(overview of speakers)
OCR Buddy Founder Russ Blatt was invited to speak at the National Obstacle Sports Conference hosted by OCR Romania. At this conference, he shared the history of OCR Buddy and the growth the app has experienced.
Text of his presentation is below.
Esteemed Guests, Members of the European Obstacle Racing Community and viewers from around the world.
My name is Russ Blatt and I am the Assistant Director of USAOCR, but I am here today as the creator and manager of OCR Buddy, the world’s first and only obstacle racing calendar app.
OCR Buddy is the official calendar of World Obstacle and is partners with organizations from around the world.
I am currently working with European Obstacle Sports Federation to become their official calendar, the calendar for the 2022 Europe OCR Championships and I hope for all European Countries. I have had preliminary conversations with Federations in multiple other continents with the goal of having OCR Buddy be the official calendar for organizations around the world. But first, allow me to take a step back.
OCR Buddy was created because I knew there was a better way to find obstacle races. November 1, 2016, OCR Buddy was released with races in four countries and the ability to list OCR races, Mud Races, Inflatable events, and a couple of other types.
The first version of OCR Buddy was a calendar showing the names of events, the date, the brand putting on the event, a few other pieces of information, and a registration link.
Before that date, people like me were using spreadsheets, post-it notes, whiteboards, and other methods to keep track of our race schedule. We had to go back and forth, from website to website writing down dates and all the other information we needed to make our race schedule. It was exhausting. I knew there had to be a better way, so OCR Buddy was created.
Through the first 3 plus years, OCR Buddy kept building, updating, and growing. This was of course until February 2020, when the world began to slow down and eventually stop.
We all know what happened to obstacle racing. It seemed all around the world, there were almost zero live events and brands, to survive, switched to virtual events and other things you could do alone.
It was during this time that I made the conscious decision to refocus on what OCR Buddy is. I wanted it to no longer just be an app but become an active, engaged community.
For an app-based upon events that were not happening, it was simple, I had to change my focus. My focus became the OCR community as a whole and finding the best way to encourage them and engage them.
I changed the name of the Facebook group to The OCR Buddy Community. I started to focus on people, directors, and anything I could find that wasn’t just about events. Everyone started having virtual events and OCR Buddy promoted them. I added a virtual race category because we wanted people to still feel part of the community.
What I learned during that time is that a simple post on social media could affect someone’s life. Reminding people that the sport they love was going to be here for them became the focus of the community, so instead of sitting back and waiting for the world to improve…I changed OCR Buddy for the better.
Looking towards the future, I expanded the types of events within OCR Buddy. After virtual events, I added Hybrid events, Parkour, Adventure, Training Events and of course Ninja. There are now 13 race-type categories within OCR Buddy, with always the ability to add more.
In working to make OCR Buddy more complete for the athletes, I added ways to find hotels, directions to events, weather and give the athlete everything they need from signing up for an event to getting there. Soon, we are adding a Code Swap area, so people don’t only have to hope the right person sees the Facebook post looking to buy or sell codes. Again, more for the OCR community.
One feature I am really proud of is called “My Training”. We added the ability to find training centers and gyms through geography. When you are away from home, type in where you are and training centers will pop up in the app.
We have nearly 300 US facilities and 100 worldwide facilities. I know there is many more out there. As I find them, I add them. Soon, I will do the same and allow Trainers to be listed also. Why not find a trainer as well as a training facility?
What most people do not know is that OCR Buddy is all done by hand. It is by looking through the internet, social media and websites to bring all of the information together. In fact, every listing in OCR Buddy has to be approved by me to verify accuracy.
Why do people need the app? In the United States, there are 421 brands with over 2600 events within OCR Buddy.
The rest of the world has 471 brands with 2053 events. I know that I am missing many events and that can be addressed through working with people and that brings me to one of my important future focuses as we head to 2022, partnerships.
As OCR Buddy is the official calendar for World Obstacle, we can be the official calendar for all Continental and National Federations and race types under World Obstacle. Let me give an example of what is currently being discussed with the European Obstacle Sports Federation.
According to the World Obstacle website, there are approximately 30 National Federations in Europe that have full membership.
OCR Buddy has a way to provide each of these National Federations its own independent event or calendar page on its own website. Using our database, OCR Buddy does the work for each country and provides them a webpage listing their own National Calendar of sanctioned events.
We can then easily combine all of these Nationally Sanctioned brands and other sanctioned events around Europe and present one calendar for the European Obstacle Sports Federation calendar.
Every country gets a calendar. Europe gets a calendar.
We are also working to provide can also an independent calendar to provide only qualifiers for the 2022 European OCR Championships.
Above all of these sanctioned events, OCR Buddy will continue to list all other events that we can find to provide the most complete unprecedented calendar for all of the European athletes.
Keep in mind, we can do this for any discipline of World Obstacle. As an example, here in the United States, I have started to expand our Ninja outreach, making sure we have entire calendars from organizations like Ultimate Ninja Athlete Association, whose President Bob Clark spoke before me.
The possibilities and potential for growth is unparalleled.
I have also had preliminary discussions with members of the Asia Pacific Continental Federation to provide the same format. By partnering with Federations and countries around the world, OCR Buddy can become the pre-eminent one location for all obstacle athletes. This excites me about our combined future.
Oh and if you have an event that you want to be listed, you can send me the information or simply go into the app or my website, www.ocrbuddy.com and click “Submit Events”. Anyone can add events to the calendar. I wish I had every worldly event listed in OCR Buddy. Giving people the ability to add their own events only brings me closer to that goal.
The name may be OCR Buddy, but it can also be Ninja Buddy, Obstacle Buddy, Training Buddy and I hope one day to be the place for parkour, adventure, altitude, and all other obstacle sports to list their calendar.
One last thing, the OCR Community is like no other in the world. During the pandemic, OCR Buddy’s Social Media outreach has grown by over 50%. The use of the app has increased 85% since the beginning of 2021. We have Ambassadors from 12 countries and I truly believe they are the best group of Ambassadors in our sport. The OCR Community and each one of you deserve to have everything I can give to them because they love this sport and want us to succeed. OCR Buddy is willing to work with anyone in any way possible to help promote this sport. I love obstacle sports. It is a sport unlike any other.
I will gladly answer any questions that you have. I can be contacted through OCR Buddy on Facebook or Instagram or through email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
I thank you for your time and I look forward to all of you becoming an OCR Buddy.