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Team Corner (Coach/Parent/Student)



(Yes, you, the ones who are driving the carpools, forking out money for pizza, opening closets for major scavenging, waiting while the team cleans up after a meeting, postponing dinner because one more prop needs finished, and generally watching from the sidelines while the team “gets creative!”)


You are the team’s secret weapon for success??

You are the “wind beneath the wings” of the team and the coach??

You are a vital part of Odyssey of the Mind??


That is absolutely wrong!

That is absolutely right!

(Well.. which is it???)

BOTH! You may do many things to help the team, but there are also things you might want to do that would cost the team penalty points. So… how do you know the difference? Here is your own handy, dandy, just-for-parents guidelines!

Transport the team to buy things Suggest what to buy
Transport the props Repair props if broken in shipping
Teach the team members a skill IF the team asks, such as
····Principals of simple machines
Suggest to the team which skills to use to solve a problem
Suggest to the team which skills would result in a better-looking or better functioning solution
Give the teams any ideas for their problem solution
Sew anything, paint anything, do anything to contribute to the team’s problem solution
Help provide snacks Analyze why something failed
Bring spontaneous problem supplies Expect perfection from a solution not done by adults (or from a solution done by adults, for that matter!)
Help get props into the building for the Tournament, even to the staging area
Open attics, closets, basements for “garage sale value” materials Suggest what materials to get from the attic, closet or basement
Provide lots of encouragement
Provide a place to meet/store props Fix anything that breaks
Get everyone and everything to the Tournament Criticize any part of a team’s solution
Applaud A LOT and help get props offstage afterwards Put emphasis on scores instead of fun

As you can tell, parents ARE important, as resources for leaning skills, helping get materials, providing moral support, supplementing working brains with nourishment, and generally facilitating the logistics of a working team. Without your encouragement, your child will not develop the self confidence that Odyssey of the Mind promotes.


  • What parents may not do is provide the dreaded “Outside Assistance”, for which the team will receive penalties at the tournament. Just remember that all ideas for the long term problem solution, as well as all of the implementation of those ideas, must come from a team member.
  • However, there is NO “Outside Assistance” in Spontaneous Problem Solving, so feel free to assist the coach, practice at home around the dinner table, and have fun with your family doing spontaneous problems with your child and/or other children. (Everyone loves spontaneous!)


Your Odyssey of the Mind Regional Board also relies on parents and guardians for help. We welcome friends, relative, and office associates, too!

Here are the opportunities for parents, friends, and relatives to help make the regional tournament possible. We feel certain you will enjoy helping, and few volunteer opportunities directly benefit so many children in an educational program!

WE NEED YOUR HELP on Tournament Day to:

  • Be an official (This involves a training in January or February on a Saturday to learn to be a judge.)
  • Be a volunteer (Each team must provide a volunteer to work at registration, concessions or in the spontaneous holding area for approximately two hours on Tournament Day.)

We also ask you to fill out an emergency care form for the coach to have on hand, to help the team get props in and out of the building, to move your car from loading and unloading areas as quickly as possible, and to bring a sense of humor to the tournament (because Murphy.s law is an Odyssey of the Mind condition!)

We on the Regional Boards and the Virginia State Board all believe that this program offers something unique for your children. We believe that they will learn teamwork, creative problem solving, divergent thinking, persistence, practical skills, and many other abilities through Odyssey of the Mind. Please remember we are all volunteers working together to make this happen.

THANK YOU for your support, for your child, for his or her coach, and for the regional and state volunteers!!

We wish you creativity in your own life, and fun watching these wonderful problem solvers at work!!

Becoming an Odyssey of the Mind Coach will probably be one of the most rewarding volunteer roles you will ever have!

As a coach you will have the opportunity to work with a team of 5 to 7 kids to facilitate creative problem solving, team building, brainstorming and performing.  You do not need to be an expert in a particular area, you just need to have a passion to see kids grow and learn, love kids and creativity!

