Lydiard Park and Lydiard Park Academy, Swindon.
Around 60 coaches came to the South West from all over Great Britain to take part in the Bi – Annual coaching conference for sharing best practice, looking at innovations and discussing possible changes in the way the Governing body of Orienteering manages the coaching population of U.K. I travelled with 2 members of Wimbourne Orienteers to also represent the Wessex Orienteering Club, there were also members of our neighbouring clubs Devon and Sarum in attendance. Sprint Orienteering which takes place in urban areas and cities on the International circuit continues to gain popularity, this was to be the first topic of the weekend in a presentation by the Elite Team G.B athlete Kristian Jones. Kristian is completing a masters in Sport Sciences in the midlands so he has lots of time to analysis his race results, and uses performance techniques to make what British Cycling call ‘marginal gains’ on his results. For the assembled the best part of this was being shown slides with map excerpts containing one leg of a race, Kristian gave us a few seconds to a make decision on our route choice, which brilliantly illustrated the discipline. Decision making at speed while running is the skill, and seconds lost due to poor decisions can mean race losses. Perhaps this is the reason why Sprint races are growing to become a major aspect of Orienteering? with a concentrated shorter run than forest races, and lots of fast decisions much more actually happens in a shorter space of time which when you get it right makes for an exciting competition. After a virtual run around various European cities from recent events we broke for lunch and changing for outdoor running. Map below shows the whole area of the Academy and the Park where we operated.
Between 8 teams we were given an activity to plan and set up, and then 3 other activities to take part in during the 1 hour and 45 minutes. Happily enough my task was to go out and hang a series of controls around the school as the others planned several small courses with the prime motive of making route choice training, this seemed to go smoothly and I returned after my first sight of the map to several drawn courses completed, and our task completed. After completing we left the map pack at the start of our activity 4 and crossed the school fields to find our next activities 6,8, and 2. Activity 6 was about following drawn lines, to count tapes. Over a about a kilometre solo run I only found 3 tapes, but 5 P.O.C posts and 3 kites. Evidently we hadn’t really clarified what we were looking for as there is a Permanent Orienteering Course (P.O.C.) and other activities going on in the same area- my error. Others did count 13 tapes which gave the idea some validity. Next we were put into pairs and given gaffled maps on which to run starting at the same time. Gaffling is a way of starting runners on the same course- but with different controls in the middle of their run, it forces people to entirely rely of their navigation which is an important skill when competing. Absolute opposite of distance running where you often use others to pace yourself during races. Good fun activity which everyone in our group liked, we circled the lake and saw the house here too, happy Saturday afternoon. Our final activity was within the school grounds, an improved cones activity with 3 variants testing the key skill of Orientating the map to ground for success. Day one finished with a talk and discussion by Hilary Palmer about increasing accessibility to coach training and opportunities to coach.
Below- me on a gaffled start couple of winters ago at the O.K Nuts trophy.
Day 2 Kristian started the day with his illustration of how to understand performance coaching. We could summarise how he uses performance analysis thus- to provide feedback to performers to produce positive changes in performance. Across the spectrum of coaches in many sports there will be development coaches, club coaches and performance coaches, perhaps working mainly with one type of runner, although potentially able to draw upon experience to help others. Kristian provided an interesting way to categorise performance around 4 main topics, route choice, plan, direction and picture, theres too much detail to cover here however it looks like B.o.F will be using this work to inform upcoming coaching publications so watch out for it.
Our outdoor component came next with a super session planned by John Orton of North Wiltshire Orienteers. Returning to Sprint racing, with a focus on control descriptions, the Academy site had been set up with 3 courses, A,B,C. Demonstrating the possibilities for coaching locations that may be very familiar was the point of this activity. You can see in the photo below control 13.
John added boxes around some of the controls on his map, which forced you to read the control descriptions, Number 13 control 163- reads as ‘West building- East side’ now if youre finding it hard to decide where exactly to go within the boxed area of 13, imagine that while running- youre virtually sprint Orienteering, and if youve got this far reading through this post- well done! Really great activity which I may be using on one of my mapped school sites at some point. All of us enjoyed the challenge of racing around the school site giving the footballing kids and parents on the fields plenty of entertainment too. Rest of the time at Lydiard we took part in discussions about progressing coaches and the way the National Governing Body could re-organise a more efficient system. Overall a well worth while weekend, good to meet other coaches and share ideas from around the U.K. Spring is here.