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School Orienteering - Taking it to the next level

Show Profile  nick Posted: 8 October 2012, 10:18 AM  
Next level... what do we want the next level to be? Should we be talking about:
*More participants OR better participants?
*More "nav" events OR more O events?

We should be clear what we're trying to do. With that in mind:

I can't see much point in schools orienteering unless its a pathway into the sport. At the moment its kind of in a vaccuum. I think bursting the bubble should be a national level priority.

I like alot of what Duncan has said. If its going to a pathway, we need to start with the noobs. I'd like to see a deliberate course plotted thru schools into nav-sports (O, MTBO, Rogaine, AR). What I mean is that NZOF/Clubs should be able to explain how each programme/competition fits into a system which develops kids who want to continue Orienteering.

*In-school O programmes (Kiwisport $$)
*Local/regional inter-school O competitions
*Regional/national competition schedule that supports skill development for noobs (aligning across nav-sports)
*Team-based competition structures that provide positive team vibes (see Duncan's post).
*Aspirations encouraged by desirable rewards (eg: NZSS selection for Oz... see Duncan again)
*Concious exploitation of O's other characteristics: time-out-of-school with friends, road-trips to new places, 'safe' socialising & 'safe' adventure, meeting other smart independent & successful kids... there is an "O experience" in here that we can seek to maximise.

When speaking of pathways its equally important to consider the cold pointy end. As a sport O needs to maintain genuine & meaningful competition in the schools space. Lets be careful about what we mean here... Its not about rigging it so our club kids will win. You can have genuine & meaningful competition on a yellow course: if an orienteer gets beaten by a runner around a yellow course, so be it. Its a running sport too. Bide your time, little navigator kid, you'll get your revenge as the course gets redder (epecially if you train to run faster).

A random thought: could NZSSOC have a "noobs" grade?

I think it would be worthwhile establishing a "best practice" model for securing Kiwisport money from Regional Sports Trusts. O has had some excellent successes already, with different models, but only in a handful of clubs. So lets boil down the different ideas into a standard model and fire it out to all clubs with a "how-to-get-Kiwisport-funding" guide.

On this note, we might run a similar process with NZ Curriculum alignment? There are probably a few people around the country who understand what this is; downloading their knowledge/experience might throw up some ideas for developing the sport via schools.

Show Profile  DMjunior Posted: 8 October 2012, 10:55 AM  
NZSSOC currently has championship and standard grades.

When I was at school (not too long ago) the schools competition was all about my team. The real challenge was definitely National club champs.

As to Janes point - if you look at the schools team this year, they mainly all come from areas where schools orienteering is strong. There is no coincidence that the depth in these regions creates better runners. We need to get this depth nation wide. So we need to get as many participants as possible right now.

Yea these guys will find their courses easy but thats not what it is about, it is about your other competitors. As you have previously done, I will take Callum as an example. If he was to run intermediate (his grade) along with everyone else who qualified for that grade there would be intense competition. Ed and Devon and many more. It would be too hard to pick. These guys would be at the top of the grade. I don't see how this is a problem. They are the best in NZ for their age, therefore winning the national title. Yes the course might be easier but its still tough competition.

Also, yes Callum won senior this year but once again the top guys were over at JWOC. This happens every year and perhaps something that can hopefully be looked at.

Schools champs around NZ have a purpose. It is to introduce kids into competitive orienteering and enjoy their time with other orienteers their age. The NZSS team and Inter provincial challenge is where high performance schools orienteering is developed as well as D squad and club races.

In conclusion, I personally feel the changes Jane proposes has the potential to push the skills of a few athletes now but in the future it will continue to push new school orienteers away.

I will end this post with this quick note:
"All New Zealanders will recognise Orienteering as a genuine sport or recreation, and will have the opportunity to experience and enjoy it."
That is the mission statement of NZOF currently. Schools orienteering goes along way to satisfying this and changes proposed will perhaps reduce enjoyment and opportunity for the majority.

