Regional Directors

Victoria -

Marguerite -


Odyssey of the Mind Frequently Asked Questions


Tournament Day: A Primer for Parents


Tournament Day is a special day for an Odyssey of the Mind team. It is the culmination of months of hard work. The team has planned their solution, tried ideas, failed, redesigned, and finally completed the requirements. They are likely to be both excited and nervous as competition day approaches.


As loving parents, it is natural that you want what is best for your child. You naturally care how they do and want everything to be perfect. This sheet is for you, to let you know what to expect and to help you support your child on the day of the tournament.


What to expect (and what not to expect):


• Don’t expect perfection from anything you see, be it judges, teams or other parents.


• Don’t expect everything to go flawlessly. Murphy loves Odyssey of the Mind tournaments.


• Do expect things to need fixing and updating and give your children the space to do that on their own.


• Do understand that judges, coaches, other teams and other parents all want the best for your children.


• Do expect that judges will talk to the team after the performance. This is normal. Don’t move in with your congratulations until the judges have thanked the team and dismissed it.


Somethings you should be sure to do:


• Do say “thank you” to the tournament volunteers.


• Do say “thank you” to the coach.


• Do congratulate your children, and support them emotionally, but give them the space to be alone with their teammates before and after performance time.


• Do help your children unload things from the car.


• Do help your children remove items from the performance area. When the judges are finished talking with them, they will dismiss the team. At this point, you are welcome on stage and can help the kids remove their stuff.


Some things you should not do:


• Don’t talk to the judges, except to say, “Thank You”. Leave all other interactions with judges to the coach and the team.


• Don’t help your children move anything into the performance area.


• Don’t help with costumes or make-up.


• Don’t give advice on anything relating to the problem solution, even the smallest thing.


• Don’t repair anything! If something breaks, the team must repair it, even if you broke it!


Why these bullet points matter:


A word about success and winning in the program


By the time teams have made it to the tournament, they have already succeeded. They have taken on the process of solving a problem, and worked through that process to develop a solution on their own. This is the most significant measure of success in Odyssey of the Mind. While it lives in the shadows of tournament scoring and it’s hopes for advancement, understanding the challenge of that task, and its impact on children’s development -the skill sets that are being learned through practice at the meetings and at the tournament- cannot be overemphasized.


There will be winners and losers at the tournament. Elation and disappointment are natural outcomes, both for you, as parents of your children, and for the kids, as a team. Elation is easy: the kids are proud and triumphant, and sharing their success comes natural. Disappointment can be more difficult: as parents, we want to provide comfort and are eager to identify reasons and share advice when things don’t work out.


Remember that the process is embedded in the tournament experience too. Don’t try and fix the emotional fallout from a disappointing experience. As hard as it maybe to accept, it’s not your problem. Be compassionate: you feel their disappointment, too. When the time is right, ask questions if you like: questions that invite the kids to assess their effort. But in the immediacy of the tournament, keep it to the minimum. Your team has a coach whose job it is to facilitate the children learning the process of solving problems. A team’s disappointment about the way the content of their solution was received is a part of this process.


Praise the team for all it has accomplished, acknowledge any failings, and encourage the kids to assess their efforts based on a year of hard work. Odyssey of the Mind participants cannot help but compare themselves to what they see, but remind them that they learned a lot this year and that there is more to be learned from tournament day. What they will remember about Odyssey of the Mind is a year of fun meetings and the challenges they overcame to realize their solution: win or lose, the tournament experience can be a tool that reinforces that sense of fun, triumph, and ownership.




What is Odyssey of the Mind?

What are the benefits?

Who may participate?

How are teams formed?

Who may coach?

What is the role of a coach?

What is the time commitment?

What is the teacher’s role?

Is there training for coaches?

What are the Odyssey of the Mind problems?

How are the teams scored at the tournaments?

When and where are the state and world competitions?

What are the costs?



1. Odyssey of the Mind (OotM) is the largest worldwide creative problem-solving competition for children from Kindergarten through college. OotM’s mission is to foster the development of creative thinking and problem-solving skills. The program teaches that great minds don’t necessarily think alike – and often march to different drummers; that there are no right answers; that creative solutions come from teamwork, cooperation and risk-taking.


2. Benefits include: Develop creative thinking abilities and divergent problem-solving skills. Increase student ability to apply known principles and facts to “hands-on” situations; Improve communication skills. Learn to plan, organize and set long-range goals. Learn how to use a creative problem solving process while being encouraged to take risks. Develop and utilize skills of all team members; gain sensitivity and experience with group dynamics. Develop and use local resources. Develop and use research skills. Exercise and use the higher order thinking and critical thinking skills, especially analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Have fun while learning all of these very important skills Learning to take risks allows the students to become more self-confident and independent thus making successes and defeats easier to place in perspective. Experiences with OotM problems prepare students to solve real-life problems using specific skills and behaviors.


3. Teams of children from kindergarten through college-age participate. All receive the same problems; however, their solutions vary – not simply because of age grouping but mostly due to the innovation and imagination of the creators.


4. There are many ways for teams to form. Often teams are formed in their classrooms; teachers can assist in assembling teams. Also, problems can be posted and students sign up for the problem they find most interesting, thus creating teams who want to solve the same problem, not necessarily classmates or friends. While most members are individual schools, home schoolers and community-based programs also participate.


