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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: Reflecting

in: Gswede; Gswede > 2017-01-10

Jan 10, 2017 9:01 PM # 
I was wondering if we'd get an update.

I can see a single flaw with this plan. Someone, somewhere, for some reason would kick up a fuss at having one person "permanently" living in an OUSA digs.
Regardless of what you could bring to the table, someone would hold it against you
Jan 10, 2017 11:31 PM # 
...and that would matter? Certainly can't let one naysayer defeat a really good idea.
Jan 10, 2017 11:55 PM # 
If only one person kicked up a fuss, I think we'd be doing quite well in terms of overall approval. We've certainly had other programs with less approval that have continued for years.

At any rate, if that one person did kick up a fuss big enough to cause concern, I'd invite them to move to an area with high-quality orienteering maps, rent a house with the goal of making it an elite training center, organize training camps for the community, and continually open their home to all types of orienteers. If they were willing to do those tasks and others, then I think we could have a conversation about why I'd be there.
Jan 11, 2017 7:52 AM # 
People complaining, no problem. People complain about everyone.
My fear is that you'd have that one special person that will manage to block it because your living there and they never got that opportunity.
If people wanted to increase the standard of elite US orienteering, funding wouldn't be cut to zero.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for it. I've an email drafted for a week in said house already
Jan 11, 2017 11:17 AM # 
You've got a point, Colm. But, at this point, I'm tired of waiting for OUSA to do something for the teams. If you want something done, you've got to push for it yourself.

It could possibly be sustainable even without OUSA's assistance. If you run the numbers for what could be brought in from national teams and clubs holding training camps, you get an amount that could pay for a substantial amount of expenses. However, if that were the case, I would be considerably less inclined to provide first dibs for US team members and OUSA members.
Jan 11, 2017 2:59 PM # 
After 1 weekend in New York i'd definitely considering travelling again, and options from my part of the world look like getting better.

Easy thing with catering for non US athletes is that trainings used before can be re-used for them.
Jan 11, 2017 3:21 PM # 
I think there were a few guys running camps in the Canaries a few years ago.
Orienteers do like to travel

(Edit grammer)
Jan 11, 2017 6:21 PM # 
As a person on the board, I'm mildly bothered by the statement that
if people wanted to increase the standard of elite US orienteering, funding wouldn't be cut to zero
because, as pointed out through weeks of tedious work by Ian and Barb and others on the finance committee, the previous board of directors basically ran out organization into the ground. I care a lot about increasing the standard of US orienteering. But we can't conscientiously throw money at elite orienteering until we have some money, which we don't right now.

Anyway, back to the point - I think this is great. Exactly what we've been ruminating on for Boston, and in a considerably cheaper place to live. What do you need for this to happen? I suppose a job near enough to Peekskill to make it worthwhile to live there? Any chance of that?

To make this happen at the national level we need a proposal. Pretty much exactly what you've already written. Nothing in the budget for 2017, but if we still can't drum up money for 2018, we've all seen the success you can have with a GoFundMe site or some equivalent for specific proposals. Have you talked to Erin about this?
Jan 11, 2017 6:43 PM # 
There are relatively inexpensive properties (not all winterized) around Schunnemunk Mtn NW of Harriman (probably spelling that wrong). Or think bigger - get one of the old camps in Harriman and develop like the AMC did on Jackie Jones. Then usage might be open to a wider audience, possibly eventually making the endeavor self-sustaining.

I love your idea. But how realistic is it for the US team(s)? Team members live all over the US. Most are in school or have jobs that are not portable and limit vacation opportunities. Team Trials and WOC will eat a lot of that time up. Those with young families are probably lucky to find a few minutes to train each day, and may not be inclined to train far from family for extended periods. How does your experience with the demographics of the Spanish team compare? Can the idea scale up to just one US location, or would there need to be regional centers? How does weather/terrain "availability" factor in? Hard to think of places in the US where one can truly train year-round.

