Inspired by comments in the remote events run by retirees thread
, let's talk about ways we can grow our local clubs by lessening the workload.
I'll start with one:
1. Reduce the number of courses you set, especially in more remote areas where you won't get kids running on their own. I've set essentially one advanced course but end up with offerings for everyone: a long course, a short course that is a subset of the long, and an "adventure course", which is just a score-o of the controls on the advanced course plus a few additoinal close-in controls on trails for less experienced participants.
Mass start Score-O*. One course fits all.
* though we call it a time limit Choose your own adventure course. participants can customize their course and do as little or as much as they want with varying difficulties of controls. through in some dog bones controls on some
nice route choice legs.
We're eliminating day-of registration, with a need for people taking money etc. All online now. Not a radical idea, but it is an easy way to simplify.
I'm 100% in favor of simplifying the course offerings as Cristina & Hammer suggested.
Peggy, do you ever have people who show up on the day-of without having pre-registered and you have to turn them away? How do you handle that? Despite numerous email reminders and clearly stated pre-reg deadlines on our webpage, we always have people who show up unannounced (even some of our regular members)...
Also -- do you offer refunds to people who pre-register and then can't make it for whatever reason?
We've only been doing the online-only registration since restarting last September after a Covid break. I think people have accepted the pre-registration procedure quite well; I don't know if people show up without having registered but I suspect they'd be gently turned away. Maybe Rocky Mountainers are just more independent minded!
We offer no refunds. I'm sure there are some people who aren't thrilled with that, because we generally have to register the Monday before the event (and they almost all sell out), but I haven't heard about any serious complaints. The worst I've heard is that the event sells out so fast that you have to really be on the ball to register.
Mass start score-Os are a great offering. The mass start/finish aspect makes it more social (a great side effect) in addition to meaning requiring far fewer volunteer hours for start/finish needs. Also, no DNFs.
I'm in an area where score-O's are popular, so I like to set at least one point-to-point course to keep the traditionalists (like me!) happy. I'd be pretty bummed if we only had score courses.
Agree! I like score-o fine, and love mass starts, but I prefer point-to-point and would be sad if I couldn't do those locally.
Score-o can be a great way to utilize otherwise hard-to-reach spots in some parks.
Publish the map(s) on the web as a pdf. Participants print their own.
Hopefully that'd lead to a reduction in entry fees.
That’s how our winter series works - Print your own map from a pdf on our website, run the course self-timing, post splits on AP. No fees. Controls are in the woods for about 3 weeks. Sometimes longer if the snow is too deep, though Lyn and I retrieved our controls on snowshoes last winter in 18-20” of snow.
I was surprised how cranky some of our regulars were to have mandatory pre registration, which we closed two days before (ie, Thursday night for a Saturday event). I used to get a bunch of "pleeeeeeease" emails after the deadline, so I keep the published closure the same and then run a late fee for another day. I thought people would whine about the fee increase for being late, but no one has complained to me at least.
I only do refunds if people ask nicely prior to event day. Well, I did one after the event, for someone who asked for a refund saying they couldn't find us after looking all over the park! I was confused! How could they have missed me! I had a table, flags, etc. Then I noticed the time stamp on the email and it was the day before the event.
For whatever reason, our clientele also votes for start window point to point over mass start score o by a factor of 1.5-2.
I strongly encourage our new course setters to do score os rather than learn the arcane minutiae of all of the p2p flavors on their first foray.
Personally I have switched to making sure whatever I'm doing can be hung immediately before the event starts, instead of hanging far flung ones the day before.
My club went to pre entries as Covid took over, and is keeping it. Entries close on Friday evening, 18 hrs before the event. We still take entries on the day, but we charge double for that option. Newcomers 1st event is free, as is the novice course for anyone
As walk does, no fees for low-key events. Cuts out another task, thats more beneficial than reducing cost to participants. Who should still contribute somehow, somewhere.
QOC closes pre-reg almost a week before events?
Do all events have an entry limit?
Ottawa : Events are for members only but membership is cheap and easy to obtain.
