As you may or may not have realised, Orienteering NZ’s selection policy is currently under review and a draft has been put out for comment (See https://www.orienteering.org.nz/resources/policies/). In the interests of starting some discussion on the matter (albiet slightly late in the piece given submissions close on the 1st Sept), and to highlight some of the complexities that arise from the draft policy I’ve published my submission below.
Feedback on the draft policy is to be sent to the General Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org by 1 September 2016.
Feedback on the proposed Selection Policy
I’d like to preface my submission with a short point about the way this process has been conducted. Disregarding the discussion earlier in the year after the release of the NZSS selection notice, we’re now at a point where Council has released a new draft policy for feedback. In itself this is a departure from custom and contrasts with the process followed for reviews concurrently running, including policy G6 (International Team Funding) and the NZSS Grades Review, where feedback was requested before the development of draft policy.
Furthermore, it was disappointing to see the draft policy put out for submission without any explanation of what had actually changed nor rationale for any such change. Forcing interested parties to search through the policies themselves, while attempting to deduce the intention of such changes is a sure-fire way to reduce both the quantity and quality of feedback received.
I decided to get in touch with the General Manager in order to clarify the reasoning behind the change, only to be told that “G1 is just a tidy up on wording to provide greater clarity” (Correspondence July 28th). This comment I find quite troubling, because it assumes that fundamentally nothing has changed. Nothing, except that the selection criteria for our teams are now based on “competition criteria” rather than the “team which is likely to produce the most successful results at the competition for which athletes are being selected” (G1 3.2). Regardless of whether you agree with it or not, it’s inarguable that there clearly is a change here and to ignore this fact is frankly unfair on those that do wish to debate the issue.
Firstly, I’d like to express my support for the concept of the change to Policy G1. The Selection Policy covers a whole range of competitions we send national teams to, and the previous policy requiring selection of the team most likely to produce the best results was too restrictive and discounts a wide range of reasons that we may send teams to competitions. However, I cannot support the draft policy due to the significant problems in the way the change has been implemented, as outlined below.
I should also note here that support for the concept of varying reasons behind team selection can’t necessarily be taken as support for particular reasons to select particular teams.
Comments on the changes
Previously, the selection policy was straightforward. The selection criteria said the “objective of selection is to select a team which is likely to produce the most successful results at the competition for which athletes are being selected” (G1 3.2) and duties of the selection panels are to “Select teams for Orienteering NZ in accordance with Team Selection Criteria” (D3 1.1)
The changes are to point 3.1 and 3.2 (G1) respectively, which now read:
- 1 The selection criteria will reflect the objective of the competition in accordance with the Orienteering NZ High Performance Plan. Any specific conditions relating to selection criteria or eligibility shall be outlined within the Selection Notice produced to announce the selection qualifying criteria.
- 2 The basis of selection is to select a team which best meets the competition criteria.
The first part of 3.1 is slightly odd, effectively the selection criteria says that the “selection criteria will reflect the objective of the competition in accordance with the Orienteering NZ High Performance Plan.” In itself this doesn’t really mean anything. Merely stating that something will reflect something else doesn’t mean that something does reflect something else, that link is dependent on the rest of the selection criteria. This is a problem because neither the High Performance Plan or the “objectives of the competition in accordance with the High Performance Plan” are mentioned further within the Selection Criteria. A possible link can be made with point 3.2, but that’s dependent on the unacknowledged connection between the “competition criteria” and the “objective of the competition.” I’ll discuss this in more detail later.
The second section of 3.1 notes that “specific conditions” relating to the selection criteria can be included in the selection notice, and a later point in the policy confirms the selection notice must be published no later than three months before the trial. Earlier in the year, much of the consternation felt around Schools Team selection notice was based on the fact that with no apparent warning or consultation, conditions can be added to the selection notice. Here the draft policy allows such action, without pointing to how these “specific conditions” are developed or where accountability lies for doing so. Now the question: Is a selection process that can be arbitrarily changed through altering the selection criteria within the selection notice “fair and equitable”? The response from earlier in the year would suggest that a large number of orienteers disagree, and this wasn’t just, quote, “a bunch of kids having a moan”, it was actually orienteers of all ages questioning the transparency behind the selection process. Yes, the draft policy means that any such selection notice now does not contradict selection policy, (and despite no explicit acknowledgement of the fact that this may have occurred in regards to the school selection notice, we could take this redrafted policy as an implicit admission that there was something wrong) but the transparency issue still remains.
