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What would inspire a dad to volunteer at an after-school running program year after year? His love of running, the outdoors, and his desire to encourage youth to embrace outdoor fitness. In this article, our senior Happy Feet Kids' Club volunteer tells about one of his passions - the sport of orienteering. It's physical, cerebral, and possibly extreme. |
ORIENTEERING FOR KIDS|
by Clinton Morse
Do you like to solve puzzles?
Do you enjoy spending time outdoors?
Love running through forest and field?
If so, orienteering may be the sport you've been looking for.
Very popular in Europe where it is taught in grade school, orienteering is considered a minor sport here in the United States as is evidenced by the fact that the average American has never even heard of it. However, it is a great sport for young and old alike.
A series of special orange and white flags are hung at control points such as the base of a cliff, edge of a clearing, or top of a hill and are marked on a highly detailed map of the event area. Participants are started one at a time, usually a minute or two apart and have to read the map (with a compass as a navigational aid) and find the series of controls in order and return to the finish. The goal is to complete the course in the shortest time, but everyone who finishes the course has the joy of working out the challenges the course setter has laid out for them.
Between each control, the orienteer chooses the route he/she will take. Sometimes there are obvious routes, other times there are good routes that are not immediately obvious from a quick glance at the map. Even world-class elite runners often take very different routes from one another. Every course presents a new challenge which is why many orienteers remain active in the sport well into their 60s, 70s, and beyond. U.S. Champions are crowned across a full range of age groups including M-10 & F-10, the categories for boys and girls age 10 and under.
There are even string courses for toddlers to follow (with their parents, of course).
Standard courses include 7 levels from White (less than a mile and following trails) to Blue (challenging elite courses covering 6-9 miles). Most events offer a full range of courses and typically have beginner instruction if you need it. The challenge of orienteering is solving the navigational problems while trying to run fast in the woods. Very often the winner is not the fastest person, but the person who carefully executes his route without making mistakes. That could be you!!
Permission to print courtesy of us.orienteering.org
For more information see:
USOF Orienteering for the Young
This Web site takes you step by step through your first orienteering course.
USOF Main Page
You will find links to local clubs, event schedules, Junior Team news
Clinton Morse is a U.S. Orienteering Sprint Champion in M45.