Event registration fees are on top of the membership. The latest fee was $90 doe a summer season of sprint O events, O technique training and running training.
Individual registration to each of these could be bought by members through PayPal.
Events had two sprint courses. Short - too easy for this old guy. Long - too long for this old guy but seriously enjoyed it.
Suncoast Orienteering: (Florida) All registration in advance. Last year it was JROTC only.
Three courses - Novice (Yellow) Intermediate (Orange) and Advanced (Green) Male and Female versions so as to handle the numbers in a timely manner. Partially separate but equal courses at each level.
If someone just showed up and was interested in trying O I would never turn them away. I would slip them a map to use 'off the books'. but I'd also get some registration information for a follow up.
Our club hosted a couple of score-O events and got some new enthusiasts from the adventure racing community. The next event on the schedule was my standard orienteering event (point-to-point). The adventure racers said they were "experienced orienteers" and asked for the longest course. This was 7 km of advanced navigation through forest and swamps with no trails. The adventure guys were out there a long time and completely overwhelmed by the task. If I had known that their only experience was score-O events, I could have given them some beginner instructions.
Reading the comments on how some clubs now don't do day-of registration, I don't see that happening in our small club. Such a model would only work for a customer base that are die-hard orienteers and that will reserve that day to exclusively do an orienteering event. The folks that are sitting on the fence, or may have other potential events coming up on the same day, or have some parental duties to take care of, will not pre-register. And lastly, with always looking for an opportunity to recruit newbies and introduce the sport of orienteering to folks walking by in the city or county park, we would like to invite folks to try out a course on the spot.
Urban or near-urban score events with Q&A controls. Where there's no suitable question an orange ribbon with a code letter is hung. Which doesnt have to be recovered straight away. No other equipment required.
@sherpes, I have long felt the same about the advantages of day of registration. It's more work but, assuming you have a certain minimum volunteer capacity I feel like it's worth it.
I'd be curious to see some actual data analysis but I feel like we got far more families with kids coming out to events (Sunday mornings) pre-COVID than since we implemented mandatory pre-registration. The fact that we are limiting it to club members only may also be a big factor in our particular case (Ottawa).
I don’t have data but I wonder if there’s an opposite effect. People are more likely to attend something if they’ve signed up for it and are expected. Especially during the pandemic people have gotten used to reserving tickets or start times for things, even for picking up library books or going to a museum. So it doesn’t seem like it would be a barrier.
That said, we’ve been “requiring” pre-registration this year but not turning people away who just show up. The number of people who just show up without pre-registering is small, so the single person doing check in is able to handle it.
For our meets; they are free to club members. Membership for an individual or family is $50/year. We generally charge $20 per person for non members, so we do not have many non members attend our events.
If you leave the control out for several days/weeks do you use manual punches or electronic punching?
I find manual punches a lot easier to set up than electronic punches. And a lot less to carry around when setting up and picking up.
This year we had a lot of week long events where one registers online, prints the map and runs at his/her convenience. For our summer sprint series we used electronic punching with the course set up one evening each month at a different local park.
Trust this thread is about training and not races. Often I'm asked about Orienteering by newbies, what is an "event"? Clubs should be ready to go with a definition of what they consider what.
I use "event" for both training (no official timing or results, maybe only streamers) and "races" (timing, results, control flags). This is because they really aren't that different for a small club and I generally want to avoid the word "race" or "meet" because I don't want to scare people away. Most people aren't interested in competing in a serious race for their first attempt at the sport. They don't know that our "races" aren't very serious.
IMHO, one of the problems US clubs have is that they try to have too many "races". Hold "trainings" instead but do more of them with less work. That seems like a better way to get more people involved.
The classy events that are out for a few weeks have controls, but no punches. The very classy ones have QR codes that you can scan with a phone. The less classy one have ribbons. The least classy ones are Usynligo courses where nobody has checked to see if the location are even suitable. (And I just realized that I've now learned enough Swedish to understand what the Norwegian word "usynligo" means.)
