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Discussion: NorAm Elite development, recruitment, team trials...

in: Orienteering; General

Aug 21, 2019 11:14 PM # 
With the first "modern" forest WOC complete and the first sprint WOC 10.5 months away I was hoping to get some discussion going on North American elite orienteering in this era of alternating forest and sprint WOCs.

I think this is a timely discussion because both the US and Canada have many young athletes making the jump from the junior ranks into the University and Sr WOCs and we are coming off a Forest WOC where the US men had one of their best ever relay performances (from a % behind the winner perspective) and the Canadian women were 18th and the top non-European country in the relay.

Some questions I think would be valuable to consider.

1) What can the US and Canada do to improve our international performances? link athletes to European clubs, joint training camps, joint selection races, funding assistance?

2) How can the domestic racing season be designed to give our elite athletes more head-to-head racing opportunities? sprint only weekends, relay or mass start races to mimic WOC relay, national champs not conflicting with WOC, NAOC double as Team Trials, annual split NAOC?

3) How can we better recruit and retain elite athletes? cross over with other sports, larger teams sent to World Cup races, WUOC and NAOC?

I should add that one of the reasons I am posting this is that I believe the transparency and 'openness' of Canada's National Teams has gradually eroded over the last 20 years or so. I don't believe this was deliberate but perhaps has developed from a legacy of policies and structures that were designed for certain past situations (funding sources, athlete depth, geographic distribution, etc.). With split WOC, discipline specialization, more athletes living in Europe, cross over sport training and racing (track, XC) and the importance of social media in our sport I think it is really crucial to have a transparent, inclusive, positive and open national teams program.

For example, some of the young athletes in my club found Canada's HPP application process complicated, redundant and tedious. I know some positive changes have been made but would inviting some top athletes to join the HPP be a better and more positive process? (i.e. take a process where one needs to 'prove' they are worthy to make the HPP and turn it into a process where people reach out and invite top athletes and automatically select those athletes that are achieving certain continental and international race performance benchmarks). Target action: Create a talent identification group.

I'm also not a fan of a selection process where selection criteria change, is vague and/or isn't actively promoted to the entire O community. I know of many athletes that could have likely done well in a selection race but they either didn't know about it, didn't know about it time, or found out (too late) that it wasn't open to all members. In situations like this it appears that the system could be stacked against certain people. It most certainly wasn't the intention to be but the perception that it is could make the difference of an athlete training hard to race at WOC, WUOC, WC, NAOC vs quitting the sport altogether. Given that we have so few elite athletes to begin this we can't afford for that to happen.

So, do we need a re-think on how we develop, recruit and select NorAm elite orienteers or is the status quo OK? I look forward to see how this thread develops.
Aug 22, 2019 1:20 AM # 
Great post and questions Hammer
My two cents worth: At the same time I admire and feel sorry for our athletes going off to JWOC for the first time.
They are being tossed into the deep end of the pool before they have barely learned to swim. Sure they can orienteer but do they ever get a chance to race, really race? No.
Their European counterparts (as well as a handful of other countries) will be older when they get to their first JWOC because it is harder to make their national team and they will be better hardened by having grown up in systems where they are competing for their clubs in national competitions, relays etc on a regular basis. And the club members show pride in how their kids are doing, their results are in the local press and the good ones get support to travel and get better.
Our kids, particularly the girls experience years of orienteering where to show up pretty well guarantees a medal performance and for all it really doesn't matter to anyone but themselves how they do in a particular race. Emily, the Emmas and a few others deserve a lot of credit for doing so well in spite of our junior competitive climate instead of because of it.
The Europeans get to compete in a European Youth Orienteering Championships with under 18 and under 16 categories before they get to JWOC.
Look at some other sports such as skiing and canoeing and look at what those juniors have to survive in competitions before they get considered for the national team.
We don't have the numbers we see in other sports but we could create the environment by supporting club junior teams to go to national youth training camps - hard training camps where performance will be judged critically and to national and regional youth competitions. Yes it will take money but nothing compared to what skiers and canoeists pay to get to the top.
We would also do well -and this costs next to nothing - to bring in a national ranking list where each junior and elite orienteer is ranked on every race they do and here is the important part - publicize that ranking at every opportunity we get. We do that with the jROTC competitions in Florida and it is making a great difference in the amount and quality of the orienteering performances we are getting at the top of the ranking lists.
As for the Seniors I have to shake my head thinking why was a guy like Eric Kemp at the WOC but not competing for Canada. Our elite are retiring way too early thus robbing us of much needed depth.
Aug 22, 2019 3:29 AM # 
Hammer, I loved having both US and Canadian elites for this year's WOC Team Trials. I hope we get to do this more often.

From an organizing / course design / mapping perspective, it raised the coordination required a bit and the stress level a bit more - after all, who wants to be responsible for messing up TWO nations' team selection process - but it was also very satisfying to watch the athletes compete. Jon and I especially appreciated some of the community experts who helped out with Team Trials - specific details, like pre-running and organizing the TT start area.

From a selection committee perspective (I wore a few hats this year), I appreciated having the context of how US and Canadian elites performed in such an environment. I can't speak for my fellow committee members, but I'll be happy to support such combined endeavors in the future. The closer we can come to simulating elite competition overseas, the better the experience for all involved.

If coordinate early enough, we can be sure to publish details early so everyone interested can plan accordingly. And, as appropriate, we can leverage national championships, NAOC, Jr. Nationals, etc.

