Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Week 2020

Today, as part of Women and Girls in Sport week, the spotlight is being thrown on Heidi Ross and Marie Bernards, club captain and lead coach for Aberdeen University Orienteering Club.

Against all the odds, Aberdeen University Orienteering Club is going from strength to strength despite all the current restrictions on activities imposed by Covid-19. The club is being led this year by two inspiring girls, Heidi Ross (pictured right) and Marie Bernards (left), who’s enthusiasm and can-do attitude is bubbling over to inspire others. RDO North, Sarah Dunn, caught up with Heidi and Marie to find out more about their involvement in orienteering and love of sport.

Please introduce yourself – who you are, your orienteering background and why you enjoy orienteering
HR Hello, I’m Heidi. I am 20 years old and a 4th year geography student. I started orienteering when I was very young, however, I was too scared about getting lost. I restarted orienteering when I was 14 and have been doing it ever since. I now embrace getting lost! Orienteering combines my love of running and fascination with maps.
MB Hello I’m Marie, 22 years old and I study Genetics BSc at Aberdeen University. I started Orienteering in 2019 when I joined the University club. It combined my love for running with the possibility to travel all over Scotland, so I instantly fell for the sport.

Please tell us a little about AUOC and your role in the club
HR AUOC is a friendly club and I have met many amazing friends through AUOC. The club has allowed me to travel all over Scotland during my time at university and go to many orienteering events. This year I am the club president. My role involves organising events and helping the club grow.
MB AUOC is a great, healthy way for people to get out and explore the forests and countryside of Scotland. I am the coach within the club and work alongside our president to ensure the club training sessions are helpful and fun.

I believe that last year you both completed the Coaching Foundation course – what motivated you to do this and what did you gain from it?
HR I did the coaching course as I wanted to gain new skills and further knowledge in orienteering. I have loved being able to apply what I have learnt from the coaching course. Last semester, I helped organise ‘corridor orienteering’ training for the club at Crathes Castle. When designing the course, I was able to use skills from my coaching foundation course.
MB I did the Level I coaching course because I wanted to make sure I have an idea of how to run efficient sessions and to know Orienteering-based learning games.

Please tell is about how AUOC has adapted to Covid-19 since the start of the autumn term
HR The university is understandably very strict with what we can do this semester. Many of our normal activities such as our Autumn training weekend can’t take place. Despite this we have been using Zoom to do online training sessions. These are well attended, and I am excited in the next few weeks to hopefully meet the new orienteers physically.
MB AUOC is trying to have a big online presence to engage new and old members to try and make them feel like they have people to talk to in this very isolating time. The committee is currently spread through three different countries so this can be a challenge!

What are your plans for the club this year?
HR It’s difficult to plan anything currently as both university and government rules are changing all the time. Later in the semester, when we can officially meet as a club, we plan to do MapRuns around Aberdeen and runs together. I’m still hopeful that our Spring training camp will take place.
MB The best we can hope for at this time is to keep the club going despite many events not being possible and not being able to meet up!

What is your bigger picture vision for AUOC as a club?
HR I’d love to see us expand as a club. I want more people to know how great orienteering is!
MB I hope we can get out again as a group one day again, without restrictions, hug, have fun and go to coffee shops after a hard race.

What are your personal goals in orienteering (either participation, coaching, or organising)?
HR I want to improve my navigation skills. After 6 months of lockdown my navigation is a bit rusty!
MB I want to get my Level II or even III coaching qualification by the time I leave university.

What message would you give to other women and girls about being involved in sport?
HR Sport improves both physical and mental health. The orienteering club has enriched my time at university, helping me to enjoy my studies more. I would tell other women and girls ‘to not hold back’. There is no harm in trying a sport and not enjoying it, but once you find a sport you love the benefits feel endless.
MB Sport is the best thing there is for you, maybe even sports you’ve never tried. There’s so much out there, everyone can connect with one type of sport.

Thanks, Heidi and Marie, for your insights into AUOC and your sporting life. We hope that your energy and enthusiasm rubs off on everyone (and other girls especially!) to consolodate and grow a thriving club at Aberdeen Uni!

AUOC autumn weekend, 2019