With good terrain (eg Blue Mtn, NY) I could imagine having a new course (with or without flags) out every week (or fortnight), or alternate between Blue Mtn and Westmoreland, say. Oh but they won't get the challenge of unfamiliar terrain, says you?
If they get to the stage where they 'know' Blue Mtn, I think you can call it success.
There could be a thousand+ orienteers in Westchester County alone.
What an amazing diversity of approaches! What works for some definitely doesn't work for all and I hope people are finding solutions here that might work for them.
GAOC always offers all courses from Yellow to Red, if possible. We often offer Silver as a gentler Brown for the sake of the old timers. White courses are at the option/discretion of the Meet Director and usually contingent on finding someone willing to do beginner instruction. The latter is entirely due to COVID concerns - we would formerly always offer White and beginner instruction, but our instructors are invariably from the more vulnerable age groups. We find that (S)BrGR are critical to bringing out the core volunteers that we depend upon so heavily, but also the competitive kids (mostly JROTC). The instructors are always training and evaluating their kids and are not interested at all in anything but classic distance color coded point to point courses. These kids may start out at Yellow, but within a couple of months are running in their competition classes and very soon thereafter are running up.
You might think that this puts a lot onto Meet Directors but they very much enjoy their time in the woods and I have never heard any complaints about having to cater to the wide range of courses. Our Meet Directors generally plan the courses and hang the controls for their own meets. The synchronized SI boxes are generally placed in the clubhouse next to the flags and stands on the Wednesday morning before the meet. We also have a bunch of mapping tablets so that if they want to they can note map updates in the field and also don't waste too much time finding control sites. This all serves to increase efficiency. We generally offer 26 or so meet days per year and only miss out on a few weekends during our season.
For us, Score-O brings out fewer people and mass starts even fewer. Historical comparisons by venue and date have borne that out more often than I would care to think about. We gave up entirely on mass starts and Score-O would only be offered if the Meet Director wanted to do it and the map wasn't terribly conducive to point to point course setting. It has been many years. I would have to say that the exception would be the Bubba Goat which rotates around the southeastern clubs. For us, that means one event every 6 or 7 years.
All entries are by online registration and prepayment. We expected a lot of push back on this, but have had absolutely none (although we have a special Boy Scout event where we bend over backwards to accommodate them outside our registration system in return to access to their camp.) Entries open on Monday night, first to Meet Directors and volunteers (club house manager, SI/start/finish/results manager) who have free entries for them and their families year round due to their strong and invaluable contributions to the functioning of the club. An hour later, entries open to all club coupon holders. Coupons can only be earned by volunteering (generally at event set up, start, finish, event break down, bringing in controls) or by cancelling an entry(see below). General entries open on Tuesday night. (Our meets are mostly on Sundays but sometimes on Saturdays.)
This has proved to be wildly popular as people can and must reserve start times - first come, first served. They are guaranteed a start time, an unused map (although we can usually laser print maps on demand these days) and no queue at registration or the start. It's also generally a lot easier to park as people come and go. This has been much, much easier on event personnel. Entries must be cancelled no later than 24 hours before their start time for a guaranteed no questions asked refund. They can opt for cash but usually opt for a coupon so that they can register early the next time and get their choice of start time. If they are later in cancelling or a no show, they can still ask for a refund. If the meet is sold out - and a few are - we aren't as likely to grant a refund without a good reason and definitely not because of the weather. Registration closes at 5 am on the morning of the meet.
The key to all of this has been our extremely flexible meet entry website which also integrates our membership, volunteer coupon and (annual) waiver databases. We maintain annual waivers for non-members as well as members. All membership and waiver functions are performed online. The only paper we have is for maps. Meet Directors and anyone else who needs it has access to the entry database and can change course selections and start times as well as print start lists and access contact information.
At our last AGM there was quite a bit of discussion about the possibility that we might be losing out on walk ups. In the end, nobody could actually remember a single instance of when somebody walked up and wanted to participate. Perhaps it's because of the nature of our venues which are in state and county parks and people who show interest already have plans for that day.
Charlie, tell us more about this clubhouse.
@GuyO, yes, I believe all our events have limits, based on what the specific park allows. One venue has had a limit for years (NP property) and for that one we've long had pre-registration.
