Discussion: Club: Events hosting vs. athletic development
in: Orienteering; Training & Technique;
From Vlad's posting on the Canadian Champs thread (see below).
>Ever wonder why O-clubs are busy putting on events, and say triathlon clubs, putting on training 7 days a week?
My take on the subject. Currently Nor-Am clubs put most of their efforts into map making and event hosting. Why? I'm not sure, but likely because that is what has always has been done (we have long traditions that are hard to break in our sport). If we want to improve our event quality and international ranking and performance then I believe clubs should focus more on athletic development and social actitivities and link/hire/partner with for-profit companies (that understand the event management business) on the events co-hosting side of things. Formal organized training at the club level could/should replace a lot of the so-called "C" and "B" meets.
Here is the rest of Vlad's post from Cdn. Champs thread..
> no silver bullet for perfect meets
Yes there is. Outsourcing of cohesive event tasks (e.g. mapping; course setting; results; social) to for-profit entities. The way it's done for large events in other endurance sports.
Poor product—>organizing club doesn't pay the for-profit. It should be fairly clear from the overall efficiency standpoint that educating every amateur to do everything well can lead to shortfalls, no matter how strong a certification program there is in place.
This is an interesting idea, but who are these for-profit companies that are going to do this? And where is the revenue going to come from to allow clubs that reduce their "C" and "B" meets to hire them? I guess if they got more participants to go to their professionally done "A" meets then this virtuous circle might work, but it seems like a few steps are missing in the chain.
I have heard from more than one entity interested in handling aspects of event organization for a fair compensation. Current USOF Rules do not allow non-clubs to organize USOF-sanctioned events. There are many professional mappers to witness, so it isn't surprising that other parts of event organization should become attractive to willing entrepreneurs.
I don't think clubs should reduce their B and C meets. The point is that beyond certain complexity, specialization is beneficial. This breakpoint seems to be to be between the B and A levels.
But what is fair compensation? Are A meets so profitable that there are $s left to outsource to professionals? While I certainly appreciate the value of a Porsche I'm not convinced that enough other people who pay entry fees do. Aren't they content with Toyotas? (Actually, probably wrong metaphor -- um... maybe Suzukis?)
>Current USOF Rules do not allow non-clubs to organize USOF-sanctioned events.
But what about a partnership? A club hosts an event but pays for certain aspects of it to be organized by a company. Many of the big races in Canada pay Sporg or onlineregistrations.ca
to handle parts of the pay and registration component of the race already. All clubs pay mappers to make the maps (which is part of the event hosting) already as well.
What is stopping a company from becoming a club and then organizing a race?
I'm not sure that they are mutually exclusive. Athletic development is more informal, during the week, Events are at weekends.
I'd say Ontario at least needs more events not less. How many proper weekend events have there been this summer? 2 or 3? Without a decent schedule of events, you won't have a decent-sized base of people to develop. And regular competition is a critical part of orienteers development in my view. I find it hard to see how people are going to get motivated enough to commit themselves to a proper coaching program without going up a competition based learning curve first.
Being an event manager, I could see the draw in this and the potential "win-win" scenario. The club would not "pay" the event manager. The event manager would collect fees from participants. A profit sharing plan could be brought up, if the club allows for use of orienteering equipment, etc. The event manager would not necessarily design the courses, they could hire the experienced orienteer to do just that. Lots of options that almost any club could take on, including paying their own members to put on the events to encourage "professionalism".
Want more exposure for our sport, then consider joining an existing event such as a MTB race, AR, whatever and make it a festival weekend. You'll get crossover exposure to that demographic.
Just some thoughts.
Are A meets so profitable that there are $s left to outsource to professionals?
When done right, they can be. It is a fine break-even point. If I were to organize one, something like the 1000 Day would be under my point of interest (so that Swampfox is surely one philantropic individual), but I would certainly go for a 500-attendee, 3-day A event. Things in-between are a gray area, and their picking depends on one's lifestyle objectives, I guess.
