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Discussion: 2010 - 2014 USOF Strategic Plan Notice

in: Orienteering; General

Jan 4, 2010 9:01 PM # 
To all current USOF members and interested orienteers,

Later this week a DRAFT copy of the 2010 - 2014 strategic plan will be posted to THIS IS NOT THE FINAL PLAN.

I would like to take this chance to invite all of you to review this document and provide your feedback to me at In addition we can use this email to begin a discussion thread.

A few items to note:
- This plan will be discussed at the January 18th USOF BOD meeting in California.
- The cut off date for all feedback is March 1st
- The final plan incorporating all appropriate feedback will be presented at the April 10th USOF BOD meeting in Cincinnati (Flying Pig weekend).

Please foward this notice to anyone you think would be interested.

I welcome your feedback. Let the games begin.


Glen Schorr
Executive Director
United States Orienteering Federation

p: 410.802.1125
Jan 5, 2010 12:31 AM # 
Here's the direct link to the pdf of the draft plan.
Jan 5, 2010 2:44 AM # 
As Glenn says, it is not a final plan. It still needs a lot of work, including setting priorities and fleshing out how various things are going to be accomplished. But I think there is a lot of sound thinking in it, both in the overall concept and in the details.

Assuming that the final plan is agreed to by April, it will be interesting to see what sort of progress can be made by April 2011, and April 2012, and April 2013, and....

Accomplishing everything in the plan seems an overwhelming task, even after priorities are set. On the other hand, it would be cool to see some measurable progress on some of the strategies, even if on far from all of them. Just the sense that progress is being made can lead to further progress.

I think one of the most important "strategies" is the following one --

"Work with our charter clubs to determine ways to effectively turn leisure time orienteers into those more passionate about the sport. This will generate starts, club membership, USOF membership and volunteer hours. (2010 - ongoing)"

So much of what happens is because of a few passionate people in each club. If we could just get a whole bunch more of them....
Jan 5, 2010 4:27 AM # 
Perhaps my hot buttons are out of scope for the plan, but I'll throw them out anyway. They can easily be ignored if out of scope.

What gets me "passionate" about anything is quality. I realise it was written at a pretty high level, and I realise I only read it twice, but by first take was that it seemed quantity-centric as opposed to quality-centric. I'm getting more a vibe of grow participation vs grow quality. I would have liked to see a specific focus on improved meet technical quality and performance quality.

The last thing I want is another sacred cow debate, but I'm also not afraid to state what I care about, and that is that I personally have little interest in growth for the sake of growth if quality is not only addressed, but is a core value (thus preferring 3 high quality meets a year and a small community to mediocre events on demand in a large community). JMHO. (my comment mainly derive from the key sections of "What should USOF be deeply passionate about?" and "Recommended USOF Vision (goal)". and the lack of detail in the "Competitive Excellence" section.

I grant that "competitive excellence" was presented as a core value in the proposed revised mission statement, but did not get the sense that competitive excellence and technical quality were core values while reading the rest of the document, and can, and am willing to, accept this as a philosophical difference and drop it forevermore (if this is in fact the case).

Secondly, I was expecting specific metrics of success, whatever the plan. Perhaps this is out of scope. I've been a part of a ton of organizations who have come up with X year plans (USOF included, in the past). I think a plan, even if you disagree or misunderstand its core philosophy, is stronger if you have specific metrics that you can track. So, if this is out of scope, ignore me, but I would be much more passionate about this initiative if there were trackable metrics associated with it.

Thirdly, I'm not sure what this means. Can this be clarified (possibly with an example)? --

Change of the rules of engagement from defending remaining land access to acquiring land rights. (2010 - 2104)

Finally, and this is just a nit, but I'm not too sure about this one --

Utilize orienteers “love the land” philosophy to differentiate us from other adventure based sports. (2010 - on going)

I participate in several things outside of orienteering, but that use the land in more or less the same way. I do not get the sense that "us" is any more of a "love the land" attitude than those other fraternities, and the statement comes across, quite frankly, as a bit parochial. Perhaps I am misreading the intent. I would personally caution against any marketing philosophy that says we love the land more, if this is what this means. If not, ignore me. If so, could the "differentiation" be clarified?

In any case, I hope my comments are taken as constructive as they were intended to be. If there is a core philosophical difference between myself and USOF, that's fine. The one thing I don't, however, accept on faith (tho I've heard it oft repeated), is grow for the sake of growth, and quality will follow (I've personally seen the exact reverse happen elsewhere). This is where my second point comes in -- specific metrics (either for the stated plan or what I am passionate about, and yes, metrics are possible for quality as well).

So, if my comments are out of scope, I apologize, and thanks to everyone involved in this effort.
Jan 5, 2010 11:47 AM # 
.... I do not get the sense that "us" is any more of a "love the land" attitude than those other fraternities...

Well speak for yourself. I think you have only to look at the typical low-impact weekend encampment of orienteers at an A-meet to see that we're quite different than average Americans, with their ATV's, boom boxes and bleached white "athletic" shoes.

And I think it is our desire to enter into, understand, and travel through the "natural world" that motivates our interest in orienteering. No paved "trails" for us...we're environmentalists of the most basic sort...perhaps without fully recognizing it. Don't our hearts race with joy and anticipation when standing at the edge of a vast natural area with an orienteering map in one hand? If that ain't love....

I'm thrilled by the detail in this draft of Glen's Strategic Plan. Yes there are several line-items I don't understand. But I plan to remain optimistic as we go forward, confident that Glen has been here before with other sports, knows what he is doing, and can't help but bring positive change to our sport too.
Jan 5, 2010 12:17 PM # 
...Don't our hearts race with joy and anticipation when standing at the edge of a vast natural area with an orienteering map in one hand? If that ain't love....

I think its more the adrenline of knowing that if you don't make that route choice decision fast and up your game your going to be caught by the pack of lights that have been slowly closing on you for the past few kilometers...... Its that split second decision to go left or right on a sprint course. Its not about the enviorment. Its the race, its the tactics! Its the buzz!
Jan 5, 2010 1:42 PM # 
I read the 'love the land' line as being anti-adventure racing. Was that the intention?
Jan 5, 2010 2:18 PM # 
What actually are adventure based sports?
And what´s so bad about the others that make orienteering so unique?

I don´t have all the answers, but without going into much more detailed definitions - here´s at least a list of possible 'sports' that I found:

  • Adventure Travel
  • Bicycling
  • Climbing-Mountaineering
  • Fishing - Hunting
  • Multi-Activity Vacations
  • Paddle Sports
  • Water Sports
  • Wilderness Travel
  • Winter Sports

Naturally, orienteering isn´t mentioned, but that wasn´t to be expected.
With the exception of the occasional motor-driven sport (powerboats, snowmobiles etc.) I don´t find any of those activities considerably more damaging to nature than orienteering. And wouldn´t adventure racers - if they actually are singled out (?) as feet implies - be more 'in love with the land' based on the massive hours they spend out there?
Jan 5, 2010 3:24 PM # 
I, like Randy, prefer quality to quantity, and I agree that simply driving up starts or even volunteer hours will not necessarily result in quality. The 'Recommended USOF Vision (goal)' section does come across as quantity-over-quality, but that section is generally pretty vague. The 'Strategic Plan', on the other hand, includes several specific strategies which clearly address the issue of quality:

  • Coach and Meet Director Training
  • Competitive Excellence (specifics are unclear here, but I would expect local performance programs to come out of this)
  • Mapping (there are some really good, specific, goals here)

Overall, I thought there was a pretty good quality/quantity balance.
Jan 5, 2010 3:29 PM # 
I'm not going to wade into this too deeply yet, but for now I will note that land access problems and lack of maps/mappers are two problems that will negatively impact quality and quantity of orienteering in the US. Appendices could be generated substantiating why this is the case, but the fact that these are both in the strategic plan is a big boon in my book (as someone who appreciates numerous opportunities to engage in quality orienteering and vie against deep fields.)
Jan 5, 2010 4:54 PM # 
I am with j-man and bshields on this: the inlcusion of the section on mapping and meet director training in particular make me very happy.
However, I am also, like randy, a little puzzled by the lack of any sort of metrics that would allow us to measure progress on the different tasks that we are taking on. Is this something that will be added on once the priority list is settled?
Jan 5, 2010 5:26 PM # 
To all,

Thanks for the questions and points to date. This is exactly the feedback that I hoped for and I strongly encourage the discussion to continue.