Show Profile  theoman Posted: 8 October 2012, 11:38 AM  
I really like Nicks point about pathways. School orienteering, in its essence, is designed to attract new participants and their families.
"bursting of the bubble" as nick so eloquently put it, should be the focus of schools orienteering. How can we improve the interaction at school and club level so that we retain more of the kids?
One successful way to do this is by implementing key personnel in areas where they are involved significantly at school and club level. For example, Mike B, does an incredible amount of work with schools in Auckland as well as a massive amount of club work. This has consequently seen the development of some very talented orienteers; Alice Tiley, Lauren Holmes who will without doubt become dedicated club members. Another example is Dereks tireless work in the bay and with the schools team.
Another way we can improve interaction at the two levels is increased communication between the elite orienteers and the school kids. The feedback that the top athletes provide to the young ones is crucial for their development. When I was at secondary school, I always looked up to Thomas Reynolds, Simon Jager e.t.c who were smashing the grade above me. Reading of their stories at JWOC inspired me to pursue orienteering as my primary sport. Also Junior Camps were particularly valuable, learning from the best in the country! But junior camps tend to be in isolation as Jane said. How can we tap into the awesome fun that junior camp is? Maybe a newsletter or magazine...these were always awesome fun reading.
I am also a strong believer in running your own grade at national competitions. The competition is becoming quite strong in all grades at secondary schools so why is there a need to run up?

Show Profile  hughff Posted: 10 October 2012, 2:32 AM  
1. To my mind, theres no doubt that the New Zealand Schools (NZS) event is about participation first and the performance of the top runners second. The reason for this is that the NZOC is when the angels and the devils fight  the courses are tougher and the results more accurately reflect navigational ability.

If NZS is about numbers then you shouldnt mess with the formula. It does mean that top athletes like Nick and Callum dont get challenged but they do get challenged at regionals, NZOC, Oz and JWOC. I dont care that NZS and JWOC clash: the best should go to JWOC. The championship/standard divide caters for absolute beginners and I think it would be daft to complicate matters for the organisers and athletes by introducing a third level. As for the runner vs navigator debate: I would say that objectively the fastest runner on the male yellow course was the guy who won the NZ 800 metre title 8 months earlier but was doing only his third or fourth orienteering race  he placed 9th in the intermediate standard.

The NZS timing is excellent. The NIS/SIS events after Term 1 are late enough that newbies have developed the skills to cope but not so late that the first flush of enthusiasm has drained away. Then the NZS after Term 2 means that skills and an orienteering culture can be imbedded. However, if pupils want a season then theyve had six months and are ready to move on before re-starting the next season in the new year. Meanwhile, the junior elites are targeting Oz and club events/OY and regional champs.

Show Profile  hughff Posted: 10 October 2012, 2:36 AM  
2. I dont see the need for a national schools sprint series. I know how much fun sprinting can be  Phillip accused me of being a sprint specialist  but it already has a system in place. Firstly, we have a series called STB which has u20 and u16 grades. Secondly, clubs probably run their own sprint events like the HBOC summer series. Thirdly, theres a sprint race at the NZS.

The sprint race at the NZS needs tidying. We were told in the event information: The sprint event is incorporated in the points competitions for the first time in 2012. Subject to confirmation, the points available will be the same as for the Individual Championship grades and will count for the SILVA Premier School, Top School and Small School competition. In fact, the sprint event was ignored and this was justified because of that escape clause subject to confirmation. That was a shame. My suggestion for the sprint is that it does not have the Championship/Standard divide (because sprints, like relays, are often an easier colour anyway) and it scores points like the standard grade: 15-1.

Show Profile  hughff Posted: 10 October 2012, 2:37 AM  
3. I support a rogaine championship but certainly not as Simon articulated it. Firstly, unless Ive been whooshed, why Rotorua every other year? That becomes a cost disincentive for everyone except BoP athletes. At present the four year cycle for NZS (and NZOC) reflects the population distribution of the country and seems to me like a fair system.

Secondly, I propose making it a regional based selection series leading to a national final either in the October holidays (timed to not clash with Oz champs) or in December.

During the year, each club holds its qualifiers. (Auckland might like to have one event but three qualifiers, recognising their three clubs and Wellington two.) Teams would be of four and must be from the same school, though a pair of single sex schools would be able to amalgamate for the mixed division. There would be male, female and mixed (two of each gender) divisions and u16/16+ grades. Therefore up to six teams (24 athletes) would represent each club at the national final. (Chess has used a similar system very successfully for years.)

