In Odyssey of the Mind the coach plays a limited, but important, role. Each 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.
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. Oftentimes, 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 “hands off ” 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.