Los Angeles Orienteering Volunteer Opportunities
LAOC is a volunteer run organisation. Every event depends on multiple volunteers in order to offer a great experience for all of our club members and guests.
Volunteering has multiple benefits, such as meeting and learning from fellow orienteers, building relationships with other volunteers and the club officers, and learning more about our venues and how the club operates. Below are some of the primary volunteer roles for each event - if any interest you please let the meet director know; we always welcome the help and will provide any guidance/training needed.
Any member or guests first introduction to the club is the registration table. Volunteering at the registration table typically involves greeting competitors, locating their race packet (bib and estick if rented) and possibly taking payment if they did not pre-pay. For events where pre-registration is not required, competitors may need help filling the application form and waiver, and understanding the fee schedule.
The registration table can get busy at large events and especially if many didn't pre-register, so a calm, organized and welcoming disposition helps in this role, along with an understanding of the LAOC fee schedule.
Most events offer a white course for those new to the sport. In addition to this introductory course, LAOC will often have a volunteer available to give introductory training. This will not go into a lot of details, but with the aid of various props provided by LAOC, the trainer will talk through how to interpret maps, use a compass and other basic orienteering skills. Usually these sessions will be less than 30 minutes, and are not expected to prepare someone to tackle advanced or expert courses.
This role is a great way to meet others, while sharing a fundamental understanding of the sport. There's no better test of understanding than explaining it to others, so if you have some orienteering experience and enjoy sharing that knowledge, this could the role for you.
Separate from registration is the ePunch station, where the volunteer helps ensure competitors are correctly registered (i.e. associated with the right course and estick number) and upon return they successfully download their estick results. Overseeing the ePunch station therefore requires familiarity with the associated event management software, and helping competitors understand how to interpret the results upon downloading - especially if they mis-punched a control. There can also be complications with the registration, such as a competitor wanting to take a different course than they had registered for. The download data is also critical to knowing which competitors are still overdue, may be lost and need help.
This role therefore depends on some understanding of the software we use, for which training can be provided. A familiarity with Windows and inclination towards learning software not designed by a UX specialist are great skills for this role! A willingness to spend time with competitors explaining MP (miss punched) and DNFs (did not finish) and helping them understand where things might have gone wrong is essential, along with recognizing when data entry was at fault (e.g. the course they ran is different to what the software expected). Also, alerting the meet director and course setter to systemic issues (e.g. multiple competitors not finding the same control) can help provide timely remediation to related problems.
Competitors are released at set times and with spacing so that each enjoys the experience of navigating the course without following others. Volunteering at the start involves sequencing competitors for each course, letting them know when they can expect to start, releasing them at the assigned time and logging their start on a paper form. The start volunteer should also ensure competitors have used the clear and check controls before starting, and punch start before taking their map.
The start can often be a busy place at larger events, so being organized and willing to raise your voice above the excited chatter are valuable skills. You don't need to have any orienteering experience to volunteer at the start, but it is helpful to know how to punch controls so competitors can ensure a successful clear and check, and to observe they correctly punch start before leaving. Experienced orienteers will understand the rules wrt control sheets vs maps, but those less experienced may need some guidance on the sequence of looking at the map vs punching start.
Once competitors pass the finish line they punch the finish control and are logged as having returned by the volunteer at the finish. These finish records are critical to ensuring everyone returned safely - if there is disparity between the finish and start records, it may be reason to suspect someone is lost and needs help, so diligent record keeping is an essential skill.
Competitors are often ready to take a rest but excited to talk about the course they just completed so this is a great volunteer opportunity for meeting and learning from fellow orienteers, which can be valuable insight for those new to the sport, and the course setter, but no orienteering skills are needed to volunteer for the finish.
This role can be thought of as the puzzle master. The course setter visits the venue prior to the event, usually multiple times. Using specialized software and a knowledge of orienteering standards the course setter designs and proofs every course that will be set at an event. Orienteering maps for each venue are provided from the LAOC archive, but the course setter may also need to make updates to the event map, or work with our cartographer to have updates made. The course setter is then responsible for physically placing the controls per her/his design, and having the requisite number of maps printed (LAOC reimburses any expenses). On the day of the event the course setter is on point for any course related issues, and organizes control pickup after the event.
This volunteer role is a great way to learn more about the decision making aspects of advanced/expert courses, and become highly familiar with venues. While course setters may not wish to compete at the expert level, they do need to be familiar with the requirements of all levels and willing to place controls on expert level courses. LAOC offers course setting training at least annually, but another great way to begin learning this role is by partnering with an experienced course setter. LAOC uses the Condes software running on Windows for course designs, and can provide a loaner laptop for any course setter that doesn't have a suitable system available.
Not ready to compete at the advanced or expert level, but want to get some insight into those controls? Pickup may be for you! Every event involves at least 30+ controls that must be carefully placed before the event, and then retrieved after the course closes and before we leave for the day. The more pickup volunteers we have the faster we can complete the mission and all go home. The course setter will prepare an efficient plan for picking up controls, that will be compartmentalized into efficient loops. Participating in control pickup is a great way to see areas of the venue your course might not have visited. If you are not comfortable going to more remote controls we can either assign those to others, or have you pair with someone who is comfortable with retrieving them. Even if you only pick-up a few controls your help will be deeply appreciated.
Much of a meet directors work happens before the day of the event and is likely unknown to most competitors. This involves first ensuring the appropriate permits, fees and insurance requirements are addressed in sufficient time to advertise the event and clear the course setter to do their work. The meet director will coordinate with the course setter on logistics (e.g. event start location, permits etc). Once registration closes, the meet director processes the registration data and prepares the bibs, rental esticks and records payment status. On the day of the event the meet director is central to organizing volunteers, running the registration/payment station and addressing the countless surprises that can arise. Post event the meet director submits a financial report to the treasurer along with processing the collected payments, and provides a post event summary to the club webmaster.