BURKE, VA — Understandably, the “organizational” parts of embracing a new sport — a sport that is still very much Euro-centric in nature — is a very difficult transition. After two consecutive years of World MTBO Championship participation, we have learned that we can field both M21 and W21 teams that can finish a race. This may not seem like a big deal to most, but at this level of competition, having everyone complete a clean race (i.e. no mis-punches, no disqualifications, no protests) is the first challenge to any country still learning the sport.
Not Our First Rodeo
We may be a long way from the podium in Elite competition, but we are now familiar (for the most part) on how this whole World MTBO thing works. Like the saying goes, “this is not our first rodeo” anymore. We have plenty of data regarding registration fees, deadline, travel expenses, mountain bike shipping issues, lodging, transportation, opening ceremonies, race day requirements, timing, awards, and closing ceremonies. Additionally, we have tentatively created a self-selection process, had both men and women participate, and have had our first Orienteering USA official in country. Every one of these milestones has been essential to what comes next. We are a long way from where we were pre-2012.
A New MTBO America Mission
Now it is time to take off the training wheels and get down to completing this athletic journey Susan Grandjean, Abra McNair, and Rebecca Jensen got us started on. Over the next few months, MTBO America will begin to unveil the details to a new initiative called “MTBO Project 2015”. The vision of this project is to look beyond the World MTBO Championships in Poland in 2014, but concentrate on new strategy for tackling our efforts at the WMTBOC in Czech Republic in 2015. This doesn’t mean we ignore Poland next year, but allows us the time needed to complete the following initiatives:
Goal #1: Build Foundation
The time has come to embrace what the US MTBO Team just accomplished. There are now five new up-and-coming clubs that support MTBO-ready memberships: Columbia River Orienteering Club (CROC), Minnesota Orienteering Club (MNOC), Orienteer Kansas (OK), Florida Orienteering (FLO), and Western Connecticut Orienteering Club (WCOC); six if you count the Quantico Orienteering Club (QOC) where the current Orienteering USA MTBO Competition Chair, Greg Lennon, and myself hail from. This is a nice cross section of orienteering clubs from across the United States who now represent the first World Ranked US MTBO athletes. What they also form is an essential “MTBO Backbone” of orienteering clubs that span the entire nation. But to maintain this backbone, these clubs need to begin the process of creating, setting, and hosting necessary MTBO events needed to promote MTBO in America. Now is the time to capitalize on the recent accomplishments of their elite MTBO members and start the hard work needed to build a MTBO Foundation. This is why our first goal in MTBO Project 2015 is in support of those clubs who want to build MTBO events. It starts with these first six clubs, but it does not end there. We know that other clubs are interested, but need MTBO pioneers to lead the way. What better to lead the charge then the clubs that support our first Elite MTBO athletes!
Goal #2: Build Youth Interest
MTBO sport development begins with MTBO youth development. If there is no one coming up from behind us, then there will be no longevity in the life of American MTBO. The only way to build a MTBO culture in the United States is to get young boys and girls interested in participating. In this year’s World MTBO Championships, it became obvious that numerous European teams — including the Australians and the Japanese — have built youth teams for world competition. We need to do that too! This is why our second goal in MTBO Project 2015 is to encourage younger riders to try MTBO and hopefully be a part of the US MTBO Team in 2015. MTBO growth requires the next generation, especially if we are interested in competing fully in world MTBO competition with the likes of Finland, Czech Republic, and France.
Goal #3: Build National Connections
After two years of self-selection, self-funding, and no national competition, we need to form a new way of prioritize athletic selection of American MTBO teams for 2015 and beyond. To do this, we need annual regional and/or national level MTBO competitions designed to build a roster of potential US MTBO Team candidates. Top athletes from these competitions will form a ranking structure of invitees to the World MTBO Championship team similar to how Orienteering USA and USA Cycling selects teams for international competitions. Additionally, these national competitions can serve as the the baseline funding mechanism for sending athletes overseas WITHOUT having to provide their own funding (or greatly reducing the athlete’s contribution). This is why our third goal in MTBO Project 2015 is support Orienteering USA in developing regional and/or national MTBO competitions, O-USA officiating guidance, and potential venues and schedules. By committing to the creation of a national MTBO championship by 2015, MTBO America hopes to create the vehicle for sending all future MTBO athletes to the World MTBO Championships.
The Future of MTBO
MTBO America was founded with the vision that we could influence the creation of a sustainable and competitive mountain bike orienteering sport culture withing the United States of America. We believe that MTBO Project 2015 is the first real step towards that vision and hope to see it become reality. The future for MTBO in America is bright, but there is a lot of work that still needs to be done. We hope you will do your part in helping us finally establish Mountain Bike Orienteering as a viable sport in the United States of America.