Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

More news from Hamilton


The GHO club in Hamilton just put together an "athlete support" program. As far as I know, this is a first for North America. You can read about it at GHO4GOLD.

The basics are pretty simple. The club will pay runners a bit if they meet certain criteria, like making the WOC team or finishing well at the Ontario Champs. In exchange, the runners agree to a few conditions, like wearing the club gear and participating in club events.

One of the clubs I ran for in Sweden had a very similar system. I have a little bit of experience with this sort of thing. So, here are a few comments:

As a runner, I felt like the biggest benefit was that it made expectations clear. I knew what races the club was focused on. I knew what mattered. And I knew that everyone else knew, too. I felt like the club was paying attention to my goals and plans. A condition of the GHO4GOLD program is that you put your goals in writing, make a plan, and give it to the club. We had basically the same condition in Sweden.

I don't think the program made a significant difference in my training. I don't think the possibility of getting a little cash was enough to change my motivation. On the other hand, getting a little cash for a good performance was nice.

If there was much competition between clubs to recruit runners, I'd think a program like GHO4GOLD would send a clear signal to potential runners about the club's direction. Are there more than one club in Hamilton? I don't think so. But, imagine there were. Then imagine a young, ambitious runner decided to go to college in Hamilton. The GHO4GOLD program might get them to pick the GHO club (or if they didn't want to treat O' as a serious sport, it might get them to pick an alternative). In Sweden, that sort of signal was probably quite useful.

I think a program like GHO4GOLD sends a signal to runners that they should take the sport, and training and performing seriously. It might affect the "orienteering environment" by making it feel more like a competitive sport than an outdoor recreation. Though based on my limited exposure to the Hamilton O' scene, I think GHO has done a good job of creating that environment even without the GHO4GOLD program.

Next moves? In Sweden, we had two other ways the club spent money that are related to the GHO4GOLD program. We had a system that rewarded you for attending training sessions. You'd earn "flit" points. A training at the clubhouse might be worth one point. A night O' outside of Stockholm was worth more (maybe 3 points). The club kept track of your points and you could cash them in for O' gear or travel to events. It didn't come to a whole lot of money, but it was worth a couple of pairs of O' shoes a year for me. Another way the club spent money was to pay the salary of a trainer. The trainer worked with each individual and organized training throughout the year.

I'm guessing the "flit" points program didn't cost much, but paying a trainer must have been a good bit of money. It'll be a few years before it'd make sense for a North American club to hire a trainer.

Jayhawk fans around the world

The Kansas men's basketball team won (actually tied with Texas) the Big-12 basketball championship. That should make Kansas fans around the world -- like this one in Ulan Bator, Mongolia -- happy.

posted by Michael | 7:50 PM


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