Starting a Club

Why start an orienteering club?

To enjoy orienteering! Forming your own orienteering club will allow you to participate in orienteering events in your own back yard. You will be able to share your enjoyment of orienteering with others and eventually to benefit from their enthusiasm.

Who starts a club?

The beauty of orienteering is that anyone willing to read and learn can begin a successful club program. Sometimes existing groups take up orienteering as a side interest. This is a great way to start. It assures an available group with established leaders, shared interests, and sometimes even a sponsor.

But if you are an isolated enthusiast, take heart, many clubs have been started by people just like you. Try to meet other people in your area pursuing related activities who would welcome the chance to learn about orienteering, if only they knew what it was and how to find it. Try contacting outdoor interest groups of all sorts: scouts, runners, ski clubs, bicyclers, etc. Contact the physical education and recreation departments of any local college or university. Your most important contact of all could be your local Parks and Recreation Department. Your parks department manages the areas you will probably eventually want to use for orienteering activities. They also often offer informal classes in various outdoor pursuits. Most would welcome your offer to teach a basic orienteering class and some even have financial backing which could help with maps and expenses.

Getting started

Once you feel confident that interest in orienteering does exist, you should make contact with other established orienteers. Find the club nearest you and try to attend at least one of their events to get a feel for orienteering and how things are done. Be sure to take advantage of Orienteering USA's Club Support and Development Directors--they're here to help!

  • New Club Support: Mike Minium (OH) 513-523-9279, [mikeminium [at] aol [dot] com]
  • Club Development: Greg Lennon (MD) 301-765-0840, [greg_lennon [at] orienteeringusa [dot] org]
  • Electronic Punching: Valerie Meyer (VA) 703-671-3655 (before 9 pm EST), [vmeyer9086 [at] aol [dot] com]
  • Map Loans and Grants: Linda Ferguson (VA) 703-921-2025, [cior [at] aol [dot] com]
  • Mapping Coordinator: Greg Lennon (MD) 301-765-0840, [greg_lennon [at] orienteeringusa [dot] org]

People are important, but so are maps

Just as you can't play tennis without a tennis court, you can't orienteer without a map! Even novice and non-orienteers can make maps (yes, that's YOU!).

Your club's first few maps should be of popular areas which are easily accessible. Be sure to get permission first, even if the area is public. Familiar areas make people feel secure about trying something new. Remember, too, that very few people are willing to drive great distances to try something for the very first time.

Your first few maps should not be too large. Choose either a small city park or a section of a larger park. Areas with many easily identifiable features are best for beginners. By tackling a smaller area, you will not only have your first maps done and ready to use sooner, but you will be able to do a better job of making the map before you tire of the task or run out of time. The time spent on these first few "easy" maps will be time well spent investing in the future of your club. You can use these maps to refine your mapping skills, to teach others how to map, and to introduce newcomers to basic orienteering skills long after you and your early recruits seek more challenging areas to use.

How to make your first map

Orienteers use a special variation of topographical maps. Most local club maps in this country use aerial surveys for their contour base. LIDAR basemaps are also available in some parts of the country. Use sources of existing maps which may be available online and ask land managers about using their park maps, forestry maps, soil and water conservation district maps, and county engineering maps as base maps for your orienteering map.

When you have found a beginning base map, you will have to field check it for orienteering use. This means walking the area and adding all the features you want to use for precision navigation, as well as confirming the features already on the map. If necessary, take the map to a printer and have it enlarged to an appropriate scale. The simplest scale for beginners is 1:10,000, although even larger scales work well, but avoid scales smaller than 1:15,000 as they are difficult to read.

Field checking involves:

  •     Verifying that features on the map do indeed exist as they are represented on the map;
  •     Deleting or changing those which do not; and
  •     Adding other details and features which will be helpful to the orienteer.

Remember, no one would even recognize the fact that your map is not perfect. What is important to orienteers is that all of the features of a map relate to each other correctly in direction, distance, and sequence. There are various map-making resources online to help you with the details. Check the Mappers section of the site for useful info and links, as well as a directory of mappers for hire.

Once you have completed field checking, draw a clear final copy of your map. You might want to use a free download version of OCAD (computer-aided drafting for orienteering). Be sure to add a legend, a scale, and information on how to contact your club. Take your map to a printer and you're all set.

Now you're ready for your first event: Read Planning your first event and the local events section under Event Organizers for helpful hints!

Administrative details

Be sure to charter your club with Orienteering USA so that you have access to Orienteering USA's liability insurance coverage, too. To do so, you will need one of the following forms:

Once your club has a charter with Orienteering USA, you will be covered by the group liability insurance.  If you need to provide proof of insurance to a landowner, submit an Orienteering USA Insurance Certificate Request Form.

You'll find more key forms and other documents in the Forms section of this site.