Point 3.2 states the “The basis of selection is to select a team which best meets the competition criteria”, which begs the question as to what are the competition criteria exactly? We could assume that the “competition criteria” relates to the “objective of the competition in accordance with the Orienteering NZ High Performance Plan”, although in policy such a link needs to be made explicit. Given that this is the intended reading of 3.2, I’ll spend the next few paragraphs discussing two specific issues in regards to this.
Firstly, the draft policy says that the “selection criteria will reflect the objective of the competition in accordance with the Orienteering NZ High Performance Plan”, and that “the basis of selection is to select a team which best meets the competition criteria.” The selection policy covers all New Zealand representative teams, yet the High Performance Plan which is focused on elite level foot orienteering clearly doesn’t outline objectives for all the competitions ONZ selects for. Two examples to illustrate: The World University Championships, or WUOC isn’t mentioned within the High Performance Plan, nor are any MTBO events (and understandably so). However, there are three selection panels, including the MTBO selection panel, whose duties are to “Select teams for Orienteering NZ in accordance with Team Selection Criteria.” Obviously there is an issue then for those competitions that are not covered by the High Performance Plan, as selectors cannot use selection criteria that refers to non-existent competition criteria.
Secondly, even for those teams that are mentioned within the High Performance Plan the plan does not adequately outline ‘competition criteria’ or ‘objectives’ of the competition that could be used within selection policy. At two points the High Performance Plan discusses events, Section 3: Event Hierarchy and Section 6: An Event Structure for High Performance. The aim of the Event Hierarchy is to “provide a clear indication of the stages of progress… on the journey from new junior to senior international level.” Figure 1 is also included showing the events ranked in order of relative importance to one another. However, using a hierarchy alone we cannot infer what the objectives of the competitions are.
An Event Structure for High Performance includes some discussion on pathways into international competition, ending with two “strong recommendations” that “athletes selected for JWOC should not be selected for the Schools team at the Australian Schools Championships in the same year” and “selection of teams for Test Matches takes into account the developmental aspect and is not based solely on performance.” It’s interesting to note that what has been written in the plan as ‘recommendations’ has now been referred to in selection policy as denoting the ‘competition criteria’. However, do these recommendations sufficiently masquerade as competition criteria? The JWOC and Schools edict removes a segment of the potential trialists but doesn’t tell us of the criteria upon which those that remain will be selected. The phrase “selection… takes into account the developmental aspect” is open to widely differing interpretations. Are we selecting JWOC team members for test matches because they need further development, or is the intention to select those who are not already involved with New Zealand representative teams? The concept is there, but the draft selection policy relies on selectors to make their own interpretations of ambiguous phrasing. Finally, it is worth remembering that although we find some discussion of objectives for the Schools Team and Test-Matches, a number of other competitions including WOC, World Cup and JWOC aren’t explicitly talked about. Some implicit assumptions may be drawn that we should select our best team for these competitions, but competition criteria as referred to within selection policy must be made explicit. If not, selectors will have to interpret the High Performance Plan themselves in order to determine selection criteria, while the athletes will have to do the same. In particular there is an issue for those that want to protest their selection by arguing the “selection criteria were not followed and/or implemented” (G3 1.1a). How can you argue criteria were not followed when the criteria themselves are not clear?
One can respond the selection criteria for the event will be made clear in the selection notice, but the policy allows for “specific conditions” to be outlined in the notice so it’s unclear whether this is the intended route. Regardless, as I’ve discussed above relying on the selection notice to convey changes to the selection criteria is unreasonable and an opaque process. There is no reason not to give more certainty to athletes.
In summary, the draft selection policy is poorly worded. Points 3.1 and 3.2 attempt to link the selection criteria to the High Performance Plan, but this connection is unclear. However in itself referring to the High Performance Plan is problematic, as the plan is ambiguous, or in some cases devoid of any discussion, on the topic of “competition criteria” for an event. Consequently selection will depend on the selectors themselves interpreting the plan, with no guarantee of transparency in the process.
This should not be read as a criticism of the High Performance Plan, the plan is a great initiative and Malcolm is doing an amazing job. But we shouldn’t be using the plan as a substitute, able to be contorted for use in place of proper selection criteria.
If we are to change selection policy to be based upon the objectives of the competition (which I do support) then we need to make sure we explicitly define these “objectives of competition” or “competition criteria”. This would take the form of a separate document to the High Performance Plan. Initially there would be a chance for all members to submit their views on what the intention of the various competitions would be, although it would be up to the appointed committees to finalise. Eg. The MTBO Committee would manage criteria for MTBO competitions, the Junior Development Committee for Schools Teams and the High Performance Director for the elite level. Finally, there would be a defined process for changing these criteria giving everyone the opportunity to submit their views before a final decision is made, as occurs currently when we change selection policy.