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Discussion: AP Community Advises future USA Championship Organizers

in: Orienteering; General

Apr 19, 2012 5:04 PM # 
Anyone can enter here either to contribute or to read. I will ask otherwise to delete comments.

The intention of this movement is to summarize collective wisdom in high quality championship event organization on technical side only (ex. courses and maps) in pursuit of better USA Championship events and publish it in an ONA issue.

And may be get adopted as a part of the OUSA USA Championship event organization.

Place your thoughts below!

Here is a list of thing for future USA championship organizers to work on:

1. Get well recognized professional mapper(s) to work on areas of interest.
2. Get well recognized course consultant (like Eric W.) to help with course layouts and details.
3. Sign well recognized experienced course setters to design and put courses.
4. Get very experienced vetters (3 minimum) to check at least 3 times all control locations. Tape all control locations with appropriate markings.
5. Print maps with final courses at appropriate scales, ex. 1:15000 (1:10000 if warranted or middle) for elites, 1:10000 for M/F40+ and M/F18-, 1:4000/1:5000 for sprints. Do not ever give 1:15000 maps to older or young competitors!
6. Print all clue sheets at appropriate readable sizes (sic!). Provide clue sheets at start areas (sic!) independently of the fact that you put copies in competitor packets.
7. Use appropriate sealed map plastic bags (sic!).
8. Synchronize all SI units, especially used for start and finish.
9. At day of competition put all controls with bags, punches, SI units in advance.
10. Have early pre-runners (control checkers) to verify ALL control placements and SI units and finish units. Delay starts if neccessary to fix problems.
11. Persons in ##1-4 above should never take multiple roles to filfill ##1-4. This would guarantee a system of checks and balances.
12. Do not try to make it cheap at all costs! Do not save on quality of mapping, maps, and courses!

Follow these simple steps and positive karma will be always with you.
Apr 19, 2012 5:29 PM # 
I don't see why you need to put control descriptions anywhere other than just before the start.
Pre-runners can be hard to find as they will likely want to run the course competitively!
Apr 19, 2012 5:50 PM # 
Sorry for mis-using the term. Pre-runner = non-competitive control checker. It should be fit person to check his/her controls in reasonable time. Most common method includes dividing controls in clusters and have these checkers punching corresponfing controls with consequently downloading their SI sticks for verification.
Apr 20, 2012 2:59 AM # 
How about during the course-setting-vetting phase to have experienced orienteers test run the courses? Might help get the target times right.
Apr 20, 2012 3:28 AM # 
I think Gruver got it in one of the other threads. I think this is mostly a process issue - and that what most other countries have to reduce the chance of these types of mistakes as an independent Controller. Maybe its time to consider adding this role, at least for major championships in the US|A?
Apr 20, 2012 5:50 AM # 
Thanks Adrian. Picking up your doctor analogy from one of those other threads, the federation runs (or used to run but that's another story) a couple of sorts of review. One is that for top-level events the controller is expected to provide a report; ideally this encourages learning from the mistakes and "near-misses", and provides real-life examples for controller clinics and newsletters. People being what they are this is not always done (whew, the event is over!) but its a worthy principle. The other one is that the federation technical committee can act as the "independent recipient" you talk of, who sifts the wheat from the chaff and makes suggestions to the club, and possibly rule changes etc. Is there any mechanism like this in place?
Apr 20, 2012 2:40 PM # 
One thing I emphasize to vetters on my courses is that I don't want a "yes man". It is to easy to come back and say "everything is ok" or to not want to hurt the course setters feelings. If a vetter doesn't find anything wrong with my courses or controls then I know he / she has not done the job.
Apr 20, 2012 3:29 PM # 
I have a similar opinion ;-) Especially after being burned a few years ago at a Canadian Champs that maybe Mark Adams should have won. I now always ask the people who check control sites (either during vetting or before) "which control do you feel most uncomfortable with?". It ain't foolproof, but it often works.
Apr 20, 2012 3:53 PM # 
As a course consultant, the 1st question I ask is,
"Do you want a a yes man, or my real opinion?"
As anyone who knows me, I probably could not fulfill the Yes Man role if I wanted to................
Apr 20, 2012 3:55 PM # 
Would it not be uesful to have re certification of course consutltants and vetters?
Continuing education as they say, given at each years' Annual Convention.
Apr 20, 2012 4:15 PM # 
>a few years ago at a Canadian Champs that maybe Mark Adams should have won

Mark and I still debate who lost more time on that. ;-) He missed coming into the CP so had a bad split but I made my error leaving the CP (being in a different spot than expected) and had a bad split on the next one. Sure OK, it wasn't perfect but that course was a lot of fun. Super fast terrain with lots of checkpoints early. you were always on the edge. To keep up the speed decisions were coming quickly. Super enjoyable.

