Role of a Coach
Your role as a coach is to not be the expert in whichever problem the team chooses to solve. In fact, it is often better not to be an expert because there is always a risk of outside assistance. Your role is to facilitate creative problem solving, team-building, and brainstorming and to teach kids how to manage a project or learn basic skills such as building concepts, theatrical principles, artistic qualities and more. We encourage you to bring in outside experts (parents, teachers, etc...) to help teach some of these skills or to take “field trips”.
As a coach, you will be off to a great start when you set the example of adult behavior, sportsmanship, and the Odyssey of the Mind spirit. Make the process of Odyssey of the Mind your goal and not the competition placements. All teams are winners because they have solved the problem to the best of their ability.
Respect is the key element of team building: your team members do not have to like each other, but they must respect each other. Each team member will have different style and ways of solving problems. Some will love the brainstorming while others just want to get started. Being enthusiastic, patient and offering positive criticism will help guide your team through problem solving situations. Remember that kids are people, too; give them their space to have good and bad days.
Most of the time, it is not the first idea or the tenth idea or the fiftieth idea that is the best, most creative idea. It may be “Modification #74." It is very important not to stop a team from changing, enhancing, and refining its solution. Many teams solve the basic problem and then start to enhance it. It is that enhancement that gives the team’s solution its uniqueness and creativity. Good teams are never quite satisfied!
Coach April Laun with Omer at World Finals
Photo courtesy of Samual Oldenburg, The Center for Gifted Studies at Western Kentucky University