[ARDF] Fun and Frustration

Bruce brucep at netspace.net.au
Thu Oct 8 16:13:56 PDT 2009

Since I'm in the car on the long way to Sydney I may as well spend  
ages typing in on the iPhone pad :)

I think Charles has touched on somthing important here .... burn out  
of volunteers.
I agree there is nothing more dispiriting than putting on a good event  
(not just training) for only a couple of competitors ! It's also not  
that great if you are one of those lonely competitors.
Unfortunately, setting an event is a lot more than just plonking some  
transmitters out in a forest. The prep beforehand of making sure most  
of 'the regulars' are going to show, and individually cajoling  
individuals to give it a try is more important than how good the event  
is.. It's rare an orienteer will try it on a whim on the day; they are  
already locked in mentally into doing orienteering. They have to be  
approached beforehand I find. Sure, a couple may try if after their  
"real event", if that wasn't too taxing.
Just banging on events and hoping competitors will beat a path to try  
it I agree is doomed.
We try to encourage all our ARDF group members to set a event each  
year, and most now are getting the idea how important the promotion  
and prior commitment of competitors is.

I loved Charles unicycle orienteering analogy. Perfect !!
It was one reason I ran an event as part if the Australian  
Orienteering Carnival last week; to make RadiO be perceived as a valid  
form of orienteering, like SkiO, MTBO and Rogaining. Was interesting  
to get a number of New Zealand competitors, one who had done ARDF  
years ago. Others from interstate had read my articles in Australian  
Orienteer (glad to see at least someone read them !).
At a another recent event I'd managed beforehand to convince just one  
of the junior orienteering squad to try it. Luckily on the day he  
dragged along another, and the rest didn't want to be left out so  
suddenly we had 6 giving FoxOr a try. Normally it would be impossible  
to get any.

Marvin's questions: the club owns 10 YNG 2m sniffer and 7 MZ 80m  
sniffer kits for loaners. We have also ordered 10 more automated 80m  
sniffers. Newcomers do get the hang of the automatic ones quicker than  
the more manual units, especially if non technical people. In some  
ways kids are more adaptable and will often figure out anything you  
give them, or give up entirely.
I'm going to agree with Jay and disagree with Marvin on the Chinese  
units. Wouldn't let a beginner near them; they'll just get pissed off.
Recall we run FoxOrs as our introductory style ? Well you can't go  
handing out loaners that are less sensitive; they won't hear the  
ForOrs till on top of them => frustration & give up. We avoid running  
80m foxors till we get the new receivers. The club units are a bit deaf.
The club 80m units are all set in peak mode permanently; it's much  
easier to explain to beginners. They don't even have a null switch.  
Importantly, they also run in whoopee mode, except on the most  
sensitive setting, so the broader peak is less of a problem. We  are  
gradually removing the audio/whoopee switches too. The attenuation  
knob becomes a 10 way selector switch with preset attenuation levels,  
and the 1st step just switches you from audio into whoopee mode. Cut  
down the number of knobs and switches for a beginner to get wrong !

The other thing I've learnt is you can't make an ARDF flag too  
obvious. Don't  hide the thing. There is nothing more frustrating for  
anyone, seasoned or beginner, than waiting around 4 minutes while the  
TX is under a bush nearby.

As to how to promte ARDF ..  I dunno.

Orienteering here expends a lot of time, and effort, and to some  
extent money, on the schools orienteering program. Hundreds attend the  
schools championship, but having helped out and seen, I'm afraid most  
kids are there because it's a day off school rather than a serious  
committment. The winner is nearly always a kid from an 'orienteering  
family'. Number of kids who might go on to a real orienteering event  
who aren't already taken there by parents: maybe 3 or 4 I can think  
of... out of say 800.
No way can ARDF expend this amount of effort for such a poor return.


On 09/10/2009, at 7:25 AM, Charles Scharlau  
<charles.scharlau at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Thu, Oct 8, 2009 at 12:42 PM, Marvin Johnston <marvin at west.net>  
> wrote:
>> I am not convinced that high quality equipment is necessary; the  
>> equipment
>> only needs to be adequate to teach the skills necessary to DF.  If  
>> someone
>> is interested, they will obtain the equipment required for them to do
>> better.
> I agree that the quality of the equipment is not what keeps most  
> people from
> trying, or staying with the sport of ARDF. I still contend that ARDF's
> retention rate, at least in our area, is similar to that of  
> orienteering:
> close to zero. Those that do stick with orienteering tend to fall  
> into one
> of two camps: those that enjoy walking in the woods, and those that  
> want to
> compete. The latter are mostly recent immigrants who have fond  
> memories of
> the sport from childhood. There's nothing in ARDF that is uniquely
> interesting to either group.
> I think we may have to deal with the reality that ARDF, like
> orienteering, is a niche sport, and is likely to remain that way.  
> The only
> thing that might change that would be an evolution of the sport into
> something that it currently is not.
> While I am certainly in favor of developing/obtaining good  
> equipment, I'm
>> not so certain that the lack of good equipment is hindering the  
>> growth of
>> ARDF.
>> My suspicion is that relatively few people are willing to dedicate  
>> regular
>> time to promoting ARDF, and that is the real problem. Anyone  
>> disagree?
>> And if this is the problem, what is needed to get more people to  
>> devote
>> time to promoting ARDF?
>> I respectfully disagree. Would more promotion help? It could help  
>> bring
> orienteering retention closer to that of orienteering, perhaps, but  
> always
> with the handicap of additional technical hurdles inherent to ARDF.  
> I don't
> see there being some mystical threshold of promotion that once  
> attained will
> unleash a flood of new participants who have been searching for this
> activity. I think we (or at least I) need to try something different.
> I spent more than a year holding monthly ARDF practice events in  
> conjunction
> with our local orienteering club. My efforts were tolerated well,  
> and looked
> upon with the same curiosity that might be shown to someone promoting
> orienteering on a unicycle. I also visited ham clubs, and talked up  
> the
> events on the local repeater. Periodically I would rope a few folks  
> into
> giving it a go. They would comment afterward on how fun and  
> interesting it
> was, but strangely would not find time to try it again. A few hams
> contributed equipment, and spoke longingly of having the time to try  
> the
> sport someday. Funny, they always had time to spend at all the  
> regional ham
> fests.
> I'm sure I wasn't the best promoter in the world. But I don't think  
> that was
> at the core of why the crowds didn't form at my table of receivers  
> for loan.
> I was selling soccer to football enthusiasts. How is soccer finally  
> making
> inroads into American culture? It got started locally first, many  
> years ago,
> with small teams that could compete against one another, and kids
> who learned from an early age to understand and appreciate the sport.
> I can only repeat the idea I related earlier: Sell the sport to the
> leadership of two local groups who are willing to make a small  
> commitment:
> to provide a minimum number of motivated participants. Foster  
> competition
> between the groups. Encourage them to bring in more groups. If we  
> want ARDF
> to "take off", then we need to launch it locally. And I suspect we  
> should
> plan on the sport requiring a long runway.
> Most of all ARDF needs to be kept fun. If ARDF isn't fun, no one  
> will stick
> with it, including the promoters. Sitting by yourself, waiting for the
> participants who aren't going to show, is no fun. If that is what is
> happening to you, please try something different before you lose all
> enthusiasm.
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