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Discussion: Mentors Wanted

in: Orienteering; General

Jun 3, 2024 1:20 PM # 
Are you at the stage in life where you are looking to give back something to the sport of orienteering?
Have you experience competing or coaching at the highest level in America?
Are you thinking about possibly sharing that experience where it is needed?
Then we would like to talk with you.
Who is ‘we’? The orienteering clubs in Florida – Florida Orienteering and Suncoast Orienteering.
Between the two club we stage close to 20 events per year. We are small clubs but we log in approximately 3,000 different participants in those 20 events. We track the participants through a state-wide ranking program. Most of the participants are high school students in their JROTC programs. As you would expect most are not outstanding at orienteering as they tend to get advanced pretty quickly through the novice> intermediate > advanced ranks without a high level of coaching at most of the schools. They just come to support their team and move on.
But here is where you could come in…
Every year we see a few that week after week get some outstanding results. “That cadet could probably make it at the National Junior level,” I think. Then they are gone and there is no one who can coach them along.
I talk to many of them and encourage them as much as I can but the general thing is that they don’t know anyone who has ‘been there, done that’ and for students in Florida who don’t have NRE’s nearby it is one giant leap to get to a national event to get that exposure the folks running the top want before they will look at someone. No ranking points= no interest from above. That’s the way I see it.
So, we are changing things up a bit.
• We are going to keep our schedule open so the top teams and individuals will be more inclined to go to ranking events like the Georgia Navigator Cup and the Junior Nationals.
• We will be providing some funds for our best to travel to the best events. (We have been doing that for many years)
• This is not firmed up yet, but we hope to invite the Junior National squad to come for winter training in Florida (Does sprint training at Walt Disney World have any appeal?) and interact with our best.
• And 4) here’s where you experienced folks come in – we are tentatively calling you mentors- we’d like to entice you to join our program to be remotely paired up with one, two or three of our best young orienteers so you can help them with their training, their route reviews, learning new techniques and how to train for a competition. And anything more that you can think would work.
Why are we looking for outside mentors? We know you will make a big difference. Some years ago, we had a former many times national champion spend just a day coaching a Florida team to prepare for the Junior Nationals. The team went home with a set of medals but more importantly they have a lifetime of greater appreciation for our sport. Unfortunately, that one event mentorship could not be continued and while I see a couple of the now-graduates at occasional events I wish we had been able to sink that hook a little deeper into a few more. More recently a few Junior National Team members spent a day helping one of our teams at the Junior Nationals and again they left with medals and inspiration that made them national champions for their military service branch JROTC the next year.
Of our several thousand youth orienteering participants I see no more than our top 10 to 15 in any year being involved in this mentorship program. I am particularly interested in students who are high school sophomores this year that we -you and the Florida clubs – can bring along for at least two years. But we’ll accept any who show real interest.
I have a small handful of candidates ready for mentorship now. Would you like to be part of a handful of first mentors willing to give them a hand up – mostly virtually, of course?
Contact me gordhun at rogers dot com.
Together, let’s make that difference.
Jun 3, 2024 7:55 PM # 
Great initiative & I hope you find some US based people to help out!

There was orienteering at Euro Disney once in 2012, sadly I missed it and doubt it will ever happen again. Looks like insanely good fun so let us all know if you can sort Disney World :-)
Jun 3, 2024 11:10 PM # 
I once ran a marathon that goes every year through Walt Disney World and they used to hold a triathlon.
The marathon started about 6 in the morning so that most of the runners could get finished before the crowds arrived. I was able to weave my way through the crowds.
I don't know how we would deal with the admission prices but I foresee a pop up Map Run event.
Jun 3, 2024 11:21 PM # 
I heard Disney and ran to this. LOL
Jun 3, 2024 11:46 PM # 
Gord, what you're describing sounds a lot like what we do in the Youth Development Program. Does it make sense to have them apply?

