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Discussion: Erin's vision

in: Orienteering; General

Oct 12, 2020 7:52 PM # 
I have been focused on local youth orienteering opportunities the last couple of years, and not the national junior team. However, I've just had a conversation about the national junior team that leads me to revisit what Erin Schirm wrote back in 2012 or so, in Orienteering North America, when he was just embarking on his role as National Junior Coach. This is an excerpt, taken from the book "USA Junior Orienteering" that we distributed via lulu and Amazon Kindle.

My goals are to move in three directions.

First, to begin to teach the juniors in the sport how to be athletes, how to train consistently, healthily and regularly, both on physical level and a navigational level. I am hoping to have a development team of a couple dozen juniors that have guided regular training, support to get to A-events, and opportunities to travel to Europe for competition and training. I would like to build a US junior program that people respect, because the athletes carry themselves well, and at the same time enjoy what they do and have success doing it.

The second direction is to tie coaching clinics in with trainings. I’d like to get a group of interested people together, from around the country, to learn about coaching athletes from beginner through elite levels. The process will incorporate understanding human development, athletic development, how to train physically, navigationally, and how it can be brought to younger kids in fun imaginative ways, through games and activities. On the more advanced level, coaches will learn to work with individual athletes, to help them reach their maximum potential and develop spatial navigation -- a sense of direction and distance.

The third direction is to work with clubs around the country to develop and enhance regular junior programs that meet a couple times a week all year. As the numbers and ability levels increase, these programs would evolve into multiple stages, supporting both kids who want to be competitive and kids who are just looking for fun, fitness and health. The orienteering community is very important in our sport: the people who do the sport just for fun are actually the ones supporting the athletes that are training to compete. One of my goals is to keep this bridge strong and increase the numbers of both. If clubs are able to build programs that bring more kids and parents into the sport, it will increase revenue, which will in turn open up opportunities for paid coaching positions, travel grants and training grants for athletes.

Ten to twenty years from now, I think it would be really sweet if there were working relationships between clubs and schools in local areas to develop orienteering as a school sport and even a viable collegiate sport. On a community level, orienteering would be accessible to kids all over the country, so they could learn how to navigate, read a map, and use a compass well. On a competitive level, when US teams show up to WOC and JWOC, all the athletes would be competing to be in the top 10 in any race. I’d like to see us model what it means to be a true athlete, and to have fun doing it. The depth of our programs would match and surpass that of the best orienteering nations. These are huge dreams that people may laugh at. However, if we start now, and put in some good work as a community, I think many of the first steps are possible, and they might open the door for the larger dreams to be realized.
Oct 12, 2020 8:07 PM # 
Erin's work as USA junior coach focused on the first goal. Tori Campbell has gotten the coaching course to beta testing on the new technology platform, which is super exciting. OUSA made a commitment to youth orienteering a few years ago, creating a new VP for Youth Initiatives role (that's Tori), and providing budget this year for the Youth Mapping Project to connect clubs to local schools and youth-serving organizations. Erin, Tori and others participated in a year-long effort in 2019 to build the foundations for serving youth. One outcome was the Orienteering Development Model.

We have made progress, and there is so much more to do, but I hope we can stay aligned around these goals. I know that the junior team no longer has the funding for a full-time coach, but I hope the juniors themselves and the community can rally to continue a strong support system.
Oct 15, 2020 11:44 AM # 
Thanks Barb!
Oct 15, 2020 4:17 PM # 
These are great goals, and I'm very glad there are people in OUSA who are working toward them.

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