Michael Wood, 5 Atahu Grove, Lower Hutt, New Zealand Phone (04) 566 2645

DEVELOPMENT SERVICES (updated 16 Sep 00)

To the NZ Orienteering Federation as a Whole

What is Development?
(as printed in NZ Orienteering Issue 55 May 2000)

The AGM at Easter decided to appoint a federation Development Officer. But there are widely varying interpretations of just what Development is. Michael Wood was asked to contribute his ideas on Development to the Good Friday Seminar, and here he sets them out for NZO readers.

I'm interested in development from two angles. I'm an orienteer like you, and have a personal interest in developing the sport. And as MAPsport Services I am looking for work in orienteering. (So you would be right to examine what I say for any sign of self-interest.)

When I was your Coaching Director that there wasn't any direction from the sport's governing body about what I did and how I went about it. For example, I couldn't get responses from the Council about priorities, it asked me to report less, and it even left it up to me to decide what proportion of the budget went into remuneration! At least Coaching is sort of understood by most orienteers, but Development is much more nebulous than coaching. We need to agree on what it covers.

Some people see Development as synonymous with Promotion, with a goal of increased numbers. I think it's wider than that: in fact any sort of change which would in some sense improve us as a sport. These changes may or may not attract more people, but wasn't the move from black and white maps to colour a "Development"? Didn't the short-distance discipline improve the variety of our orienteering experience? Wouldn't it be good if we could afford electronic punching equipment?

The suggested initial tasks for the Development Officer seem to me to represent quite a narrow view of Development. In my 10 minutes at the seminar I listed a few other things that should be on the table. Not a complete list, but ones offering greater possibilities for advancement than promotional materials. I hope the council will consider these when directing the Development Officer.

  1. Close-To-Home Orienteering. In any SWOT analysis - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats - we always come up with the distance of orienteering areas from where people live. Well let's develop new forms of orienteering that you can do close to home! On very small bits of farm or bush, on park, on campuses, maybe in three dimensions inside buildings. There are ways to overcome familiarity with the terrain, such as revealing only one leg at a time. We just have to be inventive.
  2. Orienteering Journalism and Commentary. Developed sports have writers and commentators that can make people interested even if they aren't participants. How many orienteers follow the All Blacks? Watched the Americas Cup? And yet can't name our National Squad? We should be coaching our writers and commentators, just as we do for our orienteers.
  3. Watchable Orienteering. Tied up with this is the design of courses for watching, as opposed to taking part in. If you take the spectator's point of view, the courses would have to be shorter even than short-O, through terrain that you could see into, or down on, and with a mass start to make it clear who is in front. Unless we're experimenting, they need to be where the people are, ie close to town. Internationally, the Park World Tour is a good example. Ever since the first NZ Park-O Champs HVOC has been running a "Regional Qualifier" , but there has been nowhere to send the winners to!
  4. Sponsorship. Sponsorship is not charity, it's a business arrangement. We're not that good at thinking up things we can offer a sponsor, and we don't even seem to be able to handle initiatives from proactive sponsors. For example the MAPsport Shop had to persist for over a year to set up the Jalas sponsorship, which has provided $500-$1000 per year since 1994. (In return, Orienteering provides access for MAPsport to customers at events.)
  5. Competitive/Recreational Understanding. There's a gulf between them which shouldn't be there. Recreational orienteers need top competitors to create stories for publicity. Now our sport is no longer novel, only disasters and results will get media coverage, and I'm afraid little Johnny's result is not what I'm talking about. And the top competitors need us ordinary orienteers for economic reasons: our use of the same maps makes their production viable.
  6. Orienteering Week. Australia and USA (at least) have an annual "orienteering week" built around their national champs. Having a regional championship one week before or after the nationals allows time in between for a proper conference, fun orienteering activities, training camps, and time for working groups to physically meet. This year the conference skimmed over only half a dozen topics, with the longest one given 30 minutes and this Development topic given 10.
  7. Long-Term Planning. The long-term planning process needs to be put on a proper footing, the current plans are a joke. In 1998 I made a 1000-word submission, but the only change I could see in the 1999 plan was replacing the word "profit" with "surplus". Can you believe we had an objective to make money? And then the annual report claimed we had met our objectives when there was no such evaluation. And urged us to take an interest in the plan!
  8. Aging of Orienteers. The age profile of orienteers is getting older. Are we going to ignore this until W90 is the most popular class? We have to do something about it.
  9. Labour-saving Ideas. Orienteering is a labour-intensive sport (we keep hearing). There are heaps of labour-saving possibilities, but inventing and introducing them is not trivial. I remember that we used to roster a helper to allocate start times. After we introduced the self -allocation of start times it took a couple of years to get organisers not to do it! I'd like to see self-calculation and display of results. Or no timing and results at all!
  10. New forms of orienteering for different markets. We may have reached the limit of the NZ market for traditional Orienteering. I have always noticed that 2nd-year-orienteers are our most effective recruiters, but we don't seem to have many of them just now (except in Hawkes Bay). However there are other groups for whom there is a ready-made form of orienteering:

Personally, I am most interested in these different forms of orienteering for new groups of people, for small areas close to town, and for watching. These may or may not produce "converts" who will transfer to traditional orienteering. Why does it matter how they do their orienteering?

The greater the variety, the richer orienteering becomes. Just imagine Beatrice (Faumuina) restricted to the 100m sprint?

End of magazine quote.

I urge you to open your eyes to the "big picture". You are wise enough to budget a reasonable sum of money for development. Whether you employ MAPsport to help you or not, please use it on some of the issues above .

Yours in orienteering,

Michael Wood phone 04 566 2645
5 Atahu Grove, Lower Hutt, NZ