Coaching and Training Hub

Here you can find ideas and advice for participants and coaches who want to deepen their understanding and sharpen their communication. Use the For Participants section of this webpage as a guide and as a checklist.

You can also test yourself with our Workbooks and explore more material on our Resources page.

See the list of qualified coaches that can help at events, training events, training camps and more.

Get in touch with a local coach or email Gene Beveridge for more assistance.

Success in orienteering requires high confidence with the basic techniques, starting with those under the white and easy sprint sections below. We recommend moving up a level only once you have a strong grasp of the skills required at the current level. You should prove your ability to yourself or your coach by remaining in control of your navigation for a whole course and by arriving at the finish line confident and satisfied.

Where are you at in your orienteering journey? Don’t kid yourself, good navigation is hard to learn, and bad habits can be harder to unlearn. Orienteering NZ is here to help you gain skills and confidence as you work through these techniques.

Once you’ve learned the techniques for white, test yourself with our workbook.

Orienteering maps are like a new language. Become familiar with the basic symbols and colours before starting your course. You can’t expect to remember all the symbols, but familiarising yourself with the basic colour schemes and shapes is the best place to start.

Memorise the symbols commonly used on white courses

Download and read the simplified legend, but focus on the most basic symbols as in the list of symbols for white below. Memorise what you can. Do the symbol shapes and colours seem logical to you? Get used to checking the legend whenever you are unsure instead of guessing what a symbol means.

Map walk

For a beginner, it may not be completely obvious what is meant by some symbols. Common areas of uncertainty include vehicle tracks versus other size tracks/paths and high fences versus normal fences. You and a friend or coach should walk around an area with a map to look at different features to see how they are mapped.

Maps can be different scales and getting a sense of how far 100 metres looks on the map versus on the ground helps you recognise landmarks and keep track of your movements.

Get familiar with the scale in the real world

Stand in a known location and look at a distinct landmark more than 50 metres away. Measure the distance to the landmark on the map. Repeat this and consider whether you tend to over-estimate or under-estimate these distances and whether your sense of scale is different in open land or in forested areas.

Sometimes you will see a landmark before you see its symbol on the map and sometimes you will see a symbol on the map before you see the landmark that the symbol represents. You should be comfortable doing both.

Practise map to ground & ground to map

Walking with the map, identify obvious nearby landmarks and find them on the map, then find a nearby symbol on the map and spot the landmark. Stay interested in matching things up, even if you get confused at times, and don’t worry about moving fast. This is hard work for the brain and you will get faster with more practise.

A compass, if used correctly, is a very reliable tool for getting the map and your body facing in the correct direction. This is very important at the start of each leg, but should be done regularly as you move through the course to help catch mistakes early.

Practise orienting yourself with a compass

Give yourself time at the start of each leg to align the north lines on the map with the compass needle (blue lines in image) and align the pointing edge of the compass with the direction of travel on the map (red lines in image). Check that the map around you makes sense and practise following the pointing edge of the compass.

A good connection between the map and your surroundings should provide enough information to keep the map and your body facing in the correct direction. This should be done regularly as you move through the course, especially at the start of each leg.

Practise orienting yourself with the map only

Give yourself time at the start of each leg to align the map to distinct features in your surroundings like paths, fences, trees, or water troughs by rotating it until everything matches. It may be helpful to place the map on the ground or imagine being a bird looking down on the land. This is hard work for your brain and you will get faster with more practise.

Keeping your thumb on your current location makes it easier to find where you are when you look back at the map. This will help you avoid spending time searching the page again to find which part of the map you need to pay attention too.

Practise thumbing the map

Before you start, decide which hand you prefer to hold the map in and commit to keeping the map in this hand at all times. Once you are on your course, each time you look at the map update your thumb position to where you think you are. It’s easy to forget so practise practise practise until it becomes a habit.

Between every control you will need to know what safe landmark is best to follow. These landmarks that you can follow safely from one place to another are called handrails.

Plan with handrails

At the start of each leg, read the map to find the best landmark that will take you from your current control to your next control. At the end of the leg, ask yourself if you felt confident following your chosen handrail.

Knowing what you are looking for in advance helps you recognise landmarks when you see them.

Plan with checklists

At the start of each leg, make a list in your head of the things you will see on the way to your next control. When you’re ready, make your way to your next control and check off the things on your list as you pass them.

Although the control is always directly in the centre of the control circle, the control description (always printed on the map and often available separately also) gives you a bit more information on exactly what to expect.

Practise reading the control descriptions on course

At the start of each leg, read the description of the next control. Does the description make sense looking at the centre of the circle on the map?

Misspunching is when you miss a control completely or punch another control instead of the correct one. If you misspunch you haven’t actually completed the course, so cannot have a result. This sucks, but is completely avoidable. Don’t allow yourself to miss a control by checking the number on each control against the number on the control descriptions.

Practise checking the control codes on course

Check the number on the map and on the control flag at every control. Make good habits early.

Once you’ve learned the techniques for easy sprint orienteering, test yourself with our workbook.

Orienteering maps are like a new language. Become familiar with the basic symbols and colours before starting your course. You can’t expect to remember all the symbols, but familiarising yourself with the basic colour schemes and shapes, especially the out-of-bounds and uncrossable sprint symbols, is the best place to start.

Memorise the symbols commonly used on easy sprint courses

Download and read the simplified sprint legend, but focus on the most basic symbols as in the list of symbols for easy sprint below. Memorise what you can. Do the symbol shapes and colours seem logical to you? Get used to checking the legend whenever you are unsure instead of guessing what a symbol means.

