January, 2013


A,B,C –Easy as 1,2,3

January 30th, 2013 By cgadmin


Now is a good time to go back to your problem and re-read Part A, Part B, and Part C by yourself, make sure you are clear on the three parts and then re-read it with your team to make sure everyone is clear or can make adjustments.

Primary—At this age, focus on A. The Problem. Make sure the kids to have developed a skit about the main points. Then as a coach, focus on B. The Limitations so you can keep their ideas within these rule limitations by reminding them of the limitations. The kids are too young at this age to understand all of this, which is why it is non-competitive.


Div I—Print a copy or two (one for each member in older Division I, and Division II) to go through it line by line. It can be a check, check, check, oops—add, check, etc. type of exercise. Most of us like to check off what has been addressed or mastered and this can serve as a middle of the year road map. For teams that are running smoothly this can be a great confidence booster and catch any missed or incorrectly understood elements. For teams where there is some disorganization of thought this can help to get back on track.

  1. THE PROBLEM—Read this paragraph to make sure the team is on the right path. There are two parts to the problem—creative emphasis and spirit of the problem. Be sure the team is clear on both and can ‘meet the spirit of the problem’ as this is the required.
  2. LIMITATIONS—Know these now, not later.  I will go into more depth later on some of these, but note problem clarifications (your problem captain can be an excellent resource), time limit, cost limit and required elements.  This is the part where you MUST, MUST, MUST go through it number, and letter within number so missed elements can be figured out now.
  3.  SITE, SET UP and COMPETITION—The most important part of this is knowing the dimensions of your site so there are no surprises. DO NOT expect more room than what is stated. There is limited space so not everyone can get the ‘best’ room.  BE prepared.

Div II, Div III, Competitive—In addition to each of the above it is critical to keep up with any of the national clarifications on a regular basis. Often questions or clarifications from other teams outside of Colorado will lead to a national clarification. In order to be competitive and not lose points, or worse, get penalized, team members should closely look at each limitation.

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Mastering Hands On…There’s More?

January 28th, 2013 By Calla


Div I, Div III, Div III—It is critical to teach your team to listen to each other. Practicing positions for each kid can help with this skill. Rotate the jobs so each gets a chance and determine the best fit. Here are the basic roles—adjust as needed according to your team makeup, age, and number. My comments on which works best is just my opinion—do what works best for you. Again, age and experience improves this concept.


One is a reader/timer (a very significant role that most do not want–perhaps the achiever kid or detail oriented one who likes organization), two/three builders (note that not everyone builds…too many hands in the pot… unless time is running out…), one/two project managers make sure everyone gives input, summarize the ideas and makes a decision if there are mixed opinions. One person who keeps an eye on materials to make sure not all of the glue/tape is used up until all done building, for example.


My thoughts on why this works. The project manager is typically for the kid who can keep things going–often gets how to solve the problem but wants to be in everything. Now, by making him loosely in charge, he can no longer build—he is the supervisor—and this slows him down a bit. The reader goes to work on reading the problem and keeping the team on the right track.  Two to three builders avoid the chaos of all materials used on three projects, not one. By getting rid of the ‘everyone build for himself’ they will see how this can work better.


Div II, Div III, Competitive—Place materials that may not matter to what you are doing to get them used to not necessarily using all for the materials. Careful–coach them to examine each material critically to determine if it is useful for the problem.


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Hands On Problem Techniques

January 23rd, 2013 By Calla


Remember—There is no outside assistance in spontaneous since you have no idea what problem the team will get on competition day. So, work with the kids with whatever skills you have, to help them get better. Practice alleviates stress and makes for a team that gets excited to do a hands on! Happy building


All Teams—Have the team complete a problem. Discuss what worked well and what did not and then—DO THE SAME PROBLEM AGAIN, and maybe one more time. Do not be afraid to freeze frame and discuss what is working at that point in time. Is the team in the right place for the time? Are they spending too much time discussing the problem leaving no time left for building? This is typically what happens, but with practice (and age) this improves. Practice auditory skills—the problem will be read on competition day so the kids will need to learn to retain the instructions. For kids who struggle retaining the problem, try having them close their eyes and listen.