5. Each team must have a coach, who may be a parent, teacher, teacher aid, administrator or other interested adult (must be 18 or older).


6. Coaches facilitate the team’s needs (meeting place, transportation, review of program rules, etc), but the students do all the work! The coach keeps the team on task, encourages them to be creative and work as a team, but does not provide assistance to the solution of the problem. More detailed guidance will be sent as part of the membership package and program guide once the national membership dues are paid.  Please also see #8 below. As a coach, you will be honored and entertained while keeping your team on track. Teams tend to meet a couple of hours once every 1 or 2 weeks in the fall, then may increase the time or frequency as the tournament nears.


7. Teachers are sometimes coaches, co-coaches, campus coordinators, or simply “cheerleaders” of the program. They may also be trained to judge the tournament/s.


8. Training for coaches occurs in most regions. See Training tab on this website for dates.  Coach training is required for new coaches.


9. All participating teams are given the choice of the same five long term problems to solve though these problems change from year to year. Part of the long term problem includes style which enhances the solution through costumes, props scenery, drama, etc. The problems usually include a “vehicle” problem, a mechanical problem, a “classics” problem, a balsa wood structure problem and a strictly dramatic problem. The team of seven members selects from the five given problems and after working for several months on the solution, presents it at the local regional tournament. At this time, the students will compete against other teams solving the same problem in their age division. The teams are also given spontaneous problems to solve the day of the tournament. These problems also foster creativity and teamwork. Their solution involves a form of brainstorming. Though teams may practice for this segment, they do not know the problem ahead of time.


10. Long Term Portion The long-term portion of an OotM problem is always open-ended yet with specific design specifications and monetary limitations. It affords the student with the opportunity to brainstorm, research, plan, create and evaluate. This portion of the problem is solved during a two to three month period prior to the presentation at the state tournament. It is worth 200 out of the total 350 points. Style Portion The style portion of an OotM problem encourages students to develop unique presentations for their long-term solutions. Style is designed as a creative addition or elaboration to the presentation of the problem’s solution, which elates to, but is not required to solve the problem. Examples include art work, costumes, props, songs, acting, dancing, scenery and elaborate school signs. It is worth 50 out of the total 350 points. Spontaneous Portion Spontaneous problems are based on the concept of fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration in thinking. Quantity of responses is important and unusual ideas are encouraged.

Spontaneous problems are given to teams on the day of the tournament to challenge the teams’ ability to “think on their feet”. Some require verbal responses to a given question, some require hands-on solutions and some combine both. It is worth 100 out of the total 350 points.


11. Regional tournaments are usually held in February and March. State Tournaments are in March or April. The Odyssey of the Mind year culminates with World Finals, where the best of the best match wits, imaginations and personalities to become world champions!


12. The costs for this program are very minimal – the program is staffed and run by volunteers National memberships are $135 (a membership is typically an individual school). California State fee is now $75 per national membership. Our Inland Empire Region has a regional tournament fee of $95 per TEAM (not per national membership).   Other costs include materials for solving the problem. Each problem has a maximum dollar value of what can be included at time of competition (usually between $125 and $150). This is described in detail in the membership packet and Program Guide.  The Program Guide is at the bottom of the home page of while the membership packet is mailed out in September to those who have already purchased their national membership.  You may also enter the Member’s Area on the national website after your membership has been paid.


13.  Fees:


National $135 includes purchase of all 5 problems-due when purchase is made on the national website at     This allows your membership 1 team in each of the five problems for a total of 5 teams.  Please read the Program Guide to find out how to field more teams (on one membership!) if your school is a K-8 or K-12 school.


State $75 per national membership-due when State Invoice is received by email and before January 31.  The email is generated by our State Treasurer.  State fees are paid to California Odyssey of the Mind.  You may pay online at OR mail your State fee check to:  CA Odyssey of the Mind 20304 Dayton Street Riverside 92508


Inland Empire Regional fees are $95 per team entered in the Regional Tournament. This fee is due when the team is registered for the tournament.  Primary teams (grades K-2) are only charged $60.  Deadline to register your team online for the tournament is January 17th.  A late fee of $50 will be applied if a team registers within the one week late registration period in the Inland Empire.  We will accept regional fee payment as late as January 31th.  Fees paid to CA Odyssey of the Mind-Inland Empire and mailed c/o Shelia Gill, Po Box 2874, Palm Desert CA 92261. Online payment is also available via this website after November.


14.  Forms


Checklist for Competing in Long-Term (from the Program Guide)


In competition, each team must provide the following items for its long-term solution along with any forms required by the local competition’s Tournament Director. The team members must fill out all of their forms on their own with the exception of Division I, where the coach may write for the team but the team members must dictate what is to be written. Teams should keep an extra copy of all their forms. Most of the following items will be examined and/or collected by the Staging Area Judge:


• Four completed copies of the Style Form.


• Four completed copies of the Team List Form (if required in the problem).


• One completed Cost Form.


• One completed Outside Assistance Form.


• One membership sign.


• Problem clarifications specific to the team’s solution.


• All props, costumes, etc. necessary to complete the problem solution, except those listed


 in the problem under “Tournament Director Will Provide.”


• Any items listed in the problem under “Team Must Provide.”










California State Web Site :      National Website:


2016 Copyright - Inland Empire Odyssey of the Mind

 Victoria Nicholson