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Tweet Wednesday 30th June 2021

The OATS Project - Combining of Sports: Orienteering, Athletics and Triathlon

A new project developed in the North West of Northern Ireland to combine Orienteering, Athletics and Triathlon.

The project recognises the crossover in the three sports and hopes that this collaboration will bring a new way of training and connecting for young athletes and their families.

.  Credit 

Photo (left):  North West Orienteering Club Coach Anthony McGonigle.
Photos (middle and right):  City of Derry Spartans session in action.

North West Orienteering Club has teamed up City of Derry Spartans and North West Triathlon Club on an ongoing project that hopes to bring young people back to sport and encourage new participants particularly after a drop off in youth participation due to the events of the last year.

City of Derry Spartans is heading up the project that is supported through Sport Northern Ireland’s Build Back Better funding.

Bridgeen Byrne is the Project Coordinator and has been the driving force behind it all, she says:
At City of Derry Spartans we were concerned that we were losing athletes because of the prolonged lockdown and after speaking with parents we realised that some athletes were lacking in confidence and morale in general was low. We approached Athletics NI and Action Mental Health for support and ideas of how we could bring athletes back and attract newcomers and Jackie Newton came up with the idea to partner with North West Orienteering Club(NWOC) and North West Triathlon Club (NWTC).  Jackie and Juls Hanvey were fully on board from the start. This led to us bidding for funding from Sport NI under Project Reboot and the OATS project came to fruition. We are delighted to have been successful and to be working closely with the guys from NWOC and Shauna Mullan and her team from NWTC. Orienteering is definitely a big draw for the parents and young people as they are excited to be learning these new navigating skills and planning something different outdoors as a family.”

Bridgeen goes on to explain the set up further:
“So far the project has facilitated 60 young people aged 11-17 getting back outdoors, learning new skills, and making new friends.

These young people have come from 7 different schools in Derry / Londonderry also making this a cross community initiative.

We have just completed our first OATS (Spring) 4-week Project and we are now planning our Summer, Autumn and Winter Projects with 60 new participants in each. We are super excited to see what each season will bring for all our young people and their families across the city."


Juls Hanvey, Sporting Clubs Coordinator for Northern Ireland Orienteering Association who has been supporting the project, says: 
“It has been amazing to see the park alive with young people during these sessions. Running, jumping, navigating, cycling and all the other physical elements have been thoroughly enjoyed but a special outcome has been seeing the young people connect over the 4 weeks.  You can hear them across the park shouting, laughing, and competing, back where they belong!  This focus on young people’s mental health was important to us from the initial stages of planning. We really hope to see some transfer into club activity from the project, for both the young people involved and their families. We also hope to continue this collaboration with City of Derry Spartans and North West Triathlon Club as a new way of working for the area.”











North West Orienteering Club made use of the MapRun app in their training with the young people, which was a big hit! The club also plans now to put on further club sessions for young people to attend with their families as a next step into the sport.

Anthony McGonigle from North West Orienteering Club, says: 
“It was nice to be involved with the other two sports and seeing a little about how they operate and, involve the young people. Both clubs have been very complimentary about the contribution that orienteering has made to the project. The big challenge now is managing to attract some of these athletes and their parents to local orienteering events and our club. I would like to thank Juls for her energy and enthusiasm towards this project, and to thank the other two sports for the great work they did attracting the participants and organising the four sessions.”


Jackie Newton, Director of Coaching and Athlete Development for Athletics NI and former Talent and Performance Manager for British Orienteering, said:
“I am over the moon that this project has been brought to fruition. Since my days at British Orienteering, it has been an ambition to get our three sports working more closely together. After all, our roots are strongly connected, our sports share so many common elements, and we are aiming towards the same goal of developing athletes and future talent. This project is allowing us to share ideas, knowledge, coaching and athletes and we will all be better because of it. Not only that, we are also giving young people a true multi-sport experience, which is super important so that they can develop a broader range of skills than they would if they only trained in a single sport. My next ambition is to see this model adopted across other regions of the UK. I hope other clubs will take the concept and run with it!”





Photos above:  Young People getting the hang of the map.

The OATS Project T-shirt

To keep up to date on the project you can follow North West Orienteering Club on Facebook here.

British Orienteering is delighted to see this initiative working well across all three of the sports - Orienteering, Athletics, Triathalon. 
Fantastic work, well done all.

If you would like to know anything more about this project, or how you might be able to set up something similar at your club, contact Juls Hanvey, NI Development Officer who will be happy to share her knowledge with you.  Email: