About us


ASO exists to promote the sport of Orienteering to young people. The focal point is an annual League for schools and other youth groups.

There are usually eight Sunday morning races over the year, selected from races organised by Bristol Orienteering (BOK) and other local clubs. Entry is normally on-the-day and is open to all, although competitors are encouraged to join Bristol Orienteering.

Competitors score points for themselves and their schools in each event. These points are used to calculate an overall individual and school winner for the season in each age class.

The event format is normally a range of courses increasing in length and difficulty and referred to as colour-coded. Occasionally there will be different formats, such as a fixed-time score event. For more information about the sort of courses available and appropriate for each age group see the rules page.

In addition to the eight League races there is an Individual Championship and a Team relay during the course of the year.

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Colour-coded events will normally provide courses at the standards shown below. ASO League competitors are grouped by school year and each year is allocated to one of the colour standards. Older novice competitors will normally run “down” one or two levels until they are confident, very experienced runners may run “up”.

Distance (km)
Terrain & Complexity Age Group
Paths, controls at most junctions up to Year 6
Paths, slightly longer runs Year 7
Paths, some cross-country, some controls not visible from paths Years 8 & 9
Most controls off-path, significant cross-country Year 10 Boys, Year 10/11 Girls
Open, more complex navigation, controls difficult to find
Year 11 Boys, Year 12/13 Girls
Open, controls as difficult as terrain allows Year 12/13 Boys

Competitors may run singly or in groups of two or three, novices often run together. League competitors may also run in groups but score fewer points. Younger League competitors may be “shadowed” by a parent, scoring half points, until they are confident.

Courses at Light Green standard and above are not considered suitable for novices. This is not only because they are physically demanding, but also because finding the controls requires a knowledge of the terms used to describe their locations and experience of relating those terms to the terrain.

Novices up to the age of 12 should start on a White course, above the age of 12 Yellow may be more suitable. Physically an Orange course will be well within the capabilities of those over 15 but the less-confident may be frustrated by inability to find the controls. Parents with young children frequently tackle an Orange course as a group.

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Exact procedures may vary slightly from event to event, but registration is the process by which competitors pay for their entry, advise officials who they are, select which course they are running, hire their electronic 'punch' and collect the list of controls they must visit. The registration process is managed by a team of helpers, normally sheltered from the weather in tents or parked cars.

Electronic punching is normal at ASO events. Competitors hire or borrow an electronic tag which they carry round the course and on to which each control visited is recorded. At the finish this information is downloaded and they receive a printout showing which controls they visited, the time taken overall and the time for each leg.

White and Yellow course maps are available before the start so that parents/ coaches may check that younger children know what they are doing and are not under too much pressure, before the runner departs. Maps for all other courses are located after the race start.

Some races will allocate a start time for each competitor at registration, other races will operate a queueing system at the Start. There are rules governing the interval between ASO competitors on the same course and from the same school or groupl.

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The level of equipment required varies according to the standard and expectations of the competitor but the following points should be noted:

  • Footwear - trainers, stout shoes, boots are all suitable - it will be muddy. Regular competitors often wear ‘O’ shoes - lightweight, studded trainers.
  • Long trousers - necessary because of undergrowth and weather, shorts are not allowed. Legwear ranges from jeans, jogging bottoms, tracksters to Lycra.
  • Tops - from athletic vests to tracksuit tops. In exposed areas (such as Yoxter) cagoules may be compulsory on the day.
  • Whistle - used to summon assistance if totally lost or in the event of accident, injury etc. Normally compulsory, they may be bought or borrowed at the event.
  • Compass - highly advisable, used by all runners to “orientate” the map - there is little point in having a map if you don’t know which way to point it - and by older runners to navigate.

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Preparation varies according to the age of the runner. Young runners going out alone need the most help in advance. They must know the basics of reading a map and how to orientate it, they need to know what they are looking for (orange/white “kite” on a pole) and what to do when they find it (check its the right one and then punch the control card). They must know what to do if they get into difficulties (blow whistle), what not to do (blow whistle for fun, vandalise controls for others). For the youngest the question of approaching strangers is often a worry, anybody carrying the same map as them and wearing similar clothes will almost certainly help, there may be conspicuous “marshals” suitably attired. They should be encouraged to apply basic logic, if running a white course they won’t be expected to run more than a few hundred yards between controls, they are unlikely to have to leave the path to find a control, certainly never into thick woods or difficult terrain.

Finally if you have any questions on the day don’t be afraid to ask somebody. The vast majority of orienteers will be only too pleased to help, but will not volunteer to do so for fear of giving offence.

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