Will it Fit, Last, Come Apart and Go Back Together (at least 30 times!!!)???

December 3rd, 2013 By cgadmin


While we don’t want the kids to think too much inside the box there needs to be a reality check when it comes to size of props. They must fit through a standard door, fit in a car (or in whatever you will be using for transportation), not fall apart or break easily, damage your home or car, the performance facility, and fit inside the required competition area.


Oh goodness, where has the fun gone?


Being aware of these restrictions will help as you work with your team. None of us wants to be guilty of outside assistance, but we do need our sanity, too. So, if you have not already thought about this and had this discussion with your team you should! Open or print the Program Guide (Send Division II and III teams to this section to read with you) and make sure you understand the standard requirements. Think of length also. Can the backdrop go through a door and turn through tight spaces? It will be crowded on competition day and the hallway may be smaller than anticipated. Make sure you are prepared for the actual problem requirements also. Will you perform in a 10’ X 10’ area? Does the vehicle need to fit in a 6’ x 4’ area? Armed with this information can help you in properly guiding your team. If a backdrop is looking to be close to the limit of the performance area, or the vehicle is starting to look like it will not fit through a standard door, how do you discuss this? Part of the meeting can be to read and discuss the requirements and let the kids figure it out. Armed with this information then makes it easier to pose the question when it looks like the kids are going down a dangerous path, size-wise. Does anyone remember the size restriction for the vehicle? How can you be sure it will fit‚ please hope they say measure, and not with their eyes but with a measuring tape! If you have any doubt yourself, make them take it to the school and get it through the standard gym door (Read Chapter 5, page 37‚ and be sure to make sure it is the size indicated in the program guide). One team I coached swore they had measured the vehicle width and made a vehicle where the wheels could not be removed. The width was off by a smidgen but that smidgen was not going to move or be sawed off! Only, and I say ONLY because they were charming and had super cool janitors that removed the middle bar at the state tournaments, and they cajoled entry through a back entrance at the world competition was this team saved certain doom! A combination of sheer luck, some cool adults and problem solving kids, but my heart had way too much stress. They could have been disqualified.


Is the team making something that needs to come apart and go back together to get to practice, tournament, etc.? Will the numerous (and there could be many) taking apart and putting back together cause damage for the actual performance? Will the quality go down on props if moved around or taken apart too much? Depending on the level of your team, both age wise and experience wise this might be a discussion. For example, what happens to a screw put in and out many times during assembly and disassembly? Is there a better way to attach the pieces? Using cardboard for a backdrop that begins to bend and fall down is another example. Is there a way to make the cardboard more resilient? Is there another material that will not bend easily? I’ve seen all kinds of solutions that work, from the original idea retained, to a change or modification of material, to creating a simple practice prop and retaining the scored prop only for final practice and performance.

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Tournament Day

March 1st, 2013 By cgadmin


I would arrive at least 1.5 to 2 hours before competition for long term or spontaneous to get the jitters out of the kids. Young kids will simply not be able to focus until they get to the venue and run a bit of the energy out. You also want to allow for any late situations with other parents. You will want time to warm up for spontaneous, and time to get props together, look for damage and discuss or run through the skit lines. You also want time to get the team to the performance room to see what it looks like. Some kids may care about this very much and some will not:  you’ll know who on your team needs this and perhaps this is you!


Check out the performance area. Note which way the team will enter the performance area from the staging. Where is the outlet (if needed)? Are there changes in the room from where the team practiced? Ask them questions about this and make sure they have resolved any concerns.


Arrive at the pre-staging area 20 minutes before the performance time. There is always a team in pre-staging, staging and performing and it is critical the tournament stay on time. Inform the tournament director or problem captain of any concerns so they can work with your team.


