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Discussion: Family Sport ?

in: Orienteering; General

Aug 26, 2018 7:51 PM # 
It was great to see so many young orienteering families with new babies at NAOC and the COCs in Whitehorse last week. Wondering if we are doing enough to support the parents participation on event day and whether we are providing a family friendly environment. Although organized daycare/babysitting can present legal and insurance issues it might be beneficial to create some family friendly area at local and national meets where families could gather and share the responsibility of providing activities and supervision. ROC has tried to use the concept of a "Kid Zone" which we first saw at the 2014 NAOC in Ottawa. We provide a small area that has a simple String O and some balls and frisbees where families can congregate.

Orienteering is a unique sport in that it provides an opportunity for everyone in the family to participate when the kids reach 10 years old. Recruitment of young families still seems to be a good way to build participation at the club and national level.

Are we doing enough to take advantage of this situation?
Aug 26, 2018 8:20 PM # 
At the 2016 NAOC we had the kid activities areas, but as RWorner points out, offering organized daycare/babysitting has its issues; if I remember right it may even be an issue with the event site owners prohibiting it.
Kid Zone implies there is stuff for kids to do, but does not imply the shared care part. A Co-op implies shared responsibility, so would something like a Kid Care Co-op work? So the hosting club could make sure they set aside a space for the Kid Care Co-op, bring some activities like mentioned above plus maybe mini-tents for the area, and maybe facilitate the care-share list or schedule. Kind of like churches do during church service time. And anyone can volunteer to help out.
Aug 27, 2018 12:02 AM # 
See other thread "Kids at RMOC" on AP
Aug 27, 2018 12:26 AM # 
Kid Zone is a great idea! It makes a huge difference to a family with small ones to know that there will be fun stuff for them to do and possibly a place for them to hang out while running.
Aug 27, 2018 5:31 AM # 
A simple idea which you see a lot in Ireland, avoiding the legal issues, is for one parent to take an early start and another parent to take a late start. It depends on the event but this usually allows one parent to be with children at all times. Organisers can be made aware of the family situation to ensure parents get priority in early/late starts (or I guess you could even extend the start window for them)
Aug 27, 2018 5:39 AM # 
Australia also does split start times at major carnivals and allows the later runner some leeway if the earlier runner is not back when expected ;-)
Aug 27, 2018 6:39 AM # 
Only if your partner’s into it.
Aug 27, 2018 7:09 AM # 
I wouldn't have thought there'd be an issue if they weren't!
Aug 27, 2018 11:26 AM # 
I agree that split start times are good. I would extend the idea so that the later starter has an open start time (i.e. they can start at any suitable gap when they get to the start). This makes it easier for them to get to the start when they are ready and avoids the person allocating the start times having to try and guess how long the first starter will take, how long it takes to get to the start etc.
This system has been used for many years at the Scottish 6-day event.
Aug 27, 2018 12:52 PM # 
Hard to do split starts at a WRE, which has strict guidelines as to start times.

But in general, registrars for major events in the US accommodate split start times if parents request them.
Aug 27, 2018 1:17 PM # 
I'm with DaveR: split starts are good but open start times for at least the later starter is key. Otherwise both parents use up mental energy on concern for making it places on time and that's not much fun.

