Learn to Train

Stage Stats

Stage Start
Age 9 (boys), Age 8 (girls)
(Approx age: Age 9 (boys), Age 8 (girls))
Stage End
Onset of Puberty
(Approx age: Onset of Puberty)


Learn to Train is one of the most important periods of motor development for children, and represents a window of accelerated adaptation to motor coordination (physical and sport skills).

At this stage, children are developmentally ready to acquire the general sports skills that are the cornerstones of all athletic development.

In late specialization sports such as orienteering, too early specialization (too much focus on one or two sports instead of focusing on fun overall athletic development) can be detrimental to later stages of skill development and to refinement of fundamental sport skills.

An orienteering program for kids in this stage should continue to focus on outdoor fun as well as building fundamental orienteering and running skills. However, Learn to Train programs can be more structured than one designed for kids in the FUNdamentals stage.

From a technical skills perspective, kids in the Learn to Train stage should still be focused on basic map reading skills. They should start to think critically about what they are seeing on the map and how that translates to what they see around them and what they might see coming up. They do not yet need to be using a compass or reading control descriptions. Fun variations on traditional orienteering courses can go a long way to teaching skills while keeping kids engaged.

Participant Characteristics

The following is a list of key characteristics and habits of athletes in the Learn to Train stage to keep in mind when working with these athletes. Remember that each athlete is an individual and will not have all of these characteristics / habits. Group dynamics can also play a big factor in which of these characteristics come out in a group.

Major Features

Social Characteristics

Physical Characteristics

Psychological Characteristics

Learning Emphasis

Preferred Games



Navigation skills are those skills related to map reading and compass use independent of any physical components related to moving through the terrain. Skills otherwise related to the technical rules of the sport such as checking control codes to confirm you are at the right control are also considered navigation skills in this context. These skills span the complete range from holding a map 'properly' in one hand to micro-optimization of route choices and similar tactical navigational decisions. 

Navigation Skills at the Learn to Train stage:

  1. Identify features on the map and then locate them in the terrain [Terrain and Feature Understanding] [Map understanding and interpretation]
  2. Know what a distinct linear feature is [Linear Features]
  3. Identify features (in the terrain) as linear and distinct [Linear Features] [Terrain and Feature Understanding]
  4. Identify features (on the map) as linear and distinct. [Map understanding and interpretation] [Linear Features]
  5. Identify (distinct) linear features as handrails, catching features, or collecting features [Linear Features]
  6. Hold map oriented to yourself [Map Holding and Folding] [Compass Skills]
  7. Folding the map parallel to your direction of travel [Map Holding and Folding] [Compass Skills]
  8. Understand that the control flag will be at the feature in the middle of the control circle [Control Flow] [Map understanding and interpretation]
  9. Identify the feature (on the map) in the middle of the control circle (the control feature) [Control Flow] [Map understanding and interpretation]
  10. Look for the control feature in the terrain as you approach it (i.e. don’t just look for the flag) [Control Flow] [Terrain and Feature Understanding]
  11. Place your thumb along the handrail (direction) you are going to travel. [Map Holding and Folding]
  12. Creating a route using multiple linear features and then executing that route [Route Choice] [Continuous Map Reading and Route Planning]
  13. Choose a route from multiple route choice options [Route Choice]
  14. Understanding vegetation mapping [Map understanding and interpretation] [Terrain and Feature Understanding]
  15. Mentally check off / be aware of features along the handrail you’re following. [Map Reading Technique]
  16. Recover from following the wrong trail / feature [Relocation]

Running skills are those skills related to running economy or form, including travelling on trails, through various types of terrain, and going over, under, and around various obstacles. Skills developed in early stages such as agility, balance, and coordination are also considered here as they lead directly into more obvious running skills. The physical capacities (endurance, speed, power, etc.) involved in running are not considered here.

Running Skills at the Learn to Train stage:

  1. Picking a point in the distance towards which you want to run [Seeing and Picking Lines in the Terrain]
  2. Looking ahead and seeing what areas of the forest are most runnable [Seeing and Picking Lines in the Terrain]
  3. Keeping your eye on the control as you approach it [Punching Technique]
  4. Reaching out to the control as you approach it [Punching Technique]
  5. Consciously looking and listening for confirmation from the control [Punching Technique]
  6. Returns quickly to repunch the control if you did not register confirmation [Punching Technique]
  7. Flexibility (particularly in hips) to get legs over obstacles [Getting Over Obstacles]
  8. Explosive power to get clearance when hurdling obstacles [Getting Over Obstacles]
  9. Generating explosive power in potentially soft uneven terrain [Getting Over Obstacles]
  10. Quickly/smoothly going from standing/walking/running to ducking or crawling under a fence or barrier and getting up on the other side. [Going Under Obstacles]
  11. Ducking under things while carrying forward momentum [Going Under Obstacles]
  12. Running while hunched over [Going Under Obstacles]
  13. Placing feet precisely while running on technical trails while looking at your feet/the trail [Running Over Challenging Ground]
  14. Placing feet precisely while running on technical trail while looking around [Running Over Challenging Ground]
  15. Placing feet precisely while running off-trail in physically challenging terrain while looking at your feet/the ground [Running Over Challenging Ground]
  16. Placing feet precisely while running off-trail in physically challenging terrain while looking around [Running Over Challenging Ground]
  17. Orienteers should be tested for colourblindness [Visual Acuity]
  18. Colourblind athletes should learn about their form of colourblindness and begin learning compensatory mechanisms for distinguishing colours on orienteering maps [Visual Acuity]
  19. 'Standing tall' while running and keeping the spine in a neutral position with little tension on the spine itself [Postural Control and Stability]
  20. Running with the chest open and shoulders in a neutral-back position [Postural Control and Stability]
  21. Using arms to push through thick vegetation [Arm Control]

The physical and training practices in this domain have been framed in terms of best practices to apply at each of the LTAD stages. Practices include workout types and training frequencies to use at different stages as well as the underlying knowledge and skills required to train as a competitive athlete - tapering, recovery and regeneration, etc. 

Physical and Training Practices at the Learn to Train stage:

  1. Participating in 2-3 sports in addition to orienteering [Aerobic Cross Training] [Periodization of Training]
  2. Participating in at least 1 other aerobic sport [Aerobic Cross Training] [Periodization of Training]
  3. Participating in various activities at elevated heart rate for incrementally longer duration [Aerobic Cross Training] [Long Slow Distance Training]
  4. Periodically going for a steady paced run in heart rate zone 1 or 2 [Long Slow Distance Training] [Planning Training]
  5. Running up hills as part of games and fun activities [Hill Training Workouts]
  6. Getting adequate sleep of 9.5-10 hrs/night plus 30 min nap between 2-4pm [Sleep]
  7. Maintaining a good pre- and post-sleep routine [Sleep]
  8. Maintaining predictable meal times and routines [Sleep]
  9. Limiting and monitoring caffeine intake [Sleep]

Psychological skills are those mental skills related to staying positive, focused, and motived in training and competition. These skills include goal setting, visualization, emotional and distraction control and more.

No skills at the Learn to Train stage have been added in the Psychological Skills and Practices domain yet.

Life skills are those other skills not directly related to an athlete's training and competition that nonetheless can have a large impact on their performance as well as their overall health and well-being. These skills include a variety of sport-life balance, relationships, travel skills, media savvy, nutrition and hydration, time-management and more. Many people dismiss the importance of life skills, yet they can have an immense impact on an athlete's ability to perform to their capacity. 

No skills at the Learn to Train stage have been added in the Life Skills and Practices domain yet.