Maybe we could start small with couch surfing for organized way to offer places to stay/transpo to train in various areas. If the logistics were simplified, could we get more people together to train more often?
Jan 11, 2017 7:30 PM # 

Probably what I would need is up-front financial support from OUSA. But I expect that the center could probably pay for itself relatively quickly. As Darren and Colm have shown, there is interest from abroad. I know of A LOT more European orienteers who would want to come here, to rerun the WOC courses if nothing else. NYC is a relatively cheap destination for American/European orienteers to travel to, but not to stay in. The city's tourist appeal is enormous. The excellent maps close to the city add even more to this draw. By hosting several training camps for US orienteers/foreign clubs/national teams, a significant amount of funding is created. I imagine one tall Frenchman would love having a place to stay for cheap to spend even more time in Harriman and go into Manhattan on rest days.

Also, if all or part of the team comes together for a sufficient length of time, a national league meet could possibly be organized, creating funding for the center, OUSA, and the team, as well as providing a national meet for the community.

As for me, I would hope to be doing an online Master's program or establishing a base of translation clients in the US. So, my employment is very portable. And if not, the NYC area usually has enough employment for anyone working as a Spanish-English linguist...a bank teller if worse comes to worst. So, I'd be a translator/orienteering innkeeper/elite orienteer?

I'm not sure about the timeline for this. It would depend on how OUSA would take to the idea. I haven't spoken with Erin. I'll send him a message.


Thanks for the questions. It's so easy to get stuck in seeing the benefits that, at times, it's hard to see the drawbacks.

I suppose this is why I felt it's better to have a center where people come for training camps rather than requiring they change location and jobs permanently. Even if it were escaping for several two to four day weekends each year, that would be a significant improvement. Convincing people to uproot and change where they live requires a different level of commitment.

As far as regional centers, that's the goal. But, I think we'd need to walk before we run. I chose this area because it seems like the most viable location and it's somewhere I'd like to be. Seeing how this model of training center/clubhouse works there, it could be scaled up to other locations, perhaps with modifications. Cristina has talked about some great winter training in Tucson. Will has mentioned Bend, OR, as a great location for an elite center. I'm sure there are a few other places around the US that would be perfect for a center.

There are times of year that the Hudson Valley would not be ideal for training, but I think it's still worth the effort. It's what you said, where are there locations you can train year-round in the US with loads of great maps around you? I believe that what it offers at other times of year sets off the unusable times.

As far as how realistic it is for the US team(s) and difficulty traveling there. Well, this is going to sound very harsh, but I also believe it's true. If some national team members aren't ready to make the commitment to go to training camps, then they're going to continue to finish where we always have. Like I said, really harsh, but it's the brutal truth. Almost all the people winning races here in Europe orienteer and do little else. If we truly want to improve our performance, it requires some serious sacrifices. Getting together for regular training camps is a pivotal part of that considering how little competition we get in the US.

So, having an elite training center where we can come together several times a year at no extra cost to team members except for travel might facilitate the process of serious training.
Jan 12, 2017 12:42 AM # 
Finally somebody has the same reflective run I had back in the 90's!!

Harriman is under utilized. A hop and a skip from one of the World's greatest cities and midpoint between several existing O hubs in northeast NA: DVOA country, Boston, Ottawa, Golden Horseshoe!

A business case could easily be made for a O training camp and tour operating company based out of Harriman. The key is startup or seed money to get it going and I might be interested in helping. I could write a lot here but would more happy to chat with you over skype about this.

Keep the drive for the dream and Don't worry about those that complain. I've heard them for years about ARK - which is now a $0.25M a year in revenues program (and only 7.5 hours from Harriman). Money can be made in O if done right to support salaries, office or house property rental and dreams! Do it!! -
but run it as a not for profit business.
Jan 12, 2017 8:37 AM # 

Thank you for your enthusiasm! I would love to pick your brain over Skype. I'll send you an email.

Like Mike said, the key is startup money. The threshold to get over for me is the cash to start the endeavor.

