Tuesday, 16 October 2012

My turn to be shadowed

I recently had the opportunity to shadow two young orienteers and the experience was a good one. This weekend the tables were turned at the British Orienteering Federation Level 2 Coaching Course that I attended. First, I shadowed my good friend Tania and then she shadowed me!

We've been regular rogaining partners so we've navigated together. It's a bit different when you're being watched. She didn't really put me off but when you make a mistake... well it's embarrassing, especially when you do something stupid.

Tania's run was a fast one and she ran swiftly with good lines. She messed up one control that we were very close to. I saw the tag but then she kept running, looking at a further rocky patch. There's always the temptation to want to help, especially when you know the answer... but the kick we get from orienteering isn't just in finding the controls, but in problem solving when it isn't where we expect it to be.

It's interesting to see how someone else problem solves. Over time I've become even more analytical and so I stop and try to figure out what I did wrong (overshot, too soon, wrong feature, mis-read vegetation etc). I'm usually in close proximity to the control - it's just to nail it down.

My approach is probably a bit slower than Tania's - she'll check surrounding features (her line had been perfect; she just hadn't seen it and had then overshot) and chances are probably good that she'll locate the control. In this case, if the control marker had been an O flag instead of white tape she'd have spotted it first time as we ran past.

On my run I messed up the first control. A silly mis-judgement of distance (I should have been pacing!) and mis-read of the vegetation. I was in a clearing but needed to be under trees. The control was about 20m behind me. Doh!

I then messed up another when I took a squiffy line into it. And then I was a bit foxed by the vegetation. Something that is sooooo important to remember is that while O maps are accurate, the way that vegetation is shown is a representation, not 100% true. And, vegetation grows from one map update to the next. I was in about the right distance but too much to the right. I ran back to my last point of certainty, took a better bearing and then hit the control - feeling totally silly all the time because Tania had certainly spotted the control earlier.

Something that Tania noticed is how much detail I see and remember - I'd never thought about it. It is important to see detail when you're say within 50 metres of your control. I have a game that I like to play where after events I draw in my route on my map and then later I'll compare to a GPS track (I often run with a logger) to see how well I remembered. I'm fairly spot-on. I don't necessarily always look for small features but if I spot them along my route then I note in my mind how close I was to it, to my left or right etc. for later.  

The jury (me) is out on whether this saves or loses me time. On the one hand I always know exactly where I am and my last point of certainty is never far away. It is relatively quick for me to correct an error. But, putting the hammer down and running in the right direction is probably faster than ticking features off my mental checklist as I go.

I've become a big fan of shadowing - for big people - and it would be very instructional to be shadowed regularly. It is very much self-coaching too as you analyse your routes and errors even before your shadow does.

All in all it was an excellent weekend and we learned a load about coaching techniques from our BOF coaches, Hilary and John Palmer. We've got an assessment in two weeks and a ton of homework to do in preparation.
Our second practical session - this one in the forests. Hilary gives us instructions for the warm-up game.

Our third practical coaching session (we took turns coaching each other). 
All of us -  a bunch of orienteers from Jo'burg and Cape Town - all keen to coach others and to coach them well.

Our coaches - the very experienced John and Hilary Palmer from British Orienteering Federation.

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