I've heard there may already be a move to hold the combined Sprint WOC TT in Canada this spring. All good, because we were really wracking our brains to come up with the right venues to put together a sprint TT in our area!
Aug 22, 2019 3:27 PM # 
2020 US/Canada TT
Aug 24, 2019 10:49 PM # 
Aug 25, 2019 12:15 AM # 
TTs are so far away that I think I have to say no to them already... timing and distance
Aug 25, 2019 2:59 PM # 
Danish Dynamite:
I'm with Anton on this one, it'll be tough for me to realistically make team trials
Aug 25, 2019 6:49 PM # 
I really like the idea of a team trials if it is linked to NAOC where WOC pre-selection positions are on the line and attendance of all top athletes is likely but with more NorAm athletes living and training in Europe having a TT in North America just a few days before a World Cup race in the middle of the spring race season isn’t ideal. That said I’m not sure what the ideal situation is but certainly working to have our best possible team at WOC should be a priority. Thanks to David and Sage OC for volunteering on hosting the TT event.

I’m curious what considerations NZ and Australia make for their European-based athletes in their World Cup and WOC selection process.

I’d love to see a schedule where our best athletes are able to attend our NAOC and/or National Champs. Sometimes that isn’t possible. e.g. 2020 Canadian champs are a direct conflict with WOC.

One idea: An annual NAOC in the late summer or fall of every year when big Euro races and WOC are over and can double as a high priority selection race (with numerous automatic selections) for the following year WOC. Even year NAOC stays as is but remove sprint (e.g. forest middle, long and relay). It used to be just two day classic so kinda like it was. Then in odd years starting in 2021 have a sprint NAOC with sprint, knockout, sprint relay (no age classes, completely open). It wouldn’t be a big participation race but I think it would attract more than a spring TT. But I may be completely wrong on that. Time to poll the athletes.
Aug 25, 2019 7:02 PM # 
If I remember correctly, NZ had some races that their overseas athletes could choose ahead of time as their own trial races. These had to be prior to a specific deadline. Also not an ideal solution, but as you said, I am not sure an ideal one exists.
Aug 25, 2019 7:37 PM # 
As a current NorAm elite, I would really, really appreciate an annual NAOC. It would give me another important goal each year where I could compete under pressure without the travel to Europe. Organizing the event without sprint seems like a reasonable compromise to open it to more clubs who don't have sprint maps.

And from my perspective as a coach, my athletes who don't go to JWOC need another competition in NorAm that can serve as a yearly goal. US Junior Nationals currently fills this role in the spring. One reason the Nordic countries can continue to maintain such depth because Tiomila and Jukola give yearly goals for everyone not making the WOC or JWOC teams.

I'm not sure how to get this event rolling, but it might be best to do an odd-year NAOC outside of our respective federations. I was recently speaking with the Portuguese team at WOC and learned that the Portuguese Federation has no involvement whatsoever in the Portugal O-Meeting. They felt that this was part of the reason for its success because it cycled between 3 or 4 clubs. Each club has the agility to quickly make changes as it sees fit. Perhaps the same would be true for an event like this one.
Aug 25, 2019 8:01 PM # 
BorisGr - Australia does the same.
Aug 25, 2019 10:52 PM # 
I love Hammer's proposal
Aug 26, 2019 3:26 AM # 
Annual autumn equinox NAOC.

Athletes still on the high of summer racing. Not only psychologically, but at the back end of their peak(s)...

Coupled with pre uni-midterm timing...may yield the strongest field.

Qualifiers have extra motivation to bust their ass through the winter.
I have to say though...

We’re all just pundits...

(And Hammer alluded to it)

What do NorAm elites want?
An Iberian Feb/Mar qualifying scenario à la GSwede seems pretty appealing/logical too.
Always reasonably priced Transatlantic flights to be had during those months.
Aug 26, 2019 3:31 AM # 
Maybe Barbados can host a Sprint NAOC
Aug 26, 2019 8:48 AM # 
Florida has only fair forest venues but great sprint venues including UF, UM, FSU, UCF, USF, SFU, FAU, FIU (two canpuses), Stetson and perhaps a half dozen other schools, Then on to Epcot, Universal and other theme parks. How about Key West or Old St Augustine?
However autumn equinox is not deal timing, spring equinox would be better, late February even better.
Aug 26, 2019 4:04 PM # 
Jan Erik Naess:
I would love the idea of an extra NAOC sprint-based year, alternating between the regular NAOC. My one piece of input here is that the Sprint-NAOC would have to be at least a few months after a forest WOC because during that time Elites have no focus on sprint and vice-versa. There needs to be a reasonable time to readjust, recovery from a stressful season, and get back in form.

One additional piece that I feel should be discussed;
//How can North America accommodate for their elite orienteers over in Europe.//
These are often the most dedicated and best runners we have. They have often left their families and friends to train under optimal circumstances.
Aug 26, 2019 5:23 PM # 
TTs for NorAm elites living in Europe:

A yearly NAOC isn't a bad idea but the dates would have to vary every year because big races like WOC or EOC or WC are not on the same weekends/weeks every year.

