "anyone with a google account can open it..." testing...

Yes, while the site says the document is able to be opened by anyone with the link, the caveat "and signed into gmail or a google account" seems to apply. I don't see a further option to make it more readable. (and I do see anonymous people looking at the document)

I'll try the html one-line thing...
Dec 8, 2010 2:30 PM # 
It looks like your doc permissions are fixed now.
Dec 8, 2010 2:33 PM # 

2010 Charters Pop 2009 Starts
Club Members
Non-A A-Meet Events

Event Cost Membership
ABBR CLUB NAME Size (k) Starts Per10K
Members Per10K
Days Days Per10K
Foot? Ski? MBO? Trail?
NonMember Member Single Family

ARCTIC ARCTIC OC 400 1006 25.2 1 104 2.60 2 22 0 0.55 2 20 1 1

$6 $5 $5 $10
NEOC NEW ENGLAND OC 1050 1738 16.6 2 283 2.70 1 31 0 0.30 3 31

$10 $6 $10 $15
ALTOS ARK-LA-TEX O-SOCIETY 300 412 13.7 3 18 0.60 60% 4 0 0.13 60% 4

$8 $5 $10 $15
ROC ROCHESTER OC 1030 1241 12.0 4 168 1.63 5 19 2 0.26 5 18 1

$6 $3 $20 $25
WPOC WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA OC 400 404 10.1 5 69 1.73 4 11 0 0.28 4 11

$5 $5 $10 $15
SMOC SOUTHERN MICHIGAN OC 600 573 9.6 80% 119 1.98 3 12 0 0.20 80% 12

$10 $5 $15 $25
DVOA DELAWARE VALLEY O' ASSN 5000 3905 7.8 80% 453 0.91 80% 39 0 0.08 40% 39

$9 $6 $16 $26
OLOU ORIENTEERING LOUISVILLE 1260 924 7.3 80% 75 0.60 60% 22 0 0.17 60% 22

$9 $7 $15 $20
FLO FLORIDA O' 2080 1455 7.0 80% 93 0.45 40% 12 0 0.06 20% 12

$6 $4 $10 $20
COK CAROLINA OK 1750 1061 6.1 80% 54 0.31 20% 12 0 0.07 40% 12

$8 $5 $12 $18
UNO UP NORTH ORIENTEERS 970 566 5.8 80% 44 0.45 40% 11 2 0.20 80% 10 1

$8 $5 $15 $15
OCIN O' CLUB OF CINCINNATI 2150 1247 5.8 60% 110 0.51 40% 33 3 0.21 80% 33

$10 $7 $12 $16
IRVOC ILLINOIS RIVER VALLEY OC 340 184 5.4 60% 26 0.76 80% 6 0 0.18 80% 6

$10 $15
BOK BACKWOODS OK 1740 924 5.3 60% 104 0.60 60% 23 0 0.13 60% 23

$5 $0 $25 $35
VOC VULCAN OC 1130 599 5.3 60% 38 0.34 20% 12 0 0.11 60% 12

$5 $5

WCOC WESTERN CONNECTICUT OC 900 451 5.0 60% 76 0.84 80% 15 0 0.17 60% 14

$6 $4 $12 $12
ICO INDIANA CROSSROADS O' 890 426 4.8 60% 25 0.28 20% 11 0 0.12 60% 11

$15 $5 $10 $20
COC CASCADE OC 3400 1610 4.7 60% 284 0.84 80% 22 2 0.09 40% 21

$9 $6 $14 $20
CNYO CENTRAL NEW YORK O' 730 304 4.2 60% 29 0.40 40% 17 0 0.23 80% 15 2

$8 $5 $10 $15
MVOC MIAMI VALLEY OC 1080 434 4.0 60% 29 0.27 20% 11 0 0.10 60% 9
1 1
$6 $4 $10 $15
CTOC CITY OF TREES OC 380 150 3.9 60% 22 0.58 60% 11 3 0.61 1 10 1

$5 $0 $45 $65
BAOC BAY AREA OC 7500 2929 3.9 60% 271 0.36 40% 34 5 0.07 40% 32 1
$15 $10 $15 $20
QOC QUANTICO OC 5360 2070 3.9 40% 297 0.55 60% 25 3 0.07 40% 25

