orange square Many of us have will have tried orienteering at some point in our life, whether at school, scouts/ girl guides, corporate team building or on a stag/ hen party, but for those who are completely new to the activity, orienteering basically consists of navigating around a pre determined course using a map and compass. The course will have a series of check points which must be reached in a particular sequence and its up to you to decide the best and most efficient route to take. Orienteering at a very basic level starts in primary schools and participation goes all the way up to national and international competitions such as the World Orienteering Championships held this year in Lausanne, Switzerland. You're not restricted to walking, jogging or running around the course either, Mountain Bike Orienteering and Ski Orienteering is enjoyed by both orienteering enthusiasts and those with a cycling or ski background.

map and compass

Orienteering in Schools

Orienteering is becoming increasingly popular in schools, particularly in primary schools where children are taught the basics from a very early age. It helps to stimulate learning and allows the children to have fun at the same time. The British Schools Orienteering Association (BSOA) was set up in 1995 to promote and support the development of schools orienteering and ultimately increase participation nationally. The BSOA has close links to the sports NGB, British Orienteering which provides regional Participation Managers to assist schools in setting up orienteering programmes that meet national curriculum requirements and training/ qualifications for teachers.


There are several qualifications you can achieve if you want to teach or coach orienteering. These qualifications are currently being restructured to fit into two separate pathways, the first pathway is aimed at teaching both children and adults at a beginner level, and the second pathway is mainly for experienced orienteers looking to teach at a higher level with a professional qualification.

Young Leaders Award

Aimed at 14-19 year olds, the Young Leaders Award enables the holder to coach basic orienteering skills in an enclosed environment under the supervision of a qualified teacher or tutor with a Teaching Orienteering Part 1 Certificate or UKCC Level 1 Certificate.

Teaching Orienteering Part 1

This certificate provides the training to enable the holder to teach orienteering at a basic level. Aimed at teachers, school workers and outdoor activity centre employees, it will demonstrate how to conduct orienteering sessions outdoors in a fun and exciting way, and teaches basic map work such as orientation, common symbols and the importance of north. Although the training isn't assessed, you'll be awarded a certificate of attendance to show that you have the knowledge to lead sessions.

Teaching Orienteering Part 2

Unsurprisingly, this is next step up from the Teaching Orienteering Part 1 certificate. This is for teachers and outdoor centre workers who want to coach at a higher level, and teach more advanced orienteering skills such as compass use, contours, distance understanding etc, in preparation for external examinations and competitions. As with the Part 1 certificate, this training is not assessed.

UKCC Level 1 Certificate in Coaching Orienteering

This qualification takes place over 3 days which includes 2 days of training and 1 day of assessment, the course itself is very practical allowing you to work on your coaching skills throughout the training. The course also contains elements of risk assessment and safety which will enable you to lead sessions without supervision providing you work in a safe area such as school grounds.

UKCC Level 2 Certificate in Coaching Orienteering

This qualification is only suitable for those with existing experience of coaching orienteering and will allow you to teach the more advanced skills and modern techniques in all areas apart from exposed or mountainous terrain. You will also be suitably qualified to teach at local orienteering clubs and coach athletes who compete in local and regional events. Pre requisites include a minimum of 18 years of age, First Aid qualified, and you must hold the Level 1 Certificate in Coaching Orienteering. The course can be gruelling, with over 20 hours of training, 20 hours of home study, 6 further coaching sessions with a mentor, as well as 12 hours of assessment before you can be awarded the qualifications. The aim for any participant will be to complete the award within 6-9 months, although you are allowed up to 2 years!

For those looking to specialise in performance and higher level coaching, a UKCC Level 3 and 4 qualification will be added at a later date.

Training courses and assessment take place at designated venues around the country, usually based at an Outdoor Activity Centre which already provides orienteering as a general activity. Full details, prices and booking information can be found on the British Orienteering website www.britishorienteering.org.uk/page/training_courses

You may also consider attending an NNAS Course (National Navigation Award Scheme) (http://www.nnas.org.uk/), which is a personal performance skills scheme aimed at improving your navigational ability in the countryside. There are 3 awards, Bronze includes navigation using paths and tracks plus basic map and compass work, Silver builds on the bronze award and includes more accurate compass work to navigate someway off the beaten track and cross country, and Gold adds techniques for dealing with difficult contours and terrain.