Memorise the out of bounds symbols

In sprint orienteering you are not allowed to enter or cross certain symbols for safety, fairness or legal reasons. Make sure you know what symbols you are not allowed to cross. Go through examples with a coach or look over completed courses for examples.

Map Walk

For a beginner, it may not be completely obvious what is meant by some symbols. Common areas of uncertainty include gardens versus forest and Impassable walls versus passable walls. You and a friend or coach should walk around an area with a map to look at different features to see how they are mapped.

Maps can be different scales and getting a sense of how far 100 metres looks on the map versus on the ground helps you recognise landmarks and keep track of your movements.

Get familiar with the scale in the real world

Stand in a known location and look at a distinct landmark more than 50 metres away. Measure the distance to the landmark on the map. Repeat this and consider whether you tend to over-estimate or under-estimate these distances and whether your sense of scale is different in amongst buildings or across open land.

Sometimes you will see a landmark before you see its symbol on the map and sometimes you will see a symbol on the map before you see the landmark that the symbol represents. You should be comfortable doing both.

Practise map to ground & ground to map

Walking with the map, identify obvious nearby landmarks and find them on the map, then find a nearby symbol on the map and spot the landmark. Stay interested in matching things up, even if you get confused at times, and don’t worry about moving fast. This is hard work for the brain and you will get faster with more practise.

A compass, if used correctly, is a very reliable tool for getting the map and your body facing in the correct direction. This is very important at the start of each leg, but should be done regularly as you move through the course to help catch mistakes early.

Practise orienting yourself with a compass

Give yourself time at the start of each leg to align the north lines on the map with the compass needle (blue lines in image) and align the pointing edge of the compass with the direction of travel on the map (red lines in image). Check that the map around you makes sense and practise following the pointing edge of the compass.

A good connection between the map and your surroundings should provide enough information to keep the map and your body facing in the correct direction. This should be done regularly as you move through the course, especially at the start of each leg.

Practise orienting yourself with the map only

Give yourself time at the start of each leg to align the map to distinct features in your surroundings like roads, fields or buildings by rotating it until everything matches. It may be helpful to place the map on the ground or imagine being a bird looking down on the land. This is hard work for your brain and you will get faster with more practise.

Keeping your thumb on your current location makes it easier to find where you are when you look back at the map. This will help you avoid spending time searching the page again to find which part of the map you need to pay attention too.

Practise thumbing the map

Before you start, decide which hand you prefer to hold the map in and commit to keeping the map in this hand at all times. Once you are on your course, each time you look at the map update your thumb position to where you think you are. It’s easy to forget so practise practise practise until it becomes a habit.

Knowing what you are looking for in advance helps you recognise landmarks when you see them.

Plan with checklists

At the start of each leg, make a list in your head of the things you will see on the way to your next control. When you’re ready, make your way to your next control and check off the things on your list as you pass them.

Although the control is always directly in the centre of the control circle, the control description (always printed on the map and often available separately also) gives you a bit more information on exactly what to expect.

Practise checking the control descriptions on course

At the start of each leg, read the description of the next control. Does the description make sense looking at the centre of the circle on the map?

Misspunching is when you miss a control completely or punch another control instead of the correct one. If you misspunch you haven’t actually completed the course, so cannot have a result. This sucks, but is completely avoidable. Don’t allow yourself to miss a control by checking the number on each control against the number on the control descriptions.

Practise checking the control codes on course

Check the number on the map and on the control flag at every control. Make good habits early.

Once you’ve learned the techniques for yellow, test yourself with our workbook.

Orienteering maps are like a new language. Become familiar with the basic symbols and colours before starting your course. You can’t expect to remember all the symbols, but familiarising yourself with the basic colour schemes and shapes is the best place to start.

Memorise the symbols commonly used on yellow courses

Download and read the simplified legend, but focus on the symbols for yellow in the list below. Memorise what you can. Do the colours and symbols seem logical to you? Get used to checking the legend whenever you are unsure.

Between controls you will need to choose safe landmarks such as tracks, fences, streams and forest edges to join together and follow. These landmarks that you can follow safely from one place to another are called handrails.

Combining simple handrails

At the start of each leg, read the map to find the best combination of landmarks that will take you from your current control to your next. At the end of the leg, ask yourself if you felt confident following your chosen handrails.

An attack point is the closest feature to the control that you know you can find easily. Using good attack points gives you more confidence in the final 50 metres to the control where you may have to leave the safety of your handrail.

Simple attack points

Identify your attack point at the start of each leg and navigate to the attack point as if there is a control there. Then do the remaining distance from the attack point to the control.

A compass is a good tool to help you cut a corner or hop from one handrail to another. Once you leave the safety of a handrail, you will have to use your compass to help you move in the right direction until you land on the next hand rail.

Practise short compass bearings

Get yourself to the point where you want to start your compass bearing from, this might be a controls or a point along a handrail. Give yourself time to align the north lines on the map with the compass needle (blue lines in image) and align the pointing edge of the compass with the direction of travel on the map (red lines in image). Check that the map around you makes sense and practise following the pointing edge of the compass forward into the terrain.

Recognise when it is shorter to go cross country rather than following the safety of handrails like tracks, fences or streams.

Practise cutting corners

From your safe handrail, decide on the best place to cut the corner and use the compass and the map to get your direction right before you leave your handrail. Not all yellow legs lend themselves to corner cutting, so a courses planned for this purpose by a coach could be beneficial.

