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
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
3. Improve the competitive performance of US orienteering athletes to
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
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
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
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.