$6 $4 $20 $30
MNOC MINNESOTA OC 3500 1292 3.7 40% 274 0.78 80% 20 0 0.06 20% 18 2

$8 $5 $16 $22
PTOC POSSUM TROT OC 2000 711 3.6 40% 71 0.36 40% 20 0 0.10 40% 20

$6 $5 $12 $15
NTOA NORTH TEXAS O' ASSN 6500 2080 3.2 40% 56 0.09 0% 12 0 0.02 0% 12

$10 $7 $15 $18
NEOOC NORTH EAST OHIO OC 2250 704 3.1 40% 149 0.66 60% 16 0 0.07 40% 16

$8 $5 $15 $20
OK ORIENTEER KANSAS 250 78 3.1 40% 13 0.52 40% 3 0 0.12 60% 3


SVO SUSQUEHANNA VALLEY O' 1000 306 3.1 40% 56 0.56 60% 10 0 0.10 40% 10

$8 $5 $15 $25
HOC HOUSTON OC 5900 1763 3.0 40% 173 0.29 20% 6 0 0.01 0% 6

$10 $13
GAOC GEORGIA OC 5475 1610 2.9 40% 198 0.36 40% 19 2 0.05 20% 19

$10 $6 $8 $15
CROC COLUMBIA RIVER OC 2200 604 2.7 40% 84 0.38 40% 17 0 0.08 40% 16 1

$8 $6 $15 $20
Dec 8, 2010 2:35 PM # 
The NEOC population should probably be bigger than CSU's, assuming their territory is a super-set.
Dec 8, 2010 2:40 PM # 
So pasting in the top portion seemed to do ok - I'll leave that here, but it probably is much bigger than AP can currently handle;-)

Yes - absolutely on changes in population. I'll take any report of a specific number and rationale. I looked things up over the course of two evenings and if I blew it already, I'm not going to do better on my own. Send me something specific...

[and if you think somebody else is under-reported, go ahead and send me something on them too, but again, give some justification]
Dec 8, 2010 3:26 PM # 
Yukon would kick all the US Clubs' butts in those per capita metrics.
Whats the population of Whitehorse? 30K

so to be bigger per capita they would only need 75 starts and 9 members. I'm pretty sure they exceed that. ;-)
Dec 8, 2010 4:26 PM # 
What I want to know is what is Arctic doing right? How do they draw so many people to their events? How do they get so many folks to join the club?
Dec 8, 2010 5:20 PM # 
@Una: Are you sure NMO's Yellow courses are at the proper level of difficulty? Or, should I say, easiness?

Yes. I have agonized over that, and I can say yes. I think the root problem is that although our O maps are in mountain terrain, we are drawing scouts and JROTC from the cities. All our large cities are on relatively flat land and most are laid out on very regular rectangular grids. Also, the JROTC instructors tell me they train on home school grounds or on desert selected because it is flat and has little or no vegetation so the sight lines are very long. These courses run the stuffing out of the kids, and teach them to avoid spiny plants and sand traps, but don't teach them navigational skills. I designed some tests into my courses and the results tell me some kids do have (limited) skill in using compass bearings, but they rely mostly on visual search and following.
Dec 8, 2010 6:06 PM # 
Pink Socks:
I think there's an error with Cascade OC # of starts in 2009. It should be a heckuva lot bigger than 1610. (I don't know where the data is coming from though...)
Dec 8, 2010 6:31 PM # 
VO2 Orienteering:
Wow, what a table! Great job!
It is a huge difference in US and Ontario membership price.
Ontario Clubs:
Stars $40/adult and $20/junior
TOC $30/adult and $20/junior
GHO $30-40/adult
Ottawa $20/adult and $10/junior

And the cheapest races are in the winter $15, and regular events are $25/race;
so for 3 races event (one weekend) it costs $75 without discounts.
I think I know why we are so low in memberships compare to US clubs.

I am wondering if the reason of the such high membership price is b/c Canadian clubs are paying insurance to COF? Do US clubs pay year fees for insurance to USOF? or they buy their own insurance for their events?
Dec 8, 2010 7:08 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Update: I went through the results lists for Cascade OC in 2009, and our number of starts should be around 3430, not 1610.

(My actual count is 3408, which doesn't include one small-ish event on August 5th, 2009. Those results aren't online, but I recall around 25 starts.)

Maybe we (Cascade OC) reported our data incorrectly to USOF? Maybe there was a typo/data entry error somewhere else?