Knowing what you are looking for in advance helps you recognise landmarks when you see them, and making a safe plan gives you confidence and reduces mistakes.

Make a checklist

At the start of each leg, make a list in your head of the things you will see on the way to your next control. When you’re ready, make your way to your next control and check off the things on your list as you pass them.

Map memory

Memorise the most obvious and safe handrails and the attack point you will use before you start each leg. Don’t look at your map until you make it to the next control or until you really need help.

Although the control is always directly in the centre of the control circle, the control description (always printed on the map and often available separately also) gives you a bit more information on exactly what to expect. This is the same idea as practised at white level, but the controls will be a little harder at yellow level.

Practise checking the control descriptions on course

At the start of each leg, read the description of the next control. Does this make sense looking at the centre of the circle on the map?

Once you’ve learned the techniques for moderate sprint orienteering, test yourself with our workbook.

Orienteering maps are like a new language. Become familiar with the basic symbols and colours before starting your course. You can’t expect to remember all the symbols, but familiarising yourself with the basic colour schemes and shapes, especially the out-of-bounds and uncrossable sprint symbols, is the best place to start.

Memorise the symbols commonly used on moderate sprint courses

Download and read the simplified sprint legend, but focus on the more basic symbols as in the list of symbols for moderate. Go through examples of how best to use certain features by talking to a coach or looking over completed courses if you have kept the maps.

Memorise the out of bounds symbols

In sprint orienteering you are not allowed to enter or cross certain symbols for safety, fairness or legal reasons. Make sure you know what symbols you are not allowed to cross. Go through examples with a coach or look over completed courses for examples.

Knowing what you are looking for in advance helps you recognise landmarks when you see them, and making a safe plan gives you confidence and reduces mistakes.

Make a checklist

At the start of each leg, make a list in your head of the things you will see on the way to your next control. When you’re ready, make your way to your next control and check off the things on your list as you pass them.

Simplify the map

For a section of a course, chose just one feature or a set or related features to use for navigation. You can even prepare a special map with most of the features removed to increase your focus.
Examples are:

  • Only use paved area, roads, driveways and paths.
  • Only use buildings and canopies.
  • Only use vegetation, trees, bushes and gardens.

Map memory

Memorise only the most obvious and safe handrails and the attack point you will use before you start each leg. Don’t look at your map until you make it to the next control or until you really need help.

Although the control is always directly in the centre of the control circle, the control description (always printed on the map and often available separately also) gives you a bit more information on exactly what to expect. Symbolic control descriptions are used in more advanced orienteering because they are more compact than words, easier to read while running, and internationally recognised. Understanding what common symbolic control descriptions mean is helpful for knowing precisely where the control is placed.

Memorise and discuss the control descriptions

Download the guide and/or the official symbols control descriptions document below and memorise as many of the control descriptions as you can. A coach can be really helpful here.

Practise reading control descriptions during the pre-start

In the pre-start process you will get your control descriptions 2 minutes before you start. Use this time to look through the descriptions and note any that you do not understand. Check these against the documents above or with a coach after the race.

Practise reading the control descriptions on course

At the start of each leg, read the description of the next control. Does this make sense looking at the centre of the circle on the map? Visualise the control placement so that there are no surprises as you approach the control.

Once you’ve learned the techniques for orange, test yourself with our workbook.

Orienteering maps are like a new language, and like any language there are more basic and more advanced things to communicate. At orange level you will need to become familiar more symbols to help you navigate when you are away from the safety of roads, tracks and fences. You can’t expect to remember all the symbols, but you should know the commonly used symbols, including landform symbols like contours.

Memorise and discuss the symbols for orange

Download and read the legend, but focus on the most common symbols as in the list of common symbols for orange below. Review all these symbols and then discuss the different contour shapes with a coach. Go through examples of how best to use certain features, especially contour features.

Relating the map to landforms (hills, depressions, slopes, etc) allows for confident cross-country navigation. Understanding contours is the biggest learning challenge for orange level orienteers and without this skill you will find many orange legs difficult and will not be able to move on to red level.

Map walk

Go for a slow walk on a map. Notice all the distinct features around you. Spend extra time comparing the height of hills and looking at the shapes of the contours. This is hard work for the brain and you will get faster with more practise.

To know where the control will be placed you need to convert the map into an image in your mind of how the terrain near the control will look.

Visualisation

Before navigating to the control, list all the major features close to the control and imagine what they will look like so that when you get there you will recognise it easier. You should consider the size, shape and proportions of the features to form a good mental image.

An attack point is the closest feature to the control that you know you can find easily. Using good attack points gives you more confidence as you navigate the final step to the control.

Practise with intermediate attack points

Before you start each leg, choose the best attack point and plan a route to get to the attack point before moving on to the control.

Between controls you will need to choose safe features such as ridges, slopes, streams, and vegetation changes to join together into a cohesive route. You will then need to follow this route to your attack point.

Practise with intermediate handrails

At the start of each leg, choose the best route and identify lines in terrain to run along like imaginary tracks to make navigation easy. These lines could be easy to follow like tracks or fences, or harder to follow like vegetation changes or a line of hills. When you get to the control, think about which parts of your route were safest and easiest, and which parts were slowest and riskiest.

Linearisation

Plan and simplify each leg into lines such as tracks, fences, ridges, valleys, edges of distinct areas, or a number of smaller features in a row. Follow these lines through the terrain to make navigation easier and give you confidence.

