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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Odyssey of the Mind: what I learned, things I wish I'd done

Well, today was it. Our local Odyssey of the Mind tournament. (Also known as OotM, or OM, except we're not supposed to use "OM" since it's copyrighted somewhere.) Whew! We started meeting for practice way back in September. In retrospect that was WAY to early to start a primary team. Sigh. It seems liked a marathon, especially in the fall when I was also assistant coach for an FLL LEGO Robotics team.

I've learned a lot. The training the state OM (so sue me) organization provided was invaluable, both to coaching OM and to coaching Lego. I learned even more from working with the kids. Then we added yet another level of experience by actually going to the tournament and being judged.

I have to admit that there were times where if I hadn't made the commitment to the kids, I'd have quit. They were most often the times my kid wanted to quit and made it miserable to get to practice. He was the reason I got involved, but after about 6 weeks of practice he was done. Being the coach's kid, and me not having alternative child care, he had to keep going. That was hard on him.

The primary groups are kids age 5-7, very young, some very shy and others very .... right brained and active. :-) I'm not sure I'd recommend this for this age group unless each and every kids desperately wanted to do it.

If I had a team of eager kids, and had known then what I know now here's what I'd do different.

Make sure the kids want to be there, and give them an out if they don't. Practice somewhere with few distractions. (We were at a parents home w/ lots of toys, sibs, pets, and exercise equipment around.)

With this age group I'd worry less about OA (outside assistance) and more about improving skills and increasing confidance and courage. We were way too hesitant to make suggestions, give assignments, and explain our opinions.

We had two coaches. I'd work earlier to be very clear about what our roles and goals were. I'd have a project management schedule worked out so that we knew exactly what we needed to have done when. I'd also assign a parent to keeping up with all the paperwork and registration stuff. (It was distracting and took from my energy with the kids)

I should have worked with the kids more on drama stuff, projection of voice, setting up the set, cues, reminding each other of the cues. They needed more practice under pressure. We should have run more spontaneous as if it was being judged. We should have talked more about team work, but also worked more on individual issues.

All in all I think that for 4/6 of the kids it was a great experience. For the other 2 I think is was a good experience, but not one that they'll be wanting to repeat soon.

As for the coaches. Well, it's a little early to know if we'll be doing it again.

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