Bear in mind that a premium service can and will command a higher price. There are plenty of examples of that model surviving in other endurance sports. By not charging a fair price for the level of competitive enjoyment they provide, clubs deprive themselves of a revenue source that could be used for development and coaching programs. If services were outsourced, I think the market would quickly set a fair price for a product that would be liberated from non-profit concerns. I would also speculate that there will be enough low-end demand left for club events on questionable maps, color-copied at Kinko's.
If there were a large enough base of competitors to make such a thing economically viable, I think you'd see for-profit entities putting on meets on their own, with no USOF sanctioning. Sure, you wouldn't get ranking points (initially at least, until there were sufficient demand from USOF members to have these meets included), but there would be prizes beyond rocks and sticks (e.g. merchandise and/or cash). But the entry fees would be considerably higher than they are now. What's stopping this from happening now? Two things: 1) The people most familiar with putting on orienteering meets haven't thought of an easy way to get insurance, and 2) The map would have to come from somewhere, and that probably means making a new map (a speculative venture), since clubs would likely not grant permission to use the existing maps to a for-profit enterprise. I mean, there's not much difference between an orienteering meet and an adventure race, in terms of how they're organized. You could even put on an orienteering meet and call it an adventure race. (The one AR that I've done was really orienteering all the way, except for the rappelling section. And it was done with canoes, bikes, and on foot in different sections.) But you have to come up with a budget that works, and that means either high attendance, or high fees, or substantial sponsorship. With the level of navigational challenge that we all like to see, the number of likely competitors is limited. But maybe this is a chicken-and-egg thing: maybe there would be more people competing if there were cash prizes.
It may well be that most clubs would be unwilling to extend their maps to an outside entity. I don't know.
But that doesn't apply to LROC. If any person, group, club, or group of clubs wants to organize an event--large or small--here in SE Wyoming, then get in touch. We've got great maps, terrain, and venue, and we can make a deal.
I think most clubs would sell maps to entities. We sell them to people putting on ARs now and then.
HVO frequently and other clubs sometimes (NEOC, WCOC) allow their maps to be used for adventure races. I've run on Macedonia Brook, Shepherd Lake, and Hurd SP in the last year in ARs. Several AR promotion companies use O maps and even O people (calling piutepro - could you live off what Genesis pay you? :)).
It's not clear to me that orienteering undercharges. Sure, dedicated competitors are gaining considerable consumer surplus from the meets they attend (I'd happily pay double the current entry fees to a promotion company with a _reputation_ for putting on good meets at the right time: currently the only such 'companies' in North America are GHO and Swampfox Inc (LROC), with DVOA nearly there and a few other clubs (CNYO, WCOC, SLOC, and a couple of others)). But I don't doubt that entry numbers among the more price-sensitive segment of the market would drop substantially if that happened.
Question: why doesn't the US team fundraiser experiment with offering a premium product some year, as a 'proof of concept', if there really are such 500 person A meets to be had? Tundra/Desert Inc is also gaining quite the reputation after Florida and Alabama. Imagine what it could do if it didn't have to make the maps first?
Finally, JJ, it's not clear to me that the market would produce these events in the current equilibrium where there are already plenty of meets of uncertain but possibly high quality produced by volunteers. For example, I think that GHO's Raid the Hammer meet in November will be great, but I'm not going since DVOA are competing. Demand may already be saturated for a large fraction of the potential consumer base for for-profit meets.
The Ottawa Orienteering club has been starting to host Adventure Runs in the spring. Now, "due to great public demand" (ie. money to be made) a private local adventure race organizing company is putting on an event that looks rather similar.
Same distance and sponsor, but with canoes and bikes. There could be a partnership there, or else the Orienteering club could beef up their own event.
The people most familiar with putting on orienteering meets haven't thought of an easy way to get insurance
Until recently. Now they have. After the perennial January 1st problem, and especially after getting the runaround asking for a certificate in the recent past.
since clubs would likely not grant permission to use the existing maps to a for-profit enterprise
Correct. Not just to a for-profit, but to any other entity in the case of at least one well-known club. And they are shooting themselves in the foot by doing that.
Has any meet topped the 500-person attendance mark yet? I'v seen mid-fours.