What Employment Opportunities are available to me?

Employment opportunities are fewer in number than many other sports particularly if you're only planning on coaching orienteering. Your best chance is to gain employment at an Outdoor Activity Centre offering a variety of activities to school and private groups throughout the year. Most activity centres will provide an orienteering activity particularly if they cater for schools so working here will allow you to use your qualifications and experience. If you manage to enrol on an apprenticeship or trainee scheme, you may find that your employer enters you into the orienteering awards automatically in which case they will be paid for you. You will always be able to find volunteer work with local orienteering clubs helping them with coaching and competitions, and building your experience at the same time. It's worth keeping in touch with British Orienteering as well because they often look for qualified individuals to become Coach Education Tutors and Assessors, training and assessing the next crop of orienteering coaches working their way through the various award schemes just like you did. To find out more about becoming an orienteering instructor, we spoke to Josh:

orienteering map

How did you first get started in orienteering and how much experience did you have before you thought about becoming an instructor?

Josh: I first started orienteering at the age of 3 with encouragement from my parents. I have orienteered my entire life and have been in the great britain team. Throughout my life I have received a lot of coaching and mentoring and when I finished competing I wanted to give something back. In 2009 I set up my business with the sole goal of increasing participation in the sport.

Let's say I am 18 years old, and I want to work at an outdoor centre, teaching orienteering. Which qualification would be most suitable? - UKCC Level 1, Teaching Orienteering Part 1, or Young Leaders Award?

Josh: To work at an outdoor centre teaching orienteering it will depend what sort of role you will be doing. For example if you are just helping a fully qualified instructor then you will only require a young leaders award which is a 6 hour course. To run sessions yourself within the confines of a school grounds or simple outdoor centre then Teaching Orienteering part 1 would be suitable. If you wanted to lead a coaching session then I would suggest UKCCl1

Most of these entry level courses do not require much previous experience of orienteering. In which case, what skills should people concentrate on if they do wish to go down the coaching route? Is is mostly about fitness and the ability to run across upland fells, or more the map reading and navigation side?

Josh: Most of the basic skills in orienteering are taught on the courses so not much previous experience is necessary. However a pre-requisite to become a licensed coach is that you have to demonstrate your ability to compete at a light green standard. In my opinion the best coaches are people who can listen very well and ask good questions. Most of the time when coaching you don't see your athletes so the debriefing is vital. It is not essential to be very athletically fit but a good understanding of map reading would help and knowledge of the orienteering world.

Teaching Orienteering Part 1 and 2 are aimed at teachers. Why do you think orienteering has become so popular with schools?

Josh: Orienteering has been increasingly popular with schools because the sport offers so much. In recent years there has been an increase in the demand for outdoor sports and after the Olympics people have started looking around for alternative sports. From a teaching point of view, it is very cross-curricular and can cover, maths, geography, P.E, team building and problem solving all in one lesson. In Schools the children that tend to excel at orienteering aren't your classically sporty people. The quiet children in the class that apply themselves find that they are normally best at the sport because they can use their brain.

You hold the Level 3 coaching qualification, can you tell us how this steps up from the Level 2 we mentioned in the article above?

Josh: Level 3 basically enables me to coach at a regional level. It is more about 1on1 teaching and athlete development. Level 1 and 2 are the starters and limit you to club coaching with a variety of abilities. Level 3 focuses more on talented athletes.

You are a qualified coach/assessor as well, which means you can offer the qualification to other budding instructors, what made you want to move on to this level?

Josh: When I set up my business I wanted to be able to offer every element of the orienteering experience. The next logical step for me was to become a coach educator so that I can train people I will be working with in the future.

And finally, do you have any advice for people wanting to get involved in instructing orienteering?

Josh: My best advice for people thinking about it would be to go for it. It is highly rewarding and you get to meet lots of different people and work outside. If anyone is interested in coaching opportunities in the South East, I am looking to recruit some trainees to work with me during the summer.

Josh Jenner is an Orienteering Coach and Mapper, you can find out more about what he does on his website, joshjenner.co.uk. Or by contacting him on: 07837 629925.

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