When you think of orienteering, what pops into mind? Flags? Getting lost in the countryside? Maps and compasses? We would be the first to agree that it might look like an odd sport. The basic principle is this: Imagine an area such as Buskett and people racing against a clock whilst navigating their way with a map to finish first and with the fastest time.

The sport combines both a physical and a mental element and the basic idea is to proceed from course start to finish by visiting a number of control points in a predetermined order with the help of a map and compass. In order to choose the best possible route, orienteers look at the characteristics of the terrain, and the winner is determined by the fastest time to complete the course. What is unique to orienteering is that an orienteer must navigate and make quick decisions while running at high speed.

Not convinced? Below are some very good reasons why orienteering is such a great sport.

Every time it’s different

Are you tired of doing the same training routes? Going through the same area each week? I guess everyone is. This is why orienteering is fun. It’s very likely, and we can pretty much guarantee it; that throughout your orienteering life, you will never run the same route twice. Meaning that there is variety in the sport. (This depends if you’re taking part in the sport aboard – we’re pretty limited in Malta due to the Island’s size).

Would you like a full body workout?

The sport is usually practised off-trail. Most courses are designed to avoid paths and the terrain can change from hills to fields to beaches. You could end up jumping through water streams or thick trees (usually only if you’re not on course). Try running a road race and compare that to an orienteering race and tell us which one makes you ache more.

It’s not always so muddy

Whilst most orienteering events are held in hills and bushes, there are some which are held in towns and cities. With the navigation and maps being simpler, this could be a great way to introduce the sport to newbies.

The sport gives you skills for life

Nobody can deny how important navigational skills can be. Even in this day and age with all our technology, it’s difficult to understand how some people can’t remember directions and have no sense of direction. It could be because these people were not left exploring (literally) from when young. Let children explore and get lost. It will teach them how to be independent and adventurous. And when they grow up, they will thank-you for it.

If you’re rearing to start off the sport, this new discipline will be introduced in Maltese schools as from this September in the quest to select the members of the first ever local team that will participate in the World Schools’ Orienteering Championships that will be held in Estonia in May 2019.

Training for PE teachers

Ably guided by Karl Cortis, Johann Bellizzi and Glenn Grech, Secondary Physical Education teachers rounded off their busy scholastic year with a three-day Professional Learning Course given by two Belgian Orienteering experts, Karl Keuppens and Bart van de Moortel, who were brought over to Malta by the Institute for Education to help Physical Education teachers get an insight of what this relatively new discipline to Malta is all about.

Venturing outdoors as part of the Outdoor Education experience, a key component of the recently modified Physical Education syllabus, PE teachers went around Dingli Secondary School, Buskett Gardens and The Archbishop’s Seminary learning the salient points of various activities such as the symbols to look out for on a map as well as the necessary clues required in order to run from one point to another. The activity also served as a fantastic team building experience for all involved.

Education Officer for Physical Education Kevin Azzopardi stated that this event had reached its aims as participants clearly enjoyed the different approach taken this year. “It was definitely worth every cent we invested in the organisation of this event. It gave all participants the necessary insight and confidence in order to be geared up as from September to forward to students what they themselves learnt.”