The 2007 Fundraiser is considering something like $35/day fees for competitors over say age 25. This year, not that many funds were raised (for reasons mostly unrelated to Tundra/Desert Inc., and including a one-time charge for capital equipment). 2003 (under Greg Balter's leadership) and 2005, though, were quite stellar in terms of payoff per person-hour.
A team fundraiser is a charity event though. A little different than for a for-profit venture. I'm much more willing to pony-up for the team.
The 2000 US Champs had just over 600 people if I remember correctly. (Checked the database - ~590 competitive starts + 20 or so rec starts each day.)
I am pretty sure that the 2002 QOC meet had a little over 500. But it was actually 468 including the no shows.
Perhaps we should take baby steps on this. I'd be happy if we can get to a point were entities who do not know how to print maps are comfortable outsourcing this to for-profit entities (or any entities) that do know how to.
A contention in the other thread was that such a concept was not economically viable. If this contention is true (and I'm not sure if I agree or not), then I'm skeptical of broader outsourcing being economically viable (in the present market, anyway).
Outsourcing will kill small club development. A meets are the only source for a club right now to get decent maps and be able to pay for them.
We just plainly need big sponsorship/government support to make everything viable. Including outsourcing.
How will outsourcing kill small clubs? If the clubs don't want to outsource, they don't have to. They are free to keep putting on sanctioned events in whichever way is allowed under the Rules. I advocate outsourcing as a viable option for clubs that lack manpower and/or expertise commensurate with the scope of the task.
On the subject of outsourcing -- I am a big believer. I think a rather seminal treatment of this was found in the McKinsey Quarterly in 1995.
An excerpt follows and I can provide the full .pdf if anyone wants to get their learn on. Unsurpisingly, the argument hinges on our favorite management buzzword, "core competency." Actually, it's all pretty obvious and implicit in Vlad et al's proposals.
Journal article by Frederick G. Hillmer, James Brian Quinn; The McKinsey Quarterly, No. 1, 1995
Journal Article Excerpt
by James Brian Quinn , Frederick G. Hillmer
By assessing the relative and risks of making or buying, companies can leverage their skills and resources for increased profitability
Two new strategic approaches, when properly combined, allow managers to leverage their companies' skills and resources well beyond levels available with other strategies:
* Concentrate the firm's own resources on a set of "core competencies" where it can achieve definable preeminence and provide unique value for customers.
* Strategically outsource other activities - including many traditionally considered integral to any company - for which the firm has neither a critical strategic need nor special capabilities.
The benefits of successfully combining the two approaches are significant. Managers leverage their company's resources in four ways.
First, they maximize returns on internal resources by concentrating investments and energies on what the enterprise does best. Second, well-developed core competencies provide formidable barriers against present and future competitors that seek to expand into the company's areas of interest, thus facilitating and protecting the strategic advantages of market share. Third, perhaps the greatest leverage of all is the full utilization of external suppliers, investments, innovations, and specialized professional capabilities that would be prohibitively expensive or even impossible to duplicate internally Fourth, in rapidly changing marketplaces and technological situations, this joint strategy decreases risks, shortens cycle times, lowers investments, and creates better responsiveness to customer needs.
this is true if market segment is big or open, than in the closed market situation or small market different rules apply and many other considerations should be accounted.
So the US (probably NA) record for A-meet attendance is just under ~600 competitors (not starts, thats competitors), with only that one DVOA-hosted US champs over 500 and maybe a couple of others in the high 4's. The various champs out at Tahoe were probably upper 4's. My sense is that the US Individual Champs generally are the highest attended A-meets on the contitnent, with a typical attendance in the 400-450 persons range. A-meets are mostly in the 200-300 range, with some smaller and some larger. Its probably a gaussian centered at 250-300 or so.
The 2000 champs had alot going for it...brand new map in good terrain, competent hosting, convenient housing and meals, and most of all - smack in the middle of the highest population density of US orienteers (NE/mid-atlantic). It was driving distance for lots of people.
The NA champs really should be the record holder. Maybe this will be the year?
The 2000 champs were also a week before or after the North Americans at Harriman / Ringwood, which also presumably increased (long-distance) attendance.