The 3430 number does not include any of the 1902 Street Scramble individual participants from 2009. I'm not sure how those starts are counted (if at all). Some of the Street Scrambles are co-produced by Cascade Orienteering Club and Meridian Geographics (a for-profit business), and others are strictly Meridian Geographics events.
Dec 8, 2010 7:16 PM # 
Orienteering USA (USOF) member clubs pay an annual fee to OUSA based on number of members and number of starts. I couldn't find the current amounts on the OUSA website, but I believe it is currently $1 per start.
Dec 8, 2010 7:37 PM # 
Orion, your statement about Ontario club membership is misleading and in some cases incorrect. Several of the Ontario clubs include several club events within that membership cost. e.g., TOC includes all summer orienteering, summer BBQ and their THOMASS event.

The cost to join GHO is not $40/adult. I'm not sure where you found that number. The real number is $20/adult or $10/junior and that includes all club training events and two orienteering events. The cost to join orienteering clubs is much cheaper in Ontario now than it was in the 80's. The cost to join Orienteering Ontario alone in the late 80's was $32 for an adult. Also I assume that those club membership costs for the US clubs do not include USOF membership (maybe I'm wrong). But when you join a club in Ontario you also get membership in OOA and COF. So comparing club membership rates between Ontario and the US is apples and oranges.

Nevertheless I quickly did a comparison with GHO's numbers...

GHO has 2.4 Golden Horseshoe members per 10K in the Golden Horseshoe
GHO has 4.1 Hamilton members per 10K in the City of Hamilton

Our last 12 months isn't typical (12 events including 3 A) since we hosted GLOF but our starts per 10K for the Golden Horseshoe Region is 23.3
Dec 8, 2010 7:40 PM # 
There's at least one Canadian club coming up with this information that I'll add. One club suggested they essentially run 2 separate local groups with mostly non-overlapping members and events that we'll report separately. Other inquiries on the size of populations...

While the data came from OUSA (USOF), there is no reason for any value to stay incorrect - if COC's numbers should list 3430, it'll get updated. I'd just ask that one rep from a club figure it out and let me know (privately). I suppose it is possible that numbers are under reported to avoid club fees to USOF, or there is a specific "paying participant" number that national wants to see...
Dec 8, 2010 8:14 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Maybe some of the discrepancy with COC's numbers is from the school league. There are about 200 kids that pay for the entire season (8 events) upfront, and that may be affecting how starts are getting reported.

I just went to the Cascade OC website and pulled # of starts from there, so it's publicly-available info. I'm not the one from the club who does the reporting to O-USA, though.

CTOC's number of starts also look suspect. 150 in 2009? They had a 3-day A-meet! (plus 10 other local meets)


On another note... during the Winter Olympics, I was keeping track of medals per capita, and the AP community basically responded, saying, "Well, duh, of course small countries are going to win and large countries are going to lose! Don't you know about the law of large numbers? Idiot!" (Obviously, I'm paraphrasing ;-)

Anyway, that should help explain why Yukon is "kicking everyone's butts" and why Arctic-O is tops in the US, as it's about 1/19 the size of BAOC's coverage area.
Dec 8, 2010 8:41 PM # 
Perhaps one should compare orienteering starts versus Road Racing or Trail Racing Starts in the same geographic region? That may shed some light on the potential untapped market. Just comparing versus the general population tells you nothing about how active that population subset is.
Dec 8, 2010 9:27 PM # 
VO2 Orienteering:
hammer, thx for your update for GHO membership price- last time I talked to Hans on Peak-2-Peak event and he told me it will go up and will be around $30. If it is $20, I will join GHO, just to have a privilege to run/train on GHO maps and with GHO orienteers. For the US crowd- we do have lots of orienteers in Ontario with double or even trip memberships- just to gain adventage from the free event. Do US clubs have a restrictions on double membership or it is common in North America???

As to the rest, this is a fact that our clubs charge more (we are not talking here about what each club includes in its memberships) and I do not see any difference between our clubs and US ones. Another huge fact is that 95% of our clubs are charging $15 per start/race or even more. Hammer, we have to use any available data and use it to make our clubs successful.

Another question for US clubs: does your club membership includes as well USOF membership in it? if not, how much is USOF membership?

PS: Sorry for so many questions, but few great orienteers and me took an initiative to rebuild/update an old orienteering club to a competetive level, so we are searching for any available information about structure of the clubs, membership pricing, target groups, activities and anything else related to Orienteering.
Dec 8, 2010 9:42 PM # 
...Don't you know about the law of large numbers? Idiot!"