A purely hypothetical situation to illustrate feasibility: OUSA provides a $25,000 grant for the center. This amount looks like it'd be good enough to rent out a three bedroom house. Junior and Senior teams have five to six (or more!) training camps per year respectively at the center, traveling to other maps in the region as well (Moreau, WCOC maps, Stuckey Pond). I, perhaps with the help of other team members, help trail or road race organizers to manage several (let's say 4) races. A large part of the proceeds from those races go towards supporting the center, with what I think is a conservative estimate, that's $6,000 per race, totaling $24,000. I've decided on road and trail races because, at this point, they're more profitable and easier to organize than O. Ultimately, OUSA has only spent $1,000, with the possibility remaining of generating further donations through other activities (national O-meet, revenue from training camps open to OUSA members and foreign teams and clubs, etc.)

And imagine the benefits: I, selfishly, would get to train on high-quality maps and not have to work as much since my rent would be much less, providing me with more time to train. (Although I'd also be organizing a lot of stuff, so I guess I'd still be busy, but closer to the beneficial elite athlete lifestyle.) Team members would have a center in the US where we could train together more regularly and easily than we have up to this point. Juniors preparing for JWOC could come to the center for a month prior to going abroad: much cheaper for parents and better prep than training at home. And the center would benefit the OUSA community: more O-related activities, more connection between the elite team and the community, possibly bringing money back into the Federation.

If the model of a fundraiser-driven elite center proves viable, we could replicate it in other locations throughout the US, making it easier for athletes in other regions to train at an elite level and providing the US team with multiple locations to train that better follow the seasons, i.e., I'd really prefer to train in Arizona in January than in upstate New York... although it is quite pretty.
Jan 12, 2017 11:08 AM # 
The Canadian team held week long training camps in Harriman and West Point every spring for over a decade from the early 80's to mid 90's. The training camp was usually bounded by back to back weekends of races (West Point and sometimes a team trials). A week of spring training at Harriman got the season off right and it was great for team morale. Some years we rented cabins near Sebago and other times hotels in central valley or Peekskill. We likely had a dozen or more people every year training together. Ironically it all stopped shortly after WOC in '93. To my knowledge there has only been one week long O Fest in Harriman since WOC. So what was the legacy?

I often read on AP that people feel the rate limiting step for elite development is a lack of maps but i call bullshit on that. We have more maps now than when I was racing. What we have a lot less of (and I'll be blunt) is total individual training hours, individual time on map training and group training.

While I won my first NAOC title in 1992 after a summer in Sweden doing my PhD research my best fitness and race performances was '95-'00 when I moved back to Hamilton and got into a great training group and was on maps several times a week. The group was mainly orienteers but also ski orienteering, trail running and XC skiing. Now the goal is to replicate that for our top ARX athletes. ARX (paid) coach Meghan Rance starts our winter on map training with the group tonight. Races every second week and weekend races every two weeks or so (we can run in snow). We have less reliance on volunteers because we got seed money to kick start a money making program.

Creating a training culture is important and this is why training centers are important. What is the annual budget for
mapping in American O clubs? Now compare that to the annual budget for athletic development. And by that I mean coaching, junior programs, athletic assistance to races, and yes property rental. Likely not much. A small change in focus and investment could result in a very different result. And that's been proven in a number of countries in Europe.
Jan 12, 2017 6:52 PM # 
It may not be your priority, Greg, but there are plenty of wealthy parents and schools in Westchester (though not in Peekskill). School programs could help pay a salary or two, and having a stronger local orienteering scene will only be beneficial. Biggest return money/effort is probably from team-building exercises.

Locals can also rent out the Lodge at Blue Mtn (for others).

There are lots of jobs in Westchester. County offices in White Plains, company HQs (IBM, Pepsi, etc etc)... It's missing a top University (Pace in Pleasantville and SUNY Purchase exist).
Jan 13, 2017 12:56 PM # 
I've definitely considered that also, Neil. My first objective would be maintaining a center for the elite teams, then providing stuff for the community. If I have extra time, I could work with schools. But I think that's something I'll need to examine when I get there. It's also so theoretical for me right now I can't be specific, but it's very useful to know the opportunities are there.