Mistakes happen. Heck mistakes happens all the time in World Cup football (e.g, England-Germany in 2010).
Apr 20, 2012 4:40 PM # 
That was a really bad day for me (and the other organizers). But I still remember it fondly and I wonder if Mark Adams et al behaviour on the day isn't a model for how we might deal with these F*** ups in championship events...

A group of people (or maybe just Mark) came up to me and told me the control was in the wrong spot, but that nobody was going to protest. I confirmed this error and wasn't sure what to do. Basically I should have voided the course but nobody wanted that. So I left it as is.

But wouldn't it be nice to at least put an asterisk beside that race in the record books? (yeah, okay, and all the other ones I screwed up too ;-). This would address a little bit Peter G's point that the organizer can only have pass/fail in the current system - this would give a third option (pass/asterisk/fail) that might serve a lot of good
Apr 20, 2012 11:34 PM # 
I've referred elsewhere to guidance from the IOF which shows that a course error can be acknowledged without voiding the result. Here it is.
Apr 21, 2012 12:52 AM # 
I think it would be good to add a timeline. The course planning process needs to be started at least one year in advance. Many mistakes happen when the process started too late and time had run out on the all important vetting and test running phase. ( I know from many experiences.) It's obvious this happened at these champs when the IOF Controller's suggested corrections were not pursued.
Apr 21, 2012 1:25 AM # 
Welcome back, Geoman!!!
Apr 21, 2012 5:53 AM # 
One suggestion: The Championship course setter should have experience or at least knowledge about orienteering today. S/he should have been participating in A-meets and also know someting about course setting in the international level: how the sprint/middle/long distance courses are set in WRE's and WOC. The important point is that the knowledge should be from last years, the orienteering has changed quite a bit in ten years.
Apr 21, 2012 11:32 AM # 
One fairly simple in theory step would be to have a requirement that the mapper, the course setter, and the vetter be three different people. It's pretty obvious that the course setter and vetter have to be different people, and based on a couple of recent events, it would have been most helpful if if the mapper was neither the course setter nor the vetter.
Apr 21, 2012 3:30 PM # 
Linear Ice:
It's a good idea to have a set of standards or best practices, although I think smaller clubs might have a hard time adhering to all of them, or maybe don't always have enough super experienced people with time available who want to hold themselves up for possible ridicule and insults.
Perhaps meet organizers should just list what their plans are prior to the event (and postt on meet page), and then anyone who doesn't want to participate under those circumstances just doesn't show up.... i.e., don't like the fact that they're not checking three times, that mapper and setter are same person, etc. I think the event organizers might be happier this way too.
Apr 21, 2012 3:49 PM # 
Three general things. One is that we (collectively) never seem to learn from our mistakes. Thin, bogus map cases for example. I attended a US champs a few years ago in a certain state and the map bags were thin, and unsealed. In frustrtaion I pulled my map from it on the way to the first control. There were complaints made. Returned to the same state a few months ago - same thing - thin bogus map bags. A map case of correct size, appropriate thickness and sealed should be an 'absolute basic' - yet why is this so hard to attain. Another point is that we seem to reinvent the wheel so often regarding meet procedures, how to vet courses, map printing, how to do SI etc. when there are 'proven' systems avaialble to use. A third suggestion is stick to the rules regarding mapping and course setting. If IOF standard is minimum size 1.0 metres then don't go mapping 0.3 metre features. If sprint winning time is supposed to be 15 minutes then don't design a course that results in a winning time of almost 19.5 minutes.
Apr 22, 2012 12:09 AM # 
Meet directors should only take advice from other experienced meet directors.
Apr 22, 2012 12:47 AM # 
Edited at OP's request

It is appropriate for a club which was awarded WRE to sign a well recognized orienteer to serve as Event Director, not just someone with PR and fundraising “experience”.
Such a person should have participated many times in the national and/or international events outside of state of ......, successfully ran courses in appropriate age group, and should have been recognized by O’ring community. Example: Mike Minium in OCIN.
Apr 23, 2012 6:25 PM # 
Based on my own experience.

List of qualified USA based mappers for championship events:
1. Marc Dominie
2. Mikell Platt

List of qualified USA based course consultants:
1. Eric Weyman
2. Mike Minium
3. Vlad Gusyatnikov

I would also mention excellent work of Andy Dale (UK) who agreed to consult our courses for 2009 Western States Championships and enormously contributed to courses and maps in Oregon (including 2005 USA Championships). And excellent mapping and courses by Magnus Johansson at 2010 NAOC in Canada.

