Coach's Corner

Each month, our board compiles a list of articles and tips to help you guide your team through the creative process. All coaches receive the Coaches’ Corner newsletter via email starting in November. For a sneak-peak at a previous issue of Coaches Corner, please click here

Our next issue will be posted in October 2022. 

Login to Microsoft Teams on the first Monday of each month for comradery, questions, and insights. 

CTOM Office Hours will begin in December 2022. Login details will be included in the November 2022 Coaches’ Corner Newsletter.

CTOM is proud to offer our 8 Unit curriculum to guide coaches in running meetings and support teams as they create their long-term solutions. Please use these as a guide. Units can be completed in a single meeting, or over a series of team events. Units do not need to be completed in numeric order. Teams that have purchased a membership for the 2022 – 2023 season will receive an email with long access for the Curriculum. If you have questions, or need additional support, please contact Kim Kempton, CTOM Coaches’ Coach at

Unit 1: Odyssey Intro – Teamwork, Creativity and Starting the Journey Together 
Odyssey of the Mind and teamwork take a lot of practice and getting to know each other.  Unit 1 includes team building exercises and introduces the concept of Journaling to help drive the creative process as your team begins to work on its long-term problem solution. 

Unit 2: Embracing the Long-term Problem 
Each OM team is made up of a unique group of children who bring different talents to the table.  Choosing a long-term problem that complements their unique talents can sometimes be a challenge.  Unit 2 will help guide you through the process. 

Unit 3: Spontaneous – Teach, Develop and Demonstrate Creativity 
Spontaneous problems and the thinking behind them are at the core of Odyssey of the Mind. Practicing these types of problems will influence a child’s thinking and problem-solving skills for the future. Many people believe creativity is an innate skill, but creativity is like a muscle and needs to be flexed to get stronger. Unit 3 provides an overview of Spontaneous Problems and secret tips for success. 

Unit 4: Brainstorming – Theme, Characters and Storyline 
Every good OM long-term solution involves a good story – a plot that leads the judges and audience through the solution while introducing interesting characters and evoking emotions like humor. Unit 4 will guide your team through developing a theme, plot and ultimately starting to write a script. 

Unit 5: Channeling Creativity in the Long-term Problem 
Long-term solutions require costumes, sets and props.  Unit 5 offers hands-on activities to help channel creativity and inspire the team to focus on various scored elements of their long-term solution. 

Unit 6: Simple Machines 
Regardless of the long-term problem that the team decides on, understanding simple machines and how they work can help develop the storyline or enhance props in the long-term solution. Knowledge of simple machines also helps with solving hands-on spontaneous problems.  Unit 6 includes videos and spontaneous challenges to help teams understand these engineering principles. 

Unit 7: Bring on the Theater – Public Speaking and Developing Characters! 
Public speaking is an important skill for OMers. Use the acting/theater activities in Unit 7 to get your team comfortable with each other and to build confidence performing in front of an audience. 

Unit 8: Identifying Team STYLE! 
Style is any talent, interest or activity that makes you unique and memorable! Officially, Style scores are based on “Elaboration of the problem solution”.  Unit 8 will help your team find their “style” and then use it to make their problem solution uniquely memorable! 

No Outside Assistance is the most significant concept that makes Odyssey of the Mind different from all other programs for children. Odyssey requires that, “team members must design and create ALL aspects of their problem solution.” This rule is essential for students to fully benefit from Odyssey.


  • If the team wants to use an item that is too dangerous, they must find another way to do it. 
  • If a team needs a costume, adults can teach them how to sew but the team alone must sew the costume used in the performance. 
  • If they are running short on time, “allow the project to go unfinished” or  the team can find another way to accomplish the task. 
  • If the information the team seeks can be found in a book, that is ok. If it is information specific to the problem solution, that is outside assistance. 

When the students do all of the work, it levels the playing field, makes the competition fair.  Kids compete against kids. How proud can the team be when they win, if adults did their work? It is often said that judges can tell Outside Assistance because adults aren’t as creative as kids can be.  Whether or not judges can tell Outside Assistance; it is by the team doing the work themselves that they grow in confidence and enhance their problem solving skills. 

Children learn by doing. They are active learners who manipulate materials and play with them in order to understand. The process of ‘doing’ is often the most important part, not the product. The struggle to figure out a solution is critical to learning in Odyssey. If adults help bypass the struggle by providing the answer, much valuable learning is lost. 

Benefits come from failure. Did you know that Thomas Edison developed over 1800 light bulbs before he found his ultimate solution?   He knew where he wanted to go and he struggled to find a way to do it. Every failure adds to the final solution. Think about what the students learn when they persevere and find a way to make that device work. Odyssey is a process.  It can take years for teams to develop the teamwork, the team personality and problem solving skills necessary to make it to the top of the Odyssey pile. The journey is  often fun, long, hard, but worth it. 

