Young people – have your say

As a follow-up to the conversation last week on how we keep young people engaged in orienteering, we are seeking more views and ideas around this topic. Help us by having your say here . We ‘d love to hear more from young people themselves so please share this widely. We have gathered in the initial thoughts on the subject to share with you.

Engaging Young People  Community Conversation Initial thoughts and feedback


Monday 1st November 2021 saw over 30 people join in a conversation about what keeps young people engaged in orienteering. Half the participants were young people and the other half were representatives from clubs. 

The conversation was initiated by members of the Equality sub group of the SOA board. 


Like many sports, we lose a lot of young people in their teens to the detriment of our sport so we were keen to explore what keeps them engaged, what puts them off and to hear directly from young people themselves. We were also keen to explore some options for keeping young people on board including the possibility of some sort of leadership programme. 

Key questions were asked in two smaller groups( one mainly young people, the other mainly club reps). 

Below is a summary of the responses:

What do young people enjoy about orienteering?

  • Getting places we may not get to otherwise
  • The challenge – not having head to head competition directly
  • Enjoy exercise and using the brain


What do young people not enjoy about orienteering?

  • Cost – especially at university – it’s the same at university for transport
  • Not knowing anyone else in some regions – it can feel quite isolating
  • It’s Ok if you are part of Scotjos but hard if you are not
  • M16 moving up to blue – big leap (similar comments made for girls moving up)
  • The pressure is on to go fast when some want to enjoy the navigation 


Why do young people leave orienteering?

  • Time commitment required – both time out and transport there and back. Time wise it’s not efficient and it’s easier once away from home to join in much more local sports not requiring this.
  • Cost and transport as above
  • Impact of part-time work especially at Uni
  • Injuries and illness
  • If there is no orienteering club at the university you head to, it’s difficult to continue
  • If their parents are not involved it becomes more difficult to attend
  • A lot of emphasis is put on performance squads and many leave the sport if they don’t qualify for these squads

What makes people stay in orienteering?

  • Good place to do some exercise 
  • Family do it
  • Unique sport – unable to get the ‘itch’ /satisfaction from other sports 
  • Being selected for performance squads
  • It’s fun

Points to consider

●      We need more options for young people than Scotjos, talent squads etc. especially for those who are interested in other angles than being fast. You get left out if you are not part of that. It’s very competitive 

●      If you are not in a ‘top team’ then you are not getting access to the same training 

●      If more clubs put on training, coaching etc. for those not in the ‘top ones’ that would help

●      Alternative pathways need to be developed for young people – planning events and other choices including coaching ( for enjoyment – not being made to do this)

●      SWAT (Scottish West Area Training) has been good for training and communication beyond orienteering. It’s more accessible and for some involves less travel than to other events

●      JROS (Junior Regional Orienteering Squad) used to be for those not in Scotjos. We need more regional squads/activities to provide more choice 

●      Parents at some schools have got young people into orienteering 

●      Transportation through schools helped some get into orienteering without parents

●      Collaboration between community and student clubs can help student clubs with stability and access to skills/knowledge to support growth


Additional points raised outside of the meeting sent in by both young people and older orienteers include:

●      Orienteering isn’t the first choice of activity for some young people – they are there because their family/parents are involved

●      Having friends to go with or meet at events is important and keeps young people engaged and motivated – how do we facilitate social opportunities for young people at events

●      There are a range of factors that are demotivating including: sleeping on village hall floors, significant time away at weekends (especially for school exam years and Uni); being beaten by younger ones; early starts and long drives; no easy way back in if you are affected by long-term injury, illness etc.; intimidation of elites

●      We need to find ways to make novices feel welcome and have their own level of competition based on their experience ( other sports do this better than us)

●      Residentials are not for everyone 

●      For non-orienteering families, it is key for the junior to have transport. 

●      Non-orienteering parents tend to:

—not know what events to go to so don’t plan the family calendar accordingly – or sometimes because the orienteering calendar isn’t clear enough in advance (eg families with weekend duty)

—struggle with the complex entries system and jargon 

—not have enough support to support their child and/or lose interest in driving to events unless they are involved themselves or the junior is particularly persuasive/talented/organised so parental recruitment is important too

●      School teams are key to helping with social aspects as word of mouth is the most effective for recruiting and means that the friend group can flourish locally. But these need to be based around existing orienteers and a parent who can coordinate 

●      Other sports eg football/cricket often become the main activity for young people as they are regular – ie every week, same time, same place. And locally social. And at 15, some of the juniors have become very good at that sport so need to focus even more on it to the detriment of orienteering. And they also have 1-2 coaches who see the child every single time’


Things that may help:

  • more than the large competitions where there is less emphasis on winning( for instance local leagues)
  • keep the Jamie Stevenson where it seems much more about the team than the individual. More events like that would be good.
  • more variety in events – for example SCORE events are a good bit of fun because there is more emphasis on the route planning, and urban orienteering is interesting as well.
  • more youth oriented events for less able orienteers might be good – there are obviously things such as SCOTJOS but for the less able young orienteer there aren’t many events that are designed for the juniors as opposed to just having age categories. A good example of this is the junior cup.”
  • Continuing with the Scottish Schools competition
  • Having good ties between local clubs and university clubs, or would-be university clubs
  • Finding out if leadership schemes that other sports have instigated have been taken up by the less competitive athletes or whether it is just the same suspects 
  • Having good social experiences for all juniors, not just ScotJOS contenders – club weekends can be really good for this

Conclusion on initial thoughts…

“ It’s quite natural that young people drop away from orienteering in their mid-teens but as long as they have had a positive experience they may well be back when they’re older. The main thrust of efforts must be to give more people the opportunity to orienteer at grassroots level, as the more that try it the more will sign up. Trying to increase the membership of people in their 20s is like holding back the tide!” a quote from a participant

What next?

We are extending the collecting of views to anyone who is interested in feeding into the conversation. We ask that you circulate the survey form ‘Young People – Our Future’ to young people in your club and also others with an interest/view on these matters.  

Returns would be appreciated by 10th December.

Link here

We would also be delighted to hear from any young people who want to be informed of future discussions and contribute ideas about keeping young people engaged in orienteering.

For further information contact Fran Loots or Neil Rankin