Six M/W15 juniors assembled in Stirling for a busy training weekend during October half-term as part of a British Orienteering learning pilot around youth retention. Lead coach Chris Smithard, a member of the British Senior Squad, welcomed the teenagers for the first of a series of three linked sessions during the winter.
"This programme is aiming to coach a small group of athletes in some of the advanced skills needed to perform to a high standard,” said Chris. “The small size of the group enables us to focus on the individual needs of each athlete”.
The first weekend looked at agreeing personal goals for 2019 and set the athletes a mix of sprint training, Night-O and forest-based training sessions in the Trossachs. Sprint training made use of online tools that can analyse route choices, comparing distances and providing insight into which routes would be the quickest. Night-O was held in Stirling town centre, with its steep slopes near the castle.
Moving to the forest, the group performed a technical exercise at Little Druim Wood, navigating out and back along the sloping terrain. “The exercise on running across slopes was new for me,” said one young athlete. “I was videoed by my support coach, which will help me analyse my terrain-running style”.
On the final morning, the group tackled two loops at the Trossachs, one of UK’s most challenging area, both physically & technically.
The aims and objectives of the pilot are to:
1. Learn more about the coaching and training needs of this mid-teenage age group, placed within the context of youth retention
2. Understand in greater detail the value of adopting an athlete-centred, relationship-based coaching approach
3. Appreciate and learn lessons from the logistics of running a small coaching group.
The programme will run from October to February and will be athlete-centred by offering individual 1-1 discussion time with each athlete, as well as group sharing after the training sessions. In addition to focusing on individual needs, the programme will also introduce the concept of “self-help” encouraging the young orienteers to take control of their own training needs and act on them.
Run as a pilot with the support of British Orienteering the intention is to develop further knowledge of how personalised coaching can support the retention of young people in the sport.
“We would like to encourage more athlete-centred coaching in future. All orienteers have different aspirations, pressures and circumstances, and it is important that the sport offers athletes a way forward that can adapt to their needs,” said Craig Anthony, Head of Development for British Orienteering.
The Every Junior Matters Youth Strategy can be viewed here.
British Orienteering's Youth Strategy "Every Junior Matters" aims to attract and retain more young people in orienteering.
You can read the short and full versions of the strategy below: