Sunday, July 31, 2016

Lars Lindstrøm comments on the IOF Competition review project and the inclusion of O-Ringen in the World Cup

I agree with position of Lars Lindstrøm! Here is the text:

"On July 27th 2016 the IOF and O-Ringen announced a partnership for the inclusion of O-Ringen in the World Cup. A strategic partnership, which for some can seem logic and a good move forward, but is this really the case?
Orienteering is full of tradition and many struggle to innovate. For many the general belief of a “real” orienteer is the one competing in all disciplines and if not, then at least in long distance. That might be, and for sure this idealistic approach can sound tempting. The problem is, it requires all to strive for the same, otherwise specialization will occur and specialist will gain an advantage in their discipline. This is already happening and it will only increase in the future. It cannot be prevented nor should it be, it only leads to a high level of performance.

I welcome the attention the IOF is putting into optimizing the current competition program and the annual calendar for international events. The time has come for a much better planning and synchronization of both international and national event calendars. In the past, no or bad coordination have created an endless list of conflicts thus resulting in national teams to prioritize between events. Yet again, I must now realize this will not be the outcome.
The IOF Competition review project have presented their proposal for the General Assembly 2016. The proposal includes four competition periods annually during May-June, June-July, August and September-October. The idea is to get a more fixed calendar, yet this is only words. A quick look at the proposed periods shows nothing will change.
In my opinion, the IOF needs to be much more specific on when to organize Championships and World Cups taking into account only major none-orienteering sporting events such as The Olympics and The Football World Cup. These events have massive media attention, and we therefore need to avoid these periods to increase the possibility of media attention for our main championships. Apart from this, there is no excuse not to be more specific than the current proposal of the IOF. My suggestion will be to narrow down the window for World Cups to one or two specific weeks during each period. This would allow (or require) national federations to adapt their national calendars to the international calendar and not be bound by tradition. Today, National Championships are organized during almost every weekend throughout the competitive season. This could be better coordinated between national federations, but the initiative needs to come from the IOF. Large O-events like Tiomila, Jukola and O-Ringen cannot restrict the international calendar, instead they should move accordingly. If Orienteering wants to be a true Olympic sport (I guess this is still the goal), then WOC, EOC and WCup shall be the main competitions.
Timing of national championships are actually not the reason for my proposal of a much more precise international event calendar. My main reasons are performance related, but I realize as of today no-one is willing to move their so-called important events to make room for the World Cup and to some extend EOC/WOC. This has to change.
The main reason behind my proposal is to allow enough time for training and preparation between Championships and World Cups. Timing between World Cup rounds (and EOC/WOC) is key to success. If the World Cups planned are too close to each other, national teams will prioritize their participation. National teams and their athletes need time for proper training periods and tapering before events. Ideally, only three international periods exist during one year. Two weeks in May either being two rounds of World Cup or a full EOC. The first half of August would be perfect for WOC, and the final round should be in the beginning of October (also allowing the season to finish outside Europe on the southern hemisphere).
To include O-Ringen in the World Cup is simply a bad idea from a sporting point of view. In 2018, WOC will be in Latvia, a terrain very different from Höga Kusten. Can one please provide at least one valid argument why to train and compete in Sweden if one wants to prepare for WOC? Before one answers, please leave emotions and traditions out of the equation and take training physiology, o-technique, mental and psychological training into account. I will be happy to learn more from smart people out there.
In 2020 WOC will be sprint only, why then compete at any forest races before WOC? Furthermore, the above-mentioned problems in regards to time for proper training and tapering before WOC will always be an issue. Either, preparations for WOC is sub-optimal, or if one regardless of O-Ringen still continue training sufficiently for WOC, then the level of performance at O-Ringen will be highly influenced by a large training load. Both will be suboptimal cases.
I can understand there is some financial reasons and increased possibilities for media attention to include O-Ringen in the World Cup, but I have to break it to everyone; it will not work. National teams will repeatedly decide not to start at O-Ringen in order to prepare optimal for WOC.
The sport of orienteering need funding and sponsors are important. Will the sport of Orienteering gain from the World Cup being a part of O-Ringen. I do not think so. O-Ringen might, but that is not important for others than the Swedish Orienteering Federation. On the contrary, for other national teams, what really counts and what really is funding our sport is WOC/EOC results. I can only speak from a Danish point of view, but our main sponsor – The National Elite sport Organization (Team Danmark) – only care about WOC and EOC medals. National Elite sport Organizations like Team Danmark, Swiss Olympic, etc. are the real main sponsors of our sport, it isn’t classic sponsors like Nokian Tires etc.. Also national sports confederations like Danmarks Idrætsforbund (Denmark), Norges Idrettsforbund (Norway), Rikidrottsforbundet (Sweden), etc. are key sponsors for our sport, without their support for development, youth sports, recreational sports etc. it would not be possible to keep the activity level high.
Where to go from here? Currently distance between the IOF (the office, council and commissions) and the national teams are increasing day by day. As an international level coach for 12 years, I have rarely met any Council member at IOF events and only a few commission members. Even at WOC where most are present, no dialogue is taking place. Only by having a constant dialogue with the people actually working constantly to prepare for championships one can fully understand the needs of athletes and coaches. I, and many of my colleagues, have almost lost hope but not the dream of a bright future.
If the IOF want a better competition program, international calendar and a higher degree of dialogue. The IOF need to work actively to create dialogue and not avoid it.
That said some improvements have happened during the last few years. The Foot-O commission are getting better at approaching coaches. The new Sports Director is more active in getting inputs. All positive moves, but we are still very far from the finish.
The list of none-important initiatives is long. To mention a few, the Athlete License in one example, it is of no use. Another example is the ineffective IOF Anti-doping program; it does not have any chance of catching dopers. Did anyone know only 14 athletes are obligated by the IOF to send where-about information? Fourteen athletes selected from Foot-O, MTB-O and Ski-O and some of them have not been doping tested out-of-competition by the IOF for at least 1½ years. To put the numbers into perspective. In 2015, 27 different athletes won medals at WOC in Scotland. It is to look for a needle in a haystack.
Therefore, instead of making bad decisions like including O-Ringen in the World Cup, implementing an Athlete License not needed, charging athletes 30 euros to fund the dysfunctional anti-doping work, let us take one-step back and look at the IOF competition program again. IOF Competition review project have the potential to improve our sport, let us use the opportunity and make it right. Today it is a political agenda without taking into account knowledge and experience from the daily work on preparing for and racing at championships.
We all want out sport to improve; I am ready to make a difference.
Lars Lindstrøm
National Coach"

Original message is here.

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