Tim Herod, Development Officer, speaks with Will Harrison on his new role of Chair of Suffolk Orienteering Club.
Will, you recently took up the volunteer role of Club Chair at SUFFOC and I would like to ask you some questions not only about your role but your involvement with the sport.
What encouraged you to take up orienteering and who was the main influence?
"Our three children competed from a young age in orienteering events under the tutelage of David Roach at Barnardiston School. Driving them to events I soon realised that orienteering is not a great spectator sport so my wife, Margaret and I started running too."
What attracted you to the sport of orienteering?
"I was a cross country runner in my youth, and have always been a keen hill walker, so putting both together made good sense. The pleasure I now get from orienteering is running in beautiful countryside, navigating in areas I would never otherwise visit. A tidy run, with few errors, always helps in the satisfaction stakes.
My son is a competitive orienteer, and there aren’t many sports where a middle-aged amateur, such as myself, can compete at the same major events and on the same terrain as the nation’s best orienteers."
How long have you been involved with orienteering and has this always been with your current club SUFFOC? What was the main reason for joining the club?
"I started competing at local events in 2010 and joined SUFFOC shortly thereafter, the club has always been supportive and welcoming for the whole family."
I have seen you at events helping shadow newcomers at events, how many other areas have you helped as a volunteer during the time you have been with the club? and which of these did you enjoy the most?
"I started with routine event jobs such as car parking, setting up and registration and moved on to organising and planning events. though I still have plenty to learn.
It is a pleasure to be part of a team at a successful event, whatever your role. Looking longer term, it is satisfying to see newcomers and youngsters come into the sport, enjoy themselves and develop their skills."
Were you asked by the club to help or was it something that you just fell into and became a way of supporting the club in running events and activities?
"SUFFOC is not a large club, so it seemed a natural process to help out where possible. We have gained a lot of pleasure from orienteering, so trying to support the future activity of the club is an appropriate response."
You are the new Chairperson for the club. What has impressed you about the club?
"All the work that quietly goes on behind the scenes, and the depth of experience and knowledge within the club. Mapping, scheduling, organising, planning, controlling, coaching, schools liaison and publicity are all ticking away in the background, ensuring that events can take place."
What are you looking forward to in your new role in helping the club develop for the future?
"Well, no radical changes planned. We want to continue to encourage newcomers and youngsters into the sport by offering support and creating a welcoming atmosphere. It is easy to forget how daunting the whole process of an orienteering event can seem to an outsider.
Also, we want to keep working on the provision of coaching and opportunities for existing members to develop their skills, whatever their level.
We have an active East Anglian Junior Squad, which provides an excellent environment for the development of youngsters. The national training camps and elite level competitions are very valuable for making the sport attractive to the next generations."
The sport is dependent on a wide range of volunteers, have you any advice to people who might be thinking about volunteering but are unsure of how to go about it?
"Start small and enjoy being part of a team. Ask questions, draw on the experience of individuals within the club and grab any training opportunities.
Family and work commitments will often limit opportunities to volunteer, but that is fine, any contribution is welcome."
Does the club have a plan for developing the next generation of volunteers?
"Aspiring volunteers are encouraged to become officials and we make use of training within East Anglia for safety courses, mapping and controlling. Coaching courses are supported for those interested.
Experienced orienteers can be a bit critical of courses and maps when many days, weeks or months of work have been contributed freely – we want to encourage a culture where the feedback of constructive ideas and positive support bolster the next generation of planners, organisers and mappers."
Thank you, Will. British Orienteering wishes you all the very best with your new volunteer role as Chair of Suffolk Orienteering Club.