Coaching is hard work!

Coaching an Odyssey of the Ming team unlike coaching any other sport because the coach is NOT the leader, NOT the problem solver, and NOT the decision maker. 

NOT being any of those things is VERY HARD WORK!

Coaches facilitate the team’s needs (meeting place, transportation, review of program rules, etc), but the students do all the work! The coach keeps the team on task, encourages them to be creative and work together as a team, but does not provide assistance to the solution of the problem.  Getting started, the coach can set up workshops to teach the skill students may need to fulfill their tasks such as sewing, constructing, researching, painting, drama, etc. workshops.  Coach Training is required for new coaches in the Inland Empire.  See Important Dates.

Find more information in the yearly Program Guide.  Scroll to the bottom of the home page of to find the Program Guide in PDF form.  This is updated each year. Please read it.

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, 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.

Role of the Coach
Coaches must remember that Odyssey of the Mind is a “hands-on” activity for students and “handsoff ” for adults. It’s important that teams create their solutions without the help of others. There is value in letting teams succeed and fail on their own merits, especially when achievement is rated on effort, as much as on results. You, the coach, will offer guidance and encouragement, and teach team members how to explore possibilities, listen to others, learn from failures, and evaluate solutions effectively. However, you are not to give the team ideas or solve the problem for it. You will be amazed at what students can do on their own and, in the end, you’ll be proud they did it themselves. And the students will amaze themselves and build self-esteem from knowing they did it on their own.

As the coach you will provide supervision and handle logistics such as scheduling meetings, making sure paperwork is done properly, getting the team to competition, teaching them how to solve differences, and so on. You may be responsible for recruiting and selecting team members. You’ll want to make sure the team understands the limitations of its long-term problem and oversee brainstorming and spontaneous practice sessions. When team members get an idea, you can make sure they obtain the skills required to carry out that idea. You’ll provide moral support. And . . . if something goes wrong, the team might need to rely on your guidance to help them make things right without actually fixing the problem for them. Be sure to read and re-read the problem and clarifications. Make sure the team reads them as well and recognizes what is being scored.

Forming a Team

It’s important to recognize that all students can benefit from participation in Odyssey of the Mind, and that performance in the classroom does not directly correlate with success in the program. Many students have highly developed creative problem-solving abilities but do not have the opportunity to apply them in the classroom.

Participation in Odyssey of the Mind removes the apprehension and self-consciousness that may inhibit students from becoming more involved in the classroom. Students who are not high achievers often discover, through solving Odyssey of the Mind problems, that the knowledge attained in school can be applied to many real-life situations, and they become more involved in the classroom as a result.

Recruit as many students as possible, and allow them to form their own teams. It is often the Odyssey of the Mind school administrator who organizes and arranges the teams. In some cases, teams form spontaneously. More often than not, it is more difficult to enlist a coach (teacher or parent), than to find interested team members.

It’s a good idea to involve students with different skills and abilities, so the team has a wide talent base to draw upon. This helps to build teamwork, because the members will learn to recognize and appreciate the abilities of others. Whether you’re trying to generate interest in the program or choosing from a well of eager students, here are a few suggestions on making that final decision of who should be on your team:

  • Hold a creativity “play-off,” where candidates are presented with problems that require creative thinking. Those who enjoy the activity will enjoy being on a team.
  • “Compose” each team with a selection of students with varying skills — for example, an artist, musician, computer expert, writer — depending on the nature of the problem.
  • For division I & II students, it is recommended not to span more than two grades.

Sometimes team members are from different schools, you must make sure to obtain permissions from the Principal of each school ahead of time. This is a required formality for some tournaments.

Teams can be any number of members up to a maximum of seven. If a team member drops out at any time, he/she remains on the roster and the seven members maximum still applies. If the team already had seven member, a new member cannot join as this would make it eight.

We recommend that you do not start a team with less than 5 members as they will be at a disadvantage against other teams. If members drop, they can still perform, even if they have fewer than 5.

