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The future of the WOA OY Series

Show Profile  woa-oy Posted: 10 March 2008, 6:33 AM  
The WOA - OY Series:
What is the future of the OY series? This past year we have had only five events, with four to count towards the total points. Normally the series “shall consist of up to seven events”. Numbers participating have also been low. For the sake of our sport I think it is important to have events at this sort of level, making a bridge between local (club) events and area and national events. Planners and controllers need experience at this level before going on to NZOF graded events. The same applies to competitors; OYs should give us a standard of events to help us ‘lift our game’. As I have commented before, ‘Without an OY series we would need to invent something at this level!’
The programme for 2008 has six OYs scheduled but only four of these have been taken up by clubs. My view is that clubs need to put more effort into the OY series, firstly in hosting events and secondly in encouraging participation from their members.
What do others think? Do we need to change the nature of the series?
Ian Basire
WOA OY Coordinator

Bruce Worsley responded:
When I first started Orienteering and heard about the OY series, I thought “what a great idea!”. The features of the series that appealed to me were the opportunity to compete in a season long event with other southern North Island orienteers at a variety of venues throughout the region. I also thought that the best four results to count from six events was a great arrangement as it allowed me to maybe miss one event through other commitments, have one poor event and still accumulate a creditable score.

Five years on, I still think the format is very good and I can’t think of any improvements. I agree that OY events are an important intermediate step between club and Regional/National events for participants, planners and controllers. It is a bit disappointing, when viewing the final results, that a large number of participants do not manage to attend four events. I am sure there are many reasons for this, but I expect that a major one is the cost and time of travelling to and staying at locations considerable distances from home. While someone like me is quite happy to travel to such events, others may feel it is a long way to go for maybe 45 – 60 minutes of orienteering.

I have a couple of ideas that may be worth discussing. The first is that people be asked if they are prepared to billet fellow orienteers when they are required to travel to OY events. A second is to incorporate OY events into double header weekends. My thoughts are that a couple of courses could be planned at a location close to the OY venue with an event to be held mid to late afternoon on the Saturday. One course could be of sprint distance (maybe a series of its own in conjunction with the OYs?) and a longer one that could be a gentle warm up to the main event on Sunday. Participants could choose the course that suits them best. This arrangement would suit those travelling on Friday night or Saturday while those who prefer to travel to and from the event on Sunday can still do so as they would now.

In summary, I think the OY series is an important aspect of orienteering and I would be sad to see it go as I can’t see a replacement being any better. The format is fine; the challenge is to get more people along. With greater numbers attending, there is more satisfaction for the organisers and a greater likelihood that clubs will be willing to host more OYs.

Bruce Worsley

From the minutes of Orienteering Hutt Valley Committee meeting 18 February 2008:
Cancellation of OY series
Michael proposed; “That Orienteering Hutt Valley propose to the Wellington Orienteering Association that the Orienteer of the year series be ceased forth with.”
This proposal has been made in the hope that it will invoke debate and action on the OY series.
A letter will be sent to the OHV WOA representative instructing him to take this proposal to the next WOA meeting.
Bruce Dryden Responded:
HVO maybe mischievous in proposing the scraping of the OY series but have sucked me into the discussion. Although timely to discuss the series, it is not timely to abandon it without the substitution of a similar mid-level competition available to all orienteers.

Ian has pointed out that the series has had a lot going for it particularly in giving both competitors and officials competition experience. It also now uses very good maps, well-set courses, extraordinarily quick results and tabulation of accumulated points. That should all be retained in some form.

It also has a tradition of being an integral part of Orienteering in Wellington and whilst that in itself should be no reason to keep it alive, most sporting events rest on longevity for their continuing success.

What it lacks are the numbers currently attending when compared to past years, although not when compared to other forms of orienteering, and a reluctance to put on events.

What it desperately needs is marketing, promotion and recognition of its competitive meaning.

Newer forms of Orienteering are getting good awareness with strong marketing and are growth areas, but my perception is that the OY series is very much taken for granted.

Not a panacea that would fix all, but an OY Promotion/marketing person working with the OY coordinator should be tried before we decide the series is beyond rescuing. It should not take long to brainstorm some good ideas to give it the injection it needs.

