Author Topic: The numbers game  (Read 1669 times)

Offline Badlad

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The numbers game
« on: July 16, 2018, 10:13:59 am »
I quoted a few figures to the BBC during an interview for an article on caving.  The reporter was very keen to know how many people in the UK went caving.  It's not a simple question to answer - how long is a piece of string - and really depends on how you answer the question of what is a caver.  Anyway I have done some research on this issue and given it a deal of thought over the last few years.  I have concluded the following but am quite happy for others to contradict me.  In any recent given year I think there are..

2-3000 active cavers who cave regularly and have a current high interest in the sport.
10-15,000 people who would describe themselves as cavers.  Who once have been active but of more limited interest now.
150,000 (approx) per year participate in caving as an activity.  The vast majority are individuals who go on an instructor led trip, school kids, outdoor centre groups, cadets, etc.

The BBC quoted me as saying there are 70,000 individuals on instructor led trips per year in the Dales area.  This figure does have some credibility to it.  A few years ago, with the help of some outdoor companies and instructors, I came up with this figure.  Some of the companies gave me their actual figures for the number of individuals they took caving in the year.  We then looked at the relative size of other companies operating in the area and made estimates of how many they would likely take too.  70,000 was the figure I came up with.  Probably much larger than most people realise and demonstrates a low level of upwards recruitment to our sport

 


Offline mikem

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2018, 11:10:53 am »
Watersports participation surveys have been running for 15 years, take up as a regular activity is also very small compared to the numbers who do "fun sessions":
https://www.rya.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/Pages/participation.aspx

Mike

Offline Tseralo

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2018, 11:17:08 am »
70,000 was the figure I came up with.  Probably much larger than most people realise and demonstrates a low level of upwards recruitment to our sport

I would be interested to hear yours and others thoughts on what we can do to help that upwards recruitment? Or if we even should be?

Offline mikem

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2018, 11:27:13 am »
Outdoors survey from 2015, unfortunately caving gets no more than a mention:
https://www.sportengland.org/research/understanding-audiences/getting-active-outdoors/

Mike

Offline alastairgott

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2018, 11:38:08 am »
I was a member of a sailing club for a number of years between Birth and about 22 years old. I'd seen quite a few give it a go sessions.

The place was literally packed, most times when there were these sessions. I'd say upwards of 50 people attending, the number of members were probably around 200 (both best spurious guesses).
 The events being a huge investment in time and effort, sometimes bringing in 8 to 15 people depending on the year.

 There were also youth training days. I typically found that it was the members with parents in the club that stuck it out. The others, yes they still turned out, but the thirst for knowledge was not really there.

 In late primary school, I had a good mate who would join me. And we did quite well, I remember on an "open event" we were winning at the first mark, then went down the pan after that!
 Anyway, enough blithering. I think it was having both a friend pushing me to go more and my family which kept me in the sport.

It is the follow on which is the difficult one. How to keep people in the sport after they've had a good time.

 It would be very interesting to pin down what works well. If there are any stories from any caving clubs about their "Bumper years". It would be good to hear them.
(I'm purposely not differentiating between Universities and other clubs today to keep the Northern Uni clubs happy).

Offline Tseralo

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2018, 04:51:04 pm »
It’s always going to be hard to get people into caving after that first trip as there is no simple progression. When your new you can’t just go down your local indoor caving wall for an hour and do some thing easy and safe to build up skills and confidence like you can with something like climbing.

Also as a new caver and so many other sports it can feel like you don’t have much to contribute to begin with. Perhaps finding some simple systems that new cavers could do together with “hands off” supervision would give people a greater sense of autonomy.

Offline Greybeard

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2018, 07:25:19 pm »
Heaven help us if 70,000 were caving regularly - I'd probably die in the queue!

Offline pwhole

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2018, 08:02:02 pm »
I think the 'sport' aspect of caving for me wore off quite quickly - in the sense that it was exciting/satisfying to do the physical activity and then go home again. Having no-one glamorous watching you not perform a stunning move in a golden sunset without a cold beer or whatever is also probably not a great motivator to try and excel underground, so I can see why folks, especially younger ones, stick to climbing. But then I don't also see many climbers staring at the rock intently and maybe taking samples of something or other, or working with water flows - in short, it was all the various arts and sciences that are possible underground, combined with the physical activity that eventually got me hooked.

