Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Monday, April 24, 2006

What good is USOF? Part I


I posed the question yesterday, "what is the U.S. O' federation good for?"

I thought I'd start to write up a few thoughts. Consider this Part 1 (though I've no idea how many more parts there will be).

So, what good is USOF?

I'd suggest (and I'm sure many will disagree), that USOF does a couple of things pretty well:

1. Provide access to insurance for event organizers.
2. Sanction good quality events.

If you disagree with me, you probably disagree with 2.

As I think back over more-or-less 25 years of orienteering in the U.S., I can only think of two sanctioned A-meets that really sucked.* Lots of events, probably even most events, have a few problems. Lots of maps could be better. Lots of course setting could be better. Lots of organizers could do a better job. But, overall the quality is reasonable and generally improving over the years.

I haven't done any adventure races, but from what I've heard of races (even big, major events), the standard for organizers is much worse than the standard for orienteering A-meets. (Adventure racing is a much newer sport; I understand that).

I could add to my list of things USOF is good for. For example, USOF has done a good job of funding WOC teams. As far as I can tell, the US has sent a team (usually a full team) to the World Champs since the late 1970s. That's pretty remarkable for a small, low publicity sport with weak international results.

The point of asking "What good is USOF?" is twofold. First, it is an interesting exercise and if it was done carefully and systematically, I bet there is something to learn (e.g. what situations is a national federation best at dealing with). Second, as I read discussions on the internet, I think we (all of us, really) tend to focus on what people and organizations can't do (or do poorly). I'm convinced that by focusing on what someone can't do, you miss the boat -- you miss the chance to solve problems and move forward. It is quite easy to, for example, explain why you can't train properly. It is another thing to figure out how you can make the best of your situation.

After I read some of the discussion about a high performance program on Attackpoint, I've been thinking about this stuff off-and-on. I can't really explain or defend my feeling, but I'm not convinced that USOF is an organization that can do a good job at developing orienteers. That's not to say I think USOF is a bad organization; maybe it is just an organization that can best address certain types of issues (like insurance).

*For the record, I think the two lowest quality events I've been to were an A-meet in Louisiana in the early 1980s and the U.S. Relay Champs in Idaho a few years ago.

World Of O'

If you haven't already done it, you should add World Of O' to you bookmarks. World Of O' has been around for a while, but this is a new and improved version. It looks quite promising. And, I'm not saying that just because it has a link to my page.

posted by Michael | 7:22 PM


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