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Athlete Development Pathways

Show Profile  NSmith Posted: 28 May 2015, 6:35 AM  
Did a quick blog piece over on the ONZ site about some of the systems Orienteering Australia and Orienteering Canada are putting in place.

I'd be interested if anyone else had any comments or thoughts on this.


Show Profile  fraser Posted: 31 May 2015, 10:47 AM  
I would be interested to hear how Matt, Lizzie and Tim got to where they are (and others, but those are the three mentioned by Nick in the article). Were they well supported at a local, regional and national level? What could be improved and what will it take to repeat their results. Has this been covered anywhere before?

Show Profile  HeadHoncho Posted: 1 June 2015, 5:41 PM  
It doesn't really matter if opportunity is provided under a formal structure (HP plans) or seat of the pants, no-8 wire NZ way of doing things, the salient point is to actually provide the opportunity.

Nick states in his conclusion, "(providing) opportunities for individuals at all levels to develop their orienteering skills in a fun, social way, we increase the retention and conversion rates and people will continue to participate ..." is not, with due respect, earth-shattering, but he needs to expand on the HOW.

Writing thousands of words in a HP plan or just getting out there and "doing it"?

I don't accept the comparisons with Australia (pop 22 mil) or Canada (pop 35 mil) who do, even in the sport of Orienteering, have more resources.

What I like about NZ orienteering (at a junior level):

Sending teams to WSOC (have Australia or Canada?)
Sending school teams to Australia EVERY year (is that reciprocated?)
Having a relaxed policy about JWOC

I'd argue our pathways, at least at a junior level, punch above our weight. Do Australia run a nation-wide Junior Camp at Xmas with current elites coaching? (No).

The recent success NZ has had at a junior level is partly due to the opportunities provided, so what needs to be changed?

Show Profile  hughff Posted: 2 June 2015, 6:56 AM  
HH, I think Nick has acknowledged your point but he also notes that our juniors' successes are not translating as much as they could to over-21 results.
Quote=Nick Smith: "A holistic view must be taken in order to create a series of achievable steps to becoming an elite orienteer, and Australia has rightly identified their Junior Program as an area that needs work. In New Zealand we almost have the opposite problem, the work of several individuals and clubs has resulted in an extremely strong level of competition at a schools level but as of yet this has not been carried through to a senior level."
As Nick also points out, Aussie is rapidly increasing their funding in junior orienteering so expect their junior results to improve.

The thing most noticeable to me about the Australian and Canadian systems is that they both track athletes from secondary school on to the world stage. I think there's a huge disconnect between the numbers we get at school levels and those continuing with the sport at university and beyond. A co-ordinated programme for post secondary school orienteers would certainly be a good step.

(P.S. I am aware of the irony of me advocating this when I don't live in a university town so won't be taking on the burden of the work.)

Show Profile  Jamie Posted: 4 June 2015, 2:30 PM  
I'm not a big believer in high performance plans like these and language they use, they tend to get in the way of real world problem solving, which is our comparative advantage.

Fraser and Honcho's points are valid, look at the ingredients that produced the amazing athletes we have and replicate them.

Unless you are putting in serious coin (the kind only very committed and well off parents can), money typically makes negligible difference. What makes a difference is putting the idea into a kids/parents head that they could be a world champion and giving them opportunities to practice.

The ones who then help themselves, are truly dedicated and seek to constantly learn and improve, will succeed.

With our resources a good high performance program would identify these people and respond in an adaptive way to help them at key times when they need it.

The stuff we do to put the idea in their head in the first place (ie telling our stories), and producing half decent maps to run on are probably where the rest of us can contribute most.

Unfortunately this is the bit we have stopped doing.

Show Profile  Michael Posted: 4 June 2015, 3:23 PM  
Nice to hear from you again Jamie:-)

Show Profile  Dave Posted: 10 June 2015, 6:46 AM  
Interesting topic. My thoughts are perhaps not too different from some above but hope I can add some value.

From my very limited knowledge of Orienteering in NZ these days (predominantly made up of very occasional drop ins to maptalk) I don't see that New Zealand Orienteering has the financial or human resources to implement a highly evolved development pathway from participation to high performance (yet!). Models like FTEM are robust structures useful for developed organisations with significant means to drive implementation. In the case of NZO they are potentially more useful as a guiding framework to demonstrate to an athlete some steps that they may have ahead of them.

In sports with more limited resources, strong participation structures, and early development structures (to build good habits and core skills early) are critical. From that point I would look for a strong talent ID and development program which will accelerate a limited number of athletes through the mid stages of development into performance and high performance stages. This limits the requisite resources required and allows for the athletes with the most potential to reach success at the global level. Now its not ideal by any stretch of the imagination and is essentially putting your eggs in one basket. But what it can provide is a small number of exceptional athletes that can be figureheads for continued expansion of the talent id and development space until you have a full and robust model that can deliver greater capacity.

Whether it has been a concious choice of not, and whether this has been driven by the NSO or not (or it has been off the back of a few passionate individuals) it appears that the above situation has occured in New Zealand Orienteering already. Significant achievement has been achieved and there is real potential to continue to grow the development pathway to open opportunity to more athletes.

My advice for this stage is to grow slowly, and don't do everything at once. Pick a few new areas for expansion and do them exceptionally.They key to strategy is picking what not to do. I'm not close enough to see what I would do next if I was running the sport but I have no doubt there will be a couple of key steps that will be able to expand that athlete pipeline.

Success begets success in sport, so make sure each step is a winner and you will be surprised by how fast your slow growth occurs.

Just my thoughts..

Show Profile  Jane H Posted: 10 June 2015, 10:52 AM  
Well said Dave, I back your thoughts.

