Today we are proud to shine the spotlight on...
As well as celebrating the work University clubs do with regard to supporting the progression and development of members, this award looks at how clubs are looking to build through the management of volunteers and partnerships outside of the club.
Congratulations to Sheffield University Orienteering and Fell Running Club winners of this year's award!
Sheffield University Orienteering and Fell Running Club had a remarkable past 12 months. They are proud to have thrived in the environment created by the Covid pandemic, creating unique and engaging ways for new and old members to stay connected to the club.
Sheffield University Orienteering Club maintained training motivation with a series of weekly virtual MapRun orienteering events, as well as a monthly virtual fell race within the club. As far as they could, they continued all of our traditional training with sessions being posted online daily and a circuit training session over Zoom every Monday. To help include new members to the club, they introduced a buddy run scheme where a more experienced runner would show a newer runner the routes of Sheffield, integrating them into the social side of the club at a time where interaction was limited. All of this effort culminated in Sheffield University Orienteering Club winning the Sport Sheffield Digital Engagement Award, awarded to the sports club that most effectively made use of virtual media resources. As an extension of this, the quality of their publicity increased massively this year. They completely reworked their website which peaked at over 1,500 page views in a month, over triple what they had ever previously achieved. They also kept members informed through regularly updated Instagram and Facebook pages, as well as a weekly email that included details on training, successes of the past week, and a photo of the week's competition.
Their numbers have stayed even from pre-pandemic times. Importantly, their gender split is the closest it has been since online membership records started and they have a far wider spread of ages and year groups, including a large number of postgraduate students joining in the past year.
They have heavily focused on inclusivity over the last few years, providing opportunities for those new to orienteering to fall in love with the sport. They have strengthened ties with Sheffield Hallam University - who have always been a valued part of the team but who had previously been slightly neglected – by introducing weekly introductory sessions at Hallam and moving training to locations more practical for both universities.
Sheffield University Orienteering Club has also been heavily involved in the Pride campaigns led by the University of Sheffield. 2021 was also a year in which they bolstered our relationship with South Yorkshire Orienteers, with Sheffield University Orienteering Club members planning and organising three of their events throughout the year and providing helpers at many more.
In 2021, Sheffield University Orienteering Club took up the task of organising the first British University Championships (BUCS) Orienteering Championships for 3 years. Again, Sheffield University Orienteering Club focused on inclusivity, for the first time making the Women’s A a TD5 course and introducing a Women’s C category to align it with the Men’s competition. While the event itself took place in 2022, the majority of the hard work and planning was in 2021, with a significant number of university students willing to volunteer their time to create an event that ultimately ran as smoothly and successfully as it did.
Runners-up in this award category this year are as listed...
Edinburgh University Orienteering Club and Leeds University Union Orienteering Club.
Edinburgh University Orienteering Club offers a wide range of training and social events during the week and in addition, provides many opportunities for weekends away.
During the pandemic, the club diversified its activities to offer as much social interaction as possible: virtual art sessions, virtual bake-offs, quizzes, virtual Christmas meals, a tennis tournament, stretching sessions...there was something on every week, for every taste. The club offers a weekly, non-drinking social, “Pasta Night” where everyone gathers in someone’s flat, and the hosts cook pasta for the whole club.
This year, the bi-weekly ‘Fight with the Night’ series often offered a TD3 course for beginners.
The club is also very focused on the mental health of its members. We have a designated Wellbeing and Inclusion Officer who posts weekly reports on a range of wellbeing topics such as overtraining, nutrition, and long-term injury. These posts are often relayed by local clubs.
Edinburgh University Orienteering Club is very active during the university’s Welcome Week. It provides 3 taster sessions to convince new members to join. In addition, a “Families” system was put in place this year where old and new members were paired together. This year the club saw a record number of members: 74 total, 9 more than last year!
