British Orienteering has developed an Activity Guide and a Year in a Box to provide ideas and inspiration to Coaches and Leaders delivering Community Orienteering sessions. Please contact British Orienteering via email for an Activity Guide and enquire about the availability of a Year in a Box.
If you are going to establish a weekly club you will need to find a licenced coach that can lead the coaching activities. Licenced coaches are practicing coaches that are required to update their knowledge and practice.
The following are additional resources to those which can be found on the Year in a Box CD. This CD is distributed to attendees on the Community Orienteering Leader Award.
Below Dan Riley, Lead Coach for Buxton and District Orienteers explains how he got through the dark nights! The club launched in September which meant that Dan was immediately faced with the prospect of providing meaningful coaching sessions for new members throughout the winter. Despite these challenges the club is still going strong with 25-30 people regularly turning up to club nights. In this article he puts forward his views on what have been the key elements to this success and provides some useful practical ideas for coaching in a satellite club environment.
Introduction - Turning the role of the club coach on its head
Traditionally as coaches, we have some choice in where we deliver our sessions. We first of all decide what we want to coach and then we think of a suitable area. Coaching at a satellite club requires a different approach.
The club will meet at the same time and location every week for about 40 weeks a year. There are obvious advantages to having this continuity however for the coach this presents a whole new set of problems. The luxury of choosing has gone and the coach will inevitably end up thinking to themselves, "I have one or two areas in which I can coach, I need to work out how to make best use of them.”
Additionally, for about 20 of the 40 weeks of the year it will be dark. This throws up an additional set of problems that need to be addressed.
My approach to coaching is quite pragmatic. I believe that each coaching session is unique and that the key to successful coaching is to understand the situation and provide a session that best fits those circumstances. However I am also the first to admit that everything I do in coaching is either stolen or adapted from somewhere else.
I am uneasy with the idea of telling other coaches how they should coach. Instead what I intend to do in this article is to provide an insight into how I managed to successfully coach the Buxton hub club through the dark nights. The hope is that by sharing these experiences other coaches will be able to transfer and adapt them in order to make their own clubs a success.
There are lots of publications out there which detail how to set up orienteering sessions. As coaches you will no doubt already be aware of them and there is no need to duplicate them here. It would be far more useful to outline a set of general principles upon which the coaching at Buxton is based. This will be followed by some specific examples of how these principles were put into practice.
General Coaching Principles For The Buxton Hub Club
1. Work with others
There will be paid professionals within your area who will be just as keen as you are to get the hub club up and running. Sports Development Officers and Community Sports Coaches in particular will have targets to meet and perhaps money to spend with regard to getting people involved in sport. Dare I say that traditionally in orienteering we tend to look within our clubs for people who have the potential to develop orienteering. My experiences at Buxton would lead me to argue that without the support of these outside agencies, there wouldn't be a Buxton satellite club.
2. Do more than just technical training
When planning the programme, try to think of activities that may not strictly be orienteering but would still be of interest to members. The Buxton satellite club programme alternated technical orienteering training with fitness work. Additionally dvds, computer games, the Internet, map making and reviewing of competition maps have all been successfully incorporated. Having as wide a range of ideas as possible will help, especially when the weather is really bad. This has implications for resourcing. An indoor area is really useful and if computers are to be used then these will have to be arranged in advance.
3. Have social time
This has been built into the programme at both the beginning and end of the session. One of the members is in charge of making the brews. The social aspect of the club is at least half the reason why people come anyway.
4. Ask your participants what they want to do
On the first night, half the time was spent talking to people about what they wanted to do on the club nights. From this feedback some fundamental decisions were made. For example the decision was made to have sessions that allowed all members to take part together as a club. This reflected the fact that most people coming to the club are families with young children. It did present additional challenges as all sessions had to cater for the full range of people from 8 year olds up to international fell runners, but it was worth it because the members felt that they had been listened to and they got what they wanted.
5. Ask your participants for ongoing feedback
Some people will let you know straight away if something isn't going right whilst others will simply disappear and be lost to the club. It has been a valuable exercise to use some of the social time to chat to members about what they thought of that evenings session and take on board some of their suggestions. Again this makes people feel valued.
6. Be flexible
Although there is an overall yearly coaching plan it is important to have the capacity to change things as they develop. Coaching in a satellite club is going to be a new experience and it is important to be able make changes based on your own observations and those of your members.
7. Let people know what is going on
Initially people were excited by the newness of everything and were more or less prepared to do whatever. Now that they are more familiar with how things work they are more interested in what is coming up in the following weeks. We now post a programme on the clubs website. However this can cause other problems if the programme needs to be changed at short notice. A partial solution to this to update people by e-mail.
8. Use expertise already within your membership
One of our members is a yoga teacher and has done several of the warm down sessions for us. I can't guarantee that you will get a yoga teacher within your membership but it may be worth asking around to see if anyone has a particular area of expertise
9. Use the dark to your advantage
Anyone who has been night orienteering will tell you that the dark makes simple areas suddenly a lot more complicated. This can be used to a coaches advantage. School grounds can be used to teach more advanced skills simply by using smaller controls in the dark. Examples of successful sessions include attack point, aiming off and rough compass.
10. Break people in gently
Most people will be new to the sport and it is safest to start by assuming no knowledge. This approach did put off one or two experienced orienteers who were looking for some regular training but suited the vast majority of the membership. The more experienced can always join in at a later date when the new membership have progressed.
Specific Training Ideas Used at Buxton
These ideas are outside of mainstream coaching and are specifically aimed at getting the club through the dark nights.
