Saturday, February 15, 2014

Ursula Häusermann: "Learning from experience is an important way to avoid making mistakes in the future"

Once again the IOF MTB Orienteering (MTBO) Commission has sought to analyse the quality of MTBO competition at world level. For this purpose the Commission invited those interested to answer a questionnaire about the three most important events of the 2013 international calendar: the European Championships (Poland), the World Championships (Estonia) and the World Cup final round (Portugal). These three events have all been assessed from various angles by the respondents to the questionnaire. Some final conclusions are presented here by Ursula Häusermann (SUI), a member of the Commission.

What was the IOF MTBO Commission’s main aim in launching this questionnaire?

Ursula Häusermann (U. H.) - The online questionnaire, which can be filled in by competitors, coaches, media people, spectators etc., is one of the “tools” that helps the MTBO Commission to assess event quality. Evaluation is very important and crucial to improving event quality further and to developing our sport. MTBO has now evaluated two full years (2012 and 2013), and we’re happy to share our experiences with others.

Shouldn’t the organisers themselves ask for feedback about their own events?

U. H. - Organising a major event such as a World Cup round involves a lot of work and I don’t think that organisers would have the time to conduct a survey themselves, although it’s also in the organisers’ own interest to know what the participants thought about their event. There’s no need for organisers to be afraid of being evaluated, because in my opinion most people who give feedback via the online questionnaire try to do so in a fair way. On the contrary, the event evaluation might even be a motivation to organise everything as well as possible. Moreover, learning from experience is an important factor to avoid mistakes in the future.

Did you consider the number of responses to be a sufficiently representative sample of all the participants in the three World Cup events last season?

U. H. - This online survey was done for the second time in 2013, and there are almost 3. times more responses than in 2012. A total of 62 people (including teams) gave feedback on the four events in 2012, while 159 responses were received for the three World Cup rounds last year. When we compare the number of responses with the number of participants, we see that overall about 46% of all participants filled in the questionnaire in 2013. Not surprisingly there are more answers when the organisation of an event gives reason for complaint; this means that negative feedback is more readily given than praise, which I think is a shame. So for 2014 I hope for lots of feedback but well-organised events!

I’d like to add that the feedback from participants via the online questionnaire is not the only way that the MTBO Commission assesses event quality.

U. H. - Some Commission members always attend the events as well, which gives us the chance to see or experience things for ourselves and to talk to participants face to face during the event. Furthermore, the Event Advisers and organisers inform the IOF in the form of written reports about how theevent went and about particular incidents or problems.

What do you feel about the results?

U. H. - The results show that two of the three World Cup rounds were very well organised, but unfortunately one got a lot of negative feedback. It’s no secret that the quality of this event was well below average. Therefore it could be expected that the answers in the online questionnaire wouldn’t be favourable. Two or three questions will be optimised for the 2014 questionnaire, but all in all I’d say that the responses can be considered as being quite a truthful indicator of the quality of an event.

Do you want to tell me anything about those items whose set of answers gave strong indications to the Commission that something must be done to prevent further problems in the future?

U. H. - As I already mentioned, the event quality of one event in 2013 was unfortunately quite poor and gave reason for serious concern within the MTBO Commission and the IOF Council. From the graphs, it’s clearly visible in which areas the problems occurred: maps, accommodation & food, publicity & media and bike mechanic services. The first two points are really vital for the competitors. A poorly organised event isn’t only a disappointment for the MTBO Commission, it’s most of all so for the athletes. Therefore it’s clear to the Commission that we must do everything in our power to prevent similar problems in the future.

If I may, I’d like to give some tips to organisers: Allow enough time for your work – especially mapping – and plan well ahead, try to anticipate possible problems, look at your event through the eyes of a competitor and, last but not least, ask your Event Adviser for help, if necessary, and make use of the many useful resources you can find on the IOF website.

Will the treatment given to the results and the conclusions generate a set of recommendations, or may it even lead to a proposal for changing some rules?

U. H. - Yes, sure, it often happens that rules amendments become an issue when evaluating an event. This is quite natural as the rules (should) evolve with the sport. Proposals for rules changes come also from Event Advisers or the Athletes’ Commission. Basically, the MTBO Commission evaluates event quality by analysing the feedback from competitors and by studying the event reports from organisers and advisers. The results of this evaluation are the basis for the education of Event Advisers and for documents for organisers and Event Advisers, e.g. the Guidelines for Organisers and the Handbook for Event Advisers, documents which can be found on the IOF website. Together with the Event Advisers, the MTBO Commission tries to give as much support to the organisers as possible.

Will we continue to receive an invitation to participate in this kind of questionnaire promoted by the Commission?

U. H. - Yes, definitely! The MTBO Commission appreciates the competitors’ feedback very much. What I can say for certain is that the responses and remarks from the athletes and coaches won’t just disappear in a “black box”!

Finally, I ask you what you would like to see happen in 2014.

U. H. - Well, I’d like to get more than 100 feedback responses on each event in 2014, and I’d be happy to see no red or orange graphs in the event evaluation for 2014. So I wish good preparation and good health to all MTBO athletes and lots of success to the organisers with their event!

The evaluation results can be found on the IOF website in the MTBO section.

[See the original article on Inside Orienteering 01/2014, at Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]

Joaquim Margarido

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