Once a day, Monday through Friday, I will log in and respond to points made en masse. My attempt will be to clarify or explain a postion rather than debate a certain topic. Please note that I will only be reponding one time that day as I need to focus on other areas of my job as well. Still, this is important:

1) The scope of this plan is far-ranging...maybe too much at this time. Still based on the 9 months that I have spent engaged in our sport and speaking with many of you, the issues are extensive and far ranging. In this draft, it was my design to stay as broad as possible. And allow the board and others to help prioritize and focus on what are the most important issues.

An additional point to make. Once this plan is approved (in whatever form). It will take the efforts of many of us to execute this. This is not "Glen's plan" is all of ours and we will all need to work to achieve our common goals.

2) This plan is not designed to be quantity vs quality centric in number of line items. It was not my intent to list as many things as possible. If appropriate, my desire is to have us execute all of this in the next five years. However if we can't execute a specific point in a quality fashion, we should either secure the talent or not do it at all.

3) Another point on Quantity vs Quality as far of number of events, participants ,etc. We definately need more events and more opportunities to orienteer. Should they be of an expected quality? Absolutey, But fewer events (no matter what the quality) are not better than more.

4) In "loving the land", my point (though not sucessfully stated) is to use this as a platform to make orienteering be viewed positively in the eyes of land holders. The statement is not anti adventure racing. From my limited experience, the sport of O seems to be "land friendly". I would not want us to separtate ourselves from Adventure Racers as I would like to start recruiting more of them to try orienteering.

5) Mesaures and annual/ by annual checks will be included in the final draft.

5) In my comments "Change the rules of engagement" my intent was as follows. Regarding land access, my perception (maybe right or wrong) is that we seem to be playing a lot of defense...protecting what we have access to, vs trying to secure more rights. Nothing more.

I think that this covers the broad points. Again I encourage the discussion. If I missed something it is unintentional. Bring it up again and I will address it tomorrow.

Have a good day,
Jan 5, 2010 7:32 PM # 
Pink Socks:
While I agree with the title of "Barrier #2: Lack of awareness of orienteering in a culture that does not know we exist", I don't necessarily agree with what's written under it.

Orienteering is not part of the American culture. It never has been. It is not loud…or boisterous…or brash. It is not football…or NASCAR…or lacrosse. American’s [sic] like their sports super-sized.

There's a big difference between participating in sports and viewing sports. The two most popular sports to watch (in person or on TV) are football and NASCAR. However, a very, very small minority actively particpate in those two sports. Conversely, one of the most popular sports to participate in, tennis, has a paltry viewership and is far from boisterous.

Regarding "super-sizing", again there's another disconnect with participating and viewing. Everyone watches the Super Bowl because it's huge. Likewise, for the fringe sports, we only pay attention to the biggest events: the Tour de France and the Olympics are examples. But that's for viewing. If Americans preferred to participate in super-sized events, we'd see more Ironman triathlons than we would the shorter "sprint" triathlons.

We're never going to see orienteering as a viewable sport. We need to focus on participation, and "super-sizing" orienteering is not going to work.

They like the concept of team.

I think this statement is becoming more and more untrue. Look at golf and NASCAR. People love (and hate) certain individuals. Recent sports developments over the past decade are the X-Games and UFC, both of which focused on individuals. Even our favorite team sports are becoming more individualized. Not only are athletes differentiating themselves by dancing in the endzones, but the fans are focusing more attention to individual performances through fantasy football and baseball. If you watch an episode of SportsCenter, you'll find that it's heavy on individuals.

From a participation standpoint, it's actually easier to promote individual sports. Look at how many individuals run in 5K's, marathons, and triathlons. Look at how many people play golf, play tennis, or go skiing on the weekends.

They like to know that they can start at 10:00 am and finish at noon; for at noon they have to grab a Big Mac value meal and two Happy Meals at McDonald’s and then they are on to the next item on their schedule.

I agree with the scheduling aspect, but geez, do we have to stereotype the average American as a Big Mac eating slob? I really don't see the point of bringing McDonald's into a strategic plan.

Orienteers like to run by ourselves in the woods with maps and compasses…sometimes investing whole weekends.

This statement comes across saying that orienteering is the most unsocial sport in the world. It says that we want to be so by ourselves, that we'll run further away from civilization and do it all weekend if necessary. We all know that orienteering is one of the most social of all individual sports, and I think this is a selling point.

So, I agree that we're a less-than-fringe sport, but I don't think that making our sport more boisterous or team-oriented will help. Nor do I think that focusing on spending a weekend away from people is the way to go either.
Jan 6, 2010 12:35 AM # 
One of the strategies --

Competitive Excellence
• Working in partnership with our national teams promote competitive excellence. (2010 – 2014)
• Senior Foot-O: 2010, 2012 and 2014 goals = await from team
• Junior Foot-O: 2010, 2012 and 2014 goals = await from team
• Trail-O: 2010, 2012 and 2014 goals = await from team
• Established a single integrated national team committee overseeing fiscal, financial development and marketing efforts (2011 - ongoing)


There is a fair bit of input expected from the teams. Just mentioning it here in case it hasn't been noticed (and acted upon).
Jan 6, 2010 12:28 PM # 
Glen wrote: was my design to stay as broad as possible. And allow the board and others to help prioritize and focus on what are the most important issues....

I guess this is our Catch-22...right now we really don't have the money to do any but a small part of this Strategic nice as all these items may be. Let alone begin addressing the needs of our Teams.

We discovered this in our "platinum" discussion about the 2010 Budget a couple of months ago.

So I guess it goes back to what Glen has been telling us all along: we've got to build up our "starts" so that we'll have the revenues to build the sport after that, and begin to do all those other nice items in Glen's Plan. But right now, our top priority must be building our revenue base, both at club and national levels. Otherwise both Plan and Planner will disappear into the early spring mists over the Plains of Despair.
Jan 6, 2010 3:00 PM # 
To all,

Time for the daily post
1) Thanks to chitownclark for the last post. It stated my position well. Starts are key, but only if they meet agreed upon standards.
2) To PG: Thanks for your comment. I have reached out to the teams prior to the issuing of this document. Now that it is out, I will remind them.
3) To kupackman...I was trying to set a general tone in my comments. My intent was not to offend in individual statements. Orienteering (while social at events) is individual in nature once you are out on the course. Then, you are by yourself setting your own course. This is unique in American sport and something we must at least accept if not address.

See you tomorrow. Glen
Jan 6, 2010 10:40 PM # 
Glen wrote:
Orienteering (while social at events) is individual in nature once you are out on the course. Then, you are by yourself setting your own course. This is unique in American sport and something we must at least accept if not address.

Address it? I suggest we embrace it!
Jan 7, 2010 4:15 AM # 
Address it? I suggest we embrace it!

Guy, we're talking about addressing this from a marketing perspective. For a large portion of our potential audience, this could be viewed as a turn-off, and we need to put an appealing spin on it.
Jan 7, 2010 6:27 AM # 
Pink Socks:
I don't think marketing the "alone in the woods" part is the way to go. From what I've seen at our local urban-o events is that many people like the option of participating in groups and with families. If we're trying to share our sport with newbies, saying that they are going to be alone isn't very welcoming.

Orienteering is individual in nature once you are out on the course. Then, you are by yourself setting your own course. This is unique in American sport.

I wouldn't say it's unique. I can get some sporting alone time by playing a round of golf by myself, or by going on a hunting or fishing trip.
Jan 7, 2010 2:11 PM # 
To all thanks for the posts. I wanted to address one point and bring up another point for discussion.

1) While I neither hunt nor fish, I do golf. IMO I see golf as a more social sport during the competitition/ sport phase. While one can play alone, you usually play in a group of 2, 3 or 4. My perception is that the majority of orienteers prefer to compete in the activity alone. The social comes before and after the actual event. Just a point.

2) Ok, new thought for discussion. Last night I was on the phone with a club president. We were discussing the plan. During the conversation he commented that we should consider going after families. I am honestly torn on the issue and would like feedback here.

On the positive side if you can get a family you get more starts, volunteers and possibly a stronger sense of community.

Here is the negative to all of this. IMO with many American families there is a severe constraint on time. As a father of 3 (16, 13, 10) we are scheduled out the wazoo. Orienteering, even at a local meet level can take up to the good part of a day....and many folks just do not have, or will not invest, the time. I'm not against going after families I'm just worried that the barriers for success are too great.

Then again, the better thought may be to target folks that "like to experience the woods" and not care about age or family status. We put it a couple groups, work closely with the clubs and see what we get.

I realize that I have taken this thread in a slightly different direction, but I wanted to bring up the point and solicit your thoughts. The discussion is good for the soul.