Running Based Fitness
The Baffler (Thanks to Pennine Fell Runners for this one)
The baffler is an exercise based on completing a number of repetitions around a circular route. People are paired up according to ability in such a way that participants of all abilities can train together. Most often the training goal is to increase people's anaerobic threshold. However the session could be adapted to meet other needs. As the name suggests this one is difficult to explain so here goes!
When conducting the session it is important to emphasise the following:
The Baffler (Adapted for Hill Reps)
The same principles used for the baffler are adapted here for use on a hilly course. It is important to note that in this version of the baffler participants do not run round a circuit. They run up and down a hill (diagram 4). Unlike traditional hill reps the participants work hard both up and down the hill. Being able to run fast both up and down hill is a useful skill for orienteers to have.
In Buxton we have done this on “the slopes” which is a hilly area with a smooth tarmac paths away from cars and is lit by street lamps. It is ideal in the sense that there is safe and well lit but running hard downhill on tarmac isn't great for the joints. A field 150 – 200m long that has at least some ambient light and is relatively free from lumps and bumps would be perfect but a creative coach can adapt this to their own circumstances.
With this session I use a short hill which takes people between 70 and 90 seconds to run up and down. I give them a minute rest between each circuit as they are also recovering when their partner is running. This places the session firmly in the realms of lactic acid (or put another way, pain tolerance) training. However by varying the distance, the amount of rest etc the session could be altered to achieve different training goals.
This has been a great exercise to do together as a club. In order to keep the focus on orienteering the circuit has been kept really simple and the emphasis has been put on doing some “technical” training during the rest phase. The following exercises have been found to work well:
There are countless other things that you could do in the rest period between the exercises but I have found that a pre-designed sheet for participants to write the answers on is useful as it minimises the amount of writing they have to do. Diagram 5 shows how the circuit is laid out in order to facilitate the technical training.
In order to maximise the effectiveness of the technical training, it is important to allow enough time in between exercises for the mental work to be done. One minute on and one minute off seems to work well. An allowance for changing over is included in this minute.
Typically the circuit used at Buxton has been set up with 9 stations which are organised so that participants progress from an upper body exercise to a trunk exercise to a leg exercise. Usually participants go around the circuit once, have a short break and then go around it a second time. A maximum of four people are allowed on each station which gives the circuit a maximum capacity of 36 people.
At any one time two people on each of the station will be doing physical work and two people will be doing technical work.
Laptop and projector are especially useful here. Useful sessions have been:
Bringing in Competition Maps
We all love to talk through our courses with other people once we have run. Those who are new to orienteering will be eager to review their course and tell you about their triumphs and tragedies. This usually takes place in the social time.
There is a certain resistance to these exercises amongst experienced orienteers. However the new members at Buxton have had no such qualms and have got stuck in. I think that even experienced orienteers would benefit from these exercises as they encourage good fundamentals. Again there are many books that have been written on this subject. However I found that indoor map making exercises in particular engaged experienced and novice orienteers alike.
What about the streets? Even if you don't have an orienteering map of your local streets it is very easy to print one off street map or a similar on-line mapping programme. Diagram 6 shows a very simple score event that was planned by one of the student coaches. They also produced a question sheet (diagram 7) and some answers (diagram 8). This was done as a pre Christmas Score event with festive prizes. This went down really well with the members and made them think hard about route choice.
Summary and Conclusion
There is no one set formula that will guarantee a satellite club success. Although many of the problems that lead coaches will encounter will be similar, each coach will have to come up with their own solutions. In order to achieve this, satellite club coaches need to think in a much wider sense than simply planning, delivering and evaluating coaching sessions. The key to success at Buxton has been in taking time to understand the local environment and then working closely with others in order to get the club off the ground. I hope that by reading this article that others who have taken the brave decision start their own satellite club can adapt at least some of these ideas to help them achieve success.
Variations on Street Orienteering Exercises by Neil Crickmore
During the Southdowns Orienteers weekly club night sessions we have put on some alternatives to the standard street score events. These are detailed below and the accompanying pdf files show examples of these formats.
Street Hash – Hashes are well established in running circles and are usually marked in the terrain with chalk, powder etc. In this variation the runners have a map and navigate to the decision point. At the decision point (usually a road junction) the direction they take is determined by the name of the roads at that junction. At each junction two options are available and marked on the map with two different letters. The runners take the option where the letter matches the first letter of the road entering the junction. As in a normal hash there will be dead ends to allow the slower runners to catch up.
Observation Run – Here a simple route is marked on the map by means of arrows. The runners follow this route but en route have to answer a number of typical street orienteering questions. The catch is that the locations of the points where the answers to these questions can be found are not shown on the map. The runners must therefore keep their eyes open for the chip shop or whatever whilst running and navigating. The questions are set however in the order that they will be encountered on the run. Time penalties are given for missing answers – these should be severe enough that simply sprinting round the course will not be better than answering most of questions correctly whilst running at a reasonable pace. Ideally there should be a variation in “leg lengths”.
Numbers Run – A number of control points are marked on the map and a set, continuous, route pre-determined between them. Each control point is given a number but no indication of the course. Competitors set off and head to any of the points – at this point they find the answer to a simple question - the answer to the question will be a number – the number of the next control point on the course. In this way the competitors will “navigate” themselves around the course. When they have visited all the controls they head to the finish.
Beck Map – Attempt to redraw the street map in the stylistic way that Harry Beck simplified the London Underground map. Set a score event as normal. Allow the less brave to carry a (sealed) normal map with them.
School Hall and School Grounds Exercises by Neil Crickmore