Following on from the highly successful Gauteng Schools League (GSL) of 2011, the SAOF under the direction of VP Development, Garry Morrison, hosted the first-ever Schools Orienteering camp at Bushtrails, Magaliesberg. All six high schools that competed in the 2011 GSL had participants at the camp, with 28 attendees in total.
Upon arrival on Friday evening, the participants were briefed by “Sergeant Major” Liz of Bushtrails. After settling in and a hearty supper of spaghetti bolognaise the camp-proper began. The junior coaches gave a great presentation on “Why we love O”. A few orienteering movies later and it was time for the highlight of the evening – the hotly contested orienteering quiz!
During the course of the camp the children were introduced to various orienteering skills and then given the opportunity to practice them. Basic skills such as keeping the map orientated, folding the map and thumbing your position were reinforced. The orienteering toolbox was laid bare and a range of exercises gave the children the opportunity to practice techniques such as traffic light orienteering, compass and pacing, use of attack points and catch features. Map walk exercises afforded the coaches the opportunity to reinforce the need for good map contact and demonstrated that the orienteering map contains much more information that can be used to improve navigation efficiency. Advanced techniques such as contour interpretation were introduced by means of a guided map walk on the final morning. The children were given the chance to put into practice what they had learned in a competitive situation by means of a star relay at the end of the first day and a relay-proper at the end of the second day. The children were all exposed to a vast amount of new information and a range of orienteering techniques. Improving their orienteering will now require them to reinforce what they have learned by regular participation.
According to VP Development, Garry Morrison the purpose of the camp was to: (i) expose the children to the greater world of orienteering; (ii) become aware that there are a number of techniques that when mastered will lead to improved orienteering performance and (iii) to have fun doing orienteering. An additional side benefit for the children is that they made friends across the different schools. The fact that a number of the children asked when the next camp would be, was encouraging to hear. “I am still very excited about the weekend and found the experience very rewarding”, said Garry. This is an opinion shared by Tania Wimberley.
Of course from a club point of view, we would like to see more children coming along to the Sunday events. There was certainly an indication that a number of the children are keen. The various Gauteng clubs need to find ways to capitalise on this. Another purpose of the camp was for the children to meet and bond with a number of regular young orienteers, i.e. the coaches. This will hopefully mean that should they come along on Sundays there will be some familiar, friendly faces and so making the club event experience less daunting.
“I think that the camp was also successful from the point of view that it introduced 6 junior orienteers to the world of coaching”, said Garry. The feedback thus far is that they are thankful for the experience and that they have learned by doing and so hopefully this will mean that the prospect of coaching is less daunting to them.
From an SAOF perspective the camp was also very successful. It hopefully sends out a message to the clubs that this type of thing is not only possible, but is critical if we are to grow the sport and make orienteering a more rewarding experience for the youth. A template for a successful youth orienteering camp now exists and it is available for others to copy and implement. In addition there are now people with experience who will be more than happy to help others run such camps. This type of activity really needs to be done more frequently, whether or not it is a camp targeting schools league children or at a higher level for club members.
One of the features of the camp was the good ratio of coaches to participants. Having one coach for every 4 children meant that each participant received plenty of attention and one-on-one instruction. Thanks go to all the coaches, all of whom are members of the SAOF’s national Junior or Senior Squads: Sarah Pope, Anthony Stott, Jessica Lund, Michael Crone, Jessica Hemer and Zoë Brentano. A special thanks to Tania Wimberley (and the whole Wimberley family for releasing her), who in her roving role was able to pass on her extensive coaching experience to the various coaches in addition to many of the children. She also provided valuable insight and recommendations on how to maximise the benefit of a number of the coaching sessions.
Special thanks to Randpark High School for making available one of their school buses and to Jill Kupper of Randpark High for making the necessary arrangements. Final thanks must go to the South African Orienteering Federation and the National Lottery for making the camp possible.