The Role of the Coach

OotM Coach

The primary role of an OotM coach is to facilitate a team's problem solution without doing any of the work. The team makes all the decisions that contribute to their solution. While a coach cannot help the team solve the problem, the coach is an integral member of the team.

  1. Schedule meetings for the team. Teams usually meet for 1-2 hours once a week beginning in September or October. As the March deadline for the regional competition approaches, teams may choose to meet for longer periods of time or additional days per week to make certain they are adequately prepared. Ultimately, the amount of meeting time depends on the team's goals and the degree of difficulty of the long-term problem. If your team plans to meet in any district school, the coach must contact Cindy Fry at npfacilitiesuse@npenn.org to reserve space.
  2. Organize meetings. Coaches should help the team use time effectively by creating a
    simple agenda for each meeting.
  3. Example of a simple meeting agenda:

    1. Practice spontaneous
    2. Brain storm ideas for the long-term
    3. Make a list of things to do
    4. Make list of needed materials
    5. Plan a shopping trip
  4. . Provide opportunities to practice spontaneous problem solving. Coaches can find
    spontaneous problems on the internet by googling "spontaneous problems" or in books
    sold at www.odysseyofthemind.com/shop/supportmaterials.php. Ideally, the team practices
    1 verbal and 1 hands-on problem at every meeting. Coaches can instruct the team on how
    to improve at spontaneous. Before competition, coaches determine which 5 members will
    be on the hands-on team and which 5 will be on the verbal team. Coaches can support one
    another by sharing spontaneous problems and problem-solving strategies.
  5. Provide guidance on reading through the long term problem. An important
    role of the coach is to read--and reread, and reread and reread-- the problem with the
    team out loud, explain unfamiliar words or concepts, and help the team understand the
    requirements of the problem. The coach should direct the team back to the long term
    problem anytime there is a question or whenever the team completes a part of the
    long-term problem. To facilitate this, a coach might repeatedly ask, "Have you
    fulfilled the requirements of the problem?"
  6. Establish team procedures and culture. How will the team make decisions?
    What are the rules for respecting meeting space and each other? How can the the team
    guard against outside assistance? Once rules are established, the coach can "record"
    them on a sheet of paper or poster board for future reference. Coaches can also
    impose rules that will establish expectations regarding behavior and commitment.
  7. Communicate with parents. The coach should communicate expectations to parents
    about behavior and commitment, parental involvement and avoidance of Outside
    Assistance.
  8. Recruit judges to judge at the regional competition and at Spontaneous Fun Night.
    Volunteers for judging should come from team parents. Other adults can also volunteer
    but parents should realize the importance of supporting their team in this way.
  9. Register the team for regional competition. How to Register for SEPOM Competition
    Building coordinators can provide membership numbers for your school.
  10. Help the team get materials. The team can provide the coach with a list and the coach
    can pick up items. If the team doesn't know exactly what it needs, the coach can take
    team members on shopping trips to generate ideas. It's best when shopping is done
    beforehand so meeting time can be used most efficiently. The coach can also enlist
    parent volunteers to help with shopping as long the parents can be trusted not to make
    suggestions or decisions about what to purchase. That would be outside assistance.
  11. Provide instruction on the problem-solving process. While there is no outside
    assistance permitted in OotM, which means that coaches can NEVER offer a solution to
    a problem, the coach can and should teach team members about the problem-solving
    process. The coach conducts brainstorming sessions, facilitates the team decision-
    making process, and asks questions to help team members think about the requirements
    of the problem. Steps to Help Foster the Creative Problem Solving Process
  12. Ensure the physical and emotional safety of all team members. The OotM
    coach needs to provide constant supervision to ensure that team members are using
    materials and tools safely as well as ease the inevitable tensions that result from working
    together on a team and solving difficult problems. Coaches can ask team parents to
    assist with supervision when necessary. NPSD requires each coach to follow district
    safety procedures to help keep students safe. This includes directives for coaches
    and consent forms for the parents.
  13. Collaborate with other coaches. It is recommended that coaches contact one
    another to share best practices and to ask for assistance. Contact the OotM building
    coordinator for a list of coaches at their school.
  14. Stay informed.
    Visit the NPSD OotM website for important announcements and information. Access
    the district website at www.npenn.org, click For Families, click Odyssey of the Mind.
  15. Visit the Odyssey of the Mind national website www.odysseyofthemind.com with
    links to the the Pennsylvania state site www.paodyssey.com and the SEPOM
    regional site www.paodyssey.com/southeast/home.htm

    Read the Odyssey of the Mind Program Guide.
    This document provides information about all aspects of the OotM program.
    The program guide is an important reference document for coaches.

    Ask Questions. Email addresses for the Odyssey of the Mind District Coordinator
    and Building Coordinators can be found on the NPSD website under contacts.

  16. Attend Coaches' Training. A coaches' training run by SEPOM takes place in
    November. This training is mandatory for new coaches. Experienced coaches can
    attend the training too. Pre-registration is not necessary. For details, visit the SEPOM
    website www.paodyssey.com/southeast/home.htm

10 Tips for Odyssey of the Mind Coaches