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Role of a Coach

Volunteering to coach Odyssey of the Mind is an adventure.

A coach’s job, essentially, is to help guide up to 7 creative students to learn to solve difficult problems, while allowing all ideas and solutions to be the students’ own.

So… how does a coach get them to learn things without telling them answers? 


Coaches may ask questions designed to ‘stimulate’ thinking rather than ‘influence’ thinking. Coaches ask questions like, why did the structure break there? what else could you use to make it look like a . . .? since we can’t do X, how could you do the same thing in another way? Coaches can take teams to bridges to see and discuss what makes them strong enough to hold a train. They can take them to a TV station to see how a program is really created. They frequently take the team to local hardware, fabric, or craft stores to look for ways to solve specific problems (to make the clock look like it’s real, to disguise the robot’s arm, or to figure out a way to make the vehicle move, to consider different glues) and for materials they might use for their device, vehicle, giraffe or unicorn.


Above everything else, Odyssey of the Mind should be FUN: fun for the students and fun for the coach! Every moment will not be fun, of course, but if the team and the coach are not having a good time most of the time, the coach needs to evaluate what has taken the fun away. Being creative, getting to do things all by themselves, figuring out difficult challenges, working out how to solve problems together … these should all be exciting for the team.

Coaches wear many different hats (some silly!), with multiple parts to being a successful coach.
Components of being an Odyssey of the Mind Coach 


Determines how often and where a team meets 

Helps the team stay organized 

Assists the team develop a timeline for projects 

Helps the team keep track of tasks and deadlines

Gets the team ready for tournament – registration, information etc. 


Team Builder

Encourages all team members to participate

Fosters team members to develop skills and confidence

Helps resolve conflicts

Facilitates team building sessions and activities

Cheerleader in chief!


Helps the team read and understand the problem

Helps the team utilize information in the Program Guide

Guides brainstorming sessions (without injecting ideas)

Guides note keeping (keeping track of the team’s previous ideas)

Guides goals and the path to reach them

Explains scoring

Supply Master

Takes team members to stores for supplies.

Organizes parents to provide snacks (fuel for the busy brains)

Gathers materials to use in spontaneous training sessions


Teaches basic skills without direct focus on any solution

Brings in “experts” requested by the team to discuss & teach skills – again not on the specific solution

Asks QUESTIONS (to help team focus, open-ended) 

Teaches the components of creative problem solving

Encourages prototyping to assess feasibility

Spontaneous Skill Developer 

Practices these OFTEN

Gathers a variety of practice problems 

Teaches strategies 

Debriefs spontaneous trainings


Form Facilitator

Helps primary & division 1 team fill these out, dictated by the team

Makes sure the older divisions have completed all forms before competition 

Helps team make sure their forms are fantastic!



Communicates with and for the team

Communicates with the School/Regional Director 

Communicates with parents/guardians 

Communicates with New York State Odyssey of the Mind (NYSOMA) officials

Uses Odyssey of the Mind HQ website for registration, downloads, submitting clarifications etc.

"Every child deserves a champion; an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best they can possibly be."
~ Rita F. Pierson
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