Have a good day.
Jan 7, 2010 2:39 PM # 
Glenn wrote:

My perception is that the majority of orienteers prefer to compete in the activity alone.

I think it's worth asking whether that is true because orienteering alone is the primary way we offer orienteering. Yet when you look at your basic local meet, lots of participants are going out in groups.

Do you want to design your plan for growing the sport based on just how we do it now? Or do you consider how we might do it differently? I think the growth of adventure racing has been tied quite closely to its team aspect.

Orienteering looks down its nose at such a thing, perhaps because all the serious/passionate orienteers seem to be a self-selected group who like doing it alone. Which is fine, I like doing it alone. But that may not be the only, or the best, way to grow the sport.
Jan 7, 2010 2:59 PM # 
interesting discussion as the largest events in Ontario (Canada?) are team based orienteering races (Salomon Adventure Running Series) or mass start races where people can (and often do) race together. GHO deliberately reduced the number of events we host opting for fewer but higher quality (and higher cost) races and more (and free) club training. Soon we will be greatly expanding our permanent courses. We feel that is a better way (less volunteer burnout) to grow participation.
Jan 7, 2010 3:22 PM # 
From a racing alone point of view, I much prefer to be racing head to head in a relay or mass start. Its even fun when you get caught and end up racing head to head then.
If you are trying to get road runners into the frame, would it not have a mass start race with alot of trail route choices... Just an idea. Don't know how practial it is
Jan 7, 2010 3:27 PM # 
I think that families should be targeted as well especially if we want to get more juniors involved. Without some dedication of the family juniors can't get to meets and can loose interest in Orienteering.
Jan 7, 2010 3:41 PM # 
To clarify,

I'm not against getting families involved. I just want to be clear that the barriers to entry (time to invest) could be much more difficult. I don't challenge the ROI, but is the investment worth it in the first place?

Jan 7, 2010 3:47 PM # 
I think targeting families is crucially important. If you can give a family of five a positive experience, you have five chances of getting one serious orienteer. But that orienteer will now have family support and encouragement, not only for time and travel, but perhaps non-runner volunteer participation as well. A non-competing spouse assisting a meet director is golden.
Jan 7, 2010 5:38 PM # 
I do think it's worthwhile to target families, and I think jblaisdell has it right on: even if you don't have as high a chance of getting a family into orienteering as you do a random person, presumably the expected value of orienteers is going to be higher from targeting families, because you get more people into orienteering per success by targeting that family.

If you have a 50% chance of getting a random person into orienteering and a 20% chance of getting a family of 4 into it, it's still better to go after the family of 4, because your expected value is 4/5 versus 1/2.
Jan 7, 2010 5:58 PM # 
Thanks for your comments. I go back to my premise - how do you get them? Focus through nature centers and Y's (and similar outdoor focused venues)?

Jan 7, 2010 6:19 PM # 
I would like to see serious effort towards developing O in schools. In fact, I would put that as a priority over increasing marketing efforts with Scouts. I think Scouts participate as a way of fulfilling scouting requirements, and additional marketing efforts will not yield any more particiapnts than we are already getting, but I think getting O established in school curricula is a great untapped resource with a larger total addressable market. This could be in conjunction with the scholastic leagues mentioned in the plan.

Otherwise, I think the plan hits all the right spots. I think Local clubs can use it as a template to guide their own development plans,. (Think globally, act locally)
Jan 7, 2010 6:24 PM # 
golf, hunting and fishing (alone or part of a team ) ?? sports as defined by the NA tv standards..wonder if 4 or 10 h of each will make one a better athlete ? sorry ..couldn't resist.
Jan 7, 2010 6:28 PM # 
I agree with the plan's emphasis on quantity. It has been my experience that the clubs that have a full schedule of events, for the most part have higher technical quality than the clubs that put on only the occasional event. The first time course setter is probably going to make a lot of mistakes. But by the time this course setter sets 10 courses the courses are probably getting pretty good. To give their course setters the opportunity to develop , clubs must have a full schedule of events. The more the better.
Jan 7, 2010 6:43 PM # 
I would like to see serious effort towards developing O in schools.

I'm not sure about 'in schools', as in 'in the curriculum', but I agree wholeheartedly that there should be an emphasis in developing ways for school-aged kids to participate in orienteering.

Throwing a lot of weight at getting orienteering actually in the schools may result in exactly 0 participants outside of school. School leagues, or after school clubs, seem to me the way to go. Make it social, make it extra-curricular, make it competitive. If it's part of the school day and 'educational', with little opportunity to do more outside of school, we'll get nothing. It'll be like all those hours of handball I played in gym class...
Jan 7, 2010 7:19 PM # 
As to how to recruit families, I suggest mostly to avoid negatives, not specifically to target families. At local meets, don't treat groups as second-class citizens. Don't push people to go alone so they can earn a "ranking". If you're making videos, sometimes include a group. If they have any talent, the good ones will separate themselves out without us pushing them.

Has anyone tried to recruit home-schoolers? In Maryland, at least, many operate under umbrella associations, so there would not be too many contacts to make. The few home-schoolers I know have flexible schedules and sometimes have difficulty having facilities for meeting phys ed requirements; but the fact that they are home-schooling may indicate a bias against joining things. I don't know, so I ask if anyone has experience here.
Jan 7, 2010 7:19 PM # 
To Cristina's comment on how to get O from the classroom to local events: The O in Schools committee is working on this. One idea we have is simple - give each student a free pass to a local club event. The student has to get there so that's a family member coming along too. Hopefully, this family member will also compete at the local event, and pay for it. More participation, more money.

Other ideas are welcome, for sure!!
Jan 7, 2010 7:57 PM # 
I think one way in which to get more Juniors and in extension more families is targeting High School Cross Country teams. Cross Country is already half of our sport. I think juniors would be more interested in going with their Cross Country team and maybe a parent than the whole family (or at least i know many of my friends would rather that, Sorry teens get into that whole "eh family time eww" stage. Not that I have, but in general). Maybe we could do something like what COC does with their WIOL events. Or i know DVOA has a scout champs. Why not have a Cross Country meet where local cross country teams compete in orienteering. See if the fastest is always the fastest.

Over all I really like the Plan. I think also raising awareness is just having people ask us about what orienteering is. I know all my friends know about it because it is my passion. But i get people at the gym or on the running path asking sometimes what my jersey is for, What is USOF. We need to think of ways to get our name out. Maybe it is USOF or just Orienteering workout shirts. I don't know...
Jan 7, 2010 8:25 PM # 
At the risk of being a gloomy Gus, the number of times I've heard variations on "my cross country/track coach doesn't want me orienteering because I might get injured" makes me very pessimistic about targeting high school cross country running teams. Because, let's face it, the coaches are absolutely right in light of their competitive goals in their own sports - there's no benefit for them in having their athletes orienteer that can't be obtained by just having them run and there is some risk. Far better, a la WIOL and similar efforts, to set up orienteering as a competitive high school sport in its own right. At least then the coaches' interests and ours will be aligned.
Jan 7, 2010 8:34 PM # 
Ah yes i guess my Cross Country coach knows that I orienteer and oh well. But maybe Orienteering could be a Team building event for high school teams? Like going out in groups and such i'm not sure.
Jan 8, 2010 1:14 AM # 
You have touched on the subject that I've been planning on writing about. USOF marketing. I think the USOF marketing plan needs to be directed in a different area. First off take a step back and look at orienteering and determine which sports resemble it most? ANS: Distance Running (Cross Country/Track specifically). I think we absolutely need to market the sport to distance runners because they are the most likely to enjoy it. Case in point: I coach Track (distance runners) at my local High School. This year I "marketed" the WIOL series to my distance runners as an "unofficial" winter sport. As a result I have had 9 high schoolers, 2 parents, and 1 other friend (12 total) try orienteering for the first time. I just volunteered to help coach and it works great because it's offseason for them. I don't think marketing to the Boy/Girl Scouts really gets you people who love orienteering. They are not runners necessarily and as mentioned above are sometimes just trying to fulfill requirements. I also participate in Adventure Racing and I am not convinced that that crowd is a big seller. AR is made up of many people who don't like to "just" run; they are drawn to the multi-discipline aspect of AR. I'm not saying these aren't worth marketing efforts, but is not the right focus in my opinion. Take a look at the number of people road racing in this country. The Bloomsday road race in Spokane used to be the largest road race in the country at over 60,000 participants. USOF should have a booth at every major road-race expo in this country to "advertise" orienteering to people who might like it if they try it. As far as improving the level of our sport, I think we should also market to college distance programs. USOF should have a goal to map every college campus in the country and provide a "college recruiter" to do some marketing. The first people I would go to on campus are not the ROTC, but the Cross Country/Track Distance coach. If just 1 in 10 collegiate level runners got interested in orienteering I believe the level of the sport would improve significantly. Present orienteering as an option to a post-collegiate running career and you will get some takers. There is no money in distance running unless you are extremely gifted. I think there is some hesitation/opposition to do this in the elite orienteering crowd, because it seems like they like the aspect that it's not mainstream and they have better chances at making the national team with fewer participants. I'll be perfectly honest and admit that's one of the things I like about the sport, but we need to move beyond that and do a better job of mentoring potential and current orienteering athletes.
Jan 8, 2010 1:36 AM # 
Glen commented on his busy schedule with teenages and yes once our children hit the teen years there are so many things for them to do that fitting in anything new is hard to do. Our family got started when our kids were in elementry school through girl scouts. Yes there are sport opportunities for the younger kids but not all the other things that teenages want to do and the younger kids are more into family outings than teenagers like Alison stated. In the beginning of our involved in orienteering we were greatly involved with a GS O patrol but the girls had to be in 7 grade and as the years went on we got less and less girls because of all of the JRH/HS activities they were already involved in. I feel that if we had dropped the age to 4 or 5 grade girls we might have been able to get them hooked before they got to the many activities and opportunties available in JRH. I know that in our part of the country our elementry schools have a field day where the entire school spends the day outside competing in different games and sport events and that would be a great place to see if we can get a sample of orienteering introducted to the children and there are always a lot of parenst helping at these field days so that they would see the orienteering too. For families I think we should be looking at the younger aged kids and their families rather than teenages. Not that we won't get some teenagers interested I just think we will get more from the younger ones. Corinne was 10 when she ran her first A event by herself and Ryan was 9 and I think that these are the perfect ages for us to be looking at. Young enough to still have time to become intrested but old enough to go out by themselves once they are ready.
Jan 8, 2010 5:40 AM # 
jblaisdell: Has anyone tried to recruit home-schoolers?