Offline PeteHall

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2018, 08:35:00 pm »
Perhaps finding some simple systems that new cavers could do together with “hands off” supervision would give people a greater sense of autonomy.

I still remember my first "unsupervised" caving trip as if it were yesterday.

Three of us drove down to the Dales from Durham on an evening to do Link to Mistral. We had directions to the entrance from a club oldie and drove down (flat out) in my old Triumph Herald. Walked straight to the entrance and were soon on our way taking turns to lead, pointing out obvious landmarks to those behind, such as "Ian's knob". Finding our way out via a different entrance was such a thrill, I was totally hooked!

Knocked the exhaust off the car on the way up the farm lane, bodged it back on, hung from cable ties, but it had jarred the inlet manifold in the process, which made for an interesting drive back!

"Isn't this a dogging layby?" someone asked as I tinkered with the carbs, bent double over the engine!   :o

Sorry for rambling, but I think it was probably this first, real adventure that sealed the deal between me and caving  ;D
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Offline Laurie

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2018, 02:34:15 am »
Heaven help us if 70,000 were caving regularly - I'd probably die in the queue!
Like Swildons on a Sunday morning...?
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Offline mikem

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2018, 06:37:21 am »
It's rarely like that anymore! I think the easier access to information on other caves has actually spread the load, so we aren't all trying to get to the same honey-pots nowadays...

In the case of Swildons, the "disappearance" of the 40ft pot has made a big difference to potential queues, as there's no longer such a bottleneck & SRT has had a similar effect on other caves with big pitches, as multiple cavers can descend between rebelays at same time, rather than waiting for each one to down climb a ladder.

Having said that, there are definitely fewer active cavers, but possible solutions have already been discussed on several other threads, one of which resulted in the New to Caving website, so isn't really necessary here.

Mike
« Last Edit: July 17, 2018, 06:53:31 am by mikem »

Offline Goydenman

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2018, 11:31:45 am »
I quoted a few figures to the BBC during an interview for an article on caving.  The reporter was very keen to know how many people in the UK went caving.  It's not a simple question to answer - how long is a piece of string - and really depends on how you answer the question of what is a caver.  Anyway I have done some research on this issue and given it a deal of thought over the last few years.  I have concluded the following but am quite happy for others to contradict me.  In any recent given year I think there are..

2-3000 active cavers who cave regularly and have a current high interest in the sport.
10-15,000 people who would describe themselves as cavers.  Who once have been active but of more limited interest now.
150,000 (approx) per year participate in caving as an activity.  The vast majority are individuals who go on an instructor led trip, school kids, outdoor centre groups, cadets, etc.

The BBC quoted me as saying there are 70,000 individuals on instructor led trips per year in the Dales area.  This figure does have some credibility to it.  A few years ago, with the help of some outdoor companies and instructors, I came up with this figure.  Some of the companies gave me their actual figures for the number of individuals they took caving in the year.  We then looked at the relative size of other companies operating in the area and made estimates of how many they would likely take too.  70,000 was the figure I came up with.  Probably much larger than most people realise and demonstrates a low level of upwards recruitment to our sport

Our team part of the 2-3000 wow that's low ......... No wonder so difficult to find people who want to help find new caves. I have been chatting to fellow diggers in other areas and common for just a team of 3-5 people

Offline pwhole

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2018, 01:26:06 pm »
We've had seven new members join the club in the last six weeks, and most of them are at the younger end of the spectrum. So it's not all bad news.

Offline 2xw

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2018, 02:49:19 pm »
It would help with recruitment if caving was good at marketing itself, but it is not

Offline Pegasus

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2018, 05:43:34 pm »
It would help with recruitment if caving was good at marketing itself, but it is not

Am trying my best - www.newtocaving.com posters placed at Whitescar caves and the new Co Op petrol station in Ingleton today  ;D

Offline Badlad

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2018, 09:41:44 am »
70,000 was the figure I came up with.  Probably much larger than most people realise and demonstrates a low level of upwards recruitment to our sport

I would be interested to hear yours and others thoughts on what we can do to help that upwards recruitment? Or if we even should be?