I'm not sure The Law of Large Numbers is relevant here. That Law has to do with improving the accuracy of empirical statistics by increasing the sample size.

And yes, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are down at the bottom of ccsteve's list. But I don't think we should just dismiss that fact. How come DVOA, operating in their large SMA, is way up at the top of the list in all catagories except number of events? And since A-meet days count for 4x local days, DVOA is hurt by the absence of any A-meets in their schedule. Which is again, an interesting and valid conclusion one might draw from this chart.
Dec 8, 2010 9:49 PM # 
Another question for US clubs: does your club membership includes as well USOF membership in it? if not, how much is USOF membership?

NMO club membership does not include OUSA membership; perhaps it should, if only to raise the general awareness level of our members. OUSA individual membership is US$35 and includes subscription to Orienteering North America. Direct subscription to ONA is US$25.
Dec 8, 2010 9:54 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Do US clubs have a restrictions on double membership or it is common in North America???

Not to my knowledge. I'm a dual member in both Orienteer Kansas (my hometown, a lifetime membership) and Cascade OC (current residence, elected board member).

However, only one counts as a primary membership. At US Champs in Laramie in 2008, I was asked to vote at the AGM on behalf of COC, but it turns out that I was not eligible to do so, since my primary membership is with OK (smallest club on the chart, woo!).
Dec 8, 2010 11:01 PM # 
USOF/OUSA recharter fees for 2011 will be flat fee of $20 plus $1 per start (not including "A" meets) plus $3.50 per club member. Families count as 2 members, regardless of number of family members. So, if you have 10 individual members and 10 family memberships, you count 30 times $3.50, for $105. If you had 200 starts, add in $1 per start or $200. "A" meet starts are not included and are paid for at a higher rate in sanctioning fees.

If you have membership in more than one club, ONLY the club in which you are listed with USOF as primary member needs to pay the $3.50. So be sure to tell the secretary/treasurer of additional clubs that you join that they don't have to pay for you at recharter time.
Dec 8, 2010 11:10 PM # 
Since that since "A" meet starts are reported separately for payment of sanctioning fees, they might not be included in USOF's "club starts" numbers. That could explain the CTOC discrepancy.
Dec 8, 2010 11:16 PM # 
Agree with Clark that the Law of Large Numbers is irrelevant and doesn't explain the data that it was invoked to attempt to explain.

A possible explanation is this --

Assume there is a certain minimum nucleus, independent of local population, needed for a club to exist and be viable. I think this is a reasonable assumption. If all clubs were exactly the size of this necessary nucleus, then clubs in smaller geographies would naturally be at the top of the list. This seems easy to accept.

Then assume that the appeal of a club is mostly social, this is harder to accept, but I think it explains alot of things. First, that would sort of indicate a natural maximum size, as after a certain "anti critical mass", for lack of a better term, the social aspects would be lost, as in "no longer the small town concept", for lack of a better term. Put another way, when a club reaches a certain size, it is extremely difficult for the newbie to break into the social strata of the club. It is easier to do so with a smaller group, and thus it can grow towards the anti critical mass point, but eventually, those in the outer orbit are too far away to remain gravitationally attracted to the central core, and will drift to other activities that are more socially rewarding. While this concept is harder to accept, I think it is supported by observation, and supported by the fact that the start data is capped at the same order of magnitude, regardless of geography. If this notion is correct, the local population could double in size, and the data would be static.

It would be interesting to chart the data over time vs population change in the local geography; it would also be interesting to add club age as a column.

Furthermore, if this notion is correct, it would explain why past attempts to "grow the sport" have failed, and present ones are demonstrated failures or are doomed to fail as well, at least in local geographies with incumbent populations. The postulate suggests simply that the product is mostly irrelevant, and that barriers to growth are incumbent culture. Suggested remedies would be making the product something people must have, or altering the incumbent culture, if true. Obviously this is highly speculative, but it certainly may explain some things.

Finally, in assessing local market conditions, the idea of incorporating local running populations in the analysis is a good one. Along the same lines, it might also be valuable to incorporate local letterboxing and geocaching data; such data is scrapeable off of major web sites with a little bit of effort (probably too much so for this project).

An interesting way to look for support or to refute this notion is to look for cases of several clubs in the same geography that are truly distinct social entities (you can have several clubs, but if everyone still knows everyone well, I'm not sure if it is a valid test; in that case all the clubs in toto would be an anti critical mass unit). If such could be found, you could look at that data and see if outperforms, in toto, similar geographies with one club.