Another good idea I had was that the 15or so top NorAm elites that are in Europe or are planning to be in Europe in spring/summer would decide together with both federations on a race/races they would all attend in Europe. Prefferably a race that would be relevant to the following WOC.
Most Nordic countries host their team trials(and a training camp) a month or so before WOC in that country and normally they welcome other teams to attend as well. Maybe we could explore the possibility to attend those races from now on?
Aug 26, 2019 5:30 PM # 
From Bulletin #2 of WOC 2020

"Open selection races will be organised for all teams. The preliminary dates for selection races are 30 May and 31 May 2020. The races will be held in Esbjerg and Ribe. The two areas are relevant for the WOC competitions and the maps will be mapped by GT Maps (the WOC mapper). The areas have not been used for orienteering before. The race formats will be normal Sprint (Ribe) and Knock-Out Sprint (Esbjerg C).The selection races will be World Ranking Events and the areas are included in the embargo".
Aug 26, 2019 6:32 PM # 
I love this idea. (No bias here, FYI)

We need some stepping stones from local level racing to competing at JWOC, WOC, etc. Like Greg said, a more feasible goal before JWOC for Jrs making the transition for the first time, or those just shy of making the team. We have no future in this sport if we aren’t offering situations for up and coming juniors to dip their toes into the racing world, perhaps get a confidence booster or inspiration to be an international athlete if we don’t host these opportunities.
Additionally, yearly NAOCs would serve as a less expensive trip to a high quality event.
What I’ve found in my history of racing for the national team is that no matter how much you train on maps, if you lack high pressure race experience then you will not be truly prepared for a big international event. What North America needs more of is these high quality races so that we can practice for the even bigger ones.
These more accessible and realistic yearly NAOCs could be set an a maximum priority for all team members, HPP members, etc. They may serve as selection races for WOC, JWOC, etc. This way, we can get maximal participation. But, to do this, timing of other events would have to be highly thought out. For example, sprint team trials in May this coming year are almost a direct conflict with a World Cup. This year, sprint selections occurred barely two weeks ahead of WOC. And, like Jan Erik said, we would have to consider sprint vs forest WOC and align the respective NAOCs accordingly.
Basically, a lot of logistics have to go into planning these high levels races. I think the best way is to sit down at the end of the year to plan everything for the next year out, and reduce the last minute ‘shoot, we need a race to do such and such, let’s throw it in here’ kind of things that seem to be happening a lot. There is a small period of time where there won’t be overlaps with university midterms and exams, high school graduation, work, etc. But with good planning this would could work very smoothly. Perhaps as Anton said, some polling of all athletes would have to be done to determine dates so reduce conflicts. Obviously not everyone will be happy, but it’s a start.

Final thought: what do we want? More accessible high level races!
When do we want them? At times that don’t conflict with anything!

And finally, as a volunteer myself with Adventure Running Kids I want to thank all the wonderful volunteers that host our races. It is greatly appreciated. Together (race officials, coaches, athletes, etc.) we make a great orienteering community :)
Aug 26, 2019 7:26 PM # 
One of the things I've given some thought to is whether something like the National League we have in Australia (which has been very successful in strengthening our domestic elite competition) could work in North America. This involves around 5-6 race weekends per year (2-3 of which are our national championships and our major multi-day at Easter).

It would certainly be more challenging to do in North America - partly because your orienteering population is more spread out over the continent than ours is (apart from Perth, most of our orienteering population is in the southeast quarter). It would also be harder to replicate the team aspect of the competition (an important part of it in Australia) in North America - it's a happy accident of Australia's political geography that it's given us just about the right number of units (six states and two territories, though the Northern Territory doesn't have a team) to have a viable team competition. I still think there's merit in having some kind of structure in place which sets up a realistic number of weekends (say, 4) that hopefully a reasonably high proportion of people will target.
Aug 26, 2019 7:39 PM # 
To quickly make a comment before I add more, one could consider to have 2 series of selection races. One in Europe and one in Canada. That way people don't need to travel across the ocean to get to them. The winner of each of these could be given a spot. This format would not work if say 90% of the runners are in Canada and 10% are in Europe that's why I don't think its a good idea.

One problem with anton's idea is that I can't list 15 guys and 15 girls in Europe from Canada trying out for WOC.

For example from Canadian men the only one I know who is in Europe is Will Critchley who would want to try out for sprint (and now Christian I guess). I can list 10 male runners from canada though.

Its a crappy problem to solve because even just in Canada, people need plane tickets to get from Ottawa to Vancouver or vice versa. I think minimizing the number of trips per a year is the way to go, so ideally I would hold an annual NAOC that doesn't conflict with finals / midterms (otherwise we can always defer them, I deferred 3 exams this year) and use this as the selection race for the upcoming WOC.

This way its only 1 plane ticket to NAOC + selection race. And then 1 ticket to WOC if you make it.

2 plane tickets is about all I can do per a year, (700 + 1500) ish without much additional funding. This would actually be the most fair in my opinion, because then those who are in Europe make the long trip to the selection race here, and then they have a short trip to WOC, making it financially equal.

I do like the idea of holding the selection races in Europe in the relevant terrain. But unless the federation funds everyone to fly out, then I don't think most of us could make it. I think the minimalistic and efficient approach is the way to go.

This year was 3 plane tickets from me, JWOC, WOC, and selection races, and I was lucky that there was no NAOC (or we drove to NAOC earlier in the year), but i'd say that 3 planes is not sustainable. Because everyone living here needs to go to Europe for WOC, I think its fair if the selection races are closer to home and not in Europe.
Aug 27, 2019 1:12 AM # 
That's pretty much how the MTBO selection trials work in Australia - one plane ticket to go to the trials (unless you happen to live where the trials will be) and one to Europe for WMTBOC. For the foot version, if you're from the west coast like I am then there's something like three selection races that are generally on the east coast so you're always flying back and forth. I'm no good at foot events so it's not a bother to me but for anyone from Perth considering it, well it's financially demanding.