Well, I have heard the argument that we shouldn't encourage people into caving, make it hard for them to get involved and that way only the keenest will ever take it up.  I don't subscribe to that.

I am most knowledgeable on the Dales where it is generally accepted that caver numbers peaked in the late '80s early '90s and since then have declined.  Over that period a lot of new cave, entrances and connections have been made and therefore the 'resource' has increased over a time when there are fewer active cavers.  Hence, most of the time these days you get a cave to yourself.  There have also been indicators of saturation levels, at Eurospeleo for example, which show the very upper levels and we are a long, long way below that level outside of these big events.  So there is room for an increase in numbers.  There is the long term sustainability of the sport to consider, where levels of interest are needed to run the national and regional organisations and keep a healthy membership of clubs.

Caving is moving in the right direction but would benefit from more help across the spectrum.   The BCA Youth and Development Group are more than a year old now and are a pretty committed bunch.  They are sort of tied in with CHECC who are also helping to maintain and establish student groups.  My own regional council CNCC has become more representative and outward looking and is busy knocking down barriers to participation.  Many clubs are active in recruitment and are getting much better at engaging with social media.  Individuals, such as me and Jane, decided to do something to help.  We can always do more.

Caving is making progress in promoting itself to adults.  The problem lies with under 18's which form the majority of the 150,000 mentioned in the OP. Improving take up after the instructed experience is quite difficult and needs a long term solution.  Improving the image of caving as an outdoor recreational activity is important and something we can all help with.  We need more progressive leadership from our national and regional organisations - we can all help lobby for that.  Most importantly we need to solve the problem, perceived or otherwise, of taking under eighteens caving in the normal club or group environment.  If no one really wants to take teenagers caving then we will miss out to those other activities who do.

There is no quick fix but at the heart of it all is attitude and caving needs to modernise its thinking. :shrug:

Offline Jenny P

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #16 on: July 18, 2018, 11:37:41 am »
A surprising number coming into caving now are actually coming back into caving.  A substantial number of the new recruits to my club have been caving in their late teens /early twenties, often with a university, scout or school group and then dropped it as they began their working lives and had families so less time for caving.  Then in their 40's or 50's, they remember what it was like and how they enjoyed it and have come back to club caving.

Many of these with family commitments can't take a weekend out to go on a full length caving trip but are stalwarts of the regular mid-week diggers.

We always had a regular bunch of younger people who caved for a few years, did all the hardest trips they could do, and then lost interest.  Most left the club but a few stayed on as Associate (i.e. non-caving social members).

Making clubs family-friendly and putting on caving trips for the children of members is a good way to keep the parents interested and also to bring in the younger ones.  This is why it is essential to enable under-18's to go caving in the club environment, even if it does require setting up systems to do this safely and in line with child protection legislation.

Offline TheBitterEnd

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #17 on: July 18, 2018, 12:19:08 pm »
We’ve had a similar experience to Jenny, people coming back to the sport in mid-life after periods of work, kids, other things. Certainly the ones who have stuck at it are the people returning in middle age, the younger end may do a few years but then move on to other things. For me that indicates that it’s important to give people the opportunity when they  are younger and then not worry too much about immediate retention but continue to ensure there is suffcient "marketing" so that people come back to caving when they can. So keep this site going  :thumbsup:
'Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.' — Mark Twain

Offline JasonC

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #18 on: July 18, 2018, 07:57:59 pm »
As one of
.. the people returning in middle age ..
.. it was my University club putting a call out to its old membership for an anniversary weekend that got me (re-)started.  That same weekend was my daughter's first taste of caving outside school trips, she is now a regular caver of many years' standing.  And without trying I can think of at least two other children of former members who were dragged underground on subsequent President's Invites and have also gone on to be highly active.

So perhaps it's worth other clubs (Uni and otherwise) scouring their old contacts list to invite has-beens and their families back to the fold.  (Doubtless many are already doing this)

Offline mikem

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Re: The numbers game
« Reply #19 on: December 03, 2018, 10:21:51 am »
Even those who did it in past may not encourage others:

MCRA "registry brought back some memories, I did potholing in the 60's when I were a lad. Looked at some of the photos and realise I must have been bonkers, but I did see some wonderful sights hidden below the Mendips and meet some great folk."