It has been months since the World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships in Waldviertel, Austria in August 2018.
What happened in the aftermath?
The aftermath of yet another disastrous World MTBO appearance?
You would think that Orienteering USA would still be talking about their MTBO team.
Why would I think that?
Well, they have yet to shut up about their foot orienteering team at the World Orienteering Championships.
However, if you think that too, you would be wrong.
Not only are they not talking about the US MTBO Team, what they do say is rather shocking.
In September’s OUSA newsletter, they mention Mountain Bike Orienteering only three times.
Twice in a single article (with only one paragraph) in which the lead-in sentence stated: “Team USA sent a strong contingent to this year’s World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships […]”.
That doesn’t seem to match the reality on the ground.
Then they finally mention it a third time in the 2018 Silva Award Winners write-up for Kathleen and Greg Lennon that stated about the couple: “Both Greg and Kathleen have been extensively involved in organizing and promoting the U.S. Mountain Bike Orienteering Team, including raising funds to support the team.”
If you’re not familiar with the Silva Award, it’s an award given every year for those who have demonstrated outstanding service to orienteering in the United States over the past five years.
Nothing like winning an award for “extensively” producing seven years of last place MTBO finishes.
But that is neither here nor there.
What about October?
Surely October would have been full of talk about changes to OUSA MTBO policy.
I mean, first off there have been almost two months to reflect on the lessons learned from the World MTBO Championships.
The US MTBO Team does do lessons learned reports, right?
Oh, my mistake!
That’s only teams from USAT, USAC, and USTAF.
Next, you have Greg and Kathleen Lennon, the extensive organizers and promoters of the US Mountain Bike Orienteering Team, winning The 2018 Orienteering USA Silva Service Award.
That HAS to have them talking about the future of MTBO in America, right?
Lennon just stepped down from the OUSA board of directors.
I guess that is the end of all his extensive organizing and promoting on behalf of MTBO.
What about the election of Susan Grandjean to the OUSA board of directors!
Grandjean is a founding member of the US MTBO, and one of the first Americans to race in the World MTBO Championships in 2012.
She’s been on every US MTBO Team since the beginning.
Certainly, Grandjean will be talking about the future of MTBO in OUSA, right?
One would have to think that the election of a real-life US MTBO Team Member to the OUSA board of directors means that OUSA is about to have a big shift in MTBO support.
It does mean that, right?
Again, it’s another big NOPE!
First, the recent Orienteering USA October newsletter doesn’t even mention MTBO once.
Ok, that’s doesn’t mean anything yet.
So I went back through years of OUSA newsletters to see what they say.
Turns out that I discovered a very interesting trend: MTBO is a discipline that OUSA only talks about during the Summer.
Make that LATE Summer.
It then collectively forgets that MTBO exists from another 9-months until it comes time to collect money and send another team.
After seeing this same trend for over 7-years now, I now see that MTBO is treated as an orienteering oddity that few foot orienteers want to race and fewer want to support.
The evidence is in OUSA’s own newsletters.
There may have been a few members — myself among them — that once supported bringing MTBO into the OUSA fold over the years, but those days are over.
Well, maybe the rank and file are not supporting it, but certainly, the OUSA board of directors has established some strategic goals in support of future MTBO growth, right?
This thought caused me to investigate the latest OUSA board of directors meeting in October 2018.
However, MTBO was not on the agenda.
It could be that MTBO had already been discussed in past meetings and I just missed it.
So I went back one month to the OUSA board meeting in September where they discussed Long-Range Planning?
No MTBO there either.
That lead me to go back through all of the OUSA board of directors meeting minutes for 2018.
Certainly, they talked about it BEFORE they sent an American team to the WORLD MTBO CHAMPIONSHIPS!
Wouldn’t that just make sense?
But if you thought that too, you would be wrong yet again.
MTBO appears to be absent from all the meeting minutes for all of 2018.
This is when it dawned on me.
Looking at the lack of MTBO in all the OUSA documents the answer was clear as could be: If the OUSA board of directors is not talking about MTBO, then it’s not a priority.
Therefore, if it is not a priority, then it is not part of the OUSA strategy.
Meaning if it is not part of their strategy, then I can say — with absolute certainty — that Orienteering USA does not have a vested organizational or promotional interest in growing the sport of mountain bike orienteering.
I wanted to be wrong, but the evidence is all there.
This is why I wrote MTBO in America is Dead! Long Live American MTBO!.
It was a hard post to write.
After hundreds of articles in active support since 2009, I finally had to call attention to what I saw as a lack of OUSA support to build a mountain bike orienteering discipline.
I thought when they took ownership and initiative in 2012 to add MTBO as a supported OUSA discipline, they would do it right.
Instead, all they did was take credit for what others had built and let the cause fade into obscurity.
July 2018 was a sad day for my opinion of OUSA.
To declair MTBO in America dead was my futial attempt at shocking the orienteering community into maybe taking action.
However, despite the historical evidence that their efforts were not working, they sent the team anyway.
And as predicted, that team did not live up to being called a strong contingent.
I often wonder if my MTBO call to action just came too late?
Did I play fan-boy too long and help cause this damage?
I do feel some responsibility for not speaking out sooner.
Now, after finding out that pointing out the obvious gives you the added bonus of being kicked out of the OUSA cool-kids club, I’ve adopted a different strategy.
If you’ve been paying attention, you may remember that I once called for Mountain Bike Orienteering to be its own discipline with its own national organization.
Unfortunately, after seven years of neglect at the hands of OUSA, I am renewing that opinion.
OUSA doesn’t deserve to have a say in mountain bike orienteering’s future.
They squandered that away by giving 99-percent of their attention to foot and ski orienteering.
Frankly, I would be surprised if anyone at OUSA even cares that I think this way.
Nobody there wants to hear the truth anyway.
Fewer still want to fix what is obviously broken.
Their actions speak louder than words, but they own words — or lack of them — speak the loudest.
The only way for mountain bike orienteering to grow as a sport in the United States of America is to become its own master.
With that mastery will come attention, focus, and real growth.
NICA did this to USA Cycling with interscholastic athletes.
XTERRA did this to USAT racers who liked mountain bikes and trail running more than pavement.
Even ARC did this to USARA when it neglected to support non-elite adventure racers.
There is a long line of examples of sporting disciplines that have broken off from their negligent national sponsor.
It is time for mountain bike orienteering to join their ranks?
I think the answer to that is, Yes!