Orienteering in schools


Orienteering is becoming a popular school sport

Recent results from the School Sports Survey 2007/08, published by the Department for Culture, Media And Sport, has shown an increase in the number of schools offering orienteering to pupils, with headline figures published with the report mentioning orienteering amongst the "non-traditional" sports that schools are embracing. Alongside sports such as golf (up from 14% to 38%), cycling (up from 21% to 46%), archery (up from 7% to 24%) is orienteering, which is up from 46% to 62% since 2003/04.

As we've previously seen in discussions on Nopesport, starting orienteering at school is a popular route into the sport, but is it as successful as it could be? While 62% of schools are offering orienteering, only 8% have links with clubs - a clear gap which could help with increasing numbers of youngsters not only getting involved in the sport, but getting hooked. But what are the best ways to create this link?

From personal experience I was lucky enough to get a free family membership to my local club when winning a local schools championship, along with a list of upcoming fixtures in the local area. So I convinced my dad to take me to some races, and even dragged some friends along too. While the friends soon lost interest, both myself and my father were hooked enough to start going regularly, and the club (INVOC) was suitably supportive to help arrange lifts for me to get to bigger events and others that my parents couldn't take me to.

One of the difficulties is convincing some parents that taking their child to an orienteering event, or any sport for that matter, is time well spent and essential for their upbringing. The need for suitable support in progressing from school sports through to regular participation and onto elite competition has been recognised by both athletes and the Government alike.School orienteering

Children's Secretary Ed Balls commented: "Medallist after medallist at the Beijing Olympics paid tribute to their families' dedication in helping them achieve their dreams.

"The bottom line is that encouraging and supporting their children to exercise should be part and parcel of day to day life for families, whatever their talent - from simply making sure they've got the right PE kit and giving permission for off-school sport activities to training to actively volunteering to help run sports clubs.

"We need to engage parents who don't encourage their kids to do exercise because they do not know what is on offer in schools or who were turned off sport by poor facilities and teaching when they were growing up. We need to break the cycle - if today's children don't play sport, then the odds are their own children won't."

Schools Orienteering"Hundreds of thousands of parents already play a massive role in helping their children exercise. We need schools and clubs to all to work engage more local parents - and every parent to take responsibility for their children doing exercise and sport outside schools, not just teachers."

The final two points in particular seem especially true, so should this be where attention is focused by clubs and the Regional Development Officers? Schools seem to have bought into the benefits of orienteering, now we need to convince parents too.

So what is the best way to sell the sport to parents and guardians, as they are the ones who will ultimately decide whether a child continues with orienteering or not?

Head over to the forums to share your experiences and information on how your club operates with local schools, what works and what doesn't. How can we capitalise on growth of the sport in schools to try and bring through a new wave of young orienteers, not to mention attempt to tackle the problems brought about by the aging population of orienteers in the country.

Discuss this now.

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