Planning Direction to ensure we cater for Adult Beginners

Dear Planners, Controllers and Organisers,

Firstly I would like to say thank you for your continued support to the MLS; without you it would not be possible for the MLS to cater for around 6000 entries each year during the winter season alone. A truly impressive statistic!

However, I feel strongly that orienteering is not currently catering for the adult beginner – instead the course progression from White to Black is set up to develop juniors who grow up orienteering.  Our soldiers are familiar with OS maps that depict a very different level of detail compared to an orienteering map and I think that it is this change that many struggle to deal with.  Last season 567 people (out of the 1343 total) attempted only one event over the winter season which suggests to me that, following an unsuccessful run out, too many didn’t feel that orienteering was something they wanted to do again.

I believe that our novice course, often called ‘Long Orange’ or ‘Red’ is not fit for purpose; often it is planned using controls also being used on the TD4/5 courses to reduce the planners burden.  This then results in a course with a TD level 3 which I believe is too difficult for our adult beginners to learn about orienteering maps and develop their navigational skills from OS to O Maps.  I also think that novice courses are sometimes too short to make them worthwhile for an afternoon ‘phys session’, increasing the likelihood that a soldier will want to attempt something that appears more physically demanding, eventually resulting in a DNF. 

Therefore, I would like to ask all planners to consider the ‘Red’ course as a priority over the planning of other courses.  The ‘Red’ course should be no harder than a TD2, maybe with slightly adapted BOF guidelines for TD2 i.e. controls placed on very obvious features like track junctions or buildings but with longer legs than normally expected on a ‘Yellow’.  Course lengths should be around 6km.

I realise that this will be breaking the norm and is slightly counter to the traditional guidelines but please consider the suggestion seriously.  I notice the same trend in the wider orienteering community in the UK; my analysis suggests that orienteering will see a rapid decrease in popularity over the next 20 years if we don’t do something to attract the young adults – many of whom enjoy very similar activities to orienteering (Brutal, Tough Mudder, etc).

Please get in touch with me if you would like to discuss this further, I would be interested in your thoughts.

Maj Andy Brett

MLS Secretary