My point about the 500+ meet attendance has to do with Vlad's (probably somewhat arbitrary) breakpoint for interest in paid outsourcing for event organizing. I gather his point is there is in-fact a meet size threshold for which paying someone to organize it becomes viable...payment being based per-competitor. If 500 really is the break-even threshold, that number is currently a 3-sigma event on the NA schedule. Less than 1 per year. 1-sigma is currently at the ~350-400 person level, with a mean at 250-300 (needs verification).
I interpreted Vlad as saying that at 3 days * 500 competitors, he thought it was clearly profitable to outsource, while at 1000-day attendances it was clearly unprofitable, and the cutoff lies somewhere between. That is, he has precisely estimated the cutoff as being between about 2 sigma below and 3 sigma above the mean. :)
Yeah, thats right. I'm just trying to figure out where in between based on average A-meet attendance.
Eddie -- forget your Gaussians, you need a GPD for this job.
Maybe a GED would suffice.
Hey, make sure you bring a fast laptop this weekend.
Just FYI, outsourcing does happen sometimes. Our club has done it for events that members had little interest in organizing, but for which there were interested entrants, and for which there was a person willing to organize it for the club in exchange for part of the entry fees. (There are events like adventure races and the annual corporate challenge that attract entrants, but don't get a lot of club members excited about organizing. Similarly corporate team building exercises.) I know of a situation where someone was paid as an event manager. Nothing extraordinarily lucrative.
The only major reason I can see to believe that paying people will make better events is that organizers might be able to spend more time than if they had to volunteer (which was the reason for the paid event manager). Vlad did make the point that paid organizers would be motivated by wanting to get paid. But compared with Adventure Racing, which usually has at least some paid organizers, and the incentive to get repeat entrants, I think that orienteering quality is in fact usually better. I'm still a bit sceptical on paying people being a silver bullet, even if there might be valid reasons to do it.
The incentive for volunteers not making mistakes is seeing all their buddies after the event. (On which, I'll note that the incentive is mostly on the side of avoiding negative feedback, rather than seeking positive feedback, comparing the ratio of irate postings to praise postings on AttackPoint. A bit like being a referee at a soccer game, where you only tend to get noticed if you do something controversial. Perhaps an annual recognition of A meet organizers, course setters and controllers would change that balance. Or an award for the best sprint, middle and long courses each year. But maybe I've been in Canada too long and am too nice...)
If we're discussing wild ideas, one conceivable reason that I could see for paying people is to allow top athletes to spend more time in the woods training. Perhaps hire a top athlete to come control, vet or set A meet courses. Several of these opportunities, plus some mapping opportunities, could perhaps support someone most or all of the year, while putting them in terrain a lot. A top athlete should make a good vetter and (aside from tact perhaps) a good controller, possibly a good course setter too. (Whether any top athletes would have any interest is a different question...though we've gotten increasing interest lately from top young Canadians in being student mappers for our club (making sprint and park maps).)
Top atheletes are already doing alot of the vet/set at A-meets - as volunteers for their club or the US team. It would then be just a matter of giving them some pocket change for their troubles.
>The NA champs really should be the record holder. Maybe this will be the year?
Well at only ~125 participants registered so far there is a long way to go. Register today!
Indeed. Though giving college student keen orienteers the opportunity to spend their summer job doing O related stuff does have a lot of value even beyond that, I think.
I guess I was too old or too slow for those Alberta mapping contracts, I'm still waiting for Bill Jarvis to get back to me from last year about it.
Would anyone be able to think of an estimate for the costs of putting on an A meet? What would be the costs of putting on a trail race that attracts similar numbers?
Most of the A meet expense is in time, not in money. This is true even with expending the cost of a new map over a single A meet. A reasonable estimate of the cost of time, at least the one I use, is 1/2 of what I make for compensation otherwise. I did the calculation for local BAOC events I helped to put on. They came out breaking even at between $10 and $15 entry fees, with no map cost included in the calculation. Those were either local events with the standard 7 courses, or goats, with attendance of 70–250.
Trail runs take less time to put on, require less financial expense, and charge at least twice as much per participant for a comparable time spent on the course. But, there also are free trail runs, at least in this area. Birthday party kinds. I think it is the right balance. If you are doing a good job and making a living out of it, charge what it costs plus a reasonable profit. If you aren't willing to do that, you might as well volunteer everything, and then people won't have any reason to complain.