Not all events sell out, but the popular venues do and they tend to fill up early. So, some events have sold out by Tuesday.
We're likely missing out on some new people, especially since we're not currently offering beginner's instruction (new people are pointed to Dave Onkst's instructional video) but we do get some new folks from Dave's REI classes, adventure racers, and friends of current orienteers. For now, it works.
I like the club coupons idea!
Interestingly, we have had walk-up participants (people who happened to be passing by and saw our event and thought it looked fun) at more than half of our events so far. There is no chance we would turn away folks like that.
Boris, it sounds rather grand but it's just a lockup at a Public Storage facility.
Oh, and the coupons can also be used to buy swag on our online store - which includes SI-8, SI-9, SIAC, club jerseys, etc, all of which can be picked up at meets. Yet another way to reward our super volunteers. We just had someone buy 73 E-punches with coupons!
Place a large map up front where casual pedestrians are walking by, and they will stop...
We don't really have 'casual pedestrians' at the majority of our venues.
@Peggy: Thanks! IIRC, the venue that has limited participation for several years is Great Falls, MD (same with VA?). What have been the typical limits at other venues?
@Charlie: Do registrants choose specific start times, or start windows? What are the intervals, or lengths, respectively, and their capacities? Presumably the coupons are strictly electronic; does each one have a single value, or can it vary?
@Peggy & Charlie: Do your respective clubs use EventReg for local event preregistration, or something home-grown?
Hey guys this thread is about simplifying events and lessening the workload. Those with great ideas about full-facility events and features that add value can.... start another thread.
@Guy: specific start times, 2 minute intervals. This week, 9:30-13:00. Folks that want to start together - families, bubbles or whatever - can use the same start time but have to do that through a note to the registrar. Meet Directors and others can edit the start times for people, too. If the event sells out we can expand the start window at the MD's option. The coupons are strictly electronic and are specific to the person - more like an account. Volunteer activities add, entries and online store purchases subtract. The coupons are transferable so people can share their coupon code with others if they want to buy them entries. The MD coupons are good for entries for them and their family for entries, rentals, extra maps for the season and till the end of the calendar year, whichever is later. The system is home grown and actually developed by the club secretary. She also handles registration on a commercial basis for a wide variety of race events.
@gruver: sorry if my post didn't come across in that way. All these things are about lessening the workload, but with explanations. Simply put:
Don't forget about your volunteers. Put on events that they will want to come to. Don't simplify your meet by killing the attendance.
Don't forget about your Meet Directors. Put on events that will be well attended so that the MDs feel that the effort was worth it. It turns out that our MD effort is about the same whether you have 200 show up or just 25. For our MDs, the former is much more rewarding than the latter. YMMV.
Make it easy for your MDs to put on events. Invest in the technology that empowers them. Mapping tablets for simple map updates, but also georeferenced maps so that they can nail every control location when course planning without faffing around. Have a system in place so that everything is to hand when they pick up the gear for the event. Don't burden them with having to chase down volunteers.
Again. Put on events that your market wants. Brings out the crowds and the core volunteers.
Put everything online you possibly can. Deciphering chicken scratch and entering the data from 500 waiver and membership forms every year is soul destroying. Many, many hours of volunteer time when the work can and should be done by the participant and/or instructor/parent/guardian. Once the data are in the system, renewals and annual updates are trivial. Accepting paper membership forms and waivers at the meet or through the mail is a burden in so many ways.
Let participants choose their start times from a list to control crowds, ensure a smooth flow through parking and the start, and incentivize them to sign up early.
Make it easy and desirable to pay online. Have a generous refund policy. Make it advantageous to accept a coupon as a refund.
Let volunteers sign up for jobs when they register online. Start line, SAR, Control pickup. Reward them. Give them free entries. Let them sign up early.
No cash at the meets. No cash box. No paper at the meets. No registration table. No registration tent. Registration used to be a grinding nightmare for at least two people, often three, with long queues. No reconciliation by the club treasurer - also a nightmare. No trips to the bank. No having to figure out or track entries in order to pay the national levy. Course changes, punch number updates and such can be made through the computer at the finish table.
