Juniors have their say

During the Inter-areas weekend, with over 90 Juniors present from 14 out of 18 clubs from across Scotland and Juniors aged from 10 – 18 years old – it was the perfect opportunity to hear from our Juniors. 

We asked them what would keep them engaged in orienteering. The answer: we need to make orienteering more social for Juniors. 

We asked the Juniors about specific ideas including how we should communicate with them and sought out their ideas and views on orienteering for Juniors in Scotland. During the discussions, a jam packed church hall was filled with the sound of chatter as ideas were exchanged. 

Ideas exchanged

Juniors were split into 9 smaller groups to discuss what would keep them engaged in orienteering. This was facilitated by adults from across the range of clubs present. After 15 minutes of discussion, Juniors were asked to fill out an online questionnaire based on previous ideas raised by Juniors over the past year when we have been asking our membership the question about how to retain and keep Juniors engaged. The questionnaire was mostly filled out by older juniors. 

Overall, Juniors expressed they wanted to make orienteering more social through:

  • Training and camps for all
  • Post run activities including a Junior tent at events 
  • Running in pairs competitively and non-competitively 

Additional issues raised by Juniors included: 

  • The jump for boys light green to blue 
  • Prizes
  • Best way to communicate with Juniors

Amongst the 9 small groups of Juniors, all groups said they want more weekends like interareas and other opportunities to meet other Juniors. Other opportunities included development days and training sessions for all Juniors, as well making the regional squads East, West and North more active. 

SWAT(Scottish West Area Team) previously suggested the idea of a Junior hangout tent for Juniors at events. This would be a space for Juniors to socialise whilst waiting for their parents to return from their runs. This suggestion was very well received, particularly by younger Juniors. 

Another suggestion checked out with Juniors was the idea of running in a competitive or non-competitive pair. In mountain marathons you can run as a competitive pair so why not when orienteering? This suggestion was well received particularly by younger Juniors. Running in a competitive pair needs further discussion to determine how to best implement it in orienteering. 

A discussion will be needed with the Scottish Orienteering board and potentially British orienteering about the jump between light green and blue for boys. Our survey indicated that the distance and time out orienteering made this jump very challenging, and most respondents to the survey who it affected wanted it looked at. 

Presently most information is given to Juniors by their parents, this is something we wanted looked at so raised it with the Juniors. Having a Junior section on the website was well received, alongside having a Junior panel. Having a Junior newsletter, written by Juniors for Juniors, was a popular option during the group discussions.  

Juniors raised they wanted more prizes. From the discussions, awareness around the badge system which awards juniors for their participation is presently low. 

Our sport lacks a pathway for non-elite Juniors, leading to low retention rates of Juniors. By creating more opportunities for socialising including area training sessions, camps, a Junior hangout tent, running in pairs and a more Junior oriented  method of communication,  we hope to develop a non-elite junior pathway with participation and socialising at the heart of this pathway. 

Heidi Ross and Fran Loots