‘Blockers’ are things which get in the way of running a successful club and its development. At the LVO Strategy Workshop, after an introduction and presentation by Mike McClure of SportNI, see here, 3 groups of us identified the top blockers. In alphabetical order they were:
- Funding: events barely cover their costs. Mapping is expensive and maps have a very limited life span due to initiatives like bike trails and other refurbishments of parks or forests. The club only survives because of volunteer mappers and a small group who are constantly applying for grants. The club currently enjoys rent-free storage for the MOO and equipment, but this cannot be guaranteed in the future.
- Permissions: landowners are having to deal with an increasing number of insurance claims, and as a result are demanding the club signs increasingly restrictive event contracts, some of which our insurers have warned us are not acceptable. You will have noticed that the Start List you sign now asks you to acknowledge and accept the risks you undertake when competing. Mike McClure had lots of useful insights on how outdoor activities should focus much more on risk / benefit analysis rather than just risks, but if our landowners and insurers can not be brought to a common understanding of how risk and responsibilities can be managed, this poses an existential threat to orienteering.
- Social interaction at events: everybody has a very busy life, so there is a great temptation to arrive at the event, compete and then leave – the pay-and-play model. This has downsides: you don’t get to know other club members and you don’t improve because you’re not participating in the post-mortem on route choice and the event. You’re not plugged in to the orienteering community. Some form of social activity is needed. When I started orienteering, Bill Simpson used to decree which local pub would host the post-event decompression and post mortem – maybe we need a modern equivalent?
- Terrain: there is a tension between the hardcore traditional orienteers, who want mentally and physically challenging orienteering in the wilds and newcomers / families with small children who just want a run round a local park.
- Travel: with the support of British Orienteering and its Development Officer Juls Hanvey, the club has three successful hubs – Urban-O Explorers Belfast, Tollymore Orienteers and Orchard County Orienteers based around Craigavon / Armagh. The core LVO club runs the introductory summer Wednesday Evening Event (WEE) Series. However, not many hub or WEE Series participants have graduated to the main club events (the 3 Spring Cup and the 3 Autumn Trophy events and the NI Colour Series, see the main club website). Equally, not many members have been travelling to hub events away from their normal area. Initiatives to bring the different groupings together are badly needed, so that everybody involved with the club feels a sense of ownership and belonging.
- Upskilling: the club needs a constant stream of new people to come in, get enthused and contribute to the development of the club and its programme of events. In order to make that happen we need mentoring and appropriate courses. Juls organised a very successful Event Safety course in Tollymore recently, but that did require everyone present to give up their evening.
- Volunteer fatigue: orienteering events are time-consuming to plan and organise. There are many instances of both energetic newcomers and experienced orienteers who have become burned out. Before there were IT solutions for entries and results processing, it was necessary for every competitor to help in some small way, otherwise there wouldn’t have been an event or any results. Volunteer fatigue is a very common problem in community amateur sports clubs, even in activities like Park Runs which are much simpler to organise. At the other extreme, commercial organisations charge fees which are orders of magnitude larger than O-fees, but they pay officials.
The blockers are of course related: if we had more social interaction at events people would feel more inclined to travel to events outside their immediate area, to try more technical events if they haven’t done so and they would be much more likely to help at an event if asked by someone they knew and trusted. Once they help out at an event, they are more likely to sign up to upskilling courses in Event Safety or an Introduction to Planning or Organising.
But, Rome wasn’t built in a day and there is no reason why we can’t make lots of useful improvements without too much effort.
The next step is to vote on what you see as the key blockers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject Blockers and the text below:
You have 3 votes of value 3, 2 or 1, which you can distribute how you wish. For example, if you think cracking the Volunteers issue is key, return
- Volunteers 3, 2, 1
You can also of course just return one score for each of the 3 blockers you see as the most important, ranked 3, 2 and 1.
Once we’ve identified the top 5 blockers, we’ll look for opportunities to address these challenges. Though we overran our time at the workshop, some initial ideas came out (Just to give a flavour of a few I heard about: persuade a mobile coffee dock / pizza van to come to all WEEs; work with our visitors from SportNI and Belfast City Council and our insurers to develop a model contract everybody is happy with; have a succession of training events at the same location to build interest; encourage developments in the Sporteering app to improve the experience and reduce the work in staging an event).
I didn’t get a chance to capture these, so please add your ideas for addressing the blockers to your email and I’ll collate them for the next instalment.
Especially if you attended the workshop, please please do this. You’ve already invested a lot in the exercise so let’s capture the value.
Get those brain cells and typing fingers working!