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Team Management

I have one or two team members who tend to “overpower” a meeting. What can I do?

Rotate team captains and have them take turns conducting the meetings.

Have members come to an agreement on issues that are impeding progress. They should do this by listing the pros and cons of the issue so they see both sides of the argument. If a consensus cannot be reached, have the members vote by secret ballot.

Schedule meetings where all team members work on only one aspect of the solution. This way, all team members will contribute to many aspects of the solution to some degree.

Form committees with each team member in charge of one group responsible for a team-­determined contribution (e.g., artwork, costumes). This will help develop leadership skills.


My practices are disorganized, what can I do?

If you are a new Coach, you might be thinking to yourself, “How do I run a practice?” Odyssey has a lot of resources that you can use to guide you in this area. First, look over the Program Guide and the resources you can find on this website and on Odyssey HQ. There is a lot of great information that you can use to plan out your OM season, including your practices.

Its best to run your practices by first reading over the Long-Term Problem. Once the team understands the problem, the team can then start to generate ideas and focus their solution and works out a plan to bring everything together. Different kids may choose to work on different aspects of their solution. For example, some will work on building sets and creating pieces of artwork. Others will build the technical elements or work on the script. Having one team member who constantly check the solution and sees how well it meets the requirements is a useful addition. You should always include practicing spontaneous and of course – time for snacks.


It seems like my team is always messing around? I remind them that they have deadlines to meet, but they are not listening. How I can get my team to focus?

There will be times where you will find your team acting like a bunch of puppies. This is normal; they are kids. Remember, for some OM team members, it’s a time where they can unwind and be themselves. Be that as it may, know that you are the coach and you need to keep them on track. It is not outside if you tell the team to get to work, nor is it outside assistance to ask them thought-provoking questions about their solutions to get them back on task. However, if certain members are causing such a disruption that the rest of the team cannot work, then give that member a “special job,” send that member home, or consider ending the practice for that day. If you do that a couple of times, they will learn how important time is at their team meetings.


I have kids on my team that say, “I have nothing to do.” How do I fix that?

As your team grows and develops, each member should have specific jobs to do. This will prevent them from saying, “I have nothing to do.” This will also prevent any dominant kids on your team from bossing everyone around. Once a job is complete, direct those kids to help those who have not finished their tasks. Using a project management schedule with assigned tasks and deadlines is a useful tool.


I have one team member who never shows up to practice. The rest of the team is working hard on solving the solution. How should I handle this?

First, talk to the team member and find out why they are not showing up to practice. There could be a real simple reason behind it. If speaking with that specific team member does not get him or her back to practice, then you need to talk with the child’s parents. At the beginning of the season, you should have explained to prospective team members and parents the level of commitment that is required for an Odyssey team, the rules of Outside Assistance, and how teams are structured, then they should understand that they are needed at practice. If you did not explain that to them, then make sure you do. If the member is still not coming to practice, then you might think about either replacing the member or removing them. However, if you replace a member, you must follow the rules in the Program Guide. Be sure to think that decision over because it might not be worth it.


My team is not bonding and acting like a team. Is there anything I can do to fix this?

How well your team bonds, is just as important as the solution they come up with. Have a few practices where you only focus on bonding. Go out to visit places for inspiration (or ice cream!), let them watch a movie or play some video games together. You can also use some team building exercises and games to promote cohesion. You will be surprised how much better your team will work together on the solution if they all get along.

How else can I get my team to bond together and work... as a team?

Team-building activities are a great way for teams to bond, learn more about each other, and learn to work as a team. The idea is not only to get your team to have as many experiences as possible, but to have different kinds of experiences.


Cook Together: By making a sandwich or assembling a personal pizza, they learn more about one another, as well as teamwork skills. For example, maybe one team member doesn’t like tomatoes or one of them is a vegetarian. Let each member have a specific task. If there aren’t enough tasks for everybody, split the team between communicators and cooks. Communicators tell the cooks what to do and cooks are not allowed to speak.


Play Together Often: Always try to do something fun with the team to start off the practice and to get them loosened up. You can have dance parties, sing karaoke or play games for a few minutes before practice. Nerf Wars, park visits, movie nights and swim parties are also ways for teams to spend time together outside of practice. This also allows you to get to know your team members better. As the Coach, don’t be afraid to have fun with your team. They’ll feel more connected to you and will feel safe enough to take creative risks without a fear of failure.


Encourage Conversations: Both constructed and organic conversations will help team members get to know each other better and teach them how to listen to all team member’s stories and ideas. A great game for this is The Bonfire Stories Game. Have the team sit in a circle with a container in the middle. The container should have different notes with suggestions such as “tell an embarrassing story that happened to you.” All team members must tell a story before grabbing a different suggestion.


Discourage Cliques: Many times, there is the pair of kids on a team that tends to get along better with each other, rather than with the rest of the team. During activities and games, try to pair kids who get along the least together. This will discourage cliques and encourage all team members to have a better relationship with all of their teammates.


Deal with Conflict in a Timely Manner: It’s inevitable. Where there are individuals, there is conflict. And where there are multiple tiny individuals, conflict can often be constant. Let’s face it—humans are innately selfish and stubborn. Collaboration doesn’t come naturally to us. Teamwork is a skill that is developed. It’s up to us to teach them how to work together and how to resolve their conflicts constructively and in a timely manner. One way to prevent conflict is for the team to come up with a written set of rules for team members and agreed ways to handle disputes. When you do have a conflict on your team, begin by asking questions.  Model appropriate behavior and conversations for your team. Have the team members brainstorm ways to handle conflict and work through it. Where there is constant conflict, chemistry cannot exist. Once your team members realize their strengths and use them regularly, you will have fewer conflicts and chemistry will begin to naturally occur


Celebrate Together: Regardless of their ages, kids love to be recognized for doing a good job. You don’t have to wait until after the tournament to celebrate as a team. You can celebrate after a very productive meeting, when it’s someone’s birthday, or when there is a holiday. Celebrate both successes and failures often. Always give compliments to the team when they do really well on a Spontaneous problem but also try to find good things to say even when they fail. Bringing treats like candy, homemade cookies or dollar store items to practice as rewards for accomplishing goals. Each little victory you should celebrate together as a team, but also celebrate failures as opportunities to learn, or to reward effort and risk-taking .


Travel Together: Even if it’s just a 20-minute trip to the museum or to a park, give your team the opportunity to ride in a car together. This allows for organic conversations, car games, and can even resolve conflicts, like who gets the window seat.


Laugh Together: Watch a funny movie, play a YouTube video of “America’s Funniest Videos,” let each member share a video or a meme they think is the funniest, or have each team member tell jokes and then vote for the best comic. Whenever you have set that kind of mood, they will even laugh at their own fails, mistakes and conflicts.


Keep Focused on the Bigger Picture: So, you might ask what exactly is it that team members liked best about doing Odyssey? When asked this question, many answer: “We started out as strangers, but we became an Odyssey family.” And I wholeheartedly agree. Creating chemistry with your team isn’t only important to creating a solution; it’s an essential part of the process. If you focus on building a sense of belonging and shaping their shared purpose, you will likely end up forging friendships that will keep your team together for years to come.

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