Category: Coaches Mentor Blog


March 7th, 2014 By Coaches Mentor


Let’s review the scoring system, which contribute to the overall score for each team—long term, style and spontaneous.

Primary—The primary teams will be scored on the same three elements as the competitive teams—long term, style and spontaneous. Since the program goal at this stage is to have fun while learning about Odyssey, the regional tournament is non-competitive, leeway is given on the ‘limitations and scoring, and the long term scoring is not numbers, but stars. The idea is for the kids to view the stars as success while allowing the coach to see the elements that received more stars as areas where the judges scored higher. Each judge will write one ‘sticky note’ comment for the team. The Spontaneous part of the tournament is scored in the number of answers the team members gave. The ‘sticky notes’ will be read at the awards ceremony at the end of the tournament, when the coach receives the score sheets, each team is recognized, and each team member receives a medal. REMEMBERPrimary teams do not move on to the State tournament—they perform only once, at the regional tournament, and they do not receive a team placement.

Div I, II, III
Each long term problem has two parts –the long term score and the style score. The long term score is worth up to 200 points. The style score is worth up to 50 points. Every team in the same problem in the same division will be evaluated by the same judges on the same point system that has been provided in the problem. Div I teams will be scored and compared ONLY to other Div I teams in that problem at the specific tournament. This is same process is for Div II, and for Div III. There are several groups of judges within the problem who look at the same elements all day. Some will be looking at the long term (and within the long term elements there may be an additional breakdown of judges, depending on the problem scoring for the year). A different set of judges will be judging on the style elements. Style will be scored the same way, except each team will select two original elements, and the overall effect to score. The goal is to make sure the judges can fairly assess all of the scored elements of each team. Long term and style are scored separately. Spontaneous is a separate part of the competition and is worth 100 points. Again, each team in the same problem in the same division will get the exact same problem and scored by the same judges all day.

The team who scores the highest in Long Term, no matter what the score is—will receive a prorated score of 200. Everyone else will receive a percentage score of 200 based on its raw score in relation to the highest raw score. Any penalty points are deducted after scores are calculated. Again, the top scorer in Style will receive 50 points and the teams below will receive a percentage score. The same is true for Spontaneous, except the top scorer will receive 100 points.

Note: You cannot determine what a low or high score is for the day, as each coach receives the score for his team, but teams cannot see each others’ scores until the Sunday after the awards ceremony when they are posted on line. Exception—teams moving on will receive their scores in a packet at the tournament and can compare to the other teams. Teams do not receive 200 points or 50 points respectively for Long Term or Style, and rarely for Spontaneous. For example, it is possible for a team to score 153 points and be the top scorer for the day. Or, a team could score 127 points and be the top scorer. Or a team could score 172. You just do not know. What you can be assured of is that the judges will score consistently all day. About 30-45 minutes after the competition you will meet with the problem captain, or designated person for the problem to go over your score. The person will make sure you understand the score – you’ll sign the sheet to verify you received the scored elements, and you can then share it with your team. You’ll also receive ‘sticky notes’ on the team’s performance to share with the kids. This will be their favorite part – so let them enjoy their compliments. Please be cautious of your interpretation of the score with your team. You may be disappointed, but this is their time to be excited for all they have accomplished. Many teams have been surprised at how well they did—their score may not have seemed to reflect how well they did for the day in comparison to other teams.

Style is scored separately and is not given to the coach until the awards ceremony, if a top scorer, or online the next day if not moving forward to the State tournament This is the same for Spontaneous.

REMEMBER–Only first through third placement of teams announced at the awards ceremony move on to the State tournament to compete with the teams from the other two tournaments. Ranatra Fusca winners automatically move on to the state tournament. The other teams will end the competition at the regional tournament.

Filed Under: Coaches Mentor Blog

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.