Div II, Div III, Competitive— Here are my ideas that worked for many of the teams I have coached—


Re-read (scan) the problem—One of the biggest mistakes any team of any age makes is in not thoroughly understanding the problem. This is where the skill of a visual and quick team reader is critical. Scanning and reading the problem and making sure the basic information is understood by all. Kids often do not like this role as it is seen as boring. But the team member who finds a loophole in the problem, or catches an error in the team solution in the rules will be the’ hero’ of the day.


Time management—The first thing you ask a team in practice after reading a formal problem is how much time they have—is it two parts and if so how much time is in the second part. Then have them learn how long should be spent discussing the solution, before beginning the building. It could also be that there are two parts and in the first part they discuss and the second part they build. It could also be that there are two parts and in the first part they discuss, build and test solution and in second part they actually do the solution. The team should be clear on when the judges will tell them what time is left. Typically they will give them two warnings, like when 3 minutes and one minute remain, for example. This may not be on the instructions on the table so the team should pay attention to the judge instructions or ask to make sure. These can be used as a time frame for where the team should be at in the problem—discussion, building, finishing.


In a hands on problem they need to learn how much time is talking and looking at materials, how much time is for building and testing, etc. This is so hard and must be mastered. Teams that master this, master winning! This is where managing time comes in. I have always coached my kids to pay close attention to the time at the beginning of the problem and adjust discussion, building time, etc. In the middle of a hands on problem I ask them how much time they have spent so far in order to help them to learn how long a minute, two minutes, three minutes is, etc


Where are the points—height, length, creativity in solution, teamwork? Hopefully the ‘reader’ can catch this as the team is discussing their solution ideas.


Go for the highest or second highest points if given a choice. Lowest points will most likely not win the competition.


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Road Trip!

January 22nd, 2013 By cgadmin


This time of year is a perfect time for a road trip!


If the team is stuck on creative costumes, or how to build a vehicle or prop, or just needs a little fun in the middle of the season, some of their fondest memories will be of this trip! Grab another parent and take a trip to Home Depot, Michaels, or to Goodwill! Walk the aisles and have the kids look at everything in the store. Challenge them to think of different ways to utilize common or uncommon materials. I had a team once that found the sprinkler drain used for an individual sprinkler head. They turned it upside down and used it as a small diver’s cage for a small vehicle problem. Another team asked to have the large spool used for holding electrical wire. They used it as a wheel for a vehicle. One of my teams spent so much time at Home Depot that the employees would smile when they walked in! They became friends with some of the employees and began to name a character in their skit after their favorite Home Depot employee each year!


Take along some verbal spontaneous problems to do in the car! Grab a camera and take pictures moving or still’s for them to look at later during a break!

Here’s to a ROAD TRIP!!! Bring along some money and go through a drive thru!

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Choosing Roles

January 19th, 2013 By cgadmin


Who is going to play what part? Me! Me! Me! Enthusiasm is great but no coach wants to be in the middle of selecting parts for team members and appear to have ‘favorites.’  This is a touchy subject for some groups and not for others.  Age of the team members, how long they have known each other, personalities, and type of problem all play a role—some kids just don’t care, some have huge passion for performing, some do not want to perform at all. I’ve seen all scenarios. If you have not thought about this yet, it is something to think through and determine how to approach the subject with your team. Begin with asking the kids ideas how they would like to choose roles. It may be an easy task with the natural flow of the team and you can applaud their excellent teamwork. It may be that two or three kids fuss over who gets the perceived lead role. Again, hopefully they will determine how to resolve this. Another concern is the roles that are being created. Are there enough roles for those who want them? If not, can a role be added? Are there too many? How can this be handled?—Remove a role, change costumes…help guide the team through solving this with questioning, but do not decide for them.


Primary/Div I–With a younger or newer team you can have every member put his name in a hat and pick and let her choose. You can also determine by asking each child what part she wants to play and see if they can come to an agreement. With some preplanning you should be able to give your kids confidence in their ability to solve this. For your own sanity, make sure that any large roles can be played confidently by the team member and that this team member and family have shown dedication to practices and Odyssey so that you do not find yourself figuring out to change roles at the last minute when the team member does not make it to practice. Younger kids often don’t have the flexibility to relearn lines easily and the whole team can get frustrated—not fun after an entire season of preparation.