I haven't exactly, but I did teach an orienteering class for a while at a local school for home schoolers, where home schooling families could go to do stuff that was hard to do at home, like orienteering or robotics. I think such institutions are good to keep in mind, along with more traditional schools, as a great forum to introduce kids to orienteering.

FrankTheTank: I think we absolutely need to market the sport to distance runners because they are the most likely to enjoy it. Case in point: I coach Track (distance runners) at my local High School. This year I "marketed" the WIOL series to my distance runners as an "unofficial" winter sport. As a result I have had 9 high schoolers, 2 parents, and 1 other friend (12 total) try orienteering for the first time.

Yes, many distance runners might also like orienteering (I was targeted for recruitment because I was a cross country runner), and promoting at cross country meets, in particular, has yielded some good results for me in the past. The other thing that your example shows is the importance of personal connections and, with schools, of having someone at the school involved.

All that said, I think runners on collegiate teams are a hard sell. It has been pointed out that some and perhaps many high school running coaches tend to be hostile toward their athletes participating in (and maybe injuring themselves in) other sports, but college coaches are much more so. I think it doesn't hurt to introduce lots of different people to the sport, but those already involved in collegiate sports are probably unlikely to become involved in orienteering until after they're out of college. I'm not sure if our limited capacity to promote the sport would be best spent on collegiate runners. The advantage of doing so is that they're a well-defined group and we know where to find them. The disadvantage is that it's a tough sell (because of the commitment required already to participate in collegiate sports), and it's hard to reach them except via personal or in-school contacts.

I think there is some hesitation/opposition to do this in the elite orienteering crowd, because it seems like they like the aspect that it's not mainstream and they have better chances at making the national team with fewer participants.

Hmm, I'm not sure who holds this opinion, but as a U.S. Team member, I welcome more competition for team spots. In fact, I would love to not win more races. More competition and more challenge mean more fun at races and a better training environment.
Jan 8, 2010 1:18 PM # 
I don't think there's any hesitation; it's just that most of the people who like orienteering are totally uninterested in doing marketing. What FrankTheTank reads as a conspiracy is in fact incompetence. As usual.
Jan 8, 2010 6:47 PM # 
To all,

Thanks for the recent dialogue. I know I said I would post daily during weekdays, but I want this discussion thread to continue before commenting. This is still good stuff. Will chime in on Monday.

Have a happy weekend.

Jan 8, 2010 10:21 PM # 
most of the people who like orienteering are totally uninterested in doing marketing

Uninterested? Or unskilled? Incompetence is a strong word.

Maybe we need to have a Marketing/PR class for meet directors at the USOF convention!
Jan 8, 2010 10:36 PM # 
Agree, I don't think it's always disinterest, though I'm sure that's part of the problem. We get so wrapped up in our own world that most of us don't know how to properly market to the rest of the world.
Jan 9, 2010 12:07 AM # 
Consider that one of the reasons we (finally) hired someone to market orienteering is because we felt we did not have the in-house capability to do it ourselves -- and did have decades of evidence to that effect.

As for event directors, they probably have enough on their plate just making sure the event is done right. Marketing it is an eminently delegatable responsibility.
Jan 9, 2010 2:51 AM # 
We get so wrapped up in our own world that most of us don't know how to properly market to the rest of the world.

Heh. This reminds me of something that happened a few months ago. We were at the start area for a sprint being held on a college campus in a major city as part of an A meet. I was one of the first to start and was getting myself ready while trying to get my kids organized to go as soon as I finished, when I overheard two women who were obviously not orienteers talking nearby. One said to the other "What's a 'spectator control'?"

Neither one knew, and at that moment it suddenly dawned on me what a poorly chosen term this is due to the unintended double-meaning.
Jan 9, 2010 5:07 AM # 
I think there are lots of cases like that. Consider that when we talk to each other we say, "yeah, it's just a local meet", to mean a low-key orienteering event. But to an outsider the word "meet" probably conjures up thoughts of a highly organized and competitive track meet, with announcers following the races and people watching your every move. It's not a marketing friendly word, but it's what we're used to saying.
Jan 9, 2010 4:38 PM # 
When adventure racing started getting hot, they changed many of the orienteering jargon to fit what non-orienteers could understand. The orienteering section of a race is the navigation part. A control is a check point. Adventure racers could give many more examples, I'm sure.

I've been using event instead of meet lately.

This all became very clear to me at a recent meeting with the Kentucky State Parks and Rec people. Many of the terms the orienteers in the room were tossing around were confusing the non-orienteers. We had to keep explaining what we were talking about.

Do we change some of our terms or do more marketing with the terms we already use? Tough call.
Jan 9, 2010 6:17 PM # 
Mapsport: Dirty.
Jan 9, 2010 8:05 PM # 
Part of why i like orienteering so much is the fact that it isn't your everyday sport and that it isn't conventional. I think if we changed our language then we would be losing part of that. Also this is the language that the rest of the orienteering community uses as well. We would only be shutting our selves off more from the rest of the orienteering world I think if we changed the language. Why should we change just because people outside the sport need things explained to them. I don't know all the football/tennis/golf/basketball/baseball language. Should those sports also change then?
Jan 9, 2010 8:16 PM # 
Alison makes a very good point. All sports have their nuances and shibboleths (I had to use that one, sorry.)

But, certain words are non-core. For instance, Mark Frank, who has been rather responsible for much of DVOA's growth, (I believe) always insists on referring to orienteering 'events.' At first I found that odd (and probably only because I heard 'meets' elsewhere), but really--it's no odder than anything else, and strictly speaking, as someone noted previously, maybe more intelligible.
Jan 9, 2010 8:59 PM # 
Yay Acampbell & j-man!!

"Event" is also my preferred term for orienteering competitions / activities.
Jan 10, 2010 12:20 AM # 
Pink Socks:
I teach beginner instruction at our local meets, and I always use "checkpoints" instead of "controls". And I usually use "event" in writing when I'm emailing newcomers.

I don't think changing a few terms to make them more user-friendly is a bad thing. The sport remains the same.
Jan 10, 2010 12:28 AM # 
I try to use "event" also, because I don't think it matters. I have trouble not using the word "control", since it's so universal, though I do think it's worthwhile to be more user-friendly.

It would be nice to compile a list like this of terms that can make orienteering more approachable.
Jan 10, 2010 12:59 AM # 
Use of "control" is fine if it is explained . E.g. "... the object is to find checkpoints, called 'controls' ...", rather than "... the object is to find controls..."