Bruce Dryden

Show Profile  woa-oy Posted: 11 March 2008, 1:52 AM  
Michael Wood responded:
I write as (possibly) the person who has attended the greatest number of WOA OY’s. I will continue to do as much orienteering as I can, and am prepared to travel considerable distances to do so. This may make me poorly-qualified to comment – we really need the views of those who came to one or two.
I postulate that the concept of the OY as a SERIES is no longer much of a draw card. There were good numbers (149-178) for the first three. These included venues close to population and also distant (Waitarere). There were lower numbers for the last two (84-117) and these too included close (QE Park) and distant. There were only 30 people who scored in four or more OYs, and one has to question why. We should be prepared to consider that a year-long series might be past its use-by date. Options include fewer OYs, a shorter period between first and last, or no series at all.
This would align with the facts of club life. No club has a surplus of organising resources. Ten years ago OHV came to a crunch-point by the old approach of making the programme we would LIKE to have, and then being unable to run it. It recovered by saying lets run what we can. Note that this has enabled it to again run OYs – in moderation. Further, if orienteers really desire this level of event then scarcity should raise turnouts, and that would better reward the work that goes in. And make a better competition – most classes were determined not by orienteering ability but by attendance.
Michael Wood

Show Profile  Andrew M Posted: 11 March 2008, 4:49 AM  
I possibly fit into the catagory of people who only attend one/two or no OY events.

My reasons are combined with spending perhaps too long orienteering in the same region and my passion for competitive racing becoming stale. New competition, new maps and locations close to town are the utopia that I guess orienteering will never gain. When I began orienteering in the mid 1990's there were perhaps 10 good maps within 40 mins of my house. With subdivisions and lifestyle blocks all of this ok orienteering terrain has disapeared. I don't feel that interested in spending a whole day of my weekend travelling to orienteering. With lots of people working 50+ hours per week and working Saturdays as well more and more people will stop attending OY events.

I still enjoy the challenge of competing, and training week in week out and setting goals. However I have ended up attending more cross county races which take about 2 hours on a Saturday afternoon, close to town and more competitive than I perceive orienteering to be at a regional level.

I guess afterwork rogaines have catered to the change in lifestyle and are fitted into the week and are close to town. Omax and Summer Series races will always do well but I think societal changes are leading to the death of the WOA OY series in its current format.

This message was edited by Andrew M on 11 March 2008, 12:51 PM

Show Profile  woa-oy Posted: 11 March 2008, 1:23 PM  
Paul Dalton responded:
I have kept deliberately quiet on this subject, as NZOF Presidents need to be a bit careful about saying too much, but I know your feeling. Trying to extract opinions out of orienteers is like trying to get blood out of a stone it just doesn't happen by itself. But it doesn't mean there is not interest in OY's or that people don't have views -- just that people don't have an easy answer as to what the fix is and those who are most likely to be happy with the events (even if not with the declining numbers) are the 'hard core' of club members who are regular participants at OY's.

The ones who we really most want to hear from are those who have drifted away or are new and simply not attracted to them and they are even more difficult to get a comment out of!!!

Certainly the numbers are dropping off - and to some degree the standard of the events is also falling - reflects that there is a lot to do to put on a high quality event!

Travel distances are probably more of a factor than they used to be but I have been to much closer OY events and been very disappointed with turnouts much less than we saw on Sunday. But what surprises me most is that virtually no elites ever turn up in my day (which was a while ago I admit) the OY title was as much valued as the nationals and you went to every event now seemingly the Super Series has taken over and they rarely bother to show up but what are they doing on these sundays?? I should ask them!!

Maybe some form of simple but structure questionnaire sent by email to all club members would be a better way to get a response -- rather than a general plea for thoughts maybe with an up front question of 'Do you care if the OY Series to be cancelled for 2008'? followed on with a few questions on whether they still go, and ideas on how to make it more interesting.

I'm happy to help with this if you want.

Cheers, Paul

Don Locke responded
I think it would be a disaster for local orienteering if the OY series were abandoned. To stop it because of declining numbers seems to be giving another twist to a vicious circle. If numbers are declining we need to respond positively, not negatively.
The OY series serves two purposes: to provide better than average quality events, and to provide a friendly competition which runs beyond the individual event, and persistence can count for more than talent (see my result last year). We may not be able to achieve both of these every time, and the distance necessary to travel to some 'better than average' events can detract from the series as a friendly competition. That's the reason I missed the first OY this year. If I have to spend six times as long in the car as I do on the map, the balance must be wrong. And if it turns me off, a compulsive orienteer for almost 30 years (I celebrate the anniversary this year), what does it do for the occasional orienteer?
I suggest we need to concentrate on the accessible competition aspect, including higher quality events where we can but not restricting the competition to them. If the competition is to generate more interest, especially among newcomers and occasional orienteers, there needs to be more events. Each club should be required to identify their 'best' three or four events each year as their OY events, taking into account both the quality and the accessibility of the terrain. Instead of four results from six, it should be the best six from eight or even ten.
I agree with Bruce 1 about multi-day events. Perhaps clubs should take it in turns to offer a local 3-event OY weekend (sprint and middle distance on one day, long on another) each year? And I don't understand why the OY series doesn't include the regional championship races. The two competitions should be different, of course, but not completely separate. It's an odd 'Orienteer of the Year' where performance in the local championships counts for nothing!
Don Locke (WOC)