If such a notion were validated by further exploration, it would possibly suggest that the club structure is actually a barrier to growth, and alternative structures found in other sports may be more appropriate.
Dec 8, 2010 11:46 PM # 
Start numbers - if A meet starts are not reflected in the number in the original table (and I now realize that they probably are not), starts would be under-reported for those clubs. [The fix for this is to add a column of A-meet starts and add them together - to keep from futzing with the different data]

I believe only CTOC's membership rates are high enough to cover OUSA membership, but in that case I think they gave free admission for the entire year with membership and not OUSA membership. So consider none of the clubs including OUSA membership in the rates.

After having released "Events per 10K", I must admit that it is perhaps a less useful figure - the raw number of events might be just as effective even in a higher density area.

None of these is a holy grail - but if we can see what others do, we might just pick up some useful practices...

[And a reminder - the table above is only about 60% of the clubs - AP didn't take the whole html chart - check the google docs page for the full spreadsheet]

I'll update and revise as revisions slow down coming in...
Dec 8, 2010 11:55 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Ok, if A-Meets are removed (~600), and each WIOL individual is only counted once per season (when the monetary transaction takes place), then that could get Cascade OC down to around 1600 starts, not the 3400 or so that are in the results lists.
Dec 9, 2010 12:16 AM # 
I too think that smaller populations can throw up impressive figures, but isn't the answer just the normal scatter? In a small centre, the club either exists (and the small divisor makes the numbers look great) or it doesn't (and the centre doesn't figure in the table at all). And in a large centre there may be more competing attractions (in both senses of the word).

Still, there must be other factors at work. Around here there are two clubs, I only have the stats for the smaller one so as an approximation I'll just double them. Pop 400K, starts 4200, starts/10k 105, members/10k 4, events/10k 1.6. But maybe I'm counting stuff you don't, or have I got the decimal point in the wrong place?
Dec 9, 2010 1:31 AM # 
What I want to know is what is Arctic doing right? How do they draw so many people to their events? How do they get so many folks to join the club?

I'm certainly not a spokesman for Arctic, but what I recall from having heard their story a few times is that rather than weekends, they hold most of their events on week nights. This works for them because 1) it allows them to attract participants who are interested in orienteering but committed to some other sport on the weekends, and 2) they have enough daylight hours in the summer time to pull it off.
Dec 9, 2010 2:08 AM # 
To learn how to grow the sport, look at new clubs. Learn what they do that helps them grow.
Dec 9, 2010 2:30 AM # 
NMO is a young club, started in 2003. We are proud to have as many maps as we do, as many more maps in the works, and to be hosting an international radio orienteering competition in 2011. We're just old enough to have passed our first low point! That was not fun.

I have gained a lot of insight into weaknesses in our club from reading discussion archives here on AP. Recently I started simply asking each of our regulars to renew their membership and volunteer for a specific job at a meet, based on what I think their interests are. The response has been tremendous! Many volunteers were just waiting to be asked. Also, now people approach me to ask if they can volunteer. It used to be incredibly hard for me to ask anyone to help, but now it seems easy, maybe even rewarding. Now I appreciate how my talking for a mere 5 minutes can lead to someone else dedicating weeks or months to making stuff happen.

I now think that to grow the sport O USA might profitably spend less attention on recruiting individuals to orienteering and more attention on helping clubs grow. This is based in part on seeing how much growth in the ARDF sport is limited by the culture of amateur radio organizations, with their emphasis on the solitary individual member.
Dec 9, 2010 3:24 AM # 
Gruver - send me details in a note and I'll check.

I have received A meet start data, so that'll get in the next update.

Direct comparisons may not work. I like the concept of clubs having significant mass, stability, and growth.

If ABC can get a good thing going without a large population, what they've got is clearly attractive to the people there - that's something to look at.

It may be easier for ROC to get the local paper to cover events compared to a much larger city. (And ROC events do get in the paper's upcoming calender, and the top finishers of regular events are included in the sports results...)

And just because a club gets 3000 starts in a year doesn't mean it has a great story - if 10 million people live right there;-) Now we can look at these things.

I'd like to see the stats used as a window into what is possible, and what aspects to copy.