Make it easy for participants to buy the things they need to participate. Deliver those things at the meet. Incentivize them to buy the things they need rather than rent.
Reward your volunteers. Makes it so much easier for the MD on the day. Offer club swag that only volunteers can earn.
Make it so MDs want to be MDs.
On the day of the meet, we now have one person at the start and one at the finish. One person on hand for SAR. The MD mostly looks good and solves whatever issues come up. Control pickup usually oversubscribed. This all used to be very stressful, especially for the crowd control and registration folks who are no longer needed and used to require at least double the volunteers.
So, for us, things are much, much simpler.
Put on events that will be well attended so that the MDs feel that the effort was worth it.
Was having a discussion with volunteers of the Buffalo-O club this past weekend on attendance to local meets, that we [Pittsburgh area] noticed that the county parks that are close to high-density population locations are well attended, but state parks that are 90 minute drive away, are poorly attended. In the words of a friend, that when asked why he doesn't show up at orienteering anymore, he said:
I am not going to drive an hour and a half up and an hour and a half back, to do a course that takes me 40 minutes to do
Similarly, a mom with two kids and a busy schedule between extra-curricular activities and birthday parties, will not commit a full day to get to and back to a remote state park.
@Guy O: yes, Great Falls, MD. The Virginia side hasn't allowed us to orienteer there for years. :-(
We do use EventReg. Our usual limits are between 150 and 250 people, depending on the venue. We're actually bumping up against limits for parking in many places. Though that's a good problem to have ..
@sherpes: yes, but we don't forego those events, either. Again, keeping the MDs happy, we have some MDs that love to put on events in those far flung places and to do it alone. The attendance is lower, but the same tools allow them to run the event single-handedly. They download the start lists after online registration closes at 5 am and run both the start and the finish for the entire meet.
These are basically one-person meets with all the bells and whistles enabled by the fact that all of the registration functions - start times, entry fees, waivers, etc - are already taken care of before the meet even starts. They do accept help with SAR and sometimes with control pickup.
We always rent a picnic shelter so that there is power and no tents are required. No setup or breakdown, except for the computer. No big monitors these days and live results on local wifi and pushed online. We often lose a little money on those meets but the regulars and the stronger school teams turn out because they are our best areas and are used for NREs. They are so far from Atlanta that they also bring in people from neighboring states.
From another Aus club. Prior to COVID for our local club events (not in the Statewide competition) we printed maps on the basis of previous year's usage, proximity and suitability for forthcoming state and national events, with a % extra for 7 courses. Entry was paid on the day in cash with no prior admin. Post COVID we moved to pre-entry and payment. There are a very few who are unable to effect this but usually let us know in advance by email for map printing. Particularly newcomers are encouraged to not negotiate the "horrors" of prepayment for their first event - we'd much rather have them come. They have the opportunity to pay electronically or in cash on the day. For those who pre-enter but DNS upon their next club event entry there is a box for "previous DNS" which affords them "free entry". Forced into this arrangement... we won't go back. So much easier for Treasurer not to have to go to bank/count money etc
We've had success with no-one at the start, self service. Turn up and punch the start box (or write down start time). Self seeding too, encouraged not to start e.g. 10 seconds behind someone on the same course (just ask who ever is there at the time).
@Charlie: Why does GAOC not have the Event Director and Course Setter as separate roles? IMO, the CS should not have to even think about event administration. Is displaying results on a monitor really a problem?
@Peggy: As a traffic engineer (RET), the thought of insufficient parking as a good problem is a foreign one, indeed. Please elaborate.
@ndobbs. MaprunF is an interesting challenge for orienteering clubs. We used it last year
- no need for any meet staff on the ground,
- no need to print maps,
- no need even to get access permissions (access rights in Scotland)
which was all to the good, but
- no socialising
- no beginner instruction
- no scope for generating income.