Blair's comment on the national league events is also fine for those already on the east coast but Western Australia struggles to ever put together a full team and in terms of increasing our competitive aspects, well it just doesn't happen as it's too far to go (unless you're really dedicated e.g. Henry McNulty or myself) especially when there are typically up to five national series rounds per year. Mind you I travel to everything anyway (I don't have kids) so I just pick and choose whatever I want to go to.
Aug 27, 2019 3:29 PM # 
Just wanted to chime in a a member of Orienteering Canada's High Performance Committee to say I'm following this conversation with interest. At this point I'm not in a position to say anything official so I won't but I will continue to read everything that's posted here and will bring it back to the HPC.
Aug 27, 2019 3:42 PM # 
So is the announcement above about US/Canadian joint team trials for 2020 official, or wishful thinking? I have heard nothing about this from the US Team ESC.
Aug 27, 2019 4:18 PM # 

It is definitely the team trials for Canada and Canada has made an offer to the US Team that it could be their team trials as well. Beyond that I will leave it to the US Team ESC to comment on their intentions.
Aug 27, 2019 7:11 PM # 
An idea: combine the sprint/middle races for M21E, M20E and F21E whenever possible (yes, even for US/CAN champs, maybe NAOC, but probably WRE wouldn't allow that).

We (particularly on women's side) just need more competition!! And we could handle the extra 1-1.5k in the middle or extra minute or two in the sprint.

A few US athletes at WOC were discussing the recent lack of WREs in North America. WREs form some way of comparing NorAm and Europe living athletes, so comparisons might be easier if we had more WREs! And WRE status might be the extra motivation to get a more competitive field together somewhere in North America.
Aug 28, 2019 11:59 PM # 
COF and OUSA may need to provide some encouragement or incentive to offer WREs as they involve extra work and additional costs to the hosting clubs.
Aug 31, 2019 2:18 AM # 
I agree with many of the ideas that have been shared here.

- The idea of NAOC matching the WOC format (but 10-11 months ahead).
- The idea of NAOC serving as a/the selection race for WOC (although some people among the U.S. Team leadership have voiced concern about the Team Trials being too long before WOC.)
- The idea of having a set of high-profile elite races that are attractive to and become priority races for serious orienteering athletes in North America.
- The idea that requiring too many plane trips is limiting to a significant number of orienteers' ability to attend important races. (Hey, we could save having to make one flight to Europe by hosting WOC in North America!)

I'm also fine with having the Team Trials as a stand-alone event, preferably one that is announced well ahead of time and doesn't conflict with other major events, so that the best athletes (i.e., the people we should most want there) can plan to attend. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to avoid conflicts for everyone.

I'm generally against the idea of having the U.S. Team Trials in Europe, at least as long as our team motto is "it starts at home." It is a disincentive for up-and-coming and younger athletes (who will tend to have less money) to attend. It's not analogous to other European teams having their trials in the WOC host country, because going to the WOC host country for them is like going to California or perhaps Colorado for me. Geography matters.

Maybe this should be a separate thread, but why is scheduling so hard? Why have so many U.S. Championships events been scheduled at the last minute lately? Why is the 2020 Canadian Championships scheduled at the same time as WOC? Why don't we have a high profile North American race series of some kind (we used to)? Could it be a lack of leadership? A lack of willingness to cooperate or coordinate?

I've heard that some clubs, when asked, balk at doing small amounts of extra work necessary to make their planned high-quality events into national events, or their national events into WREs or championships. What can be done to encourage clubs to place more value on doing the things that are needed to afford serious athlete development, as well as to raise the profile of the sport?
Aug 31, 2019 12:08 PM # 
This is a great discussion. If you haven’t done so yet, please respond to the survey on the US Senior Team and/or Junior Development Program and copy your comments there. It would be really helpful to have these thoughts all in one place and in front of an OUSA committee for work. I am anticipating we may provide survey input to “the powers that be” for all the subject-specific surveys, so that might be a good vehicle to move from great ideas to actual planning and decision making.

Link to surveys:
Sep 3, 2019 5:52 AM # 
Rather than thinking nationally (ie. confining legues/trials) to US or Canada, perhaps it would be more logical to think north-south. What I mean is both our countries are so wide, perhaps it is easier to travel north-south. Thus setup joint trials/legues/what-ever on a west coast and east coast basis and, for the purposes of NorAm development, ignore that pesky line at the 49th parallel.
Sep 3, 2019 10:19 AM # 
45th parallel over on this side...
Sep 3, 2019 4:46 PM # 
I don't think the line from Minnesota/Ontario to Maine/New Brunswick is parallel to much of anything!
Sep 3, 2019 5:19 PM # 
The top of NY and the top of VT is all that matters.
Sep 3, 2019 6:10 PM # 
Shadow makes an excellent point. Just planning a cross-country trip takes me longer than driving to most anywhere in the northeast US or eastern Canada where orienteering is active (possibly excepting NB/NS).

And my son just started university yesterday at a school in New York state where the nearest O club is Ottawa.
Sep 3, 2019 7:27 PM # 
@fossil: Clarkson or St Lawrence by chance, SUNY Potsdam?
If so the nearest club is North Country Orienteering and they happen to be holding a Rogaine with 3, 6 and 9 hour options this coming Saturday, less than 1 hour from both Canton and Potsdam
Man what better parent child bonding than a Rogaine when all his classmates are getting pie-eyed at fraternity rush parties.
If he wants to form a student orienteering club we can whip up campus maps and other maps in the area in no time flat. As we speak one is in process at Wellesley Island State Park.
But to the main point yes, North - South lines of communication in North America are usually much easier than East West. I guess that is why so many people from Ontario an Quebec spend their winters in Florida instead of Alberta or Saskatchewan.
Sep 12, 2019 11:35 PM # 
Keeping the discussion going...

what would the process need to be for OC and OUSA to look at the idea of an annual NAOC (alternating urban and forest) and what would need to be done at the IOF level? European Champs is going annual. Will regional sprint champions get automatic spots at urban WOC?
Sep 13, 2019 12:42 AM # 
@Hammer:Aug 21, 2019 5:14 PM
Agree with everything
@gordhun:Aug 21, 2019 7:20 PM
@ebone:Aug 30, 2019 8:18 PM
Agree with everything. This is the right approach that can move the sport forward.