There's more information on the link to the youth application here:
Jun 4, 2024 9:33 AM # 
Victoria, yes it does sound a bit like the Youth Development Program and probably I had some of those elements subconsciously in mind when creating ours.
However, of necessity, the YDP is open to all.
The program we are looking for in Florida is for youth who have gone through a filtration process and shown that they have potential to be top performers at the junior national level and possibly the junior national team IF they get the right competitive oriented guidance.
We have several thousand youth participating each year in orienteering events in Florida. The average youth participates in about three events per year.
We are not looking for average. We are looking at the ones who are cajoling and convincing their leaders to take their team to more events so they can score more ranking points. These ones mostly on their own just love competitive orienteering and want to get better. They are a joy to watch and watch is all I can do. Watch and try to hook them up with a 'remote mentor' who can help inspire them along.
So far I have seven students from three schools looking for mentors. My idea is to try to find one mentor per school - working with just those two to three, not the whole team. Let the two to three teach the rest of their team. After all, 'to teach is to learn twice'.
I hope this is enough to convince some to become a Florida mentor, even if it is just to ry it for a year. If you e-mail me (see above) and give me your number we can exchange information by phone.
Jun 6, 2024 4:19 AM # 
(Sorry for the tangent...just wanting to add a few pennies in)
One thing you can consider...something I feel is unfortunate and a barrier to accomplishing your stated goals, is the distinction between JROTC orienteering and OUSA orienteering. I'm just a simple man, but it seems to me they are both doing the same basic thing, so separate entities dont seem necessary from my vantage point. There are things I think the JROTC do that are more fun and conversely, some things OUSA has laid out that seem great too. Both camps seem set on doing things their way other than joining forces. For example, most years, the JROTC nationals are separate events from the OUSA Jr. Nationals, and this year, only a handful of JROTC teams made it out because of this. In my humble opinion, the only way for the good kids to get great is for them to compete against other great competition in great venues. I fully understand the barriers to this vision of a junior "Super Bowl" event that is fed by lower level feeder events such as Navy nationals, Air Force Nationals, etc.., but I have always been disappointed that some of the great young runners I have met from the east coast seem to never even apply to be on the national stage or team and never really develop much past the good-Green level runner. It really starts with repetitions, competition, and visibility on the national stage IMO. And that really starts with a schedule that logically puts them in these events as a matter of standard course rather than a special one-off extra thing. Most of the kids who have developed into great orienteers have done so because of being around like-minded athletes or family, and that they have fraternized over the sport and found ways to make it to the next event on the calendar where their friends will be. And IMO, the east coast has the most high-quality junior events and pool of athletes to draw from, so it makes no sense that they do not dominate the youth junior teams from just a "numbers perspective". Anyway, I love your passion for this quest Gord and applaud your efforts.
Jun 6, 2024 8:18 AM # 
Thanks for the post soonerjcb. This might be better discussed in another forum such as ClubNet but as I study how orienteering clubs around the country acommodate or don't JROTC orienteering I see it largely as a square peg/ round hole situatiuon.
Thanks to the enlightened help of several JROTC leaders some 25 years ago and to the happy circumstance that orienteering events in Florida are on Saturdays the orienteering clubs in the state have had a great partnership with the Navy JROTC and now growing among Army, Air Force/ Space Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. We fit their needs not the other way around.
They bring out the thousands of students and they provide the awards at each event. We split the entry fees. That's all good. But what is really frustrating is that for the few students who show real potential in this sport there is little way to bridge them over from JROTC to OUSA level orienteering.
There was a great idea about 10 years ago when there was an effort to establish regional teams. That fizzled.
I think I can get more students looking nationally if I can find people natiionally to look at them. Perhaps every region should be doing that. But the problem in Florida is that there is only one person with national level experience and that experience was half a century ago in a different country. So we are looking for help from beyond Florida, largely beyond the Southeast and largely from people who probably are a bit busy. So we are expecting the time load for each mentor to be relatively low.
Jun 6, 2024 12:56 PM # 
Gord, why not invite those youth you've identified to join YDP? If nothing else, it gives them an avenue to connect with people and establish relationships. We have a number of the older NT youth who have become very active in supporting those who want to follow their path. Several are attending the IOF's Leadership Academy this summer. It doesn't cost anything more than a few minutes to fill out the form, and it's ok to just be on the email list and know what's going on.

We'll probably do a monthly forum on YDP in the fall. I think the youth will have some exciting things to share.