Does the breakeven point drop if we can outsource some of the work to India or China? Or, perhaps there is a better orienteering developing country that could supply the proper labor.
Actually, the problem is the reverse, that the orienteering developing countries in eastern Europe that used to export cheap mapping services to the US are increasing their prices as they develop and due to terms-of-trade effects. We have to insource more. Or pay more.
Meet fees increased from average $15/day to $25/day in the last 6 years that I have been running in the USA.
I wonder if the fees for the NAOCs will push the average higher? They seem to be a bit higher than I'm used to (but I'm still paying them.)
So far I think 100% of this discussion has been on event hosting. How many clubs at present would put energy into athlete development if time and resources was not so heavy into event management?
Our club's lack of athlete development is not due to time spent on event management. It's non-orienteering interests and responsibilities that seem to limit our ability to get training sessions organized. It's not clear that there are any nights where we can get a critical mass (of both knowledgeable folks and those desiring training), which is a shame, given our very compact geography (unlike DVOA) - it should be easy to get people together.
We did have a nice mini-training-series in 2005, but there was no momentum to repeat/extend that in 2006.
Well, that sounds like a challenge. Why don't we organize a few weeknight sprints before daylight saving finishes? Seems to work for CSU - why couldn't it work in Rochester, particularly on the inner-city maps?
When someone in our club remarked that "the only way I'll do better is to orienteer all year", our club started a year-round training season. In recent times, it has evolved in a more social direction, due to interest, but still gets people out training. (I've lost track of how many years without missing a week (thankfully).)
Ottawa organizes coaching for its juniors I understand (one of whom, at fourteen, medals in women's elite nationally). Calgary (though a funding source has helped) has organized a junior program for three years, with volunteer coaches.
It can be done. Keep it simple and focused I'd suggest. (We just use pin flags with reflectors for our winter training, for instance. Easier to set out and collect.) Too "perfect" and it'll be too onerous to keep momentum past three events.
On event sizes:
1990 Kamloops (B.C.), Innisfail (Alberta), and Cle Elum (WA) meets (part of APOC '90) all had several hundred people. Cle Elum had over 800, and I think Alberta had even more. (I ran H16 and was happy when I was within 1 min/km of Karen Williams.)
I'm not sure, but I think the 1992 U.S. Champs at French Creek East had over 500 entrants. The North American Champs at Prince William Forest on the next weekend also had a lot. Weren't there more big A meets in general back then, or are these just isolated examples--part of the right tail of the distribution?
There are many tasks that even medium to large clubs struggle to do, such as find event directors. (Course setters are usually easier, because course setting is enough like orienteering itself to be fun.) Cascade is paying a club member a modest stipend ($100 per meet, I think) for directing all of our 8 Winter Series / WIOL (school league) events, held November through February. These meets each draw about 220 +/- 50 people. This arrangement will probably result in the club emerging into its Spring race series with a bunch of event directors who are not burned out from Winter and are therefore willing to volunteer--before the 11th hour, even. This will have a ripple effect of making everything in the club run slightly more smoothly, and there will be good feelings and perhaps surplus energy to do a bit more promotion, organizing of training, coordinating of mapping, etc. than would otherwise be done.
Larger clubs that continue to grow will almost certainly reach a point at which they can grow no further without having an increasing number of angel volunteers who do big, unpleasant, complex, and/or time-consuming jobs well. When such volunteers step down from their heroic positions, it can be extremely difficult to replace them, and failure to do so adequately can set back a club's ability to function. At this point especially, it can make sense for a club to hire a staff person to take on one of the tough jobs.
On having regular training:
This requires a critical mass of people who not only like orienteering once in a while, but live sufficiently near each other and either...
...like orienteering enough as a recreation to want to do it really often, or
...want to pursue orienteering as a sport and thus wish to train at it regularly. (These people almost always also fall into group 1. Exceptions are those few who are highly competitively driven, such that they do things they don't enjoy, as long as they succeed at them).