The Art of Asking Questions : Coaches need to be aware that the WAY a question is asked may limit the creativity of the answers. e.g. Regarding Practicality, Regarding Style, Regarding their solution, Team questions and so on.

The Art of Facilitating: Brainstorming, Facilitated discussion,  Multi-voting, No Put-downs, Behavior Expectations, Present the Long-Term Problem, Getting the Most out of the Team, Setting Goals, Conduct Spontaneous Training, Helping the Team Obtain Materials and Knowledge to Solve Their Problem, Develop Team Spirit, Break into Smaller Groups, Practice Sessions.

Most valuable tools for doing all of the above are: appreciation, humor, spontaneous problem to practice, guidelines and reinforcement, coaches workshop, supportive parents, Clarification forms, Web sites from all over the country dealing with OM, Most important Food during break time to replenish/charge-up.

The Team Parents

It’s always a good idea to hold an initial meeting of team members and their parents. Most likely, the parents will support their child’s involvement in the program and will want to help. It is very important, however, that you let them know their limitations. Make clear the rules for outside assistance. Stress that their children will reap the full benefits of creative problem solving if they create their solution themselves.

Parents need to understand what will be expected of them regarding money, time, transportation, and so on. Find out what days and times are convenient from a family perspective and develop a practice schedule accordingly.

Make sure you inform the parents of the competition dates well ahead of time so they don’t schedule activities that conflict with those dates. Block the day after competition as well for celebration party whichever way the competition goes for the Team.

Getting to know the parents is a way to learn about the resources, skills and facilities that they have to offer. Parents may be willing to teach skills that team members need to execute their solution — carpentry, sewing, dancing, etc. Parents can also supply general information on subjects such as engineering and scientific principles, and they are a good resource to serve as judges, scorekeepers, or tournament assistants.

You might want to have parents solve a hands-on spontaneous problem during the meeting to “break the ice” with each other and to demonstrate what their kids will be doing.

Some coaches set-up specific jobs for parents such as transportation coordination, bringing snacks for meetings, finances, T-shirt and pin orders, setting up spontaneous, etc.

Discuss time constraints and what they’re willing to contribute, set a schedule of team meetings that you’ll stick to as best as you can until the competition date approaches.

You might want to meet one day during the week and on Saturday mornings for a couple of hours. As competition season draws near, you’ll probably want to increase the frequency of your practice sessions. Try not to have your meetings conflict with any of the team members’ curricular activities.

If you can meet as a team only once a week, make this a planning session where all team members give input into the solution, then assign different tasks to specific team members that they can work on at home. Make sure each team member has equal responsibilities. For example, one could write one scene of a skit and another team member could write another. One could make a costume, another could build a prop, and still another could create music.

How do Teams compete?

Here is the outline of how teams are formed and participate at the tournaments.
A membership from the National Odyssey of the Mind site allows you to form up to 5 teams competing in each of the problem types, for each division, plus an unlimited number of non-competing primary teams. Each team consists of one (or more) coaches and up to 7 team members.

The Problems

Did you know that the problems are also published in Spanish? This would be very useful for ESL students or parents/coaches who would prefer to read it in their native language.

This is a general description of the type of problems available. Each year problems are published with specific description and limitations.

Problem 1 – Mechanical/Vehicle

Teams design, build and operate vehicles of various size and with various power sources. Sometimes they drive the vehicles, and sometimes the vehicles perform tasks, such as overcoming obstacles or visiting other “countries” to retrieve artifacts.

Problem 2 – Technical Performance

Teams make innovative contraptions and incorporate artistic elements into their solutions. They might be asked to write an original musical score to play on a “new” type of instrument, or to build a robot with human characteristics, or to perform tasks using a chain reaction of snapping mousetraps.

Problem 3 – Classics

The theme of this problem is based on the classical — from literature to architecture to art. Whether it’s writing an additional chapter to Moby Dick or bringing paintings to life, it’s always a terrific learning experience.