TBH, translation would probably offer me the best self-funding. But it may take a while to establish a clientbase in the US.
Jan 13, 2017 4:39 PM # 
Have I told you about the Forest-X races we were doing around Boston? Basically orienteering-lite, with a target audience of trail runners and other people who like running and adventure. I can see a series of races in your vicinity, some just trail races, some Forest-X, that might help pay for this endeavor, while simultaneously promoting orienteering in the area.

Down the road... ARK-style or other junior program?
Jan 13, 2017 6:42 PM # 
I think this is an idea in the right direction. In the original post, Greg talks about things like map grants of small thousands of dollars. OUSA has taken the approach for a long time that somehow giving small amounts of money to volunteers will change things. It hasn't. Because for most of the goals we really want to achieve the problem isn't money, it's manpower. What gets done is what someone has a passion for and plenty of time to implement. Volunteers mostly just don't have that time. So spending money on people (like Greg) who will really do something should be the focus. It's more expensive, but has a greater chance of actually changing things. The toughest issue is to prioritize such projects, because we can't afford much. We only hired an ED because someone made a sizable donation. That initiative hasn't worked out financially. We only hired a Jr. Coach because someone made a sizable donation. That job isn't generating revenue to pay for itself someday either. Greg's proposal has the potential to pay for itself and should be considered on that basis. Similarly, I think that map grants need manpower behind them. Instead of just giving clubs funds, OUSA should hire a full time person who can travel to clubs and map for them and help them put on events. Hopefully, growing starts to pay for the expense.
Jan 13, 2017 8:00 PM # 
Alex, I remember you mentioning that at some point. Those are types of projects I would hope to tackle in taking this on. The most important part would be having the base of operations for it.

To start the project off, my goal would be to improve my own level of orienteering, which I hope no one is against, and provide opportunities for other elite American orienteers to come together as a group and train more regularly than what has been the norm.

But I would consider the project a failure if it ultimately syphoned off funds that could be used for other orienteering purposes. The goal is to take and then give back, hopefully to a greater extent than was taken. I want to add something to what we have, not change what we currently have to make it fit my desires. There are so many options for fundraising if we have a base of operations where I could focus on training and creating for the community.

I think I come up with a new idea every half hour. Here's some:
-Youth orienteering camp (Barb's contribution)- The Junior national team comes for three weeks of training a month before going to Europe for JWOC. The final week is a rest week when we host a wonderful amount of 25~ young orienteers at the Blue Mountain Lodge. XC camps charge $600-700 for a week. The total is $15,000. I'm not sure how much expenses would be, but I bet we could ultimately get a few thousand and still give juniors a grant for travel expenses.

-ARK-style program, your contribution. I'd like to do this down the road when I'm more familiar with how the whole thing goes. But absolutely doable.

-A heavily promoted family orienteering day in Blue Mountain. I mean, around 40% of Peekskill's population is Hispanic and I know picnics in Harriman are a big thing for Latino families. Naturally, it's cheap and you get do something outside. I'll promote to the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking community. If a family is ready to have a picnic and a hike, I think they'll probably enjoy a map hike if someone promotes it and explains it in Spanish. I bet an afternoon salsa competition could even be a fundraiser. $5 to take part and $50 for the winner. Giacomo could be the judge. He'd be good at it.

-All the training camps for the US team(s) that could be open to the US community. People like building a relationship with the elite in their sport. I know I do. Everyone signs a liability waiver and looks for the streamers in the woods for $6 a map. No need to bring all the logistics of a race. We like to compete, but we mainly like to take part in the activity. Also, if I make a super difficult course, we could have dunk tank at Download to soak me. Just joking... :)

-All of my own training maps can be recycled for other team members and anyone passing through wanting to get out on a map.