Dividing a leg into smaller sections between distinct features helps you avoid big mistakes and gain confidence. These distinct landmarks are called stepping stones if they can be used to know exactly where you are.

Stepping stones are often used in conjunction to handrails, but they are opposites in one important way. Handrails are lines in the terrain and do not necessarily pin-point your location, but stepping stones do pin-point your location while not giving you anything to follow onward on your route.

Practise with intermediate stepping stones

Choose a route and identify all possible stepping stones before you start each leg. These should be obvious or distinct features that show you exactly where you are. If you lose contact with the map, return to the previous stepping stone and do that section of the leg again.

A catching feature is something very obvious behind the control that can be used to relocate quickly if you overshoot the control. These can be used as part of your initial plan or as part of your backup plan if lose map contact.

Practise using catching features

At the start of the leg, identify the catching feature behind your control and navigate quickly to it, before relocating on the catching feature and attacking the control from there.

Once you leave the safety of a major handrail or stepping stone, a good compass bearing can help you move in the right direction through the terrain until you reach your next handrail or stepping stone.

Practise moderately long compass bearings

Use a training course in terrain suitable for taking moderately long bearings without getting stuck in slow areas or behind impassable features. Pay great attention to your compass at all times. Take the time to align your compass, your map, your body, and your eyes. Check features in the terrain to get feedback on how you’re tracking.

Get comfortable with a thumb compass

Simplify your navigation with a compass that is designed specifically for orienteering. Most critical parts of orienteering navigation happen with the map, so a compass that keeps your attention in one place is a good idea. If you use a baseplate compass, try to use is like a thumb compass by keeping it pressed onto the map instead of in your other hand or around your neck.

A compass with a stable needle is also essential for anyone who stays on the move while navigating.

Aiming off is purposely aiming right or left of your target (usually the target is the control) knowing that you will hit a distinct feature to the side of the control and can then turn with confidence to reach your ultimate target.

Practise aiming off

At the start of the leg, identify the place where you will start your bearing from and the distinctive feature you will be aiming towards. Execute your plan with decent speed.

There may be multiple ways to do a leg, each option with different challenges that should be compared before committing to one route over another.

Intermediate route choices with a partner

Do a course with interesting route choices with a partner or group to compare the speed and safety of the different options. Discuss the pros and cons of each route before and after each leg. Identify any themes that tend to lead to good or bad outcomes.

Distance judgement is about understanding the how distance on the map relates to distance in the terrain, and what that looks like in specific types of terrain.

Test your distance judgement

From a place with a good view, identify a feature in the terrain more than 50m away and find it on the map. Measure the distance on the map and run or pace count the distance to your feature. Compare your estimate to your measurement and consider in which circumstances you tent to overestimate or underestimate distances.

Relocation is how you use the terrain around you to work out where you are when you lose map contact. You’ll need to overcome the urge to search nearby by building confidence on a reliable process that you can follow in these moments, which can be quite stressful when racing.

Intermediate partner relocation

To regain contact with the map and to minimise time lost you need to find an obvious and unique feature or combination of features and get high to get a better view. This must be practised because it’s hard to do this against the clock and when you are hopeful that you are close to the control.

Following a systematic process for each leg can help keep your brain on task and keep your priorities clear when you are tired or near other orienteers.

Common mental systems you may have heard of are:

  • RACE / CARE
  • DARCE
  • DSK

Test different mental systems

Find a system you are interested in trialling and repeat that system for each leg and review at the end of the course whether you felt more or less confident. Use local races to try new systems in a race context.

Although the control is always directly in the centre of the control circle, the control description (always printed on the map and often available separately also) gives you a bit more information on exactly what to expect. Symbolic control descriptions are used in more advanced orienteering because they are more compact than words, easier to read while running, and internationally recognised. Understanding what common symbolic control descriptions mean is helpful for knowing precisely where the control is placed.

Memorise and discuss the control descriptions

Download the guide and the official symbols control descriptions document below and memorise as many of the control descriptions as you can. A coach can be really helpful here.

Practise reading descriptions during the pre-start

In the pre-start process you will get your control descriptions 2 minutes before you start. Use this time to look through the descriptions and note any that you do not understand. Check these against the documents above or with a coach after the race.

Practise reading descriptions on course

At the start of each leg, read the description of the next control. Does this make sense looking at the centre of the circle on the map? Visualise the control placement so that there are no surprises as you approach the control.

Once you’ve learned the techniques for difficult sprint orienteering, test yourself with our workbook.

Orienteering maps are like a new language, and like any language there are more basic and more advanced things to communicate. At difficult sprint level you will need to become familiar more symbols so that you are fully informed about the important decisions you will be making. At his level you should know every symbol you can find on your previously run sprint courses, including landform symbols like contours, and you must be absolutely clear on the out-of-bounds and uncrossable sprint symbols.

Memorise and discuss all of the sprint symbols

Download and read the legend. Review all these symbols and then discuss the different contour shapes with a coach. Go through examples of how best to use certain features.

Memorise the out of bounds symbols

In sprint orienteering you are not allowed to enter or cross certain symbols for safety, fairness or legal reasons. Make sure you know what symbols you are not allowed to cross. Go through examples with a coach or look over completed courses for examples.

Being unable to find reliable handrails, stepping stones and attack points, is very unlikely in sprint orienteering because it usually takes place in urban areas with many distinct features in the terrain. Instead, most navigation errors come from missing a critical decision point or misreading critical details on the map when having to make too many decisions in a short period of time. Therefore, we must have a way of planning thoroughly, even when you don’t feel like you are going to get lost.