Edinburgh University Orienteering Club members range from complete beginners to GB athletes, but everyone’s achievements are valued equally. For our weekly club email, our coach makes sure to include everyone’s results, whether it is an international representation or a beginner completing his first Parkrun!
Edinburgh University Orienteering Club worked hard on strengthening ties with its alumni club Auld Reekie Orienteering Society (AROS) and in November 2021, the first AROS Alumni Ball took place with over 100 guests! The club partnered with many new sponsors: NVii/Compass point/ OTE/Uplands Roast. In March 2021, the club organised a fundraiser for the Scottish Mountain rescue.
Edinburgh University Orienteering Club organised its yearly Big Weekend with great success despite having to work around COVID restrictions. Over 560 members attended from all over the UK, and this event generated a profit of £5,800 which will be invested back into club members by subsidizing an Edinburgh University Orienteering Club Summer Holiday mainly, as well as club trips to the British Champs, Scottish Champs, and the JK. The event included a Trail-O for the first time ever to increase inclusivity.
Membership for the club is extremely low and the club also subsidises kits and weekends away to make them as inclusive as possible.
Plans for the future include; Providing more “desk training” on navigational skills; Reducing the membership fee of non-Edinburgh University students to promote inclusivity; Developing the coaching capacity of the club by encouraging members to attend British Orienteering coaching courses. Edinburgh University Orienteering Club worked in close partnership with the World Orienteering Championships 2024 (WOC2024) this year to update maps in Edinburgh and we will help plan a pre-WOC training camp.
Leeds University Union Orienteering Club is the orienteering and fell running club at the University of Leeds and has a wide range of members, from complete beginners to elite orienteers, and from first-year undergraduates to Ph.D. students. Weekly activities organised by Leeds University Union Orienteering Club include Thursday night social runs which are headtorch offroad runs on the forested and rocky Meanwood trail. These runs are usually split into groups depending on running ability with leaders for each group which ensures no one is left behind. Forest orienteering training has been organised by the club in areas near to the university such as Meanwood Park and Bramley Fall. Alongside these activities, Leeds University Union Orienteering Club regularly organises trips to local Airienteers events, as well as to fell races and orienteering events in the Yorkshire Dales and further afield.
Leeds University Union Orienteering Club's small committee volunteers a huge amount of time for the club and many members help out in different ways from coaching at orienteering training to organising the Leeds University Union Orienteering Club fancy dress for the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) orienteering championships social.
The local club Airienteers put on Wednesday evening orienteering events including the winter night scores and spring sprint series which Leeds University Union Orienteering Club regularly attend, and some Leeds University Union Orienteering Club members are part of and volunteer with both clubs.
Membership is only £5 for the whole year in order to enable people to get into orienteering and fell running regardless of experience or background. Leeds University Union Orienteering Club has a store of kit that is free to borrow which includes head torches, compasses, and fell race kits so that all members can take part in Leeds University Union Orienteering Club activities. The cost of race entries is not a barrier as Leeds University Union Orienteering Club generously pays orienteering and fell race entry fees for members. Leeds University Union Orienteering Club organises hire cars when events are not accessible by public transport so everyone can participate.
Leeds University Union Orienteering Club has attracted members of other University of Leeds sports clubs to join in with the Thursday social runs including from Cross-country and Mountaineering, which has been a good way to introduce new people to orienteering. Leeds University Union Orienteering Club has set up a joint discounted membership with the Cross-country club to encourage like-minded people to try the sport. Some Leeds University Union Orienteering Club members who joined primarily for the fell running activities have also gone on to try out orienteering and attending events. Leeds University Union Orienteering Club has built up membership this year, the club has gone from only three members attending the last BUCS to a team of twelve signed up for BUCS 2022 in Sheffield.
Thank you to all who submitted nominations for British Orienteering's Annual Awards this year.
Many congratulations to all our winners and runner-ups!
This year has been incredible to hear and see the commitment and ongoing hard work clubs and members give to the sport of Orienteering. You are the lifeblood of the sport. Thank you to you all!