Another thought - I'd love to see top youth from JROTC, Scout Orienteering, and other youth groups that have their own internal championships apply for the funding to support attendance at a major NRE. As John mentioned, Jr Nats is the best from the perspective of having a strong field and a youth focus, but even an NRE closer to home would be great. Here's the link to request funding for something along those lines:
Jun 6, 2024 9:12 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Surprising fact: when Junior Nationals was in Washington state in 2012, the overall winning high school varsity team was a JROTC team from Florida.
Jun 7, 2024 12:51 AM # 
Seconding the YDP. If these students want to be competitive, they have the opportunity to say that in the application. There's plenty of former and current National Team members who are YDP mentors that I'm sure would be able and willing to help in that regard. As Tori said, they would be on the YDP email threads, and hopefully they will see that there's other orienteers in similar situations across the country and might encourage the Florida students to travel to some NREs.

I'll also mention OUSA's coaching certification. The level 1 certification fits well for high schoolers who have the desire to learn about orienteering and take that back to their teams, which you mentioned above. I think Tori just led a level 1 course that had several people who fit that description.

And on a similar topic, what's stopping the Florida clubs from hosting an NRE? I'm sure it's been discussed in some form. Maybe having a national event in Florida where the Florida youth can see orienteers in action from around the country would help too.
Jun 7, 2024 1:20 AM # 
Good thoughts there from Campbellv and depot. I'm going to talk it over and see what is favored.
Here is my concern. It goes back to the Junior Development Team days where Florida teens would sign up, pay the fees, buy the gear and then seemed to be left hanging with no push and no pull. Mentoring? fagetaboutit.
Is the YDP different?
These kids are good. They have self-filtered through our competitions and Ranking system to be truly the best among over a thousand youth.
Florida and NRE's? Too long a story to relate here but as a couple of us tried to get one going we learned that the scars of 20 years ago still have some healing to do.
Jun 8, 2024 12:19 AM # 
Thanks for sharing and asking that question, Gord. I think there's a lot of confusion out there from how JDT used to be.

YDP is different. Not better or worse, just different.

YDP reflects Team USA's American Development Model that encourages us to recognize there are many paths to excellence - elite competition, and also successful age-group competition, map-making, course design, event coordination, sport photography...all the roles that we consider important to making our clubs function.

There are no fees. If an OUSA member who's a young orienteer wants to join, we'll give them access to everything we have. We define "youth" as 25 and under - although our 20-somethings often step into leadership roles. We do our best to connect YDP youth with people who share their interests. The sign-up form is tailored to allow them to express what sort of support they are interested in.

We have event-based coaches support YDP youth for major events. Mostly in the summer - JWOC Tour, European Youth Camps & NAOC last summer. We also try to have social gatherings at NREs to help build community. And we do our course reviews online the week after, so youth can join in even if they didn't travel to the event.

YDP orienteers get an Eagle jersey. It helps in connecting with each other when we go to NREs.

Like most things in orienteering, YDP is all-volunteer run, so I'll caveat that sometimes it takes us a bit to process applications, and I am completely behind in figuring out summer T-shirts and tracking down a YDP coach for NAOC. It's on the to-do list.

We always welcome more volunteers.. ;-)
Jun 8, 2024 12:21 PM # 
The first graphic of this presentation might be an easier way to understand how YDP relates to the National Team for those of us who prefer pictures to words. Not that any of us could relate to that. ;-)

We're penciled in to present at an OUSA forum on YDP in Oct or Nov.
Jun 8, 2024 5:24 PM # 
Why only focus on juniours? Too much attention to them already.
I recall a relevant saying сильному это не надо, а слабому это не поможет

Our seniors, Boomers, also need mentors to help them make wise life decisions, incl. orienteering training. IMO they are most vulnerable. We want to pair them with mentors who would help with developing critical thinking and independent decision-making skills
Jun 15, 2024 8:01 AM # 
yurets, I am trying my best to find you a mentor but so far, no luck.
Jun 15, 2024 8:06 AM # 
Happy to report we have our first match. No names to be released yet. That is up to the mentor and trainee but it looks like a good match. Both very keen on orienteering.

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