Visualisation

Before navigating to the control, list all the features close to the control and imagine what they will look like so that when you get there you will recognise it easier. You should consider the size, shape and proportions of the features to form a good mental image.

Using a magnifier

Use a magnifier to have a good look at any critical parts along your chosen route. These could be near the control or mid leg, anywhere there is significant complexity or uncertainty about passability. Visualise the significant features you will see as you move through these critical parts and retain this visualisation even when you rotate the magnifier away.

Get used to engaging the magnifier to address any uncertainty on the map and moving it to the side when it’s not needed.

Planning legs in reverse

If you plan a leg in reverse, the exit direction from the control at the start of the leg will be the last thing you plan, and so, you have to plan the whole leg in order to exit the control. Complete a sprint course practising planning legs in reverse and ideally planning them in advance enough that you have finished planning before you get to the start of the leg. This might feel worse at first, but it’s great practise event if you don’t choose this approach when racing.

Progression run

Start a course slowly with thorough navigation and gradually speed up as you go. As you go faster you’ll have to process information faster and disregard non-critical information on the map. The progression will also help you find your limit, which can guide your risk tolerance when racing.

The attention you place on planning ahead will detract from more immediate navigation, so must be done as efficiently as possible. To aid this, we should improve our brains processing speed and we should also reduce the number of decisions that we need to make.

Forced simplification

For a section of a course, choose just one feature or a set of related features to use for navigation. You can even prepare a special map with most of the features removed to increase your focus.
Examples are:

  • Paved, roads, driveways and paths.
  • Buildings and canopies.
  • Vegetation, trees, bushes, and gardens.

Progression run

Start a course slowly with thorough navigation and gradually speed up as you go. As you go faster, you’ll have to process information faster and disregard non-critical information on the map. The progression will also help you find your limit, which can guide your risk tolerance when racing.

O-intervals

Short courses with breaks in between enable you to keep your speed high, and so you will have to process information faster and disregard non-critical information. Also, each time you start, you will not have any routes planned so will have to navigate even faster to build up a buffer each time.

Test strategic themes

A challenging sprint orienteering leg will have routes with a mix of desirable and undesirable characteristic and it can be overwhelming to comprehensively access each route of every leg. For an entire course, choose all routes that optimise for one theme, like smooth running, less detail, or avoiding narrow passages.

Run O-intervals with lead in

Set up O-intervals with an obvious way to run 400m very hard before hitting the start triangle. You should be struggling to maintain your speed when you start navigating and will have to rely on a simple process in order to navigate smoothly.

Review past courses

Improve you brains processing speed and pattern recognition by reviewing old race maps. These can be races that you have run or maps you have never seen before. Repetition is key to training the brain.

There may be multiple ways to navigate a leg, with each route posing different tradeoffs that should be compared before committing to one route over another.

Intermediate route choices with a partner

Do a course with interesting route choices with a partner or group to compare the speed and reliability of the different options. Discuss the pros and cons of each route before and after each leg. Identify any themes that tend to lead to good or bad outcomes.

Test strategic themes

A challenging sprint orienteering leg will have routes with a mix of desirable and undesirable characteristic and it can be overwhelming to comprehensively access each route of every leg. For an entire course, choose all routes that optimise for one theme, like smooth running, less detail, or avoiding narrow passages.

Plan sprint courses

Good sprint courses are created by a systematic process of placing controls in order to force the orienteer to plan thoughtful routes between controls. Set sprint courses to put yourself on the side of course planner and sharpen your awareness of the challenges that each leg is centred around while disregarding the details that only clutter the picture.

Taking advantage of areas of easy navigation to plan challenging route choices or take a closer look at narrow gaps or uncrossable features later on in the course is a worthwhile use of attention.

Extra planning

Set a course much longer than you intend to complete and try to plan ahead as you orienteer. You will have to thoughtfully manage switching your attention between your immediate navigation and planning ahead. Additionally, take advantage of areas of easy navigation to make big inroads into the planning.

Safe zones

Review a course before starting it and circle or highlight places where there is a low risk of making navigation errors. You may have to plan some routes to do this, but try to keep planning to a minimum and do not look at the control circles. Run the course and ensure that whenever you are in these safe zones you are planning ahead.

Forked barriers

Mass start a specially prepared course with a group who run at a similar speed to you. The course should use artificial barriers to force runners into one route choice over others. The catch is that, like a relay, there are different courses, only it’s the artificial barriers that are different between courses and the controls are all the same. This works best in terrain that already contains physical barriers.

Relocation is how you use the terrain around you to work out where you are when you lose map contact. There is a lot of strategy here that can help you overcome emotional decision making.

Intermediate partner relocation

To regain contact with the map and to minimise time lost you need to find an obvious and unique feature or combination of features and get away from buildings and detailed areas to get a better view.

Symbolic control descriptions are used in more advanced orienteering because they are very compact compared to words, easier to read while running, and internationally recognised. Understanding what common symbolic control descriptions mean is helpful for knowing precisely where the control is placed.

Memorise and discuss the control descriptions

Download the guide and the official symbols control descriptions document below and memorise as many of the control descriptions as you can. A coach can be really helpful here.

Practise reading descriptions during the pre-start

In the pre-start process you will get your control descriptions 2 minutes before you start. Use this time to look through the descriptions and note any that you do not understand. Check these against the documents above or with a coach after the race.