Please add to the lists.
Apr 23, 2012 7:07 PM # 
I agree that the individuals on Sergey's list are quite talented and very well-qualified. The orienteering community is fortunate that they have collectively been involved in a large proportion of the highest quality events in the US.

I also think it is worth noting that I have attended countless events of a high technical quality that were produced without the involvement of the above individuals, so it would be nice to have some way of accounting for these successes.
Apr 24, 2012 12:50 AM # 
I'm not sure this is a good approach to take. For one thing, if someone like Kitty Jones or Jane Rowlands aren't on the list is this because you consider that they are not good course planners or is it because you don't realize/remember that they set the courses for the NAOC 2010 Long & Middle?

I see the goal - some kind of ranking system for officials. And only the highest ranked would be "allowed" (presumably by OUSA) to organize the highest level events. But rather than do it in some public forum like this with a lack of agreed upon standards and criteria, I would suggest looking at formalizing the entire process of organizing events. For example, Canada (and most other countries that I'm aware of) have an officials' certification program. They also have officials training program and materials describing how to organize events. And most of all (in my opinion) they have the roll of a controller who acts as external over-see-er and advisor. I quite strongly believe this is the kind of approach that can best lead to an improvement of event quality at all levels - and it is done through a system of education, certification, and over-sight.
Apr 24, 2012 4:04 AM # 
Yes, I made the maps and planned the Sprint only (plus did the arena production).

I'm also confused by this thread. The orienteering community has been well aware that our sport is very complicated to organize for over half a century. The IOF and national federations have developed official processes to handle the type of issues mentioned at the top of this thread. There is already a significant amount of re-inventing the wheel between federations, so this AP discussion seems like a wasted effort. What are you going to do with it? Do you think Sam the mapper, who got completely ripped on this forum, is going to read this on AP and take it to heart? At best, perhaps you could add it as a check list in an appendix to an OUSA officials' manual?
Apr 24, 2012 6:29 AM # 
Does your national manual have a code of conduct. Ours has this phrase:
4.2 Treat all persons with respect and courtesy and have proper regard for their dignity, rights and obligations;
Apr 24, 2012 2:17 PM # 
The thing is, the Champs that just happened were very good, but not excellent. There's nothing in the "system" that would have "made" them excellent. Event Consultants are optional in the U.S., and there is strong opposition among clubs to the use of Event Consultants (not to be confused with Course Consultants).

I think at this stage you just have to "eat it". It's not going to get better. Within this framework, which is not going to change, events are going to be of uneven quality. The existing system will ensure some baseline quality (and the Champs were well above baseline), and to get beyond the baseline will require a dedicated effort on behalf of the event organizers—they have to want to be beyond the baseline, and consciously take steps to get there.

Again for the system to improve, the system should desire to improve, and it's not the case. Perhaps in a few years.
Apr 24, 2012 5:41 PM # 
I think JJs comment (now removed) is valuable, as it shows confusion of someone hearing multiple stories of "unmatched success"
Misplaced controls (count –two) is really only the tip of the iceberg.
I feel it is just a natural result of overall attitude toward organizing this event as adventure show, not as a WRE. Also comes to mind: nonstandard mapping of undersized objects, improper use of form line symbol, not showing vegetation and clearing paths on the map (those who ran Model will understand what I am talking about), ignoring recommendations of Event Controller to change control location and/or remap the situation, misleading runners by mapping nonexistent trails on the Model map.
Regardless of how well other aspects of the event were done, it cannot be “very good”, already.
Here is another quote, coming from a senior GAOC member, revealing mentality, not compatible with what international sport of Orienteering is these days:
“Sam's courses featured two …types of well mapped terrain... Some failed the challenge. Though some claim an incorrect control, the error was presented to everyone equally. Some succumbed, others overcome. I would offer that this is the essential nature of the sport. After all, there's always next year to recoup.”

[This comment will be removed after T/D removes his above]
Apr 24, 2012 5:44 PM # 
Sergey - this is public internet message board and I find it somewhat silly insisting that contributors delete their messages that you deem are inappropriate. JJ has valid point in my opinion and if you are asking him to delete his message then it's not collective wisdom but some kind of agenda that you are trying to push through.

To be objective - your suggestions are valid and has lots of merit. However you need to accept other contributors opinion as well, even if you disagree with their opinions.

If I was trying to do what you are doing I would have summarized input from all the contributors into since document.
Apr 24, 2012 5:54 PM # 
Ban GPS!

