At the end of 2019, Junior National Coach Erin Schirm, and Junior Development Coach Greg Ahlswede, are both stepping down from their coaching roles in the National Junior Program (NJP) to get back to working on their respective career paths. They are not stepping away from coaching altogether, or from being part of the Orienteering USA (OUSA) community. They will remain involved as volunteers at the club and national levels, Erin as the Chair of the Executive Steering Committee (ESC) of the senior National Team and Greg as an elite athlete on the National Team.
The Junior National Team (JNT) program was initiated by the Junior Team Executive Steering Committee (JTESC) in 2012, and the program has since grown and advanced under Erin’s leadership as Junior National Coach (JNC) and as the OUSA Director of Sport Development. The current NJP includes the JNT and the Junior Development Team (JDT) providing the program’s benefits to a growing talent pool of young orienteers. Junior orienteering in the U.S. has made significant progress since 2012, as seen not only in the results of NJP athletes at U.S. and international competitions, but also in the considerable increase in the number of juniors aspiring to and selected for the senior National Team.
Erin and Greg have laid the foundation with an effective coaching philosophy that past and present athletes have engaged with and appreciate, and it is JTESCs intention to continue building on that foundation. Beyond providing coaching, the NJP aims to reduce, as much as possible, the impact from the unique challenges to juniors in this country due to the geographic spread of athletes and low density of events. The NJP is a framework for our junior athletes to work together to create a team environment that encourages competitive excellence, a professional demeanor, and an enthusiastic work ethic. It also provides a strong support network for national and international travel, fundraising, lodging, and other assistance needed to enable our athletes to compete at home and abroad.
We would like to thank Erin and Greg for their dedicated work as coaches and Erin, as the main architect of the NJP. JTESC will need some time to redefine the position of the JNC, with possible further engagement of local and regional coaches as proposed recently by the OUSA Executive Committee. The JNC will provide unity and support so that our juniors are prepared to compete at the highest stages, including the Junior Nationals, the North American Orienteering Championships (NAOC) and at the Junior World Orienteering Championships (JWOC). NJP athletes will meet as teammates at regional and national events and will take advantage of training and coaching opportunities coordinated for them through the efforts of JTESC and the JNC in cooperation with regional coaches, clubs, and the community of NJP supporters.
We would also like to thank former JNT and NJP athletes who have come forward with an interest in contributing to the continuation and growth of the program, and to give back to a community that provided them with opportunities and support for their development as elite orienteers.
JTESC is looking forward to the next phase of the NJP. Be sure to look for the 2020 National Junior Program Application package, to be posted on the OUSA website around Nov. 15, 2019. Coaches Erin and Greg will be available with advice to current NJP athletes on future coaching options at least through the end of this year.
Mark your calendars, 2020 will be an exciting year for the juniors. JWOC team trials are slated to be held at the Junior Nationals on April 18-19, and JWOC will be in Turkey in July. With WOC 2020 being the first Sprint format year, and with many current juniors showing recent strong performances in Sprint competitions, we are looking forward to some of them trying out for the WOC team. We are further hoping for a strong showing by our college and college-bound NJP athletes in the Team Trials for WUOC. And please, everyone, mark your calendars for NAOC 2020, where NJP juniors are hoping to help the U.S. bring the Future Champions Cup home again.
Any questions to JTESC may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the JTESC Chair Guy Olsen directly by using the email address indicated on the Orienteering USA website, under Committees/U.S. Teams.