The only point I found missing is the fact that the sport of Orienteering in Canada does not have any structure. It is missing local ranked races that culminate into Provincials, which lead to Regionals and end up with Nationals and NAOC/WOC. Everyone is running just meaningless fun runs. Orienteering in Europe and all successful sports in Canada have a structure which is created by functioning NSO and PSOs. Without a proper functioning structure, we don't have a sport, we don't have results and we just keep sending our best athletes and role models away to Europe. NSO and PSOs need to start up with creating a structure and allow youth into the sport.
Sep 13, 2019 10:01 AM # 
With respect to a potential Sprint NAOC:

I think their are enough quality annual sprint tournaments already in place.

Biannually, they could be anointed (or bid on) as defacto team trials/Sprint NAOC’s...

And maybe other cities/regions can step up and lessen the load on the usual suspects...(Vancouver, Seattle, Boston, San Francisco)
Sep 13, 2019 11:50 AM # 
Advantage of a Sprint NAOC: more parts of the continent could bid on and take on hosting an NAOC
Disadvantage of a Sprint NAOC: very many of the usual attendees would not cross the state/ province let alone cross the country to attend a weekend of just sprint orienteering.
Sep 13, 2019 12:20 PM # 
From an IOF perspective, if the IOF member countries in North America asked for a change, I think it's pretty likely that it would be supported. (I do wonder, though, given that both Canada and the US seem to struggle to find hosts for NAOC when it's their turn, whether there is the capacity to double the number of events - although, as suggested above, a sprint event opens up venues which aren't in play for the current NAOC).
Sep 13, 2019 12:54 PM # 
And taking the sprint out of forest NAOCs would also make those more attractive to some clubs.
Sep 13, 2019 2:12 PM # 
I've been holding off commenting on this thread since the beginning because I have many hats and I don't want to be seen as representing any one particular group when I don't. (Some of my hats: OCan High Performance Committee member, Major Events Committee chair, HP Coach in Ottawa, program coordinator in Ottawa - those are the main ones)

So that said, what follows is my own personal opinion based on a very wide range of experience within the orienteering community.

1. On the thought of 'we should have annual NAOCs'. Absolutely annual NAOCs would be great. I think this falls into the much more broad category of 'we need more races. period.' Unfortunately the reality is that have an annual NAOCs is incumbent upon us increasing our capacity to host races. Right now both Canada and the US are having trouble filling our existing schedule of races. Finding an extra host to double the number of NAOC level events is a big ask. I think it's a very worthy goal for our communities with the immediate step of (continuing) doing small things to increase our event hosting capacity along with putting policy in place at a national level to lessen the workload for clubs to host these kinds of events. Things like sharing knowledge and best practices, finding ways to have folks that have hosted before help new clubs host, etc.

2. North America is almost 2.5 times the size of Europe with an orienteering population that is a tiny tiny fraction that of Europe and much smaller than many individual nations in Europe. In terms of growing the sport and providing racing opportunities (for our elites as well as everyone else) we're going to be much more efficient focusing on a regional level (North - South, provincial, etc.) than on an international or continental level. Short of a huge influx of funding which we can use to financially support our athletes they can't afford to fly to races across the continent more than once or twice a year (since many are also flying to Europe in the summer) so expecting to have multiple national level meets with a high level of elite participation is unrealistic.

3. Team Trials - This is a very complex issue. There are so many factors and you will never please everyone. We have athletes spread across not just North America but also in Europe. Team shouldn't be too late but also shouldn't be too early. We have limited events that we can choose from. I definitely don't have the answers here but whatever the solution it is critical that selection policies are as fair as possible and perhaps most importantly are very clearly communicated well in advance. Orienteering Canada's HPC is well aware that we screwed up on that this year. Badly.

4. With respect to scheduling - I think one factor is that beggars can't be choosers. When Orienteering Canada and OUSA practically have to beg clubs to host our major events you kind of have to host them when the host clubs are willing / able. Now, as a community we could probably do a better job of that... Something to work on for sure.

5. Lastly I want to address Bugaboospire's statement "...and all successful sports in Canada have a structure which is created by functioning NSO and PSOs."

We need to be very very careful in using traditionally 'successful' sports as a model for orienteering. Sport in North America (and I think in many other parts of the world as well) is in a bit of a crisis. Kids are dropping out (and not signing up) for sport in record numbers. Broadly speaking, our sport system is so focused on the pyramid and have a broad base for the purpose of identifying kids with potential / talent / what have you. Are all those other kids not intrinsically worthy / valuable? As a result we have very few opportunities for that other 90% of kids. As soon as sport turns competitive they turn away. Orienteering Ottawa now has a once a week Adventure Program for kids 10 to 18 as an alternative to our competitive racing program. The Adventure Program has proven quite successful.

