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Sport for everyone   |  Big little stories for our 50th
By Christo Peters - Fri 31 Mar 2023 10:43pm
50 years - Orienteering NZ

Our parents share their passion:

Children often take part in the same physical activities as their parents, and they often follow the same sports, or they might support the same teams. When a family is active with a positive attitude towards sport, children are more likely to stay active themselves. But in orienteering we often find that parents come into orienteering through their children. It is a sport everyone can participate in, and it makes a great contrast to many other sports where parents can only contribute via coaching, organising sports activities, or spectating. 

We asked two parents about their participation in orienteering. 

The Stewarts

Our oldest daughter started orienteering at school with Jeff Greenwood’s daughter and when our youngest Zara started we soon realised it was a much better and enjoyable use of our time to have a go as well rather than sit around and wait for the girls to finish! Initially we would shadow Zara and then as she progressed faster than we did we bravely moved on to do the courses ourselves, although not quite at the same speed!

It was probably a couple of years after Hannah started and as Zara got going that I felt brave enough to have a go myself. Personally I have been doing it on and off due to injury for about 6 years.  We love the places it takes you, off the beaten track and to beautiful spots you wouldn’t normally have access to or even know about. It’s also great for our mental health, getting out of the city and ‘hugging the tree’s’ as I call it, really helps with our wellbeing. We find you can’t really think about anything else whilst you are concentrating on the map and not getting lost, so it gives your brain a break from all of the everyday stresses of life. We finish the day feeling physically tired but in a good way!

People who love being outdoors would be attracted to orienteering. It is suitable for all abilities as there really is a course for every age, stage and level of fitness. It’s great for families who like to exercise together but who have different physical needs, walkers to joggers to runners can all enjoy and compare notes and war stories afterwards.

What worked really well for us was having a group of friends that our kids would orienteer with. It meant they were able to share in the experiences, have a fun social time before and after events and make fabulous memories together, which they still talk about now. 

We found that consistent and regular participation in events really helped to build on skills and confidence. It helped to be interested, enthusiastic and encouraging in their races, regardless of the results.

Orienteering has a great sense of community and inclusivity. No matter what level you are at, everyone is happy to talk to you about your race, compare notes and offer help if asked. It’s a great way for kids to get out into nature, away from their devices and exercise without realising they are.

You also don’t need to be great at orienteering to enjoy it. Plus you will learn to love spending quality time in the bush looking for that elusive orange and white flag! It is also such a buzz when you actually find it!

Schools and youth clubs like scouts seem to be a great way to introduce children to the sport. It’s surprising the number of people we talk to who say oh yes I tried Orienteering at primary or intermediate school. As with all things it helps immensely to have a passionate parent or teacher who knows about the sport, which our girls were lucky to have. Would there be room for ONZ to give a workshop to teachers/PE departments highlighting the benefits O has to offer their students? 

When we started there were club training days for all ages and stages and this was when I learnt most of the basic navigation skills. Being in groups of similar ability and walking/talking through exercises in the forest really helped. It also helps the younger members get to know others their own age. Club forest training days are always a great way to develop your skills and an opportunity to ask questions actually in the terrain. Having access to courses/maps that families who don’t have OCAD or access to create their own training maps/exercises, would help. Unless you know someone who can make a course for you it’s hard to practice the navigation side of orienteering. More access to forest terrain to train in would also help immensely. 

it is important to come away  from orienteering events with  the feeling that you have accomplished something, whether that be going for a run in the forest, being challenged navigationally, spending time with family and friends, improving your skills, or just managing to get out of the city and unwind after a busy week. No matter what we have experienced individually, there always seems to be something positive that comes out of a day of orienteering, regardless of how lost we found ourselves!

by Sarah Stewart

The Chubb / Hunt family

The kids were introduced to orienteering at school through Christina Freeman and Jean Cory-Wright who ran after school sessions. They both loved it straight away and once they participated in their first competition which was at Deer Heights (South Island schools) they were hooked! I was the main transport/support person for the first wee while and then Jonathan and I both started going to watch. We got a bit bored standing around waiting and started to try it ourselves.

About one year later, I think, we joined PAPO, the orienteering club in Christchurch. The prices were cheaper and I thought the idea of collecting VIP points sounded good.

For people who like to use their brain and body while exercising and those that love the outdoors orienteering is ideal. Enjoying running helps, and those keen to learn about map reading for other activities like tramping.

The kids have been orienteering since about 2016 (aged 9 and 10) and Jonathan and I a year or so after that. We gradually began to really enjoy the people we met orienteering. Everyone was friendly and relaxed as well and there was no sideline bravado. We like the way it is competitive but also the people who you are competing against are also really friendly and supportive. No put downs by others-just celebrating each person’s achievements.  Also we really love the fact that people of ALL AGES are doing the same sport and competing at the same event. I really was not a fan of travelling miles to watch my kids play sport, so this seems a great solution. When Jonathan and I are also running we don’t have time to hang around and breathe down the kids necks, getting nervous about results etc. I’m too busy getting lost!

The kids have really driven this sport for us and Jonathan and I have supported them 100% with it because it seemed like a really healthy thing to be doing. One thing which has been good is being prepared to take van loads of mates on orienteering trips. They love having a crew along and the banter is hilarious. We have never talked about results or expectations with the kids. They set their own goals and we ask them how they went. We also indulge in some dinnertime route analysis.

Having access to the sport through schools is really good. Parents are super busy these days and if kids want to try a new sport it is often the parents inability to get them from A to B that stands in the way. Offering local events/transport at both Primary and Secondary school is good. A variety of events and encouraging them as part of adventure racing which is a growing sport too. The camps have been a real success for our kids too. These need to be kept as affordable as possible.

Cost of travel at the moment is really a bit of a barrier. The kids want to go to everything of course, but flying around the country and going to competitions and camps is getting very expensive, but also having a decent-sized group of young people to run with is important.

We keep coming back as it is a chance to hang out with friends and an opportunity for the whole family to have a fun and competitive experience. The turning point for us as a family was when we all started participating. And now I have a new watch to track my random routes, so I am even keener to get out there 🙂 

by Lisa Chubb

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