Div II, Div III, Competitive—At this age, discussions should take place fairly early on about how characters will be chosen. In sports, decisions are often made on talent, or time invested. Teams might consider which team members have put in more hours and are more invested. Where one team member may have greater interest in her basketball team, a team member may be more vested in Odyssey as his extracurricular. Or, does one team member have a body type better suited to the role. Or, does a team member have a talent that will enhance a role?

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Hands on or Hands Off

January 12th, 2013 By cgadmin

Is there any way to teach kids how to handle a hands on problem—to keep it from a case of hands in, and hands on the materials, yet nothing is done and time is up and no finished product? I wish I had a magic answer. For a team to master hands on will take time. Younger teams typically have not mastered the conceptual idea of the type of teamwork needed to complete a hands on problem in the time allotted. Remember though, that every team will be in the same age group and working with the same age-related issues.


Div I—Spend some time with getting new or younger teams used to the idea of the types of materials typically found in a hands on problem and for what the materials can be used. For example, clay, tape, rubber bands and labels are glue or tape and can be used to hold something together and make a base. Straws, and pencils add length—pencils are more durable but have more weight. Straws provide more flexibility. Paper clips can attach things or can be opened up for length in attachment or for poking a hole. My favorite is paper. It can be used in so many ways; folded it has a lot of strength and torn correctly can be quite long…These are just a few examples, but let them practice building height, length, etc., with various materials.



Div II, Div III, Competitive—Here is a strategy that can be useful for many teams. Try it, and let me know how it works.

When the team walks into the room they will immediately be told what type of problem it is. If it is a hands on or hands on/verbal, coach them to scan the table for everything that is on the table and make a mental note of what each could potentially do. Do not touch materials. This is critical, so coach this as a habit. Once they touch they begin to lose track of what the problem will be—they do not know at this point and materials could be damaged. That may start a scuffle amongst the team and not a good way to begin a team activity! Once the judge begins to read the problem have the kids close their eyes, or look away while the problem is being read in order to focus on the problem. Your auditory kids will understand the problem better by focusing on hearing it. Your visual kids may want to read the problem afterward but do not have them read along with the written problem presented on table as it will usually not be exactly the same in format so there is a chance for the team member getting lost in the written work and not understanding the problem.


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Point Pig!

January 2nd, 2013 By cgadmin


Points are a necessary part of competing in Odyssey. Having the team members know the number of points for each element, and also relative to each other should help them determine where to spend the most time. Often a team, or a team member will get stuck on one element and forget all others. If the team is fine with that, and is having fun with the journey and getting a large number of points for the team is not the ultimate goal, then let them go that route. But if the team is trying o be competitive, bring the team back to the problem and review points and ask the team how they would like to progress once they have the knowledge how the measurement of these will be on competition day.


Primary—With this age group, concern yourself with just trying to get every element included in your skit. Don’t forget style elements, too.  There is time for concern with points when the kids understand the concept of grades. Primary team scoring consists of lots of stars, and notes from judges on particular areas of the skit they enjoyed,, and this is enough of a reward.


Div I—I find one way to get newer or younger teams to understand the long term solution points is to use the rubric concept as I find many teachers use this, even in younger grades. Get an example from one of their assignments in the appropriate grade level and use it as you explain the concept. When I work with younger teams I explain it like this—a teacher will only grade you on what she says she will grade you on. If you do something in addition to the requirements you will only get credit if he says he will give it to you in extra credit—and even then it has some stipulations (sounds like STYLE—wink, wink)—otherwise the extra work in the wrong direction could be better used on where the points count. In addition, some areas for points are a snag point for the team. If there was a character or prop that was cool and the kids love it and it was not counted in the long term solutions—STYLE!


Div II, Div III, Competitive— Okay, I admit it! My teams were always point pigs! They learned the points for the long term solution and determined how to get as many as possible. The idea is to get as many points as possible, but some areas can be weaker. Look at it this way—if you are a new team, trying to get a ‘B’ overall in points is a great goal. Trying to excel on each group of points can be discouraging. Maybe the team can do two out of the three required obstacles and each obstacle is worth five points each. Do two well, try the third and then let it go. If there are two or more parts to a score, be sure to have the team understand the breakdown of the points and focus on each section. Again, don’t neglect any points but reality of time and often age and experience may dictate effort spent.

Filed Under: Coaches Mentor Blog