My point is that, while I agree that we need a more structured set of races for our competitive athletes, we absolutely should not do it at the expense of these 'meaningless fun runs'. You might view them as such but for the vast majority of the population that is exactly what they want. If that isn't enough to convince you of their importance on it's on own then let me put it this way: Without any other funding source the recreational participants which make up ~98 percent of our participation are also the source of the vast majority of our revenue. We literally cannot afford to alienate them.
Sep 13, 2019 2:18 PM # 
I'm here solely for the meaningless fun runs.
Sep 13, 2019 3:04 PM # 
Blair and other Aussies: anything NA could learn from Australia in terms of overcoming the geography?
Sep 13, 2019 6:35 PM # 
@Canadian:Sep 13, 2019 8:12 AM "My point is that, while I agree that we need a more structured set of races for our competitive athletes, we absolutely should not do it at the expense of these 'meaningless fun runs'. "

You live in Ontario. According to Ontario's Ministry, the sport "is, or has been, traditionally regarded as a sport in its competitive mode;" So why do we have no competitive racing structure, then?

My point was that we do not have structured competitive races and ranking. We have just 'meaningless fun runs' at the expense of structured competitive races and ranking.

Where does the vast majority of your revenue from recreational participants go?
Sep 13, 2019 7:22 PM # 
@Bugaboospire:Sep 13, 2019 2:35 PM...

I'm not sure of the context of that Ministry quote but if I understand correctly they are stating they are only (or mostly) responsible for competitive sport and not recreational sport. That is largely the cause of the issues I was getting at this morning.

I really have no idea why you are implying a connection between what the ministry of sport says and our lack of competitive racing structure. Other than purportedly being responsible for orienteering (or at least competitive orienteering) we have no relationship whatsoever with the Ontario's Ministry of Sport. We get no funding nor support from them, and, as far as I know aren't under any obligation to them.

You're right that we don't have structured competitive races nor ranking. I don't agree that the meaningless fun runs are at the expense of these structured races. At least not in a general sense. That might be true of certain organizations / clubs within the community but that is for those organizations to sort out, perhaps with leadership assistance from provincial / national organizations.

To answer your question about where our revenue goes... I'll answer that with my Ottawa hat on and I know we're at the top of the bell curve when it comes to revenue, spending, and activity.

Without going through the entire budget here are some highlights:
Revenue: Our revenue comes from a wide variety of sources including but not limited to local events (we hold about two dozen per year), O-Fest (maybe 50% recreational participants), our annual rogaine, Youth and other programs, and Outreach sessions including, for the last few years several thousand dollars from a couple of cadet competitions.

Operational expenses for all of the above events and programs including coaching.
Maps - we spend a huge chunk of our budget on new maps (some of new areas some of existing areas) which benefit our competitive athletes as well as recreational.
Equipment - purchasing and maintaining equipment including SI, flags, and various other club equipment.
Various other items including a donation to Orienteering Canada's HPP and support of our HPP members and specifically our JWOC and WOC athletes.
Sep 13, 2019 9:11 PM # 
@Canadian:Sep 13, 2019 1:22 PM "I'm not sure of the context of that Ministry quote but if I understand correctly they are stating they are only (or mostly) responsible for competitive sport and not recreational sport. That is largely the cause of the issues I was getting at this morning.

I really have no idea why you are implying a connection between what the ministry of sport says and our lack of competitive racing structure. Other than purportedly being responsible for orienteering (or at least competitive orienteering) we have no relationship whatsoever with the Ontario's Ministry of Sport. "

Could you please then explain why Orienteering Ontario (OOA) ( is not an Ontario PSO (Provincial Sports Organization), like for example AOA (Alberta Orienteering Association), or Manitoba Orienteering Association is?
Sep 13, 2019 9:20 PM # 
I have no idea. I'm not involved at the provincial level. It is possible that I'm actually wrong and that Orienteering Ontario is an official PSO with the province but if so I know nothing about it and have seen no indication of that being the case.
Sep 13, 2019 10:06 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Ok, there's some discussion here for a sprint-focused NAOC in the falls of odd-numbered years...

How many people do we think we could realistically get to participate in this?
Sep 13, 2019 10:35 PM # 
Not as many as Nationals; and this year, not many at all given Nationals had a max of 200 participants.

Some folks do the sprints at US Nationals only because they're there for the Middle and Long races.

There were 9 F21s and 18 M21 registered in the elite classes at US Nationals in California.

I think you should tie into one of the already-organized sprint camps and use them, somehow, for team qualification. Many WOC/Team-focused folks (especially sprinters) already attend one or more of them.
Sep 13, 2019 11:02 PM # 
I think the North American situation is more challenging than the Australian one because the population is more evenly spread: probably about 90% of the Australian population (and certainly that percentage of the orienteering population) is in the southeastern quarter of the country, and at a guess 70% of it would be within a day's drive of Wagga (where Oceania is this year). The equivalent for us of Yukon would be having events in Broome.