The other thing to point out is that split starts are for the benefit of the parents, not the kids. Kids will find a way to stay entertained at an O event even if nothing is organized for them but it is much better if they can spend the time in the company of other kids, making friends and having something to look forward to for the next event!
Aug 27, 2018 3:31 PM # 
Spilting start times is a simple and useful option, but it doesn't address the need of keeping younger children interested in orienteering until they are old enough to compete. If we are really serious about growing the sport we need to find some fun options for families with younger children. Things like String O, Grid O and Streamer O with electronic punching can keep them happy for long periods of time.
Aug 28, 2018 12:04 AM # 
especially if one incorporates some "fun" legs in-between rather than just String - like a few logs to jump over, a few hoops (made from branches to crawl under), a hay-bale tunnel, a few wooden boards on the ground to balance over, etc. In the fall a big pile of leaves to jump into..... like the Miniknats at O-Ringen
Aug 29, 2018 3:40 AM # 
For nationals this October, we have a couple juniors planning activities for younger kids which will likely include a string-O on one day and a short obstacle course on another.
Aug 29, 2018 11:26 AM # 
Just back from Eborienteer's annual White Rose Weekend in North Yorkshire where you camp for the weekend and walk to and from the middle/long/sprint/night and relay events. We helped on the kids maze for the weekend (variety of courses including string and all controls) and also had a train set, 'kubb' and lots of other toys to play with as well as a den in the nearby trees. Kept the kids happy even in the pouring rain on Sunday!
Aug 29, 2018 6:10 PM # 
I’m also a fan of prioritized parking for those with kids. The logistics of split starts, long walks to start, compounded by long walks to arenas can make for a very, very long day.
Aug 30, 2018 2:51 AM # 
cmpblly - prioritised parking. Rarely thought of - thanks! Also helpful for child changeovers and the inevitable forgotten item.
Aug 30, 2018 4:16 AM # 
Just come to one of our MTBO events, everyone gets prioritised parking.
Aug 30, 2018 4:31 PM # 
I wish I could put my hands on an article that former Ontario orienteer Barb Pearson wrote about getting her family ready for and to an orienteering event. At the time she and husband Steve had three youngsters all of whom became top junior orienteers but at the time were very young. Barb wasn't complaining, just explaining a reality. Can anyone else find it? It would have been around 1975, I think.
Anyone reading this article would forever sympathize with the athlete/parent.
My worst experience was driving 100 miles to an orienteering meet only to find out that there was no one, absolutely no one, able or willing to look after my almost three-year old son. My choices: turn around and go home or carry him around the course. I chose to carry but it was tough.
Aug 30, 2018 6:22 PM # 
I think the solution is as mentioned by andreais above: Parents probably need to take this on themselves, and create some sort of shared care or “Kid Care Co-op”.
It could be outside of the auspices of the club to avoid liability issues. Could be organized through AP, for example. All the club needs to do is set aside some space.
In terms of resources, you might need a large tent or screen shelter, and a box full of sporting equipment, toys, O activities, etc. The club could still organize child-friendly O activities like String-O, etc, but the responsibility for looking after the kids would still rest with the parents.
Put a call out to parents who are interested. Decide how many hours of coverage are needed, create a sign-up sheet, and ask parents to cover off an hour or two with the kids.
As mentioned above, the ‘Kids at RMOC’ thread shows that there are enough kids and parents to make it work at that festival; it just needs someone to step up, organize and implement.
Aug 30, 2018 10:23 PM # 
Another idea for older kids is that a group of them can walk the white course with a designated adults. The adult can rotate for different events.
Aug 30, 2018 10:35 PM # 
I thought the Swedish approach of having a white-ish course that has sign posts with happy/sad faces about 100ft down the trail was a cool idea. The sign posts give feedback, but it's still better to make the right decision at the trail junction It bridges the gap between string and white.

What about a string course where the string goes obviously a longer way around? So as kids start to read the map better, they could short-cut the string?

The string course with obstacles seem fun :)

Maze-os seems awesome.

What about having kids draw maps? Or color them in? A map coloring book? :)

Kids seem to like beeping. Maybe a super short course where they see how fast they can beep 10 controls (no map). I think Alex organized this at CSU once...and it was fun for adults too :).

Get older kids to help organize?

Note...I don't have kids, so don't actually know what would be fun :)
Aug 31, 2018 1:43 AM # 
In Finland we saw kids too young for M/F 10 running a streamer course. The course was probably 1-2K long with 8-10 controls with winning times about 10 minutes. The streamer went through regular O terrain using regular features. The maps were 4x6 inches so they were easy to handle. The youngest kids just ran as fast as they could and followed the streamer the whole way. The older kids would read the map and find the short cuts built into the course. The start window was before the the regular meet so parents could go to the start with their kids. The kids used the regular event finish and parents and club members were there to cheer them on. Most of the kids wore their club's O suit. One year at the Fin 5 we saw hundreds of kids participating. It seemed like a great way to introduce kids to the sport without the worry of making mistakes. Kind of like T-ball where everybody hits the ball and has fun. It also teaches kids that orienteering is a running sport.
Aug 31, 2018 8:45 AM # 
FOF's guide for planing kids courses, with sample courses:

RR courses are those string with shortcut options, TR uses same string but controls are little bit away from the string (string is sort of an extral path/handrail).
Aug 31, 2018 3:25 PM # 

Thanks. The pictures and sample map are great. Do the kids have an assigned start time or just a start window? Are these courses available at all FOF meets?
Aug 31, 2018 11:43 PM # 
Assigned start time? Oh right, they have to schedule the park rangers to accompany.
Sep 1, 2018 12:19 PM # 
RWorner, all FOF national races and assigned start times. Usually after assigned starts the course is available for those kids who dared not compete yet (with or without parent/shadower).
Sep 1, 2018 8:50 PM # 
Lots of great ideas.