Practise reading descriptions on course

At the start of each leg, read the description of the next control. Does this make sense looking at the centre of the circle on the map? Visualise the control placement so that there are no surprises as you approach the control. Get used to checking the control placement column in critical situations like a control on one side of an uncrossable wall.

Following a systematic process for each leg can help keep your brain on task and keep your priorities clear when you are tired or at facing distractions.

Common mental systems you may have heard of are:

  • RACE / CARE
  • DARCE
  • DSK

Test different mental systems

Find a system you are interested in trialling and repeat that system for each leg and review at the end of the course whether you felt more or less confident. Use local races to try new systems in a race context.

Once you’ve learned the techniques for red, test yourself with our workbook.

Orienteering maps are like a new language, and like any language there are more basic and more advanced things to communicate. At red level you will need to become familiar many symbols to help you navigate the most challenging legs in unfamiliar terrain.

Memorise and discuss all of the symbols

Download and read the complete legend and then discuss the different contour features and any symbols you are unsure of with a coach. Go through examples of how best to use certain features, especially contour features.

Relating the map to landforms (hills, depressions, slopes, etc) allows for confident cross-country navigation.

Map walk

Go for a slow walk on a detailed map. Compare the height of hills and look at the precise shape of the contours and formlines.

Control picking

Develop a clear mental image of all the contour features, how they relate to each other and how you will flow through them. You should flow though control sites just as you flow through the rest of the leg.

Holding a straight line is essential for navigating confidently in both detailed and vague terrain.

Advanced compass bearings

Use a training course in terrain suitable for taking moderately long bearings without getting stuck in slow areas or behind impassable features. Pay great attention to your compass at all times. Take the time to align your compass, your map, your body, and your eyes.

Bubble controls

Use a training course in terrain suitable for taking bearings without getting stuck in slow areas or behind impassable features. Pay great attention to your compass at all times, and track the distance you have covered. Take the time to align your compass, your map, your body, and your eyes. Identify key features in the bubble and spot them as early as possible.

White out

Use a training course in terrain suitable for taking bearings without getting stuck in slow areas or behind impassable features. Pay great attention to your compass at all times, and track the distance you have covered. Take the time to align your compass, your map, your body, and your eyes. Identify key features on the other side of the white out as early as possible.

Exiting smoothly

Use a training course with many controls and lots of direction changes. Align your compass and map to the next leg and point to your exit in the terrain before you punch the control. As you leave the control, double check your bearing.

On the line

Keep yourself on the line by checking your compass constantly, looking for features as far forward into the terrain as you can see, and by referencing your position from the features beside you.

Curved line

Keep yourself on the line by checking your compass constantly, looking for features as far forward into the terrain as you can see, and by referencing your position from the features beside you. You will need to adapt your compass bearing continuously as you move along the curved sections.

To maintain high confidence and speed you need to select visible and unique stepping stones and handrails.

Partner instructional

Identify the most visually unique features and instruct your partner on what to look for. Guide them around the course by relating their movement to key features they can see. You must stay behind them and cannot point to features or tell them which direction to more. Swap roles every 2 controls.

Out of bounds

Plan your route through the out of bounds areas by identifying places where there is a risk of accidentally touching an out of bounds area. Identify highly reliable features to help you avoid touching an out of bounds area.

Inverse corridor / referencing

Look as far through the terrain as you can to check your position relative to features either side of you. Adjust to the left or right to stay on the line.

Rapid redraw

Draw the map for your partner with 3 colours in 3 minutes. Make the navigation easy by identifying key stepping stones and handrails only.

To flow through a control with high confidence you will need a distinct and unique attack point to guide you in.

Advanced attack points

Before you start each leg, choose the best attack point and plan a route to get to the attack point before moving on to the control.

Traffic lighting

Identify an attack point before you start each leg and navigate a full speed to this points before slowing down and doing the final section into the control very precisely.

Having an accurately calibrated sense of distance is crucial to navigating confidently in detailed and vague terrain.

Bubble controls

Use a training course in terrain suitable for taking bearings without getting stuck in slow areas or behind impassable features. Pay great attention to your compass at all times, and track the distance you have covered. Take the time to align your compass, your map, your body, and your eyes. Identify key features in the bubble and spot them as early as possible.

White out

Use a training course in terrain suitable for taking bearings without getting stuck in slow areas or behind impassable features. Pay great attention to your compass at all times, and track the distance you have covered. Take the time to align your compass, your map, your body, and your eyes. Identify key features on the other side of the white out as early as possible.

Relocation is how you use the terrain around you to work out where you are when you lose map contact. There is a lot of strategy here that can help you overcome emotional decision making in stressful situations.

Advanced partner relocation

A partner will take your map off you and take you to a location within 250m of your control, ideally at high speed, before giving you your map back. Relocate and find your control by getting high and/or finding distinct features to help. Get used to getting to the most distinct or high feature you can see as fast as possible before spending much time reading the map.

Identifying the key features you need to get to the next control and using them to navigate rather than reading every feature along the way prevents you from getting overwhelmed in detailed areas.

O-intervals

Focus on just the most important features (and maintaining direction) and read the map with urgency. Think of it as a navigation interval.

Tennis match

This is a kind of O-Interval with a partner. Run fast and read the map with urgency by focusing on just the most important features and maintaining direction.

Pressure start

By starting close together in high speed training (less than 1 minute apart) there is extreme demand on the orienteers ability to stay focused on simplifying navigation. It’s important to practise getting more confidence from the map (as opposed to more wishful thinking) as the best response to stress.