We have a rotation for our major competitions (nationals and the multi-day at Easter), with the larger states doing each every six years and the smaller states every eight. Oceania is outside this and we're not finding it easy to find a 2023 host at present. Having that type of major events program is helped by the fact that school vacations are less concentrated in the summer than they are in North America; the end of September/early October week when we run nationals is school vacation in all or almost all states (depending on the year), and Easter is also usually in a vacation period (except sometimes if it's very late).
Sep 13, 2019 11:22 PM # 
I’d go to a race in Broome! (Says an Aussie who is not one of the 90% and didn’t do much national level racing due largely to travel time/cost). That’s not a criticism of the Aussie system - I always was of the mindset that if I cared enough about it, I would prioritise it above other things and make the necessary sacrifices to go. I didn’t.
Sep 14, 2019 12:19 AM # 
Just a thought - move NAOC to late spring/early summer and make that the WOC selection. When WOC is sprint have sprint NAOC.
Sep 14, 2019 12:47 AM # 
I belong to clubs in Canada and the USA and am a member of both national associations so please bear with me.
In my view Orienteering Canada has done a fair job of rotating their championships around the country but I think it is more by chance than by design. They tried having a set rotation and it worked for a while but it seems a few associations cannot or will not carry the load they used to while a few others are willing to step into the breach so why not let them.
If I had something to urge Orienteering Canada it would be to tell us where the 2021, 2022, 2023 champs are going to be.
As for O-USA that is a total dog's breakfast! My suggestion to them (and I've made it before) is for the national body to get out and start asking/ begging if necessary clubs in various regions to put on their three major Nationals - Junior, National and Masters - and rotate those events around the country. It just doesn't work to wait for the clubs to come forward asking to put on a championships. What they are doing with the Masters this year - piggybacking on an established event - should be the template for years to come, asking O-CINN for instance to co-host one of the Nationals with the Flying Pig, Georgia another.
Florida and SOAR might be talked into doing a Masters if they could hold it in early December. They (we) have a county tourist association keen to have a major event there. But you have to ask us. They (we) are never going to stick a neck out to seek a National event but ask and there might be a positive response. I bet a lot of other clubs/ associations might be the same way.
O-USA, too, should be in a position to announce its championship schedule 2-3 years in advance.
Sep 14, 2019 1:02 AM # 
NAOC kinda happens whenever a club that volunteers to host it finds convenient. Sometimes it's really hard to find a host.
Sep 14, 2019 12:00 PM # 
Something which has always puzzled me, as a reader of recurrent US threads about separate Junior, Open and Masters Nationals (and from a country where our national championships encompass all ages 6-96 in the one carnival), is: WHY? As in, what is the logic/advantage in separating them out? Do we know of many other countries which do this...?

But yes, Australia's state (al)location system has been in place for probably 40 years, rotating amongst the 7 different states/territories, and while sometimes there are swaps and/or workload-sharing, it seems to work ok because in each of our states there are at least 5 clubs to share in the organisation of a nationals carnival. Whereas I'm not sure if I've heard of any US state which has more than one active club?
Sep 14, 2019 12:18 PM # 
Good question Jenny and the answer is not that it has always been that way. The current Junior - Open - Masters format is only 2-3 years old.
Once upon a time there was only one US Orienteering Championships -a two day total time event encompassing all ages and classes
Then there were created a relay and night orienteering championships
Then there was created an intercollegiate and interscholastic championships
Then the IOF went to Sprint-Medium-Long format for their championships so the US followed suit but many liked the old format so that became the US Classic Championships.
Then people started saying 'This is crazy; let's simplify things.
So they simplified the IC/IS into the Junior Nationals
They simplified the S-M-L into the Nationals with all age classes invited
They simplified the Classics in to the Masters Nationals, I guess based on the idea that it was us old folks who still liked the two-day format.
If you are keeping track you will also notice that they simplified the relay and night-O championships right out of existence.
PS There are many US states that have more than one club. What they do not have are state or regional associations. All clubs join directly to O-USA if they want to.
Sep 14, 2019 12:37 PM # 
That's something which is a big difference between the Australian and North American sporting cultures - in Australia, outside the major professional sports which have club-based franchises, the state has been the traditional unit for national sporting competition, and state sporting organisations usually play a major role in sports governance (more so than regional bodies in any other orienteering country I can think of). A lot of such government support as exists for sport also comes from state governments.
Sep 14, 2019 6:59 PM # 
Gordon, you missed the Long-O (later known as Ultralong) which I think has also gone away.

Off the top of my head, California, Washington, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts have (or at least used to have) multiple clubs. Some clubs also have "territory" that spills across state lines.
Sep 14, 2019 7:26 PM # 
Depending on where you put PTOC, then either Missouri or Kansas has two clubs.
Sep 14, 2019 7:56 PM # 
Virginia and North Carolina may have multiple clubs as well
Sep 14, 2019 8:05 PM # 
OUSA Clubs
Sep 14, 2019 8:08 PM # 
Let’s narrow our focus.

robplow said...

“...move NAOC to late spring/early summer and make that the WOC selection. When WOC is sprint have sprint NAOC.”

Seems pretty straightforward. Establish the date of the biannual.

It’s 2 or 3 days out of 730. You’ll never please everyone. Tough pitooty if you can’t make it. I’d like to think one with a vested interest would plan around it....

The month of May makes most sense. (a weekend over the 20th - 31st, maybe?)

How concurrent (or not) are the American and Canadian high school/uni exam schedules these days? Too much of a regional variance?

Airfare-wise, still not prime time. Lots of seat sales 6-12 months in advance as well.
Sep 14, 2019 8:24 PM # 
Not to rain on anyone's parade because I like the reasons proposed for a spring NAOC but for most of the clubs in Canada a May major event is not feasible (or at least very difficult) due to having not that many snow free weeks in woods prior to the event.

Maybe June?
Sep 14, 2019 8:24 PM # 
With that said...

Who’s doing 2020?

Snow really doesn’t hinder planning/mapping.

...or racing for that matter.

...and a wintery mid to late May affects a tenth of North America.
Sep 14, 2019 9:52 PM # 
Gord, there's a fair amount of disinformation in your timeline, particularly relating to order of events and simplifications. To try to correct some of it and hopefully not introduce more in the process, here are some observations...

Intercollegiates and Interscholastics were not created at the same time and have not always been held together. Intercollegiates is much older. OUSA web page shows it dates back to 1973 at least. Interscholastics is shown dating back at least to 2000 but I'm pretty sure it dates back to somewhere in the 1990's.