Every sport has its jargon. It is up to us to use it in a way that does not make newcomers feel like outsiders. By explaining, up front, the terms used in orienteering, we can immediately make them feel like "insiders".
Jan 10, 2010 3:37 AM # 
That's a very good point, Guy.

Another term I've notice people getting confused over is "course". A good percentage of newcomers seem to interpret this as something they can attend and listen to a teacher. Of course most mee... um, events do usually have an instructor-led teaching/learning activity, but we never call that a course.
Jan 10, 2010 4:30 PM # 
Cristina - I'm surprised that you think having to run an O course in gym class would discourage future participation. Yes, there are those that wil hate it (like you and handball apparently) but we weren't going to get those people anyways, and it will be a way to reach those who might like it. It's also a way to give some child who is less gifted as a pure athlete a chance to have some success in gym class by using their smarts. (don't we all kind of fit in that category ;-)

I also feel that making and reading a map is a good skill for school kids to learn, regardless of whether they become orienteerers, and O is a fun way to do it and get some exercise to boot, but that's another discussion...
Jan 10, 2010 4:43 PM # 
jjtong - I don't think O in gym class would *discourage* future participation. I just don't think it will lead anywhere, especially without good opportunities outside of school. I think the outside of school opportunities need to come first. You need to have events for the kids to go to, other kids their own age participating, and 'coach' types to keep the kids encouraged. Handing them a coupon in gym class is a nice idea, but probably not worth the paper.

Handball was my example because I really loved playing handball in school... but there were no opportunities to play outside of school. A lost opportunity.

And of course (!) teaching O in schools is worthwhile on its own, without any recruitment objectives. It's a great physical activity and teaches wonderful skills. I just don't think it's an easy transition at all from gym class to USOF clubs.
Jan 10, 2010 5:17 PM # 
I first learned 'orienteering' in scouts. I thought it was silly. I can't imagine I would have thought differently if it had been a poorly-taught activity at school. It wasn't until I started dating an orienteer that I really picked up the sport.

Moral: we need more O-babes. Where are the O-babes in the strategic plan?
Jan 10, 2010 5:19 PM # 
Maybe you are putting the cart before the horse there Brendan.

When you become the MacDaddy of worldwide orienteering, the babes will find you. Ergo, we will have lots of babes, and initiating a virtuous cycle.
Jan 10, 2010 5:47 PM # 
Hmm, well, while I'm working on that maybe we could allot some visas for importing O-babes.
Jan 10, 2010 6:51 PM # 
Howie NEOOC:
I have not circled back and read all of the posts or strategic plan (I will try to read much of it); however, I applaud any effort to normalize the language of orienteering.

I am president of the local club here, which is focused on raising awareness and popularizing recreational orienteering with Northeast Ohioans and we are working on our goals for 2010. Our primary goal will be to attract more participants at our local events. In keeping with that, we are working on language to make our sport more understandable to the public. Consequently, we will no longer be advertising any Hair Tonic events, nor will we be advertising any more track meets (sprints). These terms and others are inexplicable and/or off-putting to the public. The last thing some typical 45 year old guy or gal, who has considered *trying* our navigation sport, may want to do is show up at something where a whole bunch of (in their mind...) really fit people are "sprinting" around, making them feel out of shape and old. But this constituency is a huge population of folks who may consider our local event as a recreational option. Consequently, we will be advertising "short courses." We have not decided on our replacement term for ROGAINE yet, but you can bet we will come up with one. We will no longer by advertising a McNeil pharmaceuticals product --neither the topical solution nor the fast-drying foam.
Jan 10, 2010 7:37 PM # 
Less TLDR, pl0x?
Jan 10, 2010 8:48 PM # 
I suggest beer. Butter and hamburger might work, too.
Jan 10, 2010 10:46 PM # 
I need to tell a story to make my point about teaching orienteering in schools especially HS. Corinne got really interested in orienteering around 10 yr. and in 4th grade. It was a family past time and we all enjoyed it. It wasn't to long before Ed Scott from our club came to me and said that if Corinne got into a good running program she would be a darn good orienteer one day, this was when she was in middle school (7 th grade?). So she started running and decided to go out for the XC team in HS. The summer before she went into HS she went overseas for the first time with the juniors and ran at the Fin5 and the Oringen and now she is truly hooked on orienteering and improving greatly. She qualitified for her first JWOC on the brown course(the last year that we used that course for females) This was the summer of 2000 and the summer between her sophamore and junior year in HS. By now a ton of her friends knew about her orienteering and how good she was at it. I think it was the spring of her junior year they taught orienteering in her gym class. It wasn't true orienteering it was compass bearings and NO map reading, her friends were like "Corinne what is so exciting about this" and at that point she lost all chance of getting any of her friends interested in trying orienteeering with her. Later in life she did get a couple of the friends to go with her but they never really took an interest in it. The sad part of all of this is that less than 5 miles from her HS is one of DVOA's maps and her HS XC team ran on it all through her HS years.
So all of us can guess what we need to make sure is happening in schools that are already teaching orienteering, that it is "True" orienteering. My sister-in-law who teaches phys-ed in a local elementry school told me that she would like to teach orienteering as an whole class room experience working with the regular teachers but she was unable to get them to agree to it. She wanted the kids to be learning maps and map reading skills in social studies and she would teach them the use of their compass and I think that this is a good idea and we might want to look at this idea when going to present orienteering to schools. Like what Jason said earlier there are kids that are not perfect atheles and also kids that are not good canidates for team sports but will do well in an individual sport like orienteering. The more we get orienteering into school systems the better off our sport will be in my opinion. It is just a matter of finding ways to do and it will be different ways in different parts of the country. WE just need to try and keep trying until we find the right way.
Jan 11, 2010 6:39 PM # 
I would like to see serious effort towards developing O in schools.

definitely. Was traveling in southern Europe last March and saw hundreds of kids at a city park. Doing what? orienteering... The event organizers called it "an introduction to the sport, to facilitate newcomers into this new activity". Think of a mentor or point-of-contact or quasi-coach. Every group of 10 had one. It was clear from watching the event unfold that kids derive most satisfaction from a social aspect. Relays. Discussion of route choices. New gadgets such as GPS trackers and RouteGadget.

should have a booth at every major road-race expo

lots of times met people who have been running for years and never heard of orienteering

less focus on scouts

disagree here. I was told that BSA has a problem with retention and attendance once kids are 14+ years old. That is why BSA created "adventurous" teen-oriented programs such as Venturing. I was asked if the orienteering courses would be challenging enough, and when I showed them pictures of gullies, deep re-entrants, small cliffs on the side of streams in pockets of deep green, they said "that is exactly what we need".

Adventure Racing and I am not convinced that that crowd is a big seller

it is a bigger seller than orienteering. At a outdoor activities promotional festival, two booths, one AR and the other Orienteering. Both had a standard-sized orange and white control in front as attention grabber. The queue on the AR booth was much longer. "Oh, Orienteering, that's old man's stuff", heard that. I would venture to say that AR has created new blood, and thanks to them, our local O club has several passionate members that came from AR. Would focus on how we can help each other. The AR crowd seems to suffer from lower-quality maps, un-vetted courses, and old-style control card punches. If there is some cross-fertilization effort, more AR young folks would we aware of orienteering meets. ... and BTW, the AR folks would really really enjoy e-punching and RouteGadget. For them, it is really novel and cool.
Jan 11, 2010 7:04 PM # 
Pink Socks:
We have not decided on our replacement term for ROGAINE yet.

If I were king, I would ditch the term ROGAINE (I hate, hate, hate hate this term) and call it "adventure orienteering", since the distance and time spent is more analogous to the distances and time spent by adventure racers.

For my standard events, I'd have:

But I'm not king, but that doesn't mean I don't have opinions...
Jan 11, 2010 7:15 PM # 
call rogaine "adventure orienteering"
I like that term, but to me it fits more the kind of event that will happen Monday one week from now at the Georgia Navigator Cup, where they use a variety of maps and methods, aerial photos, photo clues, other challenges, and all within a 3-hr span.
Jan 11, 2010 7:56 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Isn't that already called "Extreme-O" or something?
Jan 11, 2010 8:50 PM # 
Please don't call rogaine anything orienteering. In my limited opinion, the lack of association with orienteering has been a boon to the recent explosive growth of rogaining in Eastern Europe, not a hindrance. In most European languages the words rogaine/rogaining sound like mysterious terms of Anglo origin, unencumbered with the hair product baggage. They are accepted well among the regulars, and don't seem to be an obstacle for gaining a wider following.