It's all theoretical at this point. But I'm sure I could find a way to do the whole thing. Not without the amazingly generous community we have though.
Jan 14, 2017 9:11 AM # 
If we make teaching map reading skills to youth and engaging them in outdoor activities a part of the project--elites training hard while giving back to youth--I bet this project and the entire US team would be eligible for A LOT of grants.

More reflections. This might be a good way for us to improve on the decrease in participation we always see with our collegiate athletes. Generally, college students have more vacation time but less money. For me, a space where I could have spent that time focused on training and have spent little money in the process would have been immensely helpful. Not sure if they would read this, but I'm thinking of people like Mike L., Izzy, and Evalin. I'm sure there are others as we always struggle to maintain people through college.

Like I said, let's hold an orienteering summer camp in June or August, find grant money for engaging young people with the outdoors, charge parents a reduced amount, and provide the junior orienteers working at the summer camp with a travel grant for races. The center gets funding, juniors get funding, dozens of children and young adults are exposed to orienteering, the US team, and the outdoors, and parents get a week to themselves in summer. Struggling to find drawbacks to this.
Jan 14, 2017 9:22 AM # 
In short, I'll write a proposal for a project. But I need help. I know how to read maps and speak Spanish, but navigating the logistics of a program like this is uncharted for me. Anyone who can provide advice or support would be a hero.
Jan 14, 2017 5:18 PM # 
HI Greg. I absolutely love the idea of establishing an initial US training center. I've sent you an e-mail with some initial thoughts and ideas for moving your proposal forward. thanks!!!
Jan 14, 2017 7:22 PM # 
I'd say, if you're keen, then don't wait, try to make it happen. People may respond well to a GoFundMe, especially given OUSA zeroing of unrestricted team funding.

Hammer's reflective run -> ARK (or maybe I'm just inferring here)
GSwede's reflective run -> something amazing

Ditto on all smittyo's comments.

In terms of people finding enough training time, many Europeans do, and apparently Emily Kemp did after deciding years ago as a junior that she was going to be a world champion (resulting in a fourth place in the most recent WOC Middle, the best North American result ever by far). University students could get their summer jobs or internships near NYC and train for two months (if not doing Europe that year). Others could dedicate a week or two of vacation, or a few 3 day weekends.

In terms of year round, that might in principle be possible near the Olympic Training Center if maps were made near Pueblo. Ditto Anza Borrego and Laguna in southern California, or a number of places in the southwest where lower elevations are snow free in winter, and higher elevations temperate in summer. The problem with all these places for year round training is the limited opportunity to compete with other top orienteers. The eastern seaboard has far more such opportunity, like ten times as much. Having lived in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Alberta, Texas, Colorado and outside the country, the best first place for an orienteering training center in America is probably north of NYC, or perhaps New England.

Can a center be started with ten thousand dollars? Can a landlord be found who will let you start with a smaller place and move to a larger place as things get going? Or rent a room in a nearby orienteer's house briefly while you get things ready (advertise a first camp, take bookings, prepare trainings, look for a longer term spot)? Or might a landlord let you sublet (via AirBnB) rooms outside of orienteering season? Is Orange County cheaper (also close to Harriman, further from Westchester, WCOC and Fahnstock, but closer to northern New Jersey maps, Delaware Water Gap, maybe Moreau, and I thought it had a train line too.

By the way, if orienteers that I know, or recommended by people I trust, want to train on the Colorado maps, I have spare beds, a sofa, floor space, an inflatable mattress and spare bathrooms near those maps. No smoking, no gluten (I have celiac), leave the place in good condition.
Jan 14, 2017 8:16 PM # 
JimBaker: I don't think you were inferring that ARK is not amazing, but I'm going to reiterate how amazing it is. There have been copycats...there will be more. It's a sin there haven't been more.

Much of the framework/ideas that ARK/DGL uses is an absolute must for Greg's orienteering utopia to be sustainable.