Conversion to 2010 data should be easy enough when that is compiled.
Dec 9, 2010 3:31 AM # 
Fossil wrote (of Arctic)... "they hold most of their events on week nights"

Partly true of the smaller club here, with about 50% of the starts coming from afterwork weeknight events - parks in the summer and urban rogaines all year round. Why do you need daylight?
Dec 9, 2010 3:33 PM # 
@chitownclark, randy - read what chitown wrote about the law of large numbers, then maybe think that those at the top of the list are outliers, and thus should likely have a small sample size (dubious hypotheses are at work, but under those hypotheses the LOLN is relevant).
Dec 9, 2010 6:15 PM # 
chitownclark said Chicago was at the bottom of the list. It is so far down that I can not see it from here. I do not think that the law of big numbers applies or we should have rural club with tiny numbers too.

I thing that big cities have so much going on that it is hard for people to notice Orienteering. And mass transit usually does not stop at the forest.
Dec 9, 2010 6:43 PM # 
rural clubs with tiny numbers have no members and don't exist...
Dec 12, 2010 6:47 PM # 
The Lost Pole:
It doesn't necessarily have to be a club to thrive.

There is at least one non-club with non-members that seems to do well with their real events in non-urban areas.
Dec 12, 2010 7:32 PM # 
Here's a recent new phrase noted by WordSpy that has a lot of relevance here:

"birthplace effect
n. The tendency for smaller cities to produce disproportionately more professional athletes than larger cities.

Example Citations:
A few years a ago, sport scientist Jean Côté and his colleagues discovered a phenomenon they termed the birthplace effect. While poring over the statistics of over 2,000 U.S. and Canadian athletes in the NHL, NBA, MBA, and the PGA, the researchers noticed something interesting - a relation between the size of the city kids grew up in and their likelihood of making it on the professional sports sceene.1 It turns out that growing up in a smallish city such as Liu's Smithtown, and having the opportunity to sample different sports as Jim Liu did, were better ingredients for sports success than specializing in one sport early on.
—Sian Beilock, "How to Create a Sports Superstar," Psychology Today, August 2, 2010

The primary purpose of this study was to examine whether the size of the city in which an athlete is born (i.e. the birthplace effect) influences the likelihood of playing professional sport.
—Jean Côté et al., "When 'where' is more important than 'when': Birthplace and birthdate effects on the achievement of sporting expertise (PDF)," Journal of Sports Science, October 1, 2006

Earliest Citation:
In a groundbreaking study, Jean Cote of Queen's University in Kingston, Canada, reported that in studies conducted in the US, Canada and Australia, children growing up in cities of more than one million inhabitants had a significantly lower chance of making it to the top than children growing up in cities of less than 500,000, and in particular in towns between 5,000 and 50,000 in size. This phenomenon has been labelled the birthplace effect.
—Brendan Mooney, "Born to run? Then keep it country, says study on elite athletes," The Irish Examiner, August 17, 2005"
Dec 12, 2010 10:48 PM # 
A few years a ago, sport scientist Jean Côté and his colleagues discovered a phenomenon they termed the birthplace effect.

Not me, of course.
Dec 21, 2010 12:11 AM # 
HVO and DVOA might like to talk and together approach Princeton University, on their mutual border in central New Jersey. There, after 35 years of steady growth the outstanding extramural Outdoor Action program has been brought "inside" the university and the university is considering how to further develop Outdoor Action.

The Princeton University campus could be a very nice venue for a sprint O, and the Outdoor Action program represents a large body of students interested in learning and teaching field navigation skills.

I know DVOA already has some relationship with Princeton University, but not on this level.
Dec 21, 2010 2:34 AM # 
Man, look what still, surprisingly, exists:
Dec 21, 2010 2:37 PM # 
Recruitment and retention of new members is imperative. A club can survive without recruitment for years, even decades, but not indefinitely. What do I want from a club? Training, mentoring, support, encouragement, opportunities...

Increasingly I am concerned with how we "recruit" by inviting first timers to just jump in the deep end and try orienteering at a meet. That is not how we introduce our own children and friends to the sport, and I do not like how wasteful it is.
Dec 21, 2010 9:40 PM # 
Just like Voyager 1. It's in good company.
Dec 23, 2010 10:53 PM # 
The ARCTIC club at the top of the standings may be an outlier. But I'm not sure we know fully what is going on up at ARCTIC. Certainly this Christmas message shows some unusual group dynamics....
Dec 23, 2010 11:04 PM # 
very clever :)

This discussion thread is closed.