Filed Under: Coaches Mentor Blog

Selecting a Problem

November 26th, 2013 By Coaches Mentor

Selecting a problem-Selecting a problem can be a task in itself.  Some schools with more than one team have a method of selecting problems.  I know when the school where there were two elementary school teams we took turns each year giving the other team a chance to select their preferred problem first.  If there is no method then read the synopsis of each problem and brainstorm brief ideas.  Have each team decide on the choice order. Or perhaps, just flip a coin. If the teams want to solve the same problem it will cost an additional membership if in the same division.

A  few ideas…

Find out what the majority of the team likes.  If you have a lot of builders (they want to saw, use circuit boards, fiddle with how things go together, build with balsa wood) then perhaps problem 1, 2 or 4 is for them.  If you have a lot of dramatic kids, then problem 5 might be a good fit. If you have students who like history, to research, and to act, then problem 3 might be good.   If members of the team are diverse in talent and interest then you could let them decide what the most interesting problem is and then have them discuss splitting up parts of the problem to solve once the overall scheme has been developed. For example, in problem 1 two could build the vehicle and the other writes the script. Each team is different and it does not matter as long as each member is involved and utilizing his/her talents and is having fun! Just make sure they reconnect to make sure the problem is being solved in the way they all want it.

Filed Under: Coaches Mentor Blog

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.


Filed Under: Coaches Mentor Blog

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.

Filed Under: Coaches Mentor Blog

You’ve Got…Style

February 7th, 2013 By Calla


Style can be a bit tricky to understand at first so let’s cover some basics. Each problem has two required elements. That does not mean that each team has to do it the exact same way—just that the elements are the same. For example, in the primary problem, Top Sea-cret Discoveries, the two required style elements are: 1) Creativity of the team’s membership sign 2) Creative use of a trash item in a costume worn by one of the Sea Explorer characters. 1) The sign for one team might be a fish with the team name and membership number on it, as it is a requirement to have these two identifiers on the sign (and to be read from 20 feet away). The team decides that the creativity of the sign is that it is a fish, and that fish is next to some other fish just like it, as it is part of the school of fish. 2) The creative use of the trash item is the old DVDs that are used on the Sea Explorer to make his suit jacket look like scales of a fish. (Though the Sea Character has to be portrayed as human for the problem, this character chooses to blend in with the fish by having his jacket be made from old fish scales…). If you were to state that you used an old suit jacket and slashed it with scissors to make it look like gills of a fish you likely would not score as high. Though the jacket may be ‘trash’, it was actually the cutting that made it creative, not the jacket itself. If you were to describe creative use of trash for a character other than the Sea Explorer the judges could not count it. If the team wants to use another character’s creative use of trash, this could be style element 3 or 4 which are up to each team to decide.


Number five is the overall effect of the four Style elements in the performance. An example of the first two in the above example might be: We chose the sign to be a part of our ‘school of fish’ so that it became a part of our set—the sea. We used the DVDs to make the suit jacket look like scales of the same type of fish, as this Sea Explorer wants to blend in with them as part of the humor of the skit.


Div II, Div III, Competitive—Let’s take this a step further by examining the two free choices for the team. This is where a team can really shine. If a team member can sing, perhaps a song can be the free choice. Or if the team can write some funny lyrics, it can be the words to the song. Careful here—these two can be very different. Is it the words to the song that add to the style, or is it the silliness of the ugly old bear breaking out into pitch-perfect singing? Or is it both—the bear singing a song that describes the situation at hand in the skit, and in perfect pitch.


Or a costume might be particularly creative. One year a team member took trash bags, made them into ’yarn’, and then crocheted them into a skirt. This is where it can get tricky in what you want the judges to score. 1) Do you want them to score the overall costume, 2) or the skirt, 3) or the way in which the skirt was made through both use of creative materials and the actual crocheting…ummm, I pick number 3!


Filed Under: Coaches Mentor Blog

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.

Filed Under: Coaches Mentor Blog

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.


Filed Under: Coaches Mentor Blog

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.


Filed Under: Coaches Mentor Blog

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!

Filed Under: Coaches Mentor Blog