Problem 4 – Structure

Teams design and build structures, using only balsa wood and glue. They test them by supporting and holding as much weight as possible — sometimes more than a thousand pounds! Teams usually present a skit as part of the Style presentation.

Problem 5 – Performance

In this problem, teams present performances that revolve around a specific theme and incorporate required elements. Past themes include “morphing” objects, animals that express human emotions, and originating folktales.

Review the current year’s problems ( Let the team discuss and make their problem selection. Then register your team.


Teams can not solve their long term problem without keeping abreast of the current clarifications on the national website. Please click here to find clarification:

This is an extract from the 2015 Program Guide explaining the clarifications process: 
Requesting Long-Term Problem Clarifications
Long-term problems are written to provide just enough guidance to solve the problem without limiting creativity. If a team questions the interpretation of a limitation, or is not sure if an aspect of its solution is allowed or meets the problem’s requirements, it may request a clarification.
Anyone requesting a clarification must cite the rule in question. Abuse of the clarification system may result in an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty. Read and re-read the problem and this Program Guide completely before submitting a clarification request. If the information is clearly presented in the problem or Program Guide you will be instructed to read them again.
There are three categories of problem clarifications:
(1) General clarifications amend or further explain a problem’s limitations without revealing information about a team’s solution. All general clarifications are posted on When teams question a problem limitation, before requesting a clarification, they should first check online to see if their concern has already been addressed. Clarifications take precedence over limitations listed in the problem and the rules in this guide, so it’s important that teams keep current on all general clarifications issued throughout the year.
(2) Team-specific clarifications pertain to a particular team’s solution. These are confidential and are not published, since teams must describe details of their solution to receive an accurate reply. In some cases, the answer to a team-specific clarification may be distributed to judges; however, they are never made available to other teams unless the answer is “no” and other teams will benefit by knowing that specific action is not allowed. If a team receives a clarification allowing an element but the performance does not match what was approved, the judges will disregard the clarification. Be sure the request is specific to a part of the solution.
Teams can request a clarification via e-mail: visit and follow the directions for submitting a question. You can view all general clarifications at this site as well. All clarifications are answered by CCI within seven days of receipt. Copies of all clarifications are sent to the International Problem Captain for the long-term problem in question and the Association Director for the association from which the question came.
(3) Judges clarifications are limited to Odyssey of the Mind association representatives and may be submitted at any time.
If a team receives a clarification, it is important that it presents the printout of the e-mail to judges at competition to avoid scoring discrepancies. Only clarifications issued by CCI are official. No one else is authorized to issue problem clarifications. Do not submit questions about a specific competition site, for example, floor type, scheduling, and so on. You must contact your Tournament Director for this information.
February 15 is the cutoff for submitting team clarifications. Since the problems are new every year and teams are using their creativity, events at the first level of competition may require clarification. This is to ensure all teams are working within the same general parameters. Therefore, even though clarifications that are emailed after February 15 of the program year will not be answered, new clarifications might be posted beyond that date.
Please check for new clarifications before each level of the competition.

Lesson Plans

First Five meetings are very critical for the team building and creating unforgettable moments for the life time.

Meeting#1– Have meeting with both Parents and Students and cover some basics. If have time, do at least one fun activity to demonstrate the principles of Odyssey of the Mind to parents and Students.

Ideas to teach: Encourage creativity, divergent thinking and creative problem solving, work together to build something uniquely theirs, feel free to change, delete, adapt, rewrite…should be fun and exciting, build chemistry to work and problem solving together, plan are meant to be SCRAMPERed – Substituted, Combined, Adapted, Modified, Elaborated, and Rearranged!

Meeting#2 – Teaching the team the Odyssey of the Mind philosophy and some of the basic skills used – thinking creatively, and working cooperatively then practice spontaneous problem.

Ideas to teach: Different between winning and succeeding, Rule of Engagement for team efforts, If We Can Dream It, We Can Do It – team confidence in themselves  and prompt mutual respect.