The Get2Go series has been a big success for adventure racing. They got a large bowl of cereal money and lots of associated advertising. I think NZOF should target something similar for the rogaine series I outlined above. I dont think we can cut into adventure racings pie by targeting their sponsor but there are other sponsors that like to extol the health virtues of their products. How about Subway? They have that eat fresh campaign with all the exercise based adverts on telly at the moment. The Subway Rogaine series! Youre welcome.

Show Profile  hughff Posted: 10 October 2012, 2:38 AM  
4. I endorse Janes idea about micro-O with Kiwisport support in intermediate (and maybe senior primary) schools. That means that we need to educate Kiwisport co-ordinators, few of whom probably know much about ori.

Even better, how about targeting teachers? One of the reasons Hawkes Bay has such good junior numbers is because we have a lot of teachers in the club. Experienced orienteers like Derek support teachers with coaching and teachers like me support coaches by recruiting and acting as a conduit of information; then we join the club. I would not have been involved in ori if Louise hadnt recruited my son. Heres an idea, go to teacher training institutions and offer to hold events on their grounds and teach ori to their students as part of their PE curriculum. Then they will take that out to their jobs, especially if clubs approach schools. That should grow numbers.

Show Profile  hughff Posted: 10 October 2012, 2:38 AM  
5. Janes concern about degrowth(!) isnt the same as mine. I suspect I know the Year 9 who concerned her but I also suspect that when the school season cranks back up hell be back, because his school will get in behind him again. (Besides, his team did well in the relay.)

Where I think the problem lies with losing orienteers is after they leave school. Most go on to tertiary education, which for our club means leaving the area. Clubs in university centres need to find out who is moving to their area and they should get in touch with them. Even better, offer to give them a lift to events  many students dont have much mobility  so that they keep involved.

I know some might say that they could come back to the sport when they have kids of their own but meanwhile weve lost them for a decade. In the last couple of years, NBHS alumni with national honours like Cameron Massie (a couple of sprint titles and NZSS to Oz) and Pearson Williams (NZS Int Champ) have headed off to university and been lost to the sport; there have been many others who werent as successful but were solid competitors.

Show Profile  hughff Posted: 10 October 2012, 2:39 AM  
6. Pathways for junior elites are a good idea but one I feel less qualified to comment upon. (I hardly operate at that level, do I?) However, Matts comment about increasing the interactions between elites and school kids is, to my mind, very clever.

How about setting up a formal mentoring system for promising juniors? Buddy up a junior one to one with an elite for specific coaching on top of what Derek and Mike and whoever else is coaching. This would work very well in areas with lots of elites (i.e. the big centres) but you could also use e-mail to keep in contact if you were further away from your buddy. Theyre still going to meet up at regionals like the WOA champs.

Show Profile  Jane H Posted: 11 October 2012, 7:24 AM  
In 2008 at the NZSSC 30 boys ran an orange course in the Intermediate Champs grade. This year, four years on, there were 60 in that grade. We should expect at least double again in 4 more years.

In 2016 there may be 6 hours of runners starting at 3 mins apart. We can still manage that course well I'm sure ... but is that sensible 5 year planning?

As for the inter-regional Rep team event for school-aged children (held during 3-day weekends past few years). This event has evolved under the care of Derek M and Mike B, this year it had 50+ participate from the North Island. It even has a trophy, though few have seen it yet.
Consolidation of the event could see it go onto the NZ sporting calendar for sure. This is one that should be considered to go in the 5 year strategic plan ?... I will watch to see whether it ends up on the NZ schools calendar or the NZOF club calendar.

Show Profile  PaulTS Posted: 15 October 2012, 2:29 PM  
Sorry for a late entry into the discussion.

1. Quantity: More people will push competition at local events, which will promote improving quality to win. How do we do this? I'd love to hear what HB did to get to their current saturation coverage in schools. Hugh's comment on engaging teachers sounds spot on to me. That helps promotion within a school, and also may link school to club.

