SOA development in 2022 – how have we done?

2022 has been a challenging year for the development team.  We have been understaffed for most of the year and this has put a great deal of pressure on the remaining staff.  We were very sorry to lose Sarah Dunn in the spring, but delighted that Fran Loots agreed to bring all her experience to the Development Manager position.  Attempts to recruit two part-time Development Officers to fill the void were unsuccessful, and we concluded that the best way forward was to go for one full-time post – and we were very pleased to welcome Heidi Ross to the team in August.  Suzanne Robins-Bird has brought a great deal of energy to the Coaching and Volunteering position and it feels now that we have a strong team going into 2023.

The SOA annual plan for 2022 listed these as our development aims for the year:

  • to encourage a coaching, mentoring and learning culture
  • to support youth development
  • to develop partnerships with demonstrable benefits

In what has been a difficult year for the staff team, we feel we have made some good progress with these.  Our coaching qualifications have been reviewed to align them with SCQF.  A wide-ranging programme of courses is in place for 2023 and we are looking at introducing a series of CPD sessions.  The volunteer strategy has been reviewed with clearer targets identified for the next couple of years.  

The Young Leader Programme has had a fresh start and now comprises three components – for young planners (age 12+), young coaching assistants (age 14+) and young organisers (age 16+).  The first coaching assistant session has taken place this month.  This is an exciting project through which we aim to encourage young people to stay within the sport and enjoy contributing to the running of their club and its events and activities.

This year we have supported the return to the calendar of important events for juniors, including the Scottish Schools, Jamie Stevenson Trophy and the Inter-areas.  The Inter-area weekend also gave us an opportunity to gather in views from young people about what is important to them within the sport, and we have already responded to one of their requests – for a pairs class to be introduced at some events.

Jamie Stevenson Trophy
Scottish Schools at Scone Palace

At regional level, the west area junior squad (SWAT) goes from strength to strength, but the regional junior squads in the east and north are not currently very active.  We would very much like to see them revived in the coming year!

We have also made good progress with student orienteering, with new clubs becoming established in Glasgow and Stirling.  The revival of student orienteering was evident in the first Scottish Student Championships in three years which attracted five Scottish teams and one guest team from England.  

Edinburgh University- Our Scottish Student Champions

Developing partnerships with external bodies can be a long and difficult process but we have had some success with Active Schools in Dundee. With SOA support, several events at have been held at parks within the city.  The next stage is to create a pathway into the local club – in this case TAY, who will be staging some local community come-and-try events in the new year.  We now have a number of enthusiastic families who are keen to try these, and some coaching sessions.  

It’s also a very important part of the development team’s remit to offer financial support for club and squad development activities. Our development fund is open to all clubs and squads looking for support for projects which meet the priorities of SOA. During 2022, funds have been awarded to TAY, RR, FVO, Stirling Uni and Glasgow Uni.  All applicants are expected to show a development plan, and SOA staff are always happy to discuss club/squad priorities and ambitions with the club’s office-bearers.

Over the past few years, several clubs have appointed club development officers and these have been very successful initiatives.  SOA does not have sufficient funding to be able to support these appointments financially, but we can assist by offering help in identifying sources of funds and in making applications, and we encourage club committees to consider whether a CDO would make a difference to their club.

We also are keen to encourage clubs to share their ideas, experience and learning in all parts of their development work, and as the development team, we will continue to do the same.  We appreciate that clubs will have differing ideas and priorities, but we can all learn a great deal by listening and learning about what others have done. 

Finally, we move into 2023 with excitement.  We are looking forward to working with Baroudeur and British Orienteering on developing a growth project around WOC2024, and starting to implement that next spring.  What an opportunity we have to make a real and lasting difference to orienteering in Scotland!

Anne Hickling

Development Director