There are a few big obstacles to attaining this situation in most (U.S. and probably also Canadian) clubs:
1. Small participation numbers and large geographic areas make it hard to get together.
2. The way sports are conducted leads many people to grow up thinking of themselves as unable or uninterested in being competitive athletes; thus, many orienteers seem to feel awkward or otherwise hesitant to engage in training.
3. We are very busy with demanding jobs and little vacation time.
4. We are inundated with fun and interesting things to do, so orienteering thus becomes relatively less attractive than it would be if we lived with less freedom and prosperity.
Yeap.. push the prices higher and I just want to see how many under 20 ( not saying under 16 years of age one event might have ). in Canada it is worst then in US, and then someone wonder why Canadian or US team have (at least on male side ) probably more the 80 % of their runners at WOC over the age of 30. because with higher fees the numbers will reduce , then some families that they go now,will attend less and less, then when young athletes have money after univ or just getting some cash they are too old to wait another 10 years to be competitive at the world level.
last weekend there were about 35 runners with age under the elite courses. when I was a kid in Romania at class M13 were just about this number.
a lot of east european countries still have 4-5 times more runners in those ages more then in Canada ( maybe as high as 10 times in Czech R.)
I cannot imagine the Smith family of NB, 12-15 years back paying for 4 days at 25 $ ( and it's cheap )/day/adult and 15 $/day /youth. if 4 of them over 20 and 4 under 20 will be 640 $ on entry fees alone. oops.. and that's less then is charged today..ohh we want it higher.. get the community bigger..forget about early bird fees 6 months before. I live within travel distance to NAOC otherwise I won't take the kids with me..yes better quality, but no thanks to 6-10 O-managers organizers getting way more and reduce the actual O runners numbers ..
HOW MANY KIDS ATTEND ADVENTURE RACES ? or trail races..
If prices are raised, it's possible to keep the prices for juniors low, and also to have a family maximum fee (maybe equivalent to two adults and three kids or something).
As an off the wall point, I'll note that, except for the effect of taxes and attendance, raising fees to pay organizers doesn't increase the cost of orienteering for those who do their share of organizing.
I do agree with the idea of keeping junior fees low. There are so few of them anyway, the incremental cost is small, and if they're on a shorter course, they're hardly using any of the map, which is the big capital expense. And a few bucks can make a big difference to those under 25 or their parents, not so much to those over 35 usually. I think that half to a third of adult fees is appropriate.
j-man: "I wonder if the fees for the NAOCs will push the average higher? They seem to be a bit higher than I'm used to (but I'm still paying them.)"
I live an hour away, but will probably not go to NAOC because of the cost. It's a shame to miss an international meet so close to home, but paying $35 per event is absurd. The early bird fees ended in April, and they aren't much better!
I've drastically reduced going to run races because of rising costs and fewer benefits as well.
Having helped organize some big events, and tending to travel by air to some events each year, and comparing to oher events of similar effort, I tend to think the fees are pretty reasonable. ARs (which are complex to organize surely, but no more so than orienteering I think) cost hundreds. Running races (where all they do is time you and hand you water...no $20,000 new map, no dozens of carefully placed controls) charge dozens of dollars.
I recall an orienteer (I no longer remember who) moving from the o-busy northeast to the then smaller Georgia club, and suggesting that members there each kick in a few hundred bucks, in order to have some really nice maps, on the theory that people often spend a few hundred a year on their main sporting equipment.
Posting at 1:45 in the morning here because my Father and I just spent another 5 hours sorting out maps and courses for the NAOC. Anyway about the fees for this year's NAOC. GHO elected to use the exact same fees for the NAOC this year as last year's Canadian Championshipsfees in BC -with the exception that we added a very early but slightly cheaper early bird rate. Remember that all fees are buried in the cost. The entry fee includes a few dollars per day for online registration fees and park/campus entrance fees. On some days of the NAOC we are required to pay $8 per person to various authorities. Add to that the COF levy and you soon realize why we haven't hosted a COC or NAOC in 12 years - we will lose money every time and will lose money again this year.
BTW a few years ago we paid $27 US to race at an event in the US. When the loonie was $0.62 that made the price over $40/day.
This discussion thread is closed.