Early in 2020, Manchester and District Orienteering Club (MDOC), in partnership with the permanent orienteering administration body for Greater Manchester, GMOA, applied for a Sport England grant to support an initiative to help city families learn about orienteering. The project aimed to help families gain confidence in using local open spaces so they might become regularly involved in orienteering.
The plan was for MDOC to create a series of monthly events for beginners (four in the Autumn and four in the Spring) in easily accessible parks across Greater Manchester. Using relatively simple technical areas and help from volunteer explainers, participants could progress from absolute novice to having enough skills to tackle something harder.
Thanks to the work of GMOA, Greater Manchester is notable for having over 60 mapped parks and Permanent Orienteering Courses across the region. This fantastic resource was also key to the bid as it meant that in-between the monthly events, newcomers could be encouraged to practise at a Permanent Orienteering Course, which added continuity to the learning process.
The programme would be backed up by four bespoke coaching videos to help people move through the technical levels and act as a reminder when trying out Permanent Orienteering Courses on their own.
MDOC were delighted to gain the award and then of course Covid19 shut down the nation. Fortunately, Sport England encouraged flexibility and MDOC were able to revise the bid in the light of Covid restrictions, particularly those discouraging novices at club events.
Rather than facing a long period when only established orienteers could enjoy the sport, MDOC realised that combining its Permanent Orienteering Courses with self-help coaching videos could still offer a great opportunity for newcomers to try the sport. By promoting both together, they hope they will see 'experienced' newcomers eventually come to regular orienteering events.
The coaching videos are being made now by Katherine Bett and Sarah Brown (who were the team behind The Orienteering Foundation film on Permanent Orienteering Courses, as well as the Get up to Speed series with GB athletes) and should be ready by the end of September.
Manchester and District Orienteering Club are grateful to Sport England for their investment in this project.