Adults, please resist the temptation to leap to the rescue! Not only is it not fair if you neaten up the solution, build the device, or fix the scenery that keeps falling down, but you deprive the students from finding their own solutions and testing them out.  Put aside your worry that the team’s solution may be embarrassing or reflect poorly on you.  Let them do it. They can handle it. Let them find out that working hard does make a difference. Let them discover the creativity inside each and every one of them. There is always next year. Some teams may come in last in the scoring but actually come in first in learning what to do differently next time, in overcoming adversities, or in making progress as a team. 

Your job as a coach, parent or grandparent, is to encourage them to try again. Help them explore the possibilities, even if they go in the opposite direction than what you think would be best. We want to ‘stimulate’ their thinking not ‘influence’ it. Odyssey is not the end point,  but hopefully a strategy to develop creative problem solving skills that will last a lifetime. No Outside Assistance is not only a rule but an inspired idea! 

What parents can do: 

  • Transport the team to buy things 
  • Transport the props 
  • Teach the team members a skill if the teams asks, such as: sewing, woodworking, calligraphy, art, electronics, engineering, principals of simple machines, welding, and so on 
  • Help provide snacks 
  • Bring spontaneous problem supplies 
  • Help get props into the building for the tournament, even to the staging area 
  • Open attics, closets, basements for “garage sale value” materials 
  • Assist the coach with snacks and supervision tasks 
  • Volunteer to be a judge at the tournament! 

What parents cannot do: 

  • Suggest what to buy 
  • Repair props if broken in shipping 
  • Suggest to the team which skills to use to solve a problem
  • Suggest to the team which skills would result in a better looking or better functioning solution 
  • Give the teams any ideas for their problem solution 
  • Sew anything, paint anything, do anything to contribute to the team’s problem solution 
  • Analyze why something failed 
  • Expect perfection from a solution not done by adults (or from a solution done by adults, for that matter!) 
  • Suggest what materials to get from the attic, closet or basement 
  • Fix anything that breaks 
  • Criticize any part of a team’s solution 
  • Put emphasis on scores instead of fun 

“That which is added to the problem’s solution and relates to the theme of the problem or the solution, but is not scored under the long-term problem” (Odyssey of the Mind Program Guide).   

Style is everything over and above the long-term solution. It is the manner in which a team chooses to present its solution to the judges and the audience.  It may be the backdrop for the performance.  In a performance problem, style and the problem solution become difficult to separate.  In a technical problem, style becomes the theme through which the long-term solution is presented. 

Style is what makes your team YOU! Your goal is to be ORIGINAL, INNOVATIVE and UNPREDICTABLE. 


Developing “Style”: 

Style should be kept in mind throughout the process of solving the long-term problem.  It can evolve from the solution.  Don’t lock into a style theme too early.  Be patient.  Be sure all of the mandatory elements are incorporated into your evolving theme.  Mandatory items must be present in order to receive points.  Brainstorm the “Free choice(s) of the team”.  Record the ideas on a flip-chart as they develop.  Any team member can add to the “Style Suggestions” at any time. 

Scoring Style: 

Each Style category is worth 10 points but those points DO count!  When the team selects their style category, when there is free choice, select carefully and specifically.  If there are several similar props, select the best one, rather than the group.  Be specific about what you want the judges to judge, if one costume, prop, poem, song, piece of scenery or even a portion of one of those (the list here is not exhaustive), is amazing tell the judges exactly what it is you want judged.  The way judges look at the scoring: 


1-3 points— using common materials/ideas in ordinary ways 

4-6 points— using common materials/ideas in unusual and creative ways 

7-8 points— using unusual materials/ideas in uncommon, effective ways or unusual creativity 

9-10 points— using uncommon materials effectively in unique ways or in other words: for 9-10 points your style selection ‘knocks the judges’ socks off!’ with outstanding creativity! It’s hard to get a 9-10 because our judges have seen sooo much creativity! A goal to strive for! 

Required at competition: 


  1. Outside Assistance Form | pdf | pdf) 
  1. Style Form |pdf| | word| 
  1. Cost Form |pdf| | excel| 
  1. Team List Form – please see your long-term problem for more information about the team list for your problem and division. 

Other forms: 

  1. Team Member Contract (link to CC document ( 
  1. Parent / Student Contract ( 
  1. Media Release 

Coaches. Here is an example of a media release form you can use with parents to gain their permission to allow their child’s picture to be taken at any CTOM event. When coaches register for tournament you will be electronically signing that you have received this permission from a parent or guardian of your team members. 

I, _________________, give permission for __________________ to participate in Connecticut Odyssey of the Mind.  I hereby assign the rights to the interview, recording, and/or photographs containing the image of __________________ to Connecticut Odyssey of the Mind (CTOM, Inc.) and hereby authorize the reproduction, copyright, exhibition, broadcast and/or distribution of said materials without limitation.