Rapid redraw

Draw the map for your partner with 3 colours in 3 minutes. Make the navigation easy by identifying key stepping stones and handrails only.

To know precisely where the control will be placed you need to convert the map into an image in your mind of how the terrain in the control circle will look.

Control picking

Develop a clear mental image of stepping stones and handrails, how they relate to each other and how you will flow through them. You should flow though control sites just as you flow through the rest of the leg.

Practise using a magnifier

Use a magnifier to have a good look at the area around some controls on the map. Visualise the significant features you will see on your approach and retain this visualisation even when you rotate the magnifier away.

Get used to engaging the magnifier to address any uncertainty on the map and moving it to the side when it’s not needed.

Without a good plan is it easy to react to surprises in the terrain by making features fit the map even when you are in the wrong place. Losing confidence also commonly causes orienteers to slow down, even if going too fast wasn’t the cause of the low confidence.

Short leg planning

Before you get to each group of controls you must have planned every detail of your route through them. Take the longer legs at an easy pace and lift intensity through the controls if you can. Prior planning is not be used as a pure memory exercise, instead it is to identify the key features in advance and to increase familiarity during execution.

Traffic lighting

Identify risks before you start each leg and plan how you will manage your physical and technical intensities to maximise confidence and reduce the chance of losing control. Find opportunities to run fast when navigation is safe and focus on precise navigation when there are risks.

Long leg planning

Use the short leg to plan the long leg. Be disciplined and take the short leg slowly if you need the time to plan ahead. You must have the whole long leg planned before you finish the short leg.

Extra planning

Set a course much longer than you intend to complete and try to plan ahead as you orienteer. You will have to thoughtfully manage switching your attention between your immediate navigation and planning ahead. Additionally, you should take advantage of areas of easy navigation to make big inroads into the planning.

Safe zones

Review a course before starting it and circle or highlight places where there is a low risk of making navigation errors. You may have to plan some routes to do this, but try to keep planning to a minimum and do not look at the control circles. Run the course and ensure that whenever you are in these safe zones you are planning ahead.

The fastest route for one orienteer, may not be the fastest route for another. Also, the potentially fastest route may not be the route that is fastest on average because some routes carry a greater chance of mistakes than others. Understanding the considerations and how to balance them will help you make smart route choice decisions.

Set courses

Good route choices are created by a systematic process of placing controls in order to force the orienteer to plan thoughtful routes between controls. Set courses with interesting routes choice options to put yourself on the side of course planner and sharpen your awareness of the challenges that each leg is centred around while disregarding the details that only clutter the picture.

Know your strengths and weaknesses

Write down or discuss with friends or a coach which of the following are your strongest and weakest attributes. This is not exhaustive, just an example of some factors that may influence route choice decisions.

PhysicalTechnicalMental & emotional
Speed on hard surfaceCompass bearings Excitement levels
Speed on trialsDetailed contour interpretationConcentration when near others
Speed in terrainHeight judgement on slopesResilience to negative thoughts
EnduranceExperience in similar terrain typesAbility to refocus after a mistake
Comfort on steep descentsFamiliarity with local mapping styleExperience in high pressure situations

Understanding what all symbolic control descriptions mean is important for knowing precisely where the control is placed. At red level, controls are often placed where they are not visible from a distance, but the precise placement will be given by the control descriptions so there is never any reason to be “hunting” for the control.

Memorise and discuss the control descriptions

Download the guide and the official symbols control descriptions document below and memorise as many of the control descriptions as you can. A coach can be really helpful here.

Practise reading descriptions during the pre-start

In the pre-start process you will get your control descriptions 2 minutes before you start. Use this time to look through the descriptions and note any that you do not understand. Check these against the documents above or with a coach after the race.

Practise reading descriptions on course

At the start of each leg, read the description of the next control. Does this make sense looking at the centre of the circle on the map? Visualise the control placement so that there are no surprises as you approach the control. Get used to checking the control placement column in critical situations like a control on one side of an uncrossable wall.

Following a systematic process for each leg can help keep your brain on task and keep your priorities clear when you are tired or at facing distractions.

Common mental systems you may have heard of are:

  • RACE / CARE
  • DARCE
  • DSK

Test different mental systems

Find a system you are interested in trialling and repeat that system for each leg and review at the end of the course whether you felt more or less confident. Use local races to try new systems in a race context.

Orienteering NZ supports 4 different types of coaches to fulfil different roles from engaging with newcomers at local events to delivering competitive international performances. All 4 roles are important to the operation of clubs and ONZ and it is essential that those who like coaching find the right role(s) for them.

This page outlines the expected skills and qualification requirements for the 4 different coaching roles.
At a high level, Foundation, Development and Advanced Coaches work for clubs, while High Performance Coaches work for representative teams and High Performance squads.

Foundation Coaches are our first port of call for beginners to orienteering. Every club in NZ will have foundation coaches at their events to help newcomers get the basics of orienteering sorted.

Getting qualified as a Foundation Coach means that your club trusts you to help beginners at its events and training events.

  • Help beginners at events and coaching days.
  • Coach orienteers at white, yellow, easy sprint and moderate sprint levels.
  • Help beginners register and start at events.
  • Can complete orange and difficult sprint courses confidently.
  • Can work 1 on 1 with beginners at events and training events.
  • Can welcome newcomers to orienteering and clarify any concerns they have.

A foundation coach needs to teach these techniques. Some of these techniques also have pre-made lesson plans to give you an idea of how to present these new concepts in the most effective way.

