O Log - USOF Mission Statement

[29-Oct-03] 

    Someone proposed on the USOF e-mail group the idea of USOF hiring someone, or the using of a volunteer, to collate all club local meet schedules that are published on the internet into a document that could be published in ONA.

    In a rare post to that group I brought up my attitude that a better use of USOF's resources (either money or volunteer capacity) would be to direct them 100% towards JWOC and WOC results, and sanctioned A meet quality. I have no specific proposals in this area other than throwing money or time at map printing (offset)/map case quality and course consulting if there is cash or time to throw around. More to my point was the attitude I'd be hopeful USOF would consider adopting, i.e. 100% focus on the quality areas of elite results and A meets.

    A couple of posts challenged my position, one on how does it mesh with the USOF "mission statement", and one on how does it mesh with the goal of "growth". My short response would be that I didn't claim it did, and in fact it may not, and that how about changing the mission statement if it doesn't, because I think my attitude is healthy for an organization charged with running a competitive sport. To me, it seems so self-evident that I'm not sure why I posted in the first place. I felt pretty queasy about posting this on the list, as I've seen what I call the "rec" vs "comp" argument before on that list, and it never gets anywhere constructive, IMHO. So I didn't, but I felt like exploring some thoughts on this issue after all.

    The USOF mission statement is --

    1. Provide orienteering as a viable and attractive recreation choice for US outdoor enthusiasts.

    2. Promote orienteering for education, personal development and environmental awareness.

    3. Improve the competitive performance of US orienteering athletes to world-class levels.

    I must admit that USOF does make a go at this mission statement, and my quibble is with the mission itself. In fact, there is an initiative to cross-promote O and geocaching, for example, which I guess falls into area 1. First observation is, sadly, that there is no mention of striving for quality in sanctioned or sponsored races. I guess I cannot argue for this, because it is not in the mission statement. A second observation is that this mission statement doesn't really say anything about growth, but I guess that is implicit somewhere (area 2), because growing the recreational base always seems to come up in these discussions (sometimes coupled with a hidden charge of "elitism", but with me, its not like that at all).

    The gist of my argument is that an organization with the limited resources of USOF would be more likely to achieve its mission if the mission itself were smaller. Rather than a three pronged mission statement, how about a two pronged one, or a one pronged one, like point 3. It is simply a matter of perhaps spreading yourself too thin and losing focus if your mission itself is bigger than your resources.

    I would propose the mission statement be changed to --

    To achieve quality competitive orienteering, in both international elite/junior results and nationally sanctioned races.

    I would still be challenged on the "growth" issue. My mission statement doesn't exclude a single individual, so it could not be labeled "anti-growth". It is still "all welcome". You don't have to be Lance Armstrong to ride a bike. And certainly, the more people, the bigger the labor/dues pool, and prospective elite athlete pool, so it is not "anti-growth".

    I think I have a build it and they will come attitude. I am of the opinion that quality attracts people -- high profile elites and results with high quality national races would attract people, but this is belief, not fact or science.

    Other than simply getting behind this mission as an organization and seeing if the sport grew better than it does under the present mission statement (which I understand to not be that well, so what is there to lose?), it would take alot of work to move this belief into the realm of science. If I had the time, some analyses might be --

    Look at cycling before and after Lance Armstrong. Control for changes in resources used in promotion to the base that are unrelated to Lance. See if improvement in the elite results correlated with growth (or atrophy) of the base recreational cyclist. Do this for other sports. Woman's World Cup? William's Sisters? How about O participation before and after Ted de St. Croix's impressive finish in the '85 WOC. In my mind, 10th place would certainly qualify as "quality elite results", but would it show up on the radar? Would first place at WOC in O? I'm willing to accept that my belief is wrong, or that year after year of these results is needed. I'm also willing to assert that the growth issue may be something cultural and systemic, meaning O isn't going to grow in the US regardless of what you do. That doesn't bother me. Striving for quality rather than growth of the rec base still makes me feel better. I don't exclude the rec base, whereas diverting resources may compromise quality.

    Another analysis that could be done is to look at present USOF growth programs, and look at the return on investment. Do they really deliver growth or not? For example, NOD. It should not be to difficult to look at the costs involved with putting on NOD, and the number of active members of USOF one year later who were brought in as a result of NOD, and further, the number of those who are promising elites or juniors (since that is point 3 of the present mission statement). One would then have an idea if the present growth approach is worth the expenditure of time and money (and thus is it worth defending if my mission statement is proposed).

    Finally, and fair enough if my attitude is challenged, I can examine other resource allocations of USOF. One example is the $4000 subsidy for the '03 convention, the $2000 subsidy for the '04 convention, and the proposal at the present board meeting for an open-ended $2000 subsidy beyond '04. That seems like alot of money, more than I remember in the WOC and JWOC team buckets, or perhaps in line, the numbers are not in front of me.

    But how does any of this resource allocation relate to the mission statement? It was stated to me after I challenged these subsidies at the last board meeting, that the convention would fail without them. But it really isn't in the mission statement to have a convention. And I'm not sure how it would achieve the unwritten objective of growth. I don't have a wish that the convention fail, but it seems to me that those benefiting from it should pay for it, not all of USOF. If they are unwilling to pay, cut back on benefit or let it fail. The teams, on the other hand, are generally made up of younger people who have less money. They're expenses should be subsidized more. They aren't really "benefiting", but carrying out part of USOF's mission by going to WOC/JWOC. (Now, if the convention were an elite or junior training camp, then perhaps this argument would evaporate. But the last time I asked, it was not known whether the convention dates conflicted with JWOC or other big international races. If the organizers did not know this, it was unlikely they were planning them as these sorts of training camps).

    I was told that "about 150" people were expected at the convention. I don't know how many attended, but taking that number, that is a subsidy of $27 a head. A lot of money, but considering hotel, car, and other expenses of travel to the convention, something that could be absorbed and not really make a difference. OTOH, considering 16 WOC/JWOC athletes, that same subsidy could have been $250 more for them, which I think makes more of a difference, and sends a better message. Or, that subsidy could probably cover the cost of offset printing at all A meets which did not have it, providing a better quality experience and benefit to more athletes.

    At the upcoming board meeting, there is a request for $9000 for a new program relating to colleges. I do not know much about the proposed program, so I cannot make intelligent commentary on it and have absolutely no intention to pooh-pooh it, except to observe that that looks like alot of money, and that I would hope, if this request is approved, that some ROI analysis is done after the fact to see if the objectives of that money relative to the mission statement were met.

    Well, I'm glad I didn't post this on the club net. I have no idea who reads my pages -- you do so at your own risk, and my intent is certainly not to inflame or pooh-pooh, but to simply think to myself, and share some food for thought for the interested. I guess its clear why I'm not on the board anymore. OTOH, I won't be running in a WOC/JWOC, and if I make the standing team, would pay my own way if there are any expenses relating to that, so there is no real self interest in these thoughts, except to see higher quality meets and more of a rallying behind our elites.

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