Parents can bring props in to the facility and all the way to staging. They can also clean up and are encouraged to do so. They CANNOT put on costumes and make up, etc. There are many volunteers on site during the tournament day and we do go to the bathroom (the things we see).  We will politely remind the parent/coach, etc. of outside assistance but we hope not to give a penalty for such, as we want the entire process to be a success for the kids. Makeup applied by a young child may not be perfect but the judges are looking for age appropriate work. Please make sure parents understand this.


Once both the long term and spontaneous are done, enjoy the day. Watch other problems, go to lunch together, or whatever works depending on your performance time. Be sure to stay for the awards! You never know who wins.


More on how scoring works in my next blog.


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Tournament Time!

February 21st, 2013 By cgadmin


The Poudre River Tournament is almost here and the other two tournaments are just around the corner. This is the time when there are just not enough hours to complete everything that needs to be done. My advice is to accept that your team will do fine. The best that you can do the week before the tournament is help them determine what needs to get done and what will need to left out.


A few suggestions as you prepare for the big day:


Make sure the skit is completed in less than eight minutes, including set up time starting from the staging area. Better to cut a bit of the skit out than the kids being stopped before the skit is finished– just makes the kids feel bad. Make sure you make time to practice all parts of the solution: staging, skit and talking to the judges. Have the kids determine how they will set up their props, etc. in the staging area and how they can assure success. Hopefully they will come to the conclusion that they need to have this consistent and who needs to do what in the staging set up. Ideally you would like to coach them to understand that the skit may be able to get started even during set up and give more time for the performance. Of course this may not always be possible but in my experience it always was! Once the team understood the time and how to begin the skit they always found a way. For example, the person who will begin the skit should bring out a small prop and the sign in order that the skit could be started. The membership sign must always be out and visible before the skit can begin. At the end of the skit the judges will talk to the team about the solution. Have the kids decide who is best to talk with a judge about a part of the solution. For example, on a technical piece if a judge asks a team member who is not part of the solution in that area the team member may want to grab the student who designed it to talk with the judge. I have found that the team feels great success by talking with the judges about the processes involved in the solution, and so do the judges!


If you have not done so already, take some time to have your team complete the competition forms. Division I can be written by coaches but the team must dictate what to write. Forms are located in the back of the Program Guide Book or on the national website under Member Area>Forms & Problems.


1 copy Outside Assistance Form:  This form is signed by the team members indicating they completed all of the parts of the skit themselves, or indicated on the form the type of outside assistance that occurred. Make sure the members o f the team understands what they are signing as there is a possibility a judge may ask them if they understand the form. See page 45 of the Program Guide for more information.


1 copy Cost Form:  Have the kids look at the entire solution and write everything down on a piece of paper. Then group according to what works for the team and problems. If there a lot costumes you may want to break down by character. For a building problem you may want to break down the technical items. Whatever works and makes it easy for the team to record it. Be sure to know the three categories for items:  cost, exempt , and assigned values. Remember that only what is in the final solution is counted in the cost form. Be sure to have the students add up the cost and verify it meets the allowed amount for the problem solution. See page .pg 47 in the Program Guide.


4 copies Style Forms: If you have not already done style, spend time on this since those 50 points can really mean a lot. Remember there are two style elements the team selects and this is a good place to put parts of the long term that are not scored but that highlighted the team’s solution. The fifth style element is to explain how the effect of the other four elements combine to enhance the performance.


4 copies Problem paperwork as indicated in section. These are used to help the judging team know what parts of the scored solution to look for on specific problem. This is stated in your problem under H.


Membership Sign:  This is a must and needs to be read from 25 feet away and have your required team info on it. It MUST be out in view for the judges before the solution begins and remain in view the entire time. See page 44 of the Program Guide.


Toolbox:  Also known to my teams as the “Murphy’s Law” kit:  all the things that may be needed in an emergency on competition day. Have the team think about what tends to break and what is needed to fix them. During rehearsal as problems arise often dictates additional tool kit supplies! Typical things such as tape, scissors, duct tape, spare prop parts, screwdrivers, wrenches, etc. This can go in the staging area and can be used for setting up the performance or for repairs, but cannot be a part of the solution. See page 49 in the Program Guide.