Its definitely a proven valid pathway to .... spot the talent young and then supply their parents with encouraging wisdom, plus support those same parents as they finance their kid's progression (aka re-mortgage their house).

One important consideration that is not included in the written model is that we need to prepare the parents early too. Most parents of a Yr 7/8 talented O-runner don't comprehend well that they will be possibly spending $5-10K per child per year if their child is competing at the top of their grade by Yr 9.
Cost to parents is an important factor and so should be considered alongside what new things should be implemented in the structure. I agree, grow slowly and surely.

It cost HB runners $300 each to go to the recent JAFA event on Queen's Birthday weekend and trial for the NZ Schools team against Australia. I was very interested to find not one of our parents mentioned the cost when I was seeking permission for their child to join the team. Parents seem prepared to back their child's participation in sport to the dire end. But I don't think ONZ should abuse that generosity, they should be mindful of the cost of any structured pathway they publish.

Show Profile  addison Posted: 10 June 2015, 1:33 PM  
Hi Nick and everyone else.

Rob is very correct in his comments about really looking out for what things have been going well and breaking down success. If I look at it there are a couple of things that stand out for me:
- That there is self-drive to succeed
- We need raw talent to start with
- Junior Camp is a massive thing at bringing people together and forging friendships... introducing people to others and making the sport cool
- Good competition to make the NZ Schools Team helps provide an incentive to train hard and take the sport seriously earlier than people used to
- Making grades more difficult (in 2002?) has helped our Juniors excel earlier

So as far as I see it one of the challenges is how to engage people socially once they move out of school.

The other challenge is how do we replicate the success we've had. For a relatively low cost to the organisation there is big potential in another Junior Camp, say in the first term holidays. This could help host clubs with applying for external funding to help make maps, help Orienteering NZ apply for funding to host it (lowering individuals costs) and most importantly making people do lots of orienteering and making new friends.

Show Profile  addison Posted: 10 June 2015, 1:35 PM  
I think we should look at having official recording of people's 5km times at every Junior Camp and ensuring this is actually a flat 5km race, so selectors can select more on someones raw potential earlier and bring them through the system. If we start selecting fast individuals in the schools team then we can hopefully have better talent out the other end at JWOC and WOC levels.

Show Profile  NSmith Posted: 23 June 2015, 4:56 PM  
Hi everyone,

I'm glad the piece initiated some positive discussion around the topic. I have done a follow up post interviewing Lizzie, Tim and Matt on how they have progressed to competing internationally at an elite level.

A few notes on my original post: As stated at the beginning it was simply a 'look at what some other countries are doing in the area of Athlete Development.' I am impressed by what has been produced by Canada and Australia, although as some have already said, actually implementing what has been written is always the biggest challenge.

Dave's analysis of the current situation is very astute, and would agree with his comments that Pathways such as those that have been identified overseas would be "useful as a guiding framework to demonstrate to an athlete some steps that they may have ahead of them" although would also add to that that it is useful as an organisation to look at what levels we are investing (or not investing) at. Essentially I see the concept of an athlete development pathway as a scalable one, where what is developed is changeable depending on the resources at hand.

Lastly, we do already have a number of good structures at a Junior level, and I fully acknowledge the work that many people have done over the years to put these in place. However, to use a quote from Matt Ogden “To improve is to change, to perfect is to change often,” we should be continually looking at ways in which we can improve the structures we already have, and in doing so need to look at a wide range of places for ideas.


Show Profile  mick finn Posted: 10 July 2015, 5:51 AM  
Great interviews Nick!

Show Profile  nick Posted: 19 August 2015, 1:37 AM  
Nick: good on you for trying to peel back a few layers on this issue.

Anyone who was interested enough to post on this thread might also find this a worthwhile read:

My own two cents is that I think our junior systems are pretty good. They're about opportunities to learn, have fun, make friends... opportunities to compete & perform... and incentives to perform (ie: selection). This approach is producing internationally competitive orienteers, without "us" (ONZ/clubs etc) being particularly proactive around talent ID or development. By comparison to most sports our approach here is organic. And I can't help wondering if thats part of our success?

I'm not sure how D-Squad fits into this but... if I understand it right, representative selections are based on performance (primarily), not predetermined by talent ID decisions made years before. Everyone has the same chance; to demonstrate their motivation, to train their raw athletic talents, to hone their technique and concentration... to produce their best performance. And the people who, for whatever reasons, find a formula that works will wear the black top.

I'm interested in how we might increase the ambient levels of athlete quality and technical proficiency WITHOUT over engineering a talent ID programme. I think we could be more consistent with coaching nationally which might address the technical side... but athletic quality seems trickier. Focus on raw talent? Focus on training the athletes we have?

Show Profile  rossmaxmo Posted: 24 August 2015, 5:59 PM  
My 2 cents: I agree that there's no need to re-invent the wheel, just copy/simulate/improve successful HP system/pathways from another 'small' orienteering nation:
1: Elite training centre in Auckland with collaboration with Auckland Uni/AUT/Massey/NZIS? Find the person(s) (1 to begin with - NZ's own Lars Lindstrøm) to coach/lead full time, and find a way to pay them.
2: All clubs more focus on mapping new terrains + more events - can find relevant terrain in NZ for most of Europe.

NZ has a huge advantage that weather permits orienteering all year round.

Show Profile  rossmaxmo Posted: 24 August 2015, 6:10 PM  
(Apparently the link I provided above will be updated over the next few days, but I'm refer to Denmark's HP set-up)

Show Profile  rossmaxmo Posted: 24 August 2015, 6:11 PM  

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