Between the ages of 12 and 18, we lose approximately half of our junior orienteers. There is a significant drop off from the age of 14. Whilst a level of drop-off is to be expected in any sport during this turbulent time in young people’s lives this rapid decline is something we can’t ignore.
Individuals fall out of the sport at all levels but more so at the base of the pyramid. They may never make a British Orienteering talent squad or even a Junior Regional Squad but every single junior matters.
There is clear evidence of a considerable number of children are trying orienteering, with some joining clubs, but the majority drop out during their teenage years.
There is also a degree of segregation between junior and adult orienteering. For example, there are many schools leagues with events well populated by juniors. However mainstream orienteering events show consistently low numbers of junior participation, frequently with <10% of runners as juniors.
British Orienteering wishes to build a strategy to address youth membership and participation across all ages & experience levels. This is intended to deliver a more balanced and integrated orienteering population, with clear pathways and satisfaction for juniors at all levels of achievement.
There are many questions to address. Some example questions are:
• How can we boost junior membership & participation?
• How should we best target juniors & families to start orienteering?
• How can we encourage juniors in schools leagues to take up club membership?
• What should a club offer for teenagers?
• Should we encourage more junior coaching in clubs? How?
• How to develop more university clubs?
• What should the sport provide for juniors not in the squad and talent systems?
• How can we leverage new technology and social media?
• How should we celebrate and involve juniors in the running of our sport?
• How can Orienteering events be more youth-friendly?
• How should we work together to develop juniors in England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland?
Much of the work needed can be achieved at a local level, and there is already great work for juniors being done in many sectors of the orienteering community. There are also actions required on a national basis to provide a better experience for our young orienteers. This will build on the Junior Development Framework presented at the 2016 Association & Club Conference.
All ideas large and small are welcome! Please share your input by e-mailing (in any format) by 31 December 2017 to Phil Conway development lead for youth. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org