White and Yellow

Yellow Only

  • Can explain all techniques for white, yellow, easy sprint and moderate sprint to a Development or Advanced Coach.
  • Has been assessed helping 3 beginner orienteers by a Development or Advanced Coach, and has received feedback.

Ready to be recognised as a qualified Foundation Coach?

Development Coaches are essential for handling the bulk of a club’s coaching needs. They can teach white, yellow, orange, easy sprint, moderate sprint and difficult sprint level orienteers and train Foundation Coaches.

Getting qualified as a development coach means that your club trusts you to lead training exercises for groups AND train Foundation Coaches.

  • Lead training sessions and exercises for club members.
  • Coach white, yellow orange, easy sprint, moderate sprint and difficult sprint level orienteers
  • Support new coaches by showing them how to teach techniques for white and yellow.
  • Qualify new Foundation Coaches.
  • Can complete red courses confidently.
  • Can work 1 on 1 with orange level orienteers at events and training events.
  • Can support Foundation Coaches to help at events and training events and clarify any concerns they have .

A Development Coach needs to teach these techniques. Some of these techniques also have pre-made lesson plans, exercise ideas and video explanations to give you an idea of how to present these new concepts in the most effective way.

  • Can explain all techniques for orange and difficult sprint to an Advanced Coach.
  • Has helped organize or coach at 3 training sessions.
  • Has been assessed helping 3 orange or difficult sprint level orienteers by an Advanced Coach, and has received feedback .
  • Has been assessed qualifying a Foundation Coach by a Development Coach, and has received feedback.

Ready to be recognised as a qualified Development Coach?

Advanced Coaches are the big movers and highly valued for organising training days for clubs, and training camps for regions and for ONZ. They can teach all levels of navigation AND they can also train Foundation, Development and Advanced Coaches.

  • Lead the organisation and coaching for training days and training camps.
  • Coach red level orienteers
  • Help foundation and development coaches find a role that works for them at events and training events.
  • Qualify new Advanced Coaches.
  • Help Development Coaches qualify new Development and Foundation Coaches.
  • Can complete red courses confidently.
  • Can work 1 on 1 with red level orienteers at events and training events.
  • Can support Development Coaches to organise coaching events and lead coaching sessions for club their club.

An advanced coach needs to teach these techniques. Some of these techniques also have exercise ideas and video explanations to give you an idea of how to present these new concepts in the most effective way.

  • Detailed contour interpretation
  • Precise map orientation and bearings
  • Advanced handrails and stepping stones
  • Advanced attackpoints
  • Precise distance judgement
  • Relocation
  • Simplification
  • Visualising control circle precisely
  • Planning ahead
  • Magnification
  • Know all symbols
  • All symbol control descriptions
  • Can explain all techniques for red to an Advanced Coach.
  • Has organised a club training event or junior camp under the guidance of an Advanced Coach.
  • Has been assessed helping 3 red level orienteers by an Advanced Coach, and has received feedback.
  • Has been assessed qualifying a Development Coach by an Advanced Coach, and has received feedback.
  • Has attended an online or in-person training course.

Ready to be recognised as a qualified Advanced Coach?

High Performance Coaches are required for overseeing travelling teams and high performance training camps. They are valued for their depth of experience and ability to challenge and support each orienteer according to their individual strengths and weaknesses. Here, there is scope to challenge conventional thinking in pursuit of competitive results.

A High Performance Coach should also aim to have good communication and emotional intelligence to help athletes manage typical stresses associated with performance-orientated training and competition.

Qualified High Performance Coaches are looked upon favourably when applying for ONZ coaching jobs, but the qualification is not an essential requirement.

  • To organise training camps, training plans, and competition trips for competitive orienteers.
  • To work closely with competitive orienteers as individuals with unique strengths, weaknesses and ambitions.
  • To develop techniques that challenge conventional wisdom and innovate new training exercises.
  • Can complete red courses at a competitive level, at least in terms of navigational skill.
  • Can work 1 on 1 with competitive red level orienteers at events and training events.
  • Can create performance-orientated team environments.
  • Is familiar with the Coaching Framework’s core techniques and recommended terminology.

Elite Coaches have a deep understanding of how to coach techniques for red level orienteering and the ability to tailor the presentation of training exercises for competitive individuals with specific performance goals and terrain types in mind.

  • Has years’ of experience organising orienteering training exercises, sessions, and events.
  • Has completed an online training with the Coaching working group. The training will be conducted after applying. The sessions will be interactive, so please prepare two cases to discus; one highlighting a coaching experience where you demonstrated innovative thinking, and another where you had problems implementing effective training and have learned from any problems.

Ready to be recognised as a qualified High Performance Coach?

FAQ

Do I need to progress through the levels sequentially?

No, as a potential coach we want you to decide which qualification is best for you based on your orienteering skills and coaching competencies. The qualifications are not levels of superiority. Read the job descriptions and have a think about how you’d like to contribute. You should apply for multiple qualifications separately if you are likely to be in multiple roles.

I’m a skilled orienteering coach already, what is the benefit of me being qualified?

Firstly, it’s important to Orienteering NZ that new and seasoned orienteers are treated equally when applying for a coaching qualification. Secondly, Many of the qualification requirements are about communication style and consistency with the online resources. Getting qualified is not about testing your knowledge of orienteering, it is about understanding our recommended approach to communicating to all orienteers, especially newcomers, and supporting other coaches and the broader system.