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USOCR – regulating the obstacle world …

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 1.52.26 PMOCR is a growing sport. Spartan Race want to go to the Olympics, and any number of groups are popping up promising big money championships – Warrior Dash, Extreme Nation, OCR World Championship and more are all trying to stake a claim in the industry are popping up like crazy.

So when USOCR popped up, and made claims to be *the* company to govern the sport, to set up safety regulations and sanctions, to handle insurance for races and athletes and more – I have to admit, my initial reaction was skepticism and disbelief. We’ve heard it before. Whatever. Drive on.

Then respected athletes like Margaret Schlachter and David Magida started posting supportive blog posts – support that went beyond personal endorsements – They had well formed opinions and information beyond what had been initially shared. Margaret put me in touch with the co-owner of USOCR, and we had a nice little chat.

I’m glad we did.

USOCR is anticipating the one factor that will control how OCR lives (or dies) – and it’s not attendance, ticket prices or venues. It’s not obstacle creativity or course variance. It’s insurance. As more races are put on, more people break bones or sprain ankles. More people trip and face plant on a rock, or get into trouble in the water and drown. Every time this happens, insurance companies make little notes, and ask for a little bit more. USOCR is anticipating that within a short time, insurance costs will be so high that OCR becomes uninsurable. Lets also not forget that those wavers we all sign do nothing for our personal insurance when we are airlifted off to a hospital – we’re on the hook for those.

To combat this, USOCR are already aligned with a huge insurance company to do a couple of things.

1) Set a standard, and collect data. If you’re going to build an obstacle, it’s going to be to a safe standard. USOCR don’t want to tell you how high or long or tough it should be, but they want to make sure it won’t snap, or crumble. They are asking sanctioned races to supply basic information about their obstacles, attendance and their injury rate, so they can collectively feed this back to insurance companies as solid, reliable data.

2) Provide insurance to sanctioned races. I assume this will be at a discounted price than they could get on their own, and to a standard they would be comfortable buying into. This alone should give race series and race directors a reason to take these guys seriously.

3) Provide personal insurance to it’s member athletes. For a reasonable annual fee, you would receive your own personal insurance policy from USOCR. I think the sensible OCR runner would jump at this. It doesn’t matter how good your personal insurance is today, if you tell them that you broke your leg jumping off an obstacle at a race, you’re going to raise eye brows, or worse.

Of course, they have long term plans – development programs, championship cups, regional competitions, but one step at a time.

They are closely following the model that triathlon and USA Triathlon followed in the early 1980’s, but with a more modern approach and speed, similar to the Crossfit landscape. They are clear in that they don’t want to change the sport, or dumb down the obstacles, or make the races easy – they want to let OCR grow, but offer the support and sanctioning only an established group like they can bring.

They have competition, and they have to convince some pretty big names to get on board. Then, they have to convince the athletes that it’s worth their time and money to register with them too.

They have every confidence they can do it – and since talking to them, I have a lot more confidence they can too, if anyone can.

3 thoughts on “USOCR – regulating the obstacle world …

  1. […] Way back in January, I wasn’t sure how to approach these guys. USOCR are one of the new breed of OCR service providers, who are aiming to bring an element of safety, standards and professionalism to an industry that prides itself on being grass roots and raw, and pushing people to their limits and beyond. How they planned to change the direction, minds and hearts of athletes and race directors was a mystery to many of us, and I was certainly critical of them initially. Fortunately for us, Margaret Schlacter introduced me to Sam Mansfield, and several conversations later I was much more open to the idea that maybe something did need to happen for this sport to continue and thrive. […]

  2. Well, that's very smart, actually. It makes a lot of sense. Thanks for this; it alleviates my initial skepticism.

  3. I think I recapped everything I wanted to say here – I had a busy afternoon and wanted to get my thoughts straight before I blogged!

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