2 of which are:

- non-profit setup. Lots of wisdom there, which I'm sure Hammer has navigated around and would be keen to share. I hope to build a similar business, (or some sort of ARK offshoot) in Toronto over the next few years.

- associated lineup of adventure races. DGL identified that the 'navigation sport' market in the Golden Horseshoe steers more towards AR than orienteering. That's just the way it goes around here, so they decided to feed the beast. Thankfully, for orienteering nerds like myself, their AR lineup has more of an orienteering feel...with IOF quality maps.

I'd like to share more of my thoughts right now, but I'm juggling making soup and soothing a sick 4 month old.

Bottom line is:

Greg! You're going to have to continue to spearhead this. Keep gaining knowledge, and get this sucker done! Look at all the support you have from this thread alone?!

Get after it buddy!
Jan 14, 2017 8:45 PM # 
I love it, Greg.

I've been amazed (envious, even, to the point of silliness a couple of times) at what Hammer & crew have managed to do with ARK, and having him as a resource at this point in your plans is priceless. Thanks for your generosity, Hammer!

While you mention it yourself, it bears repeating: simplify. When going after seed money (OUSA, grants, Kickstarter, bake sale), pare the initial pitch down to the bare bones. Be confident that even these bare bones are a viable product on their own, and something you would be excited and proud to work like crazy for. Add tiers of service (options) as funding levels are met. Work hard on your elevator pitch. Be honest with all involved (particularly yourself).

Don't burn yourself out chasing add-ons: intuitively, an OUSA Team Clubhouse with resident caretaker/map maker/event & clubhouse coordinator/entertainer/masseuse would be incredible for O sport in the US. It would be hard (enough) work, even at this most basic level.

I think getting a fair amount of funding for something concrete like this is likely. Once you have funding, work hard at the initially funded program, and take your time adding 'features', and not at the expense of the base program. If someone wants a new 'feature', have them commit. If you want a new feature, find folks to manage it, or the old features.

Most importantly (and probably all I should have written), count me in as a:
  1. financial contributor
  2. volunteer of some sort
I can be pretty flaky, but if there's some nice (off?)trail running at the start and/or end of the day/night, I can be lured into doing some pretty laborious stuff.

Hooray, Greg!
Jan 14, 2017 8:54 PM # 
What I've heard of ARK is indeed amazing. An ARK type program north of NYC would be amazing. But I agree with hughmac4 about starting bare bones basic, with one idea, simply implemented.
Jan 16, 2017 1:33 AM # 
I talked to Mark Read (USMAOC's officer in charge) today, and he is very interested in how he can support your idea. I'll do some email introductions and send him a link to your log so you two can discuss. Woo!

Incidentally, Jordan Laughlin will return for a teaching stint at West Point (after grad school, not sure of his timeline), so there'd be at least two of you "in residence" for a few years...
Jan 17, 2017 3:40 PM # 
I've only just gotten around to reading all of this apologies.

DO IT DO IT DO IT!!!! I'd be over in a heart beat so a training camp! especially when based next year closer to an airport. NYC is sooo easy to get to! (but have a think about airport to house transport, not all of us can rent cars yet and some don't like otherside of the road right after a long flight, or I wouldn't)

SEDs have a training camp once a month and yes scotland is much smaller but we have traveled all over the UK for them (next up is lake district). and some years gone to POM as a group. I'd say SEDs and probably UK elite squad would be up for a trip, especially where minimal organization for the training is required!
BASOC are also doing weekly training at the moment. Each month we have booked out a community centre room and gone out on courses tailored to a certain skill. this has worked very well! and I will drive over an hr each way to make them. I would say something like this with a local club or school would be possible as well. we pay £2 each per week for the training but that just covers printing and such I'd happily pay more if all the flags were out and such. (we all help eachother collect and such now) we also have soup at the end of the sessions and take turns bringing it. Crockpot and your good to go.

so there are two examples of how consistent training is being done and people traveling for it. It works and people seem to love it. So Greg i'm all for backing you on this!!!!

This discussion thread is closed.