The global context for the two sports is quite different. Orienteering is an established competitive art, and the most serious (and usually unspoken) obstacle to its further development is the lack of awareness about the sport in North America. The sport simply cannot evolve further without gaining solid support from sponsors, and most of these prospective sponsors would be multinationals with headquarters, or significant operations, in North America. That's where the money is, more accurately the levers that dispense the money. If something about the sport can be changed in order to gain the awareness and acceptance, without sacrificing its nature—for example, the name that sounds like a nerdy positioning exercise, in more languages than English—the better. Map-sportsmen of the world will be eternally grateful.

Rogaining, on the other hand, is an evolving grassroots act that accidentally stumbled on a huge population heretofore immune to pleasures of classic orienteering—people who we in North America would call active hikers. The culture/way of life is alive and well in Eastern Europe, and there is no need to explain to them, or the larger population, what exactly the sport is about. Superimposed on this feed is an influx of adventure racers, who are usually well funded and again require no introduction. There is no global name-recognition problem, and nothing to fix: no need yet to beg the multinationals for the cash, and given the grassroots structure, in 20 years there still may not be.
Jan 11, 2010 9:26 PM # 
To all,

I promised that I would be back, but you have been doing a great job without me. All of the posts (o-babes aside :)) have been well thought out and articulated. A few thoughts:

-) The apparent concensus to normalize the language without dumbing it down is a good one. As one who has neither applied, nor run, rogaine...

-) In my discussion regarding juniors, I have come to believe that there is no one magic bullet that will reach all juniors nationwide. Rather a series of regional programs. In some areas it may be Boy or Girl Scouts, in others JROTC, in others regional clubs or leagues. This is one area where I believe that one size will not fit all. In many cases the clubs will have to drive the part of the strategy that works best for them.

-) This gets me back to families. Over the past few days I have had separate conversations with three club presidents regarding to the importance of families to the long term success of the clubs. Not only do they bring a number of starts, but the chance for volunteer involvement would be greater (IMO). Orienteeringmom is a great example...though there are scores of others.

The issue with families is who is the gatekeeper? Who decides that the Smith family is going to give of their Saturday or Sunday to orienteer? Remember, these folks are stretched for time (a premise that I will hold fast too).

Unanimously, the club presidents told me that the gatekeeper was the parents, not the kids. It doesn't mean that the kids may not influence but in marketing you are looking for consistencies in order to have one message to reach a large group.

That gets me back to how we reach them. My assumption is that we pursue the "Love the land" reach them on the sites (topographical and web) where they experience nature. The woods seems to be the key,

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Jan 12, 2010 5:29 AM # 
Howie NEOOC:
As a club president, I will cast another vote that we see the parents as gatekeepers... not the kids.

Also, families make up a significant percentage of our starts, and we hope to attract more. However, they don't represent a core of our volunteer base. I think this is because it is too hard to captivate everyone in the family unit to any particular activity.

I'm a bit ambivalent about the "Love the land approach." The people I encounter here in mostly urbanized northeast Ohio who label themselves as lovers of the land (sometimes by word but often by deed) are bit put off by the idea of folks tearing off through it, trampling wild flowers, and scrambling up muddy slopes and startling birds and wildlife. They are maybe slightly inclined to view orienteers more closely with exploiters of the land than lovers (i.e. protectors) of it.

Our club has tried to position itself as being a steward of our parks, but I have to be completely honest in saying that *part* of this comes from a defensive posture of not wanting to lose the access to orienteer that we currently have. For similar reasons I've seen snow mobilers, ATV drivers, hunters, mountain bikers cloak themselves within the "love of the land" wool with varying degrees of credibility and success. I think it would be fairer and easier for some to swallow to say that orienteers appreciate being outdoors and respect the challenge a natural landscape provides. But maybe I'm just being nit picky on this topic, which I'm not sold on. [However, I would very much like it to be true!]
Jan 12, 2010 7:28 AM # 
Looking at the "Event/Meet" debate that's running through this.
Has anyone tried using the term "Orienteering race" with any success?
Jan 12, 2010 2:22 PM # 
Hey all,

Thanks to Howie's post. I like his "steward of our parks" approach. I will admit when I focused on that area the position was as much offensive as defensive.

I also agree with his "orienteers appreciate being outdoors and respect the challenge a natural landscape provides."

There is a strong land (or snow or water) based element to orienteering. It is just lookiing for the proper terminology.

Have a good day.

Jan 12, 2010 3:50 PM # 
Orienteering: At one with nature.
Jan 13, 2010 4:27 PM # 
"Orienteering: At one with nature."

Been there. Done that.

Have a good day.

Jan 16, 2010 8:28 PM # 
Calgary's junior program used to attract a lot of home schoolers (and perhaps still does) because it was a great way for them to meet their physical education requirements, and also do something social outside the home.
Jan 16, 2010 9:14 PM # 
An interesting strategic plan, with lots of food for thought.

The discussions of how to promote, and Peter's comments on different types of orienteering, brought up a couple of memories about different types of orienteering that succeeded promotionally.

I recall reading that when orienteering was introduced to Japan, it was first introduced as a full-day leisurely activity targeted to families. Families would show up at one train station near a forest, get a map, and stroll off to find controls over a long course, with lots of opportunities for stopping for a picnic or to see a viewpoint. Eventually, the family would arrive at another train station, and head home. Apparently, it was very successful, attracting large numbers of participants, and then sponsors. (Competitive orienteering, introduced later, attracted (initially) only a few hundred participants to events, and lost sponsor interest.) Or that's what I recall reading anyway...perhaps others have more accurate details.

In Europe, some elite orienteers got the idea to have a series of races in central city parks, highly visible, rather than way out in the countryside. This of course became Park World Tour, attracting sponsorship and media coverage. Sprint orienteering, which seemed to come out of this, has increasingly been attracting newcomers around here. (The last park event that I helped at ran out of beginner maps well before the end...despite having twice as many white and yellow maps printed as expected participants...mostly because the event registration area was highly visible in a city park on a nice day.)

There may be various forms of orienteering that would attract people that US orienteering is not currently attracting. (A question, of course, is whether this would be desirable, or whether USOF members are only interested in having and developing the current form(s) of orienteering.)
Jan 17, 2010 6:59 PM # 
Another possibility for getting more kids into O...

A good friend -- and mom of three teens -- suggested promoting orienteering to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Police Athletic League. Her reasoning is that those two organizations are the largest non-school providers of youth sports in the country.

Jan 17, 2010 7:05 PM # 
I have always wondered about targeting universities, not only the undergrads but also the older people - grad students, faculty, and staff. Runners in these environments, according to my theory, are more likely to be looking for something more fun (and to them that tends to mean 'more intellectually stimulating') than running - this is where the "Why Just Run" motto would resonate.
Jan 17, 2010 7:25 PM # 
There are a number of great ideas in this thread but none of them will go anywhere if a lot of orienteering don't step up and get involved. From the largest to the smallest clubs to USOF volunteers have been the number one problem. Everyone has a great idea or plan but no one wants to get involved. Those of us that are already volunteering are maxed out and burning out. Glen can't do all of this by himself, he needs each and every one of us to do something to help our clubs and/or USOF. Without all of us getting involved in some way no matter how small the job, we are doomed to stay right where we are or even go backwards. So I make this call to all orienteers to think about what they want to do and what can they do to help somewhere in the orienteering community this year. Let's make 2010 the year of volunteers! We could even have a contest to see which club can get the most NEW volunteers involved either in their club or USOF this year ! What do you say orienteers can we do this? Yes we can!
Jan 25, 2010 6:04 AM # 
I'm jumping in a bit late, but here are some thoughts I had upon reading the document.

I want our sport to be seen as a competitive sport and that we embrace that as an organization. I worry that embracing the image of 'love the land' perspective we would just miss the 'adventurous athletes' and hard core runners. I'd do like the big outdoors, but I love racing.

I don't want our organization to be afraid of being competitive. The races are timed. It just is competitive. And that should be embraced. It's a valuable part of what we do. I love the club culture in Sweden where 60 people would come out on a freezing cold night to train together. The club model is a good one - but it should include more striving together for some shared goal (like the relay champs). I don't go to races to be alone in the woods, I go to races to see friends and to race fast.

Admittedly, I have the same complaint with IOF's 'One with Nature.'

I find that many of my non-orienteering friends are much more curious about the sport when they realize that it's a sport where they have to make tough, quick decisions than when they think it's just walking on bearing blindly.