2. Quality. Several things would help here. Better college coaching could help (speaking personally, only!). I see a few options - sharing coaching ideas and resources could be useful (e.g. I learned a lot from going to O-camp last year) ; looking at how to promote running skills in addition to technical skills (partnership with a local harriers clubs?); clubs coaching available for colleges without an orienteering established

A couple of other things that I'll mention:
3. A sport for all levels - promoting excellence should not happen at the expense of making the less committed runners feel welcome.
4. NZSSChamps - the small school experience may be different to the larger schools. Mention above is that the team needs mean people are happy to "sacrifice" their personal desire to run an advanced course. That imperative is much smaller in a college without large numbers. Onslow runners enjoy being in the team, but I've let them focus on individual achievement rather than team points - and this is very much what they have wanted (not just Nick and Shamus, but the other team people, too). I thoroughly endorse the comment that the more experienced kids do not want to commit that much (travel, accommodation, entry, weekend away from other activities) to run down grades. I would advocate using 3 grades (equivalent to A, B, C we use in other championships) rather than current championship/standard. That would give "newbies" grades and spread towards the more junior elites. Also allows for the expansion Jane mentions. The sprint for NZSSChamps is a good innovation in making the travel seem worthwhile.
5. Carrots (as opposed to sticks) - I liked Jane's suggestion of getting more kids to Australia, but I see the difficulties raised and on reflection suspect there is a risk of diluting the prestige of selection. I think getting the inter-regional event (or a North v. South??) properly embedded is a good start. The kids really liked being selected. Didn't mean it was easy to get them to go, however.
6. Looking after proto-elites - I believe the O-camps are building good links between the elites and the juniors. I've admired the way that the coaches from last year's camps have been talking with the juniors whenever they've come into contact. I think the recognition and encouragement that has generated has made a difference. In effect, the buddy system mentioned above has been happening.
This is long enough! I think we have a great many things going really well. Well done to all who have got us here.

Show Profile  thomasr Posted: 15 October 2012, 2:52 PM  
So cool to see the passionate discussion about this! Schools/Junior orienteering is definitely a growing area and a key part of our sport that we need to nurture.

Growth is clearly strong and the results are showing that too. We are widening the base of the participation pyramid and gaining more at the peak too. The big challenge I see is retaining as many kids as possible out of school and ensuring that kids competing at school adds up to families entering the club structure of our sport. Lots of the ideas above would work for this.

The big challenge however is having enough hours in the day. We are a small sport, voluntarily run in many cases. We need to make sure all of this enthusiasm we currently have is funneled into the right areas.

Communication and links between elite runners and the up and coming juniors is a particular area I am focussing my efforts. For 2013 the Superseries will see some changes that are aimed at enhancing these links, while improving the connection between schools and club competitions. I think that the regional Superseries teams have the potential to ensure that our young runners have assistance and advice from older runners. This vertical integration of our sport can help achieve many of the points raised in earlier posts.

We are a small sport we need to focus our energies on a few key areas to maximise our effectiveness.

Show Profile  addison Posted: 17 October 2012, 1:20 AM  
I agree with Tom, some great comments and passionate discussion.

Keep it coming.

What do people think about being clear about what time of year for certain types of activities:
Term 1 - School Sprints midweek/summer series, then get into club events. Feed into Island Champs.
Term 2 - Club events, feed into club scene. Feed into NZ School Champs
Term 3 - Rogaines?

Show Profile  mcroxford Posted: 13 November 2012, 1:06 PM  
Something we're going to trial at the next orienteering event this weekend.

Navsports & Adventure Racing Kids (NARK)

From the NOC facebook page:

Sunday I want to try something new with the juniors.
Remember they make up 40% of the club!
At noonish we'll have a chase start run around the yellow course. We'll need some Mums and Dads to run the course ahead, with & behind them. But the aim is to do it together. We'll start the 6 to 10 year olds first then 10 minutes later the 11 to 16 year olds. Need inspiration? Check this out.

Show Profile  Michael Posted: 13 November 2012, 2:25 PM  
Golden Horseshoe Orienteering is well worth studying. Let us know how it goes Michael.

Back on Simon's post, I too am searching for some sort of structure to our beginner activities. We've got sprints, sub-1hr "rogaines" and beginner MTBO and it doesn't make sense to jam them all into term 1.

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