In Odyssey of the Mind (OotM), the coach plays a limited, but important, role. OotM team must have at least one adult, 18 years of age or older, registered as its head coach. Having an assistant coach will lessen the demands assumed by one person. OotM does not assign coaches. The coach of a team is determined by the membership organization.
Since the objective of the Odyssey of the Mind program is to encourage students to solve a selected problem on their own, as the coach/parent, you can't do too much for the team except to help them keep moving in the right direction. Most of the activities that kids are involved in today have a parent/coach telling them what to do and how to do it (lessons, football, cheer, soccer, etc). Rare is it to find a program where the kids get to do what they want, build what they want, write the script with no parental help, make costumes for their performance--all to solve a problem the way that they think is the best/most creative way! Have you ever wondered what your child could do to solve a problem if no adults helped? It's quite amazing what these little minds can come up with when you ask them to do something all on their own. So, with that in mind, the Odyssey of the Mind program asks that ALL of the work, ALL of the props, ALL of the ideas, etc. come from the team members. The judges at competition will even ask the team members questions, such as who made this? or who came up with this idea? If any adult helped by giving "outside assistance", the team could be penalized 100 points or more, depending on the "offense".
So, this makes coaching Odyssey of the Mind FUN! Yes, you will do exercises to help with team building, to help them learn how to communicate, to help them learn how to brainstorm, to help them decide on how they will make decisions as a team, but ultimately, you are there just as a guide, and you have the unique opportunity to watch them blossom as individuals and as a team.
Who Can Coach?
Coaches come from all professions and from all walks of life. Although teams must have the support of the member school or organization, coaches do not have to be teachers. Frequently, a child’s involvement in the program will generate the interest of the parents. Often times, parents will start the Odyssey of the Mind program in their child’s school and assume a coaching role as a way to get involved in their child’s education.
Roles of an OotM Coach (OM Program Guide, page 7)
*Teach team member how to solve differences
*Help the team understand the limitations of its long-term problem
*Oversee brainstorming and spontaneous practice sessions
*Make sure team obtains skills required to carry out ideas
*Facilitate a team without doing the work for the team. Stand back and watch while the team members make all the decisions regarding the problem solution
*Interact with the team to improve the way the team identifies and solves problems.
*Make sure all team members are involved in the process of issue identification, idea generation, solution finding and solution presentation.
*Provide the impetus for the team to develop strategies, generate ideas, evaluate options or reach a decision. This is done in brainstorming sessions and the like.
*Encourage the team members to produce fresh ideas, to think “out-of-the-box,” to work cooperatively together, and to better communication among themselves.
*Provide a safe environment with no criticism of team members as they develop their solution.
*Stay well informed of all problem rules and program guidelines and pass the information on to the team members.
*Read, understand, and make sure team understands the problem, scoring, and clarifications.
*Develop a timeline working backwards from the competition date, including holidays and school breaks, and make sure the team sticks to the timeline.
*Get the team to competition
*Make sure paperwork is done properly
*Be a cheerleader for your team