Meeting#3 – begin discussion of Long Term, continue work on spontaneous, Adapt to meet your groups.

Ideas to teach: Brainstorming Can be Fun – teach techniques such as Diamond method, Long Term Problem Requires Much Thinking and Discussion – see all the complexities and possibilities of a Long Term Problem

Rule of Engagement Part II – acceptable behavior or “team rules”,

Meeting#4 – examine long term problem in more depth and brainstorm skills  and tasks necessary to complete a solution.

Ideas to teach:  Brainstorming – making creative connections; Long Term – begin brainstorming solutions to be long term problem; TIME is of the Essence – team working on a timeline for long-term; Skill Workshops and Road trips Are FUN part of Odyssey of the Mind – identify needs for the long term problem

Meeting#5 – you should have a thread going, long term should be going in some direction, planning 

Spontaneous Fun – plan activity to go out and ask how would you …, what it like to be …;  Brainstorming – Teach skill of piggybacking; Long Term attack – chosen problem by now and discuss theme, begin brainstorming solutions; Spontaneous Practice – verbal and hands-on at every meeting.

Coaches Training

DELCAPS will be providing several training workshops for coaches in November, and in January. We will be offering six coaches workshops, two in each geographic region. Regardless of the region designation for your school or organization, a coach may attend any training session that is most convenient to her/him.

DELCAPS will provide bottled water and light snacks, but lunch will not be provided.

Pre-registration is required for each of these workshops, so that we can ensure an appropriate count of handout materials.  If you are an educator who desires clock hours toward re-certification, pre-registration in the Department of Education’s PDMS system is required. Click on Clock Hours/PDMS Registration and DELCAPS Online registration before the event. 

  • Coaches Workshop (Creativity Kick-off) and Spontaneous Workshop for school coordinators, coaches and co-coaches
  • Coaches Pre-tournament Training held at least 4 weeks prior to the regional

Prop Drop-off for the competition (D-Day)

Due to space constraints, team are allowed to store their props no more than 2 hours prior to the performance with exception of team competing long term problem in the early morning.

Regional and State Finals Check-In

Coach or team member must collect their team spontaneous ticket from the Information Desk. Spontaneous ticket is a get pass to allow entry into spontaneous holding room.

  • Spontaneous: Team should be check-in no more than 20 minutes prior to their schedule
  • Long Term : Team should have all require forms, team and problem clarifications and sufficient copies for judges prior to stage for long term performance.

Regional Team Qualification

Team Qualification Rules
To be qualified for the Region Tournament both competitive teams and primary teams must complete the following general steps:
1. Purchase/Renew your annual membership online at the National website.
2. Register Online. Complete online TEAM registration and receive a confirmation email from online system <>.
3. One Judge per Team. Provide a person to judge. This person must commit to TWO, possibly THREE days:
a. Judges training (8 hours for new and 6 hours for experienced judges),
b. The Region tournament (full day), and
c. The State tournament (full day). This judge commitment is only required if the team you represent advances to the State tournament. Judges representing Primary teams are not required to judge at the State tournament.
Additional judges are welcome. All judges – new and experienced – MUST attend judge training each year. Coaches can not attend. Judges register online on and receive a confirmation email.
When choosing a judge bear in mind: Pick a judge that you would be happy to have judge your team, judges may to judge in the problem of the team they represent, judges may not change their problem after they have been trained, judges will NOT get time off to watch other performances.
Team Volunteer requirements vary by Region. Volunteers register online and receive a confirmation email. Assignments will be given the week before the tournament.
Payment Information
Region tournament payment must be received by the published deadline. Make checks payable to: DELCAPS or pay online through PayPal (2.5% merchant processing fees apply)

All Training & Tournament dates and deadlines are published in the annual event calendar.

Coaches, you are not alone, we are with you always!

DON’t FORGET to learn about What is an Outside Assistance?