Women and Girls in Sport: Sheila Strain

This week is Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Week and we’re shining a light on women and girls who lead in orienteering, and who support other leaders. Today we hear from Sheila Strain, who talks about what’s kept her as a leader in the sport for many years.

I am Sheila Strain, a very competitive W70 orienteer, and am a member of East Lothian Orienteers.  The club was started in 1980 and I found out about it and joined up in 1982.  Two years later I went on to the committee and have been involved in every aspect of putting on orienteering since then. 

Sheila Strain

The club was young then, both the club itself having been going for just four years, and the people getting it going, and we all learnt a lot as we developed it.  In those first years the club was putting on just two events a year – a Lothian O League event and our Christmas event, the Festive Frolic – and we were all involved in helping at these.

In 1986 we put on our biggest event to date, the East of Scotland Championships on Cademuir Hill near Peebles and I was the co-organiser for that, quite a challenge given that the club not only had little experience but also no equipment of our own!  Since then I have organised lots of events up to being Day Organiser at the Six Day a few times although with the support from the various teams such as Entries and Equipment, organising one day of the Six Day seemed easy in comparison with that first one!

For that first East of Scotland Champs I mapped the playing fields for the String Course, my first attempt at mapping.  Another early String Course map was at Kinlochard, for Day One of Lomond 89, which features in the book ‘A Few Surplus Maps’ (I wonder where and how John Colls found it!).  Although not particularly skilled in mapping I enjoy drawing simple maps of parks and school grounds.  I remember being particularly satisfied the first time I did the whole of a club event starting with mapping an area of woodland, then planning a couple of courses and finally organising a club evening event there.

Sheila Strain and the Gruffalo!

From holding just a couple of events a year the club has added in a regular pattern of monthly Saturday afternoon local informal events and I love helping at these and welcoming first timers, families and children.  Catching children as they finish and offering to sign their Junior Record Cards gives me a great chance to chat to them and their parents.

The club contributes some of the events in the ‘sprintelope’ summer Wednesday evening series.  However, having had great success in previous years in attracting Scouts, Guides and other youth groups, this had tailed off so this year my initiative was to work with these groups and put on events for individual groups on their meeting nights.  A bit of work, perhaps, for smallish numbers, but very satisfying to see all the kids in a group participating and enjoying orienteering rather than just the ones who turned up on a different night of the week. 

On the more technical side I have planned courses at all different levels up to Scottish Relay Championships and controlled events for neighbouring clubs including EUOC’s Big Weekend and ESOC’s sprint-O (maze). Planning and controlling provide an encouragement to enjoy our wonderful orienteering areas at a slower pace and appreciate the wildlife and the skills of the mappers. 

Currently I am Membership Secretary for the club, and also send out the regular emails both to members and potential members with information on forthcoming events, and for members, a round-up of recent results.  I enjoy this opportunity to keep in touch with people.  I am qualified as a Grade Three controller and also as a coach.