And, I think that admitting that it's a sport won't turn away recreational orienteers. For example, people pay decent entry fees to run 5k races even if they are just running for fun. People are paying even more to go run through the mud in races like 'muddy buddy', etc. They're really really popular adventures, and are not nearly as awesome as orienteering.
Jan 25, 2010 2:46 PM # 
To all,

Thanks for the continued posts. Now that the volume has been settling down, I will be posting less frequently.

A few items to note:
-) I received a great deal of productive feedback from the board of directors at last Monday's BOD meeting in Borrego Springs, CA. This will be incorporated into the next draft.
-) We are focusing on amending the "Love the Land" approach to be less environmentally strident. However we still will have a substantial respect and proper use of the environment approach.
-) I want to remind all that final comments are due March 1st. At that point I hope to post a final draft for comment around the middle of March. The goal is for plan approval at the April 10th, board of directors meeting in Cincinnati (Flying Pig weekend)

Jan 26, 2010 1:45 PM # 
Good luck with the strategic planning process. As a guiding document I have found them useless. As a catalyst for thinking about our sport I have found them useful - hence I have followed this discussion.

The circumstances in different parts of my tiny country differ, and what seems promising and works somewhere just doesn't fly elsewhere. I imagine this is even more so in the US.

I have tried to figure out why this is. We seem to have identified more club roles than we have capable/time-available people to fill. Arranging and planning events. Running the club admin, coaching, mapping, technical, marketing, magazine or website, equipment, new technology, school or youth programmes, etc etc. At any given moment some are vacant and some are filled. Perhaps 10% are filled by people with the time and energy to do them really well.

Those 10% of roles scream ahead, and set the expectations for what is possible. Let's say you have a passionate parent with high-school age kids then guess what prospers. Another club's passionistas may have grown-up kids, they can only maintain motivation in other areas.

I don't think there's a simple answer. By looking and listening and trying we may find the things that work for us.

PS The word "rogaine" has a lot of traction here - and no hair-product associations. Score events from as little as 45min are being called "mini-rogaines"!
Jan 26, 2010 3:10 PM # 
I agree with gruver's summary. But there are a couple of opportunities that USOF now has for the first time that he doesn't mention:

1. A chance for Glen Schorr to provide professional management; top-down guidance, motivation and measurement to the clubs

2. An opportunity to gently shift and co-ordinate the emphasis of our sport to become more development-minded.

We in the clubs really want to do well. But up until now, we didn't have much direction, beyond getting the controls hung for next week's meet. If we had better leadership, where we felt we were part of something larger, all working together, I for one, would be willing to do a lot more work.
Feb 8, 2010 8:22 PM # 
To all,

I want to thank you for your comments and thoughts to date. I will incorporate your thoughts, as appropriate, in the plan.

A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to review the draft with the USOF board of directors. General feedback was positive and that we were heading in the right direction. More work still to do though.

As I noted earlier, I will collect your comments until March 1st. I will then issue a final draft in late March. This will be posted on the USOF site. The board will then meet and review at the Flying Pig. All are encouraged to attend this meeting.

I think that I dropped a draft somewhere but I am still getting solid feedback off the original so another draft seems redundant. Also waiting on final information on a couple of key groupts. Sorry if this has caused confusion.

Mar 26, 2010 3:34 PM # 
To all,

The proposed final draft of the 2010-2014 strategic plan is complete. It will be posted on soon.

Should you have any questions, don't hesitate to give me a call or send me an email.

Have a good weekend.

Mar 26, 2010 7:44 PM # 
To all,

As a follow up to my last post...

This morning I sent the earlier post. At the same time I issued the intended draft to Boardnet, Clubnet and national team representatives (1 per team).

Since then we have made a few minor edits and one factual change regarding the frequency of the Master's championships.

Knowing that there are a couple versions of the plan floating around, I want to notify everyone that THE PLAN THAT IS BEING POSTED ON WWW.US.ORIENTEERING.NET WILL BE THE OFFICIAL PLAN THAT WE WORK OFF OF.

Thanks for your cooperation. See you all at the Pig.

Mar 26, 2010 7:53 PM # 

As of 3:51pm Eastern time on Friday, the plan has been posted to the home page of Look to the right of the page.

Now all this bad boy needs is a logo, but that is for another day. ;)

Mar 26, 2010 10:41 PM # 
Direct link to PDF of plan

Updated link to 2010-14 strategic plan (due to website revamp in late 2010).
Mar 26, 2010 11:20 PM # 
Mar 27, 2010 1:33 AM # 
I think there are golden ideas in the proposal, such as the nationwide schedule and entry web tool. Reinventing the wheel has rarely paid off. I think none of the existing U.S. clubs' schedule and entry interfaces are perfect, but with a reasonable investment of money and a highly qualified professional's time we can upgrade the most commonly used ones to something like—or better, this is the United States after all. Is Kenny too expensive/too involved to be hired full time to work on this along with Kent Shaw and maybe Valerie/Sandy?

The land use agreements/memoranda of understanding with the parks may be one of the keys to future growth.

It's good to see hard numbers in the proposal, but I am puzzled as to why so many (almost all) of these numerical targets are apriori unachievable. (The sole major exception is the well-thought-through section on the Teams' goals, which are incremental and highly feasible, yet non-trivial and instrumental to achieving respect and recognition.) What good does it do to set yourself a goal to run a 5K in 13 minutes within say 4 years if your current time is 20 minutes? very few individuals have the talent to run 13', and if you aren't close now, you won't be close anytime ever (unless you're 6 years old; USOF isn't). In the same vein, few national orienteering federations have 10k members, even in Europe, and none have been able to grow fivefold in 4 years, unless starting from a very small number. If/when none of these numeric targets are met, what do we do? blame ourselves for not working hard enough even though we will have worked our asses off? I think a reasonable target would be something like a 10% growth per year. Ten percent is still exponential growth, as any successful investor will tell you.

I find other real howlers in the proposal:

Continue to develop and test new program concepts and forms to appeal to a wider audience, like use of GPS for first time White orienteers.

Along with these lines, they should give every first-time marathon runner a bicycle. So that they don't feel too out of their league, you know.

This and similar themes sound like echoes of "Orienteering—Everyone Welcome", which has been tried many times and failed. If you go after everyone, you'll end up spreading the marketing budget too thin, and won't get over the critical time/persuasive-power investment to get anyone. Orienteering is exclusive; not too many can handle it, and derive enjoyment in the process. Adventure races and ultramarathons certainly aren't for everyone, either, yet have been growing healthily. Reasonable, achievable goals would go a long way against this urge to go after everyone.

The part about the "possible merger" between the International Rogaining "Association" and the IOF made me chuckle—until I almost choked on the mention of "the United States Rogaining Association" later in the same sentence. Sometimes I really wish people would do their homework.

I'm also not sold on the (over)use of social media. People I know are actively eliminating their Facebook pages. Steve Jobs says something like "Real designers ship" and a self-help book I skimmed through recently said something like "Facebook is the best excuse ever created to not ship". If we want to be perceived as something useful, an essential part of people's life experience, I think it's important we not immerse the message into the noise floor. We should indeed have a dedicated, social communications channel, and Attackpoint already is it. I see no need to spread thin.

But, as I was reading along, these shortcomings pale compared to the few bright ideas. Discovery as the essence of orienteering is very much on target, and an idea that seems original, I haven't heard it expressed as succinctly before. If we only agree on this as the core message, and put efforts forward towards its propagation, and it is reasonably successful—to the tune of single-digit-percent sustained growth—this will be an achievement well worthy of the money spent on the dedicated Executive Director. To put discovery forward will automatically narrow our target audience to the people who we would really want, people who appreciate the value of discovery and are willing to commit resources to achieve discovery (there are your sought volunteers). And this discovery can take various forms—discovering one's performance potential, discovering the techniques that help you make that trip through the woods fastest, discovering the wild and not-so-wild venues that we run in, and all the amazingly interesting and slightly weird people who inhabit this scene, making lifelong friends.

And what sport would encompass such a broad variety of facets of discovery as orienteering? Much more of an appropriate slogan than being at one with nature.
I mean, come on—what would you rather spend money on—discovering, or on being at one with nature?

So, my feeling is that this document, as written, should be substantially trimmed of irrational exuberance and down to the clever and worthy ideas. I think it will be quite premature to take any kind of action on it at the Pig Board Meeting without a major rewrite.
Mar 27, 2010 1:50 AM # 
It is hard to argue with Vlad's take on the numbers.

