SOA Club Conference Summary

After the success of last year’s Club Get Together at Birnam which we just managed to fit in before the first lockdown, we were all agreed that this was an event worth repeating to explore the views of clubs and members over a number of current topics.  Of course, this year we were forced onto Zoom and ran the conference over six evenings, with introductory and wrap-up plenary sessions surrounding four focussed discussions.  These looked at some challenging issues faced by Scottish orienteering and what SOA can do to address them. Thank you to all the members and clubs who contributed to the success of the week’s sessions and also to the informative panel members for sharing their experiences.

A summary of the four discussions is below:

Developing officials – dealing with the barriers

This focussed mainly on developing new planners and controllers and encouraging them to progress through the levels, but many of the points raised apply equally to other volunteering positions. Some key words came up during the conversations and we discussed some of the actions we can take.

  • Visibility of controlling – raise the profile and show that it’s valued and rewarding
  • Confidence – consider mentoring guidelines and build on the last year’s training
  • Safety – encourage pairing and mentoring
  • Respect – use the code of conduct to continually promote our values
  • Rewarding – raise the profile of key roles and encourage juniors to get involved
  • Complexity – simplify roles and procedures
  • Inclusive – raise the profile and use mentoring to show that everyone can have a role

Rebuilding the calendar

This was a stimulating and interesting discussion.  It showed that orienteers are open for change, with our impact on the environment specifically mentioned. Key points we took away were:

  • More local
  • Less travel
  • Equality and opportunity for all
  • Priority for developing juniors
  • Ideas on how we could restructure our leagues

We will form a small (and diverse) workgroup to review our major event calendar for 2022 in the light of this discussion and will develop policy and guidelines on travel and equality to guide us.

Restarting O at the local level

The focus for this session was around recruiting and retaining members. The panel included Sarah and Fran from the SOA development staff team, and Jan Kersel, CDO at EckO.

Good ideas:

  • Lots of regular small events/activities to build and retain interest
  • Clubs as communities, welcoming and supportive of new members
  • Something for all the family

What can SOA do to support clubs?

  • 50% reduction in SOA membership fee for new & renewing members (until August)
  • Funding assistance for club coaching and club development projects
  • Improve communications between staff team and clubs (how?)
  • Promote sharing of good ideas (using the Club Toolbox)

Club Development Officers

Jan Kersel gave a presentation of her work at EckO, now 9 months in to a 4-year project and showing good progress in recruiting and developing members.

  • Could this work for your club?
  • The staff team can provide support for developing applications for CDOs

WOC2024 – the legacy project

Many interesting ideas were raised.  It may be three years until 2024 but we need to get a plan in place over the next few months for a project which will extend into the period after the WOC and give a sustainable boost to orienteering in Scotland.

  • Local and national initiatives
  • Competitions – start local, build to finals in Edinburgh
  • Partner organisations
  • British Orienteering
  • Clubs
  • Schools /Active Schools
  • Outdoor Education
  • DofE
  • Scouts
  • Universities
  • ParkRun
  • …….
  • Gaps in our demographic – young adults
  • Volunteering opportunities – Young Leaders
  • Our young elites – Orienteering Ambassadors


  • Raise the profile
  • Identify target groups
  • Give a consistent message
  • Seek business sponsors

We will continue to work on developing the project and will welcome contributions from members/clubs.

Over the week as a whole, there were a lot of interesting ideas raised and many thanks to everyone who contributed at all or some of the sessions.  We’d especially like to thank the members, staff and directors who formed the panel each evening, whose experience helped to inform and steer the discussions.  We hope that everyone attending found it worthwhile and has taken something from it to apply to their own club.

Anne & Richard