Postings by

;-) Seriously though check out the manuals for event organization in different countries. all the info is there.

I doubt I will delete this comment later.
Apr 24, 2012 6:23 PM # 
If you want to create a resource that will be useful in the future, a Wiki page would probably be more effective than an attackpoint thread.
Apr 24, 2012 9:03 PM # 
Best practice to have course designer and course setter (ex. person who sets controls at the day of event) to be same person. If these people are different the course setter should be at least recognized athlete with extensive national/international competition and map experience who visited all control locations (vetted and taped) in advance.

To avoid mistakes with removing controls slated for next day courses control removal crews should always check with all course designers/setters for the event who would track all removed controls. Printing a stash of master maps (>10 pcs) with all controls and their codes is very helpful.

Another good practice is to remove all controls after the course closure and setting next day courses anew.
Apr 24, 2012 9:55 PM # 
Some info from OUSA site for A-meet organizers:

Course Design Guidelines
Procedures for Course Setting and Vetting
Course Design Guidelines
Sample A-meet Procedures
Organizer Questions Checklist

Unfortunately, it is somewhat sketchy, outdated, and sometimes misleading so we are trying to fill some holes. If you have other useful links to other O federation guidelines and best practices - it will be greatly apprecaited to post these links here.
Apr 24, 2012 10:54 PM # 
I Love AP... I get my daily fix before bedtime...

[this comment might be deleted later ...]
Apr 24, 2012 11:10 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Here's a misplaced comment in a championship thread. This thread should now be thrown out and the person who placed this comment should now be ridiculed on Attackpoint.
Apr 25, 2012 3:35 AM # 
Sergey, If you are serious about helping the federation to update their written materials, we could definitely use the help. And having better materials on the OUSA site is much more likely to get to the actual organizers than a thread on Attackpoint. Having well-written, up-to-date materials depends upon volunteers to write them and keep them updated.
Apr 25, 2012 4:21 AM # 
This comment has already been deleted.

(kind of like "this page has been intentionally left blank")
Apr 25, 2012 4:02 PM # 
At this moment I agree with Vlad's sentiment and pointed out fact that AP is not appropriate place to make positive changes to OUSA championship quality.

@smittyo Yes, I am serious about this and will present OUSA leadership with some material collected here with help of many concerned people.

I also started thinking seriously about entering public service domain by enlisting in OUSA leadership ranks. I am not sure though it is a good idea given my "iron fist" style of managing :)
Apr 25, 2012 4:28 PM # 
Sergey--your motivation and experience would be very valuable to US orienteering especially if channeled effectively.
Apr 25, 2012 9:25 PM # 

Some failed the challenge. Though some claim an incorrect control, the error was presented to everyone equally. Some succumbed, others overcome. I would offer that this is the essential nature of the sport. After all, there's always next year to recoup.

I don't believe the organizers actually said this. If they did, Sergey, the OUSA leadership, and whoever else, can make strides by making sure organizers with this mindset never set A meets again. This is hard to do, but at least now you know who may have this mindset, and can eliminate them going forward.

Its one thing to make a mistake, own up to it, and show the appropriate contrition; its quite another to suggest that mistakes are part of the game, and therefore the ones we make are fine. To me, the quoted argument is sort of like presenting dice to everyone equally.

As for my suggestion for race quality, which I've been making for longer than dirt, jack race fees to pay for independent, accountable, quality controllers. Its been made before, it will be made again, and will always be ignored (people like to whine about race quality, but don't seem to want to pay for it -- maybe the fun is in the whining). Doesn't mean it won't help mitigate the problem. OTOH, we could go for the tri-fecta of a 3rd botched championship between now and EY 2013. I'll lay even odds on that. Any takers?

(This post will be deleted upon the occurrence of no failed championships)
Apr 26, 2012 12:06 AM # 
@ Randy

quoted from GAOC Facebook page

[no way this is gonna ever be removed]
Apr 26, 2012 12:12 AM # 
The entire commentary that included the "Some failed the challenge." quote can be found here -- assuming it is publicly viewable. (scroll down)
Apr 26, 2012 1:31 AM # 
"Some failed the challenge..."

Sounds like a few of the adventure races I've been on :)
Apr 26, 2012 9:38 AM # 
Pink Socks:
Ha! That Facebook page is talking smack about our Washington vegetation!
Apr 26, 2012 9:08 PM # 
That's only because it is not possible (or credible) to talk smack about your event organization...

(actually, I think the smack only appiles to West-of-Cascades WA)

This discussion thread is closed.