But, I also am very impressed with the one-word encapsulation of orienteering. I didn't think it was possible.

There are some gems in there; and maybe some pie in the sky.
Mar 27, 2010 3:18 PM # 
I agree that "Discovery" is a "keeper" It really captures the essence of Orienteering for me. Any and all options for growth need to be our top priority. Clubs need encouragement, support and ideas from USOF to grow and multiply. Larger clubs could sponsor smaller satellites that focus primarily on growth in underdeveloped areas. All clubs don't need to be comprehensive. A smaller club could offer numerous beginner events in a few small parks without being concerned about "A" meets and technical mapping projects. These smaller clubs could go a long way toward meeting some of the start # goals in the plan. Many of the large clubs may find it hard to imagine doing more than they already do. In some cases people may need to belong to more than one club to make it all work.

Rick Worner
Mar 27, 2010 6:45 PM # 
To all,

Thanks for your comments to date. I encourage you to continue this thread as well as (1) directly contact a member of the board of directors with your thoughts and (2) consider attending the board meeting at the Flying Pig.

As I noted earlier, the meeting room at the Holiday Inn is small. It can hold about 25. I anticipate 7 to 10 board members in attendance, with many more by phone.

Mar 28, 2010 11:30 AM # 
Originally got into orienteering as a substitute for adventure racing (my spine guy was against mountain biking). My family has done multiple meets as a group, but truely loves ROGAINES. Central New York Orienteering (CNYO) has annual ROGAINES and implemented the REGAINE several years ago. The REGAINE is a ROGAINE, but either run as a relay with a team or as a "lone wolf." More ROGAINES or Score-Os would be the way we would go. I'll drive to the other side of the state for a ROGAINE, but won't go nearly as far for a 2 hour course.
Mar 31, 2010 2:30 PM # 
Having read the plan for the first time last night, I must say I'm impressed. It’s concise, with a message that’s right on..I was thinking “discovery” before I got to that section and then there it was. I can just see “Orienteering USA. Discover your parks” as something we use relentlessly until it’s widely known that orienteering is about fun outdoor exploration. Good stuff.

But there's also a big hole that this thread has touched on and then wandered away from. "Promote enjoyment of, and respect for. the environment" is #2 in our mission statement...and then we do nothing to back it up. Nada. We need to support that goal with real activity, but as bshieds, randy and howie observe, not something green, fluffy and non-credible.

In case folks consider this point esoteric, consider this. Cities and states are looking for ways to cut optional costs and balance tight budgets. Park maintenance is an optional cost, and many parks have "friends of" groups of volunteers already maintaining trails who gladly accept increased authority. Part of maintaining trails is keeping people on them, including orienteers. Disconnect from the environment, and you lose your venues and the growth of orienteering; it's that simple.

In the past, we've pulled out one environmental study after another stating authoritatively that others are worse; I call this the SODDI defense (some other dude did it), and it doesn't win us venues. We need a broader environmental perspective. Here are four ways to make that happen:

1. I hear alternatively that we have a national park agreement and that we don't. If there is one, we need to post and use it.

2. Orienteering on trails is 100% consistent with the goals of "friends of" groups and a great initial way to build trust with them. It's also a low-risk way for newcomers to try orienteering without feeling they need a completely new skill set. It's as easy as a walk in the park! Every club should have some meets like this.

3. Another way to build trust with land managers is to expect Course Setters to initiate discussions about what flora/fauna to explicitly protect on the map and what could handle a few hours of random trampling. This respect gives us off-trail credibility and higher quality courses.

4. We go off trail, observing everything as we go, including trash. And then we leave it there. In WIOL next year, we will be adding a couple of volunteer roles for picking up known off-trail trash, just like we pick up control markers. It's an experiment, but selected off-trail activity suddenly has a benefit for groups that prevent it...
Mar 31, 2010 8:23 PM # 
To expand on bobfo's point 4, one way we orienteers could make ourselves valuable to parks is to help them with detecting and monitoring invasive plant species. This may be particularly true for QOC, given that we currently have a relatively new and rapidly spreading invasive threat in our area, but the Mid-Atlantic can hardly be the only region in which park managers might appreciate some help checking their parks for new invaders from people who can go off trail without getting lost.
Mar 31, 2010 8:28 PM # 
I liked the idea of "sample" on national orienteering day, to allow families a free try to see what it is about. Add to it a few compasses to be raffled out randomly, and you got returnees.
I happy for the attention to mt biking. Already, there are AR meets with 300 mt bikers, and guess what: they are looking for controls using a USGS topo map.
liked the concept of "stewardship" in local parks. Many people are already doing that. In fact, park managers are looking for new and novel ways to utilize their resources.
the "discovery" as branding of the "experience" is key: there are already orienteerers that cross-over with geocaching, scavenger hunt, "amazing race" styled events.
btw, one thing that I was surprised not to find is a reference to e-punching. Reason I find it important is because there are hundreds (or thousands) of runners and cross-country runners that show up at 5K and park trail running events, and often ask why should they attend an O meet. The answer should be to offer something they don't get otherwise, and in their view of metricization of their speed and time lapsed, seeing the time of each leg between controls is a novel thing. just my two cents.
Mar 31, 2010 9:11 PM # 
Allegany State Park (NY) has hosted 3 rogaines, most recently in 2008. We created a (rogaine quality, not orienteering quality) map of the park which they now sell in their stores. Before the last meet, we discovered a number of ATV trails that entered the park through private land and traversed a large section of "wilderness". We shared this information with the park administration who was very grateful to have been so informed; they stated that they would normally visit that area only once every few years and would not have discovered this new use for quite some time. Now they are working with the ATVers to "resolve" the issue. Likewise, we alerted them to several "stealth" campsites which they are "taking care of". I coincidentally ran into one park administrator a month ago; she asked when we would next host an event - she wanted more "intelligence" on what is going on in the park. It is clear that we are welcome back whenever we are ready. So, yes, helping to serve as park stewards will help us all with access.
Mar 31, 2010 10:58 PM # 
To BobFo,

Thanks for your post. I encourage dialogue on this point and welcome all thoughts.

Apr 1, 2010 6:57 AM # 
Ultrarunners have to do trail work. No work, no entry. It may have to be this drastic in order to get meaningful involvement.
Apr 1, 2010 7:02 PM # 
A note to all,

The strategic plan portion of the board meeting has been moved up to 4:15 pm. Just wanted you to know if you wanted to attend this portion of the meeting.

Nov 3, 2010 6:11 PM # 
(These long discussion threads so badly need threading. Like Usenet newsgroups, remember those?)

I am very impressed by the huge participation in certain Scout and JROTC orienteering programs. In El Paso TX the school JROTC groups put on meets with hundreds of participants. Now and then we see some of those groups at our meets in New Mexico.

I am also hearing from Boy Scout groups that they get feedback from Philmont about their kids' field navigation skills being not up to par for the High Adventure treks at Philmont. These groups can look to New Mexico Orienteers to help them train.

One very big gap I see in the current development plan for Orienteering USA is working with Search and Rescue. New Mexico Orienteers advertises its meets to the New Mexico SAR volunteer community and now and then we see some SAR responders at our meets. Interest in orienteering varies. Like many people in general, many SAR team leaders think GPS units make map skills --- and by extension field navigation skills --- unnecessary. The same is true for people who are into geocaching. So many have trouble finding geocaches with a GPS yet any orienteer can do it without a GPS. I am a NM SAR responder myself and I hear from our state SAR training evaluators that they see many novice responders who need to improve their map and compass skills. I would like to hold an orienteering meet at one of the annual state SAR conferences, but to do that I need an accurate map at a conference venue and more orienteering manpower too.

I direct meets etc because I want more children be competent navigators in the great outdoors all around us. That life skill will keep them so much safer and permit them so many more and more successful adventures. Also, they will be more able to take care of their friends and, eventually, their families too.

As far as working with schools go, some school staff are all for it and others are against it. Cross country team coaches may be very keen on orienteering, to generate interest in running, or may be utterly against orienteering because it puts too many miles on the kids outside of their official competition schedule. Your best candidate schools may be those located on the urban/wilderness interface, where "safe routes to school" include trails. An example is Gallup NM, which has a walk to school program that involves supervised walking along historic local livestock trails that cross paved roads.

I have had success involving homeschoolers in orienteering. Because I work at home I can go course setting and vetting on weekdays; when other kids are in school, I can take our club homeschoolers with me. We see a lot of natural history. Two who started with me last summer now run on advanced courses.

This discussion thread is closed.