The biggest problem for most USA organizers is that we are already at our limits to put on a successful event for our small numbers of competitive participants (and you well know what kind of criticism erupts over the slightest technical issues, or heaven forbid - missing the target winning times by 5% - even when the theoretical "100 point runner" for whom it was designed didn't come). Dedicating a full time volunteer to set up children's course and activities for the very few who come isn't always practical or possible. More than once, I've set up a string course that nobody (or very few) ever did.

The last time we offered organized child sitting at a national event, parents (some, but more than one) whined that asking $5 per hour per child was too much; the sitter got stiffed by at least one family, one unruly child got left in her care for at least 4 or 5 hours and well past the course closing time, and for the time she put in, she could easily have earned more asking "would you like fries with that?" So, I hope you understand when I'm a bit cynical about offering child sitting services at national events.

That said, OCIN is planning to have services for young children at this year's nationals next month. We're not charging a set fee, but please understand that the juniors who will be watching the younger kids are volunteers, not professionals. They are planning to set up a string course on one day and a short obstacle course on another. So it should be a fun time for the young ones, and I hope that we have enough youngsters participate in those activities to feel like it was worthwhile doing the extra work.
Sep 1, 2018 9:29 PM # 
I think the biggest issue isn’t having some kind of O activity (though of course that is nice) but in there being a place for the kids to play together. Three-year-olds, for example, don’t need sophisticated smiley/frowny courses — they just want to play with some toys and be around other kids, maybe make some beeping noises. Without that the outing can be a real drag. It would just be nice to move the socializing out of the parking lots and have a place for the little kids to be. If this is offered, and just a few families join in, it will make the entire experience much more appealing for families.
Sep 1, 2018 9:38 PM # 
I think it's important to develop a positive association with attending o-events for kids even if it's not a direct association with orienteering. We dont want kids to not want to go to an orienteering event when they're 9-10-11 years old because that's just one more opportunity to lose some high potential orienteers.

I like that this discussion has been focused on how can we make this easier for organizers. People are asking for it here so there's obviously a demand.
Sep 1, 2018 9:54 PM # 
think it's important to develop a positive association with attending o-events for kids even if it's not a direct association with orienteering.

Yes! This is another reason why there should always be chocolate cake at events.
Sep 1, 2018 10:26 PM # 
I think this thread is actually two tangential discussions, which in some countries with high turnout can be bundled into something bigger.
One is what Cristina is talking about and I was suggesting the Kid Care Co-op, with organizers making sure there is space set aside, maybe have people from the hosting club bring some toys or so, so parents don't have to waste space on their already limited and expensive carry-on or checked luggage - and maybe offer a forum (even if only starting the thread on AP) where people with kids can sign up for time slots (but others without kids at that event are welcome to help, too).
The other discussion is kid related orienteering activities. In that case the organizers provide the activities, but it should be clear that it is not a place for kids to just be dropped off, especially if they are of an age where in the US you can't leave them home alone.
Sep 2, 2018 1:39 AM # 
Nice to see a variety of ideas and get some thoughtful discussion. I think it is also important to recognize the role of the local OUSA clubs in creating kid friendly areas and activities at local events. Most families do not get their first impressions of orienteering at a national level "A" meet. If we hope to build up the numbers in our junior categories we need to "hook" the families at the local level. It seems more realistic to identify a family or two at the local club level who would agree to set up a string O and provide a space with a few balls, frisbees etc. Most families want their kids to like orienteering and to look forward coming to events. Young children don't want sophisticated orienteering activities they just want see their friends and have fun while their parents compete. If we can keep them coming we have a shot at turning them into competitive orienteers some day.
Sep 7, 2018 11:52 AM # 
Thanks to everyone who contributed to a thoughtful discussion on some ways we can make orienteering a more "family friendly" sport. I am going to recommend to my own club that we establish and Youth and Family Committee to focus on ways that we can encourage family participation in our local meets.
Sep 7, 2018 1:21 PM # 
As you mentioned Youth in Youth and Family Committee that sparks me to share some more thoughts.
Orienteering has been around a long time without much attention but now it finds itself perfectly fitting four of today's parents greatest desires for their children.
They want the children to 1) get outside and away from their computers/ moblie devices for a while
2) get some exercise
3) learn to think and make decisions for themselves
4) feel good about themselves
I believe the Hamilton Adventure Running Kids is such a success in participation, sponsorship and financially because they meet these four great desires of parents. Also they have the right people helping but that is another story.
Would that every club could have an ARK program.
The benefits from orienteering for the first three desires are obvious. The fourth we see as the children stand on the poduim or discuss their route choices with a friend or coach. Kids who are not big enough, strong enough or fast enough to succeed in the mainstream sports can and do find their place in orienteering. You should see the joy I see among the Florida JROTC orienteers when their team picks up a trophy or they get their best ever ranking points.

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