This message was edited by woa-oy on 11 March 2008, 9:28 PM

Show Profile  williamp Posted: 12 March 2008, 4:47 AM  
I would also be very disappointed if the OY series was abandoned. Sadly I agree with Andrew that orienteering is struggling against a backdrop of young people having to work too hard to pay their mortgages, but simply cutting back on events in response leads towards the slow death of the sport.

So we either need to make OYs more attractive, or easier to host. Here are some random suggestions:

Incorporate an inter-club competition into the OYs. People are more motivated to turn out for their club than as individuals.

Take a coach or minibus to distant events. Several hours driving your car is tedious, but the same time chatting to your mates or reading the paper goes much faster. This also helps juniors who cant persuade their families to go out for the day.

Incorporate the OY series into some of the secondary school events. Usually several of these events are on areas of OY standard. Don't make extra work for the planners by insisting on extra courses, instead reconfigure the course-grade combinations and call it a middle distance OY.

I partially agree with Bruce about double-headers, but this needs to be done in a way that minimises extra work for orgainsers. On the best areas eg Harakeke, different clubs could organise consecutive OYs on the same area, using the same start and finish etc. Or have a night event on the same area on the Saturday evening, assuming everyone drops one difficulty level at night (ie Red goes to Orange, Orange to Yellow etc) you could even use the same controls and courses as the day event without serious detriment.

If you do hold a double-header then nominate an 'official' motor-camp, to make a more social occasion.

Show Profile  Bryan Posted: 13 March 2008, 12:27 AM  
I would hate to see the OY series go - it's been a part of my life
since 1978 - I hardly ever go to any club or park event these days - just the OYs and nationals (and rogaines are less challenging with more luck involved and harder on the body plus you need a partner).

I remember many years ago over the period of about a decade winning
the WOA OY series, followed by the Auckland OY series (3 years in a row). But the reason I won was my persistance and I attended all events. In those days also not many elites turned up to the events.

My suggestion for the OY series I hope will be implemented. The Wairarapa club are requesting that the Winter Classic (to be held hopefully on 20th July, 2008 on the new Riverside 2008 map) will also be a long OY.

Show Profile  Bryan Posted: 13 March 2008, 1:32 AM  
Winter Classic Long OY Event details are:

All standard OY courses will be used combined with the Winter Classic courses. The only difference
with a normal OY are that the distances and times will be longer than normal - at this stage I'm thinking of not having such a long winning time (usually Winter Classic elite times > 2hrs) and the expected winning time will be approx 100 minutes (as opposed to a normal OY of 65 minutes for elites).

Show Profile  jeffg Posted: 13 March 2008, 5:31 AM  
Do you think Wayne Cretney would have approved of the reduction in winning time Bryan?

Bring back the Great Day O!

Show Profile  Bryan Posted: 13 March 2008, 7:48 AM  
I'm sure he would have approved of the Wairarapa club helping to keep the OY series going.

The Wairarapa club has not held an OY for the last 2 years. As it is, it is difficult for the club to hold both an OY and a Wayne Cretney memorial in a year and there was talk of not even holding the classic one year until I said I would do it.

I'm sure he would have approved that more orienteers will
enjoy the event rather than the 40-50 people we are getting at the moment.

The reduction of course lengths may upset the purists/die-hards but I think the result will make it a more enjoyable / more supported event.

Show Profile  pete s Posted: 13 March 2008, 2:42 PM  
Agree with you Jeff - great day o was a belter of an event. Haven't done the Wayne Cretney classic because I could never work out when/what it was - ie maybe it hasn't been that well advertised - esp to non wgtn folk??? I'd love to do it though - esp in its traditional "long" version. Any way of catering for both die hards and softies Bryan?