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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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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

Assistance From Parents

December 5th, 2012 By cgadmin


If you have not done this already…Discuss the help you need from the parents. For younger teams, see if one of the parents can set up a snack schedule and define what that entails. Or, if you have room ask the parents to provide you with snacks for a few meetings and make an Odyssey snack box. Or, have the parents give you a set amount of money that you will use to get snacks. I have done it all ways. The idea is to make it less stressful for you so that you can spend your time working with the kids and less time focusing on snack time. For middle school teams, see if one the kids can develop a schedule and they work on it together. We all know they can text each other about everything else.


Young teams do much better if they know once they reach a goal they get a snack break. Determine how you communicate best and relay that to the parents. Perhaps it is email, a note home with the kids, phone calls, a quick get together when kids are picked up, etc. I typically used email and at pick up to communicate, but select what works and let the parents know how you will let them know about Odyssey stuff. Just remember if you use kids to relay messages that some kids are better than others on relaying this information to parents.


If you have a parent who would like to help (lucky you), you need an advocate/friend in this wonderful venture, especially for younger teams, or more competitive ones‚ see if this person can help with making a spontaneous box and preparing spontaneous problems (more on this later)‚ this can be a lifesaver for you and assure the team is getting enough spontaneous practice. If you do not have help, you CAN DO IT, you might need more time and organization to pull it off. I would be happy to discuss any of this further.

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Bubble Wrap…And All That Jazz….Verbal Spontaneous

November 28th, 2012 By cgadmin


Spontaneous problems often add an additional element to the verbal problem solving that you should practice so your team is not caught off guard and gets frustrated during competition.


An example is that kids are assigned a number by where they sit in the spontaneous room and when time begins a card is turned over and the kids answer when their number comes up. These often do not go in order and one member may have two cards before another member’s comes up. A team member may also be asked to answer, and then turn over the card for the next member. THIS IS NOT ALWAYS EASY for some kids. They forget to turn it over, or turn it over before the answer is given. Judges tend to be patient with this, but it does lose some time. The worst is when another member attempts to turn over the card or reminds the team member to turn it over. Again, most judges will not penalize for this but the team may lose points if the kids appear to “fuss” at each other this. SUGGESTION- practice this! Get two sets of old playing cards and use the numbers one – seven (depending on the number of team members you have), and with two decks you will have eight cards of the same number. Or, get some note cards and put numbers on them.


Another way to use cards is to give each kid a certain number, like six cards and two free passes. Kids get extra points if they do not use the pass cards. In this case the team needs to try not to use the pass cards in order not to lose points. It can be used with strategy. The kids that are “hot” that day don’t need to use them, and the team member who is struggling can use them. A team member who finds verbal problems easy may run through all six cards quickly and then the team member who struggles is stuck with three cards left and no answers. Agh! Those left are then more likely to throw in pass cards. Team members may also get worried by seeing an actual number of cards and be in a hurry to throw in cards and not give creative answers. When all of the cards are done then the problem is done. SUGGESTION-practice this. I suggest you have the kids still take turns throwing in a card and answering the question so that even though they do not have to go in order they will still tend to take turns and not use the pass cards. Let them know though that they can practice not taking a turn and let the others still put in a card.


For younger Division I teams, or when first beginning to learn how to both answer and remember to do something else, practice with bubble wrap so each kid has to pop the bubble wrap before giving them her answer. Again, this is often easier said than done at first. Then add putting a card in the center of the table and saying an answer. Then change it to saying an answer and then putting in the card. Move on to the other two ways that I discussed in the beginning. This is a process that takes some time. Have fun with it and realize this is easier for some than others but everyone can learn it. Practicing it will give the team confidence before competition.

Filed Under: Coaches Mentor Blog