Get to know your Program Guide, Part 1: The role of a coach
You have stepped up to be an Odyssey of the Mind coach. Congratulations! Being a coach is both challenging and rewarding. Fortunately, both our NorCal Association and the International Organization are here with resources and team members to support you.
Why should I be an Odyssey of the Mind Coach?
We couldn’t make the OM program work without our volunteer coaches. But what’s in it for you? Coaching an OM team is both gratifying and valuable. You get to see your kids grow as individuals and members of a team while being engaged in their learning. As you become involved in educating your team members, you learn more about what kids are thinking and what appeals to them. And you get to see your team develop critical thinking skills and creativity while improving their self-esteem and confidence.
Facilitating a team
Your job as a coach is to facilitate your team’s problem-solving and progress without doing the work for them. Your team has complete ownership of their solution — all the ideas and production come from the kids.
However, as a coach, you play a critical role in creating the right environment for creativity to flourish. Some of the responsibilities of a coach include:
- Leading team interactions like brainstorming sessions and interacting with the team to improve their problem-solving skills
- Ensuring all team members are included in the process and all ideas are heard
- Being the catalyst for idea generation and idea evaluation through group activities such as brainstorming and role-playing
- Encouraging the team to explore every idea — especially the crazy ones!
- Providing a safe environment without criticism for all team members
- Knowing the program rules and guidelines
- Developing a timeline and helping the team stick to that timeline
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.
Technicalities and time commitment
Teams must have a coach and between 3 and 7 members. The team is categorized based on the age of the oldest member; for instance, if one third grader is on a team with five second graders, the team is in Division 1.
Coaches are usually parents of one or more team members. They can also be teachers, volunteers from the community, or members of sponsoring organizations such as Rotary.
Being an Odyssey coach is not unlike coaching a sports team. The OM team meets about once per week for an hour or two and more often and for longer work sessions as competitions approach. After the start-up period during which the coach learns what Odyssey is and how it works, the time commitment is for the meetings, attending a coaches’ training session early in the year (October or November), filling out forms and registering the team for tournament, handling money the parents contribute for materials and fees, and getting the team to the tournament(s). An average of 5 hours per week is about right for about 4 or 5 months.
However, if you happen to get started later, no problem. Our program, Odyssey in 10 Weeks will help you get the job done!