Similarly Relay and Night-O were not created at the same time. Relay is shown dating back to 1985. Night-O is shown dating back to 1999. I recall being at "the first" US Night-O Champs hosted by HVO in 1996 but maybe that was unofficial?

As far as simplifications go there were few other than eliminating some of the events as already mentioned. "Junior Nationals" is essentially unchanged from IC/IS other than name. Nationals is essentially unchanged from SML other than name. And Masters Nationals is essentially unchanged from Classic Champs except that it appears to have eliminated age groups below 35+ as championship classes.

For a while it was assumed that the Classic Champs would eventually die a natural death as those who preferred it to SML eventually got old enough to no longer keep it going. But it was eventually realized that it was sometimes easier to find clubs willing/able to host 2 forest days than 2 forest days plus a sprint day and re-purposing the Classic Champs as Masters Nationals was hit upon as a solution. The end result is that there are now 2 Nationals for masters competitors, but there also seem to be fewer complaints.

Now that WOC has switched to alternating forest and sprint WOC years I could imagine as is now being discussed to do similar with NAOC that OUSA might want to reimagine the US Champs calendar again. If for example the sprint were moved to a separate event or pinned onto one of the existing sprint festivals, then the remaining "ML" Champs would perhaps be an event easier to find bidders for. Or... maybe it could morph into "MLR" and bring back the Club Relay.
Sep 14, 2019 9:56 PM # 
NAOC 2020 is hosted by BAOC. Hope they can improve some logistical snafus from last weekend's Nationals. Maps and courses were decent, at any rate. Next year is in a different area of California.!/

Thanks, Delyn, for linking to the OUSA Clubs page.
Sep 14, 2019 10:15 PM # 


I knew that.

Dad brain moment.
Sep 16, 2019 4:06 PM # 
I noticed, that the thread deviated drastically from original Hammer's questions. Please, stay on topic :), there some very important questions there. I will post later, my thoughts on those.
Sep 16, 2019 6:14 PM # 
Re: timing

I agreed with Klepperton on this one. A lil snow never hurt nobody...

June is less than ideal for athletes trying to make it to many early spring races, or prepping for early World Cups or JWOC/WOC. Also, many North American athletes have started to get recruited for Jukola and/or Venla which occurs in mid-June, and potentially need to run selection races prior to this. Therefore, if we are thinking spring, it would have to fall somewhere between late April and May to accommodate this, and well as be mindful for US/CAN Uni schedules. This year, team trials were at the very end of April. This was good for Canadians as we just finished exams (most of us, at least) and I believe most Americans hadn’t started yet. For me personally, exam brain wasn’t an ideal race brain, but I think that we student-athletes are quite used to that in our busy schedules :)
Sep 16, 2019 7:36 PM # 
Just saw this...

Could you please then explain why Orienteering Ontario (OOA) ( is not an Ontario PSO (Provincial Sports Organization), like for example AOA (Alberta Orienteering Association), or Manitoba Orienteering Association is?

Looking back in emails, I see that OOA was a PSO in 2010 but wasn't eligible for Base Funding for various reasons - insufficient number of paid members, insufficient number of members in northern Ontario, not part of the Ontario/Canada Games or Olympics, etc. There wasn't that much money anyway - $1.5M divided among some of Ontario's 100 PSOs, with more money going to popular sports. Longtime orienteers before my time will remember that 25-30 years ago, OOA received enough funding to support a paid executive director and a physical office but those days are long gone.

OOA is no longer a PSO because the requirements changed. If any volunteer wants to take the lead on this, it would be worth contacting the OOA Board to discuss. It would be a significant, ongoing project that would likely involve raising fees to OOA's member clubs to cover the cost of consultants, regular financial audits, etc. A number of new policies would need to be developed, and OOA's membership structure would likely need to be revised. The requirements are at this link. OOA's current volunteer board isn't at full capacity and doesn't have the resources to take the lead.

The Ontario government isn't seeking funding applications from PSOs right now so it is unknown whether criteria have changed so that OOA would be eligible to apply for funding even if it regained its PSO status.

Without reading this discussion thread in detail, I wonder if you're unconcerned about the funding aspect. Maybe you're asking because you think that if OOA had PSO status, the Board could make Ontario clubs host more competitive, standard format orienteering races. The OOA Board did have a subgroup with this goal for a while but OOA volunteers can't force club volunteers to host events they don't want to host. There are some very successful orienteering clubs in Ontario but the majority of people who orienteer each year in our province have never done a competitive, individual start O race. Many of them are unaware that such races exist.
Sep 17, 2019 2:10 AM # 
Best time for NAOC is mid-February. Canadians are still asleep ("dead of winter"), they will be easy to defeat. It is 60s, sunny and dry in Alabama.
I hear they finally got LIDAR for Oak Mountain!! No need for field checking,
one can use the base map.
Sep 18, 2019 2:42 AM # 
Okay, I'm sure it says this already somewhere, but travel cost is an issue for many of us. I agree with so many things that have been said, but the reality is that some of us just plain can't afford to fly to multiple events in a year. So that makes having more regional events (and training camps) important. Having more 'big races' at a national level only works for those with sufficient funding. A strong, coordinated, and active regional (NA regions, for those of us 'close' to the border, for sure) racing and training schedule/program would be fantastic.

Also, consistently having either NAOC or a national championship (related to the new WOC format in whichever type of year) serve as the team trials would be financially helpful for those on a strict(er) budget. Likewise, as with last year, having Junior Nationals serve as JWOC trials consistently.

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