- can be a bit sketchy in forest cover
@Guy: rather than explicitly removing the Course Setter responsibility from the MD, instead we remove all the administrative responsibility. Facility rentals, permits, insurance certificates, registration, toilet rentals, whatever. It seems to work for us.
COVID-19 is rampant in GA - back up to 60,000+ new cases and 100 deaths per day out of a population of 10 million - and all of the ICUs are full. We can't require participants to be vaccinated - mostly because many of them are schoolkids and they can't be. We still have full pandemic rules in place and that includes not having a monitor for people to huddle around. Of course, since we don't actually have crowds there is plenty of opportunity to chat with the finish person about who did what.
Maprun is certainly one of our simplifying tools Graeme especially in urban events. Its hard to see most of your "buts" being a problem though? If you want people to socialise, make a small time window. If you have people to instruct beginners then do it. If you need income then ask for it (in the bank, thanks). Yes your last point can be a problem which is why I said urban, but we "under-promise". You "might" get a beep, if not carry on and use HITMO at the end.
Reminds me of another simplifier, which arose when a flag was missed off a training exercise. Just told the participants "there could be missing controls, you'll have to be certain before carrying on". Since then have expanded the idea to "SI boxes only at random controls" and having very few of them - perhaps just one. Remaining controls usu have ribbons, or our usual on-tour marker, biodegradable paper. Pity they dont make it in orange tho.
We had MapRunF available for the first few months of the pandemic. We had 3 people use it!
Cristina & Hammer (& anyone else offering an all-controls Score-O version in addition to point-to-point courses): how do you handle this in OE2010 (or are you using MEOS)?
We want to offer that option at one of RMOC's upcoming meets for a group of USAFA prep school cadets, but we want to avoid the complication of having two separate download systems (OE2010 & OEScore).
I floated the idea of having Score-O runners download into OE2010 like everyone else; they'll show up as MSP initially (on their print-outs) but I could manually score them later.
Is there an easier way? (We won't be using MEOS, BTW.)
Ór handles score-o and point-to-point mixed course in a single event. Each course is independently configured type, on import just change the score-o to score type and all set.
It is very straight forward software to use for your one off event to trial it.
According to the SportSoftware website: "OE2010 supports regular O courses with all controls having to be passed in a predefined order, as well as arbitrary courses where the controls can be punched an any order. It is also possible to mix both types within a single course."
So it sounds like you can define a course where the controls can be punched in any order. I assume this means that if they don't get them all it shows up as DNF or MSP but it would easier to sort out later I would think.
Brooke's question actually leads to another thing I consider energy-saving: we've been using the SportIdent app on a tablet with a bluetooth printer, rather than setting up a computer with a need for an outlet or generator. The SportIdent app does not yet have support for score events so unfortunately that means manually correcting people's results to be "OK" and then doing a bit of manual work for presenting those results. This isn't a big deal since we have such small events but I can see that being a non-starter for bigger clubs.
In the ACT I have recently ran in a couple of successful "Sprint" series (mainly on school maps) with : one course for all (distances I have ran have ranged from 2 to 5 kms), only pre-entry or season's pass, held the same day (a Sunday morning), at the same time, course closed after 1 hour, all SIAir controls, small control flags used, finish results put up immediately on Live OL, usually an email with a link to the final results about 1-2 hours (or less) after the event has closed, head to head racing offered (forking on the one course), maps only A4 size usually with a map flip, self start (most competitors allow about 30 second gaps but when someone disappears around a school building corner the gap can be less) and usually whole event ran by one to two people.
BOK started online registration only in March 2020 and it has worked well. We now very rarely have beginner instruction now because of COVID-19 and when we do, it is small groups. We also limit the numbers of people per half hour. This means that we don't have everyone showing up at the same time and people can get individual attention if they need it. This has worked so well that I don't think we will change our procedures in the future.
We also generally bag groups of maps, SI sticks, and compasses and we always have remote starts and finishes, so that people aren't hanging out together and so that a runner can stop breathing hard and put on a mask before coming over to download. The meet directors generally position themselves away from competitors and everyone is required to wear a mask when near the start/download area.
THANK YOU, Sandy! That's a great solution for us.
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