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Run an Info Session

Call a general meeting

This is where you will explain the program and find out the number of students who would like to participate. 

  • Post notices in various areas of the school, announce it on the P.A. system, send flyers home to parents, and include information in the school newspaper. Include when and where students are to meet.

  • Invite parents and teachers to attend, as you may need to recruit additional coaches, or they may be interested in serving in another volunteer position.


Allow all interested students to attend

Odyssey of the Mind is for everyone. Participation is not based on I.Q. or performance in the classroom. Rather, it provides opportunities for various talents and skills to be used to explore new ways of thinking, creating, and accomplishing. 

  • Coaches should be prepared for having a large number of students attend. If only a few students attend, suggest invite their friends to participate. 

  • Teachers and school administrators will often recommend students they feel are good candidates; however, no student should be automatically excluded from participation.

  • Regardless of academic ability, all students may perform exceptionally well in Odyssey of the Mind. Participation encourages them to work beyond their own expectations.

Prepare sign-up sheets

Print out the long-term problem synopses found on the website at, and cut and tape each individual synopsis to the top of a blank sheet of paper. Use these as sign-up sheets for the problems.

Describe the Program

You should be comfortable and at ease with points to be covered. 

  • Explain that Odyssey of the Mind is an international creative problem-solving competition for students from kindergarten through college. 

  • Discuss the Odyssey of the Mind philosophy; i.e., creativity can be taught, students will think “outside of the box”.

  • Tell students that they will be working in teams and with no Outside Assistance they will create their unique solutions to the Odyssey long-term problems.

  • Let students know there’s no right or wrong way to create a solution. As long as they follow the rules, they can incorporate their own interests into whatever they do. 

  • Stress that students will have fun.

  • If time allows, have seven volunteers do a short, simple hands-on spontaneous problem to demonstrate the fun of creative thinking. 


Explain the program components
  • Long-term problems are for all types of interests. Some are more technical in nature while others are mostly performance-based. 

  • Style allows teams to add a personal touch to their solutions and to be more creative.  

  • Spontaneous are short-term problems presented on the day of competition.


Explain team composition
  • Teams are formed of up to seven students, which are grouped by division, based on grade level. 

  • Team members may be added at any time until there is a full complement of seven, although there is no minimum number. If a team member drops out, please consult the Program Guide for rules and guidance.

  • Teams compete against other teams in the same division.

  • Consider creating a team contract for students to sign. It will help make clear the commitment to the team. 

Gather Information

Have students provide the following information:​

  • Interests and talents, such as music, dance, history, nature, computers, artistic or building skills, the ability to use tools, and so on.

  • Involvement in other extracurricular activities and any other time constraints.


Have students sign up
  • Give a brief overview of each long-term problem and ask students to write their name on the sign-up sheet for the problem that interests them most.  It might be helpful if students write a one-sentence description of why the problem interests them.

  • Be prepared for students to change their minds. Sometimes students do not realize that other problems might appeal to that same interest. 

  • Have students sign up for a second choice as well, designating this as “Choice 2,” just in case there is an abundance of interest in only one or two of the problems.

  • Ask students to indicate if they feel a parent or guardian may be interested in serving as a coach, assistant coach, or as a judge or volunteer in some other capacity. 


Form Teams

Identify teams as soon as possible. You can do this before the end of the first meeting while you still have their interest.  


Evaluate the number of students that sign up for each problem.

If seven or fewer indicate interest in a particular problem, this could be the team, or the nucleus of a team, for that problem. If more than seven sign up for a particular problem, consider these options:

  • Review the one-sentence descriptions of why the problem interests the students. If a problem with fewer than seven students might appeal to an interest of one or more of those who signed on, discuss the option of switching to that problem.

  • For problems with more than one team in a division, hold an intramural competition and allow the team with the highest score to represent the school in official competition,  ask teams to consider another problem that the membership has no team solving or purchase an additional membership to allow another team to compete in the same problem and division.


Recognize each student’s potential.

It’s great to have creative kids as well as those with creative potential. Coaches can help them develop skills related to their interests and watch their progress. Often students will work harder in other subjects in school once they realize those lessons can be put into practice.

  • Do not select team members based on standardized test scores. These do not reflect artistic talent, the ability to perform, leadership qualities, or creative-thinking skills. 

  • Find a place for everyone interested, since Odyssey of the Mind benefits all kids.

  • Comprise teams of members with diverse skills and talents, for example: 

    • Artistic talent, including acting, music, painting, and so on. 

    • The ability to use tools and to build things.

    • Knowledge of electricity or other technical areas.

    • Organization skills. This person could keep the team within budget and on schedule to ensure that the team is prepared for its first competition.


Decide how many teams you would like to coach.

Don’t take on more than you can handle. 

  • Get a co-coach or assistant coach to help out. 

  • Ask parents to volunteer some time with the teams. 

  • If you do coach more than one team, it is best that they work on different problems. Be careful that they don’t influence one another’s solution. 


Have each team solve a spontaneous problem.

This will introduce them to creative problem solving and, hopefully, keep students excited until their next meeting.


Announce a date, place, and time for the first practice.

Make sure it doesn’t interfere with other extracurricular activities.

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