Show Profile  Bryan Posted: 14 March 2008, 12:30 AM  
100min winning time is really not that much different to 120min - it's still a grunty event. I may compromise and split the difference - 110min instead. I still haven't got the ok from the OY organisers yet.

Very few competitors from outside the Wellington region have competed sadly - the biggest turnout was when the event was held in conjunction with Queen's Birthday weekend and the elites attended.
I remember one year my wife taking a photo of Phil Wood dragging off Shaun Collins after 2 hrs racing which ended up on the front of the O magazine.

This year the event will be the 19th running so hopefully most know about it. The event is like a relay event except you do all the legs and it's long. It has been advertised as best we can but to me its really about a memorial event to a friend I got to know well orienteering. Last year there was a thread about the event if you want to reminisce:

I thought (keeping to the subject of this thread) I could introduce some variety to the OY series and make it possible for the club in future years to keep on doing OYs as well as the Memorial event at the same time.

Show Profile  pete s Posted: 14 March 2008, 3:01 AM  
Sounds great Bryan - will def try our best to make it.

Good luck with the planning!

Show Profile  Michael Posted: 14 March 2008, 5:34 AM  
I'm pleased to see that Maptalk has generated some discussion at last.

Ian Basire first tried to do so at the end of the 2006 series, through Punch (the WOA magazine). There was no response then, and in mid 2007 when WOA held a meeting to rough out the 2008 programme, no-one wanted to talk about it either. Ian had another go in Punch at the end of 2007, and I suspect that nothing happened until he started up the topic here.

Or until OHV proposed ending the series. Bruce D calls it "mischievous", but by mid February various efforts to get thinking caps on had come to nought. Even now we must recognise that discussion here does not create action in the real world.

Underlying this is that WOA has become "tired" and unwilling to get together and consider orienteering from a regional perspective. The calendar in particular is now planned by the "dartboard" method. I don't want OY-level events to stop. But a series determined largely by attendance is a joke.

Show Profile  Bryan Posted: 14 March 2008, 11:23 PM  
As part of a revamp of the OY series (and possibly most other events to), I have noticed that with a young boy who is still really too young to do a white course, that a string course is lots of fun. The OY series could have a course 9, which is a string course and caters for the very young and families.

I have noticed that clubs that are doing very well at the moment (eg Hawkes Bay) always offer a string course. The course does not require much extra organisation.

I will be having a string course at the Winter Classic.

Show Profile  onemanfanclub Posted: 15 March 2008, 3:22 AM  
Being the winter classic string course I assume it will be mass start, multiple loop and at least twice the normal winning time of a normal string course =)!

But seriously, back to topic... A few years back when I overwintered in Auckland for a couple of years, I attended quite a few Auckland OYs, and was impressed with the turnout, enthusiasm, quality etc, compared with WOA OY's. (I've therefore been surprised by some of the discussion in the last couple of years about needing to reinvigorate their series, but that's another story). Some of the differences between the two series back then have now been addressed - premarked maps and SI punching aren't yet standard in the WOA series but are becoming more common. Some are unadressable - while the orienteering population of both regions is similar, the geography of where orienteers live and where the good terrain is seems more amenable to a "good" OY series in AK than in WOA. But there was one other big difference: the AK series was held in a reasonably tight period, where every fortnight there was an OY race. The WOA series OTOH seems to get more and more randomly scattered through the year as time goes on. Is this related to the declines in attendance (both year to year, and the decline WITHIN the year that Michael points out)?

The AK version in my mind feels more like a series. For those in OYs for the competition, it must help to keep the "competitive juices" flowing when there are regular races, results are current etc. ANd for everyone, it must help keep the series in mind to have races so regular that you can think "no OY this sunday so must be one next week, better check where that is, etc". I like to think I keep a close eye on the calendar, but there's been times in the last couple of years I've actually remembered/discovered a few days beforehand there's an OY on - don't think I've missed one because of not knowing about it til after, but must have come close a few times.

Of course, planning a tighter (time-wise) series will require better regional co-ordination than happens now, and then there's the whole can of worms about what time of year to restrict it to... but better to put the idea out there than sit on it!

Show Profile  Michael Posted: 20 March 2008, 9:50 AM  
In the 32-year history of WOA, the OY competition has been based on age groups, self-selected courses (the "Rainbow" series) and age groups again. It's been 10 years since a change, maybe it's time to switch back to self-selection again. My tongue is only partly in my cheek, the Waitangi Carnival worked well on this basis.

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