There is no one way to start an Odyssey program. Every school and school system has its own guidelines for clubs and organizations, its own degree of faculty involvement, and its own approach to Odyssey of the Mind. Some schools provide financial support, and some do not. In Northern Virginia, Odyssey of the Mind is operated entirely by volunteers outside of the school system. Although the program is already supported by many schools in the region, you may find that your school does not yet have an established program. Here are the basic steps to starting a new Odyssey program at your school. Click on each of the links below for more information.
- Find out whether the school already sponsors the program.
- Check with your school or organization to get approval for the membership and to discuss what resources the school is willing to provide.
- Talk to the principal about the goals and values of Odyssey of the Mind.
- Get approval for this extracurricular activity.
- Explain what might be required in terms of sending flyers home, having a meeting for interested parents and students, enlisting a faculty sponsor, and perhaps soliciting teachers to judge at the Regional Tournament.
- Determine who might sponsor the $135 membership fee for the program, as well as possibly sponsoring the costs for Coaches Training and Regional Tournament registration.
- If the funds are not available from the principal, but he or she approves, contact your PTA or PTO to determine if they are willing to sponsor.
- If the membership will not be financed through the school, examine other methods of financing. Consider charging each participant a nominal fee that will cover the planned program costs for the year.
- Registration information is found on the international Odyssey of the Mind website. You’ll need this official membership in order to access the full long-term problem statements that every team needs to work from. You’ll also need it in order to register your school’s teams for the Regional Tournament.
- Typically, the school coordinator is the individual who completes the membership registration with the international organization.
- You can submit your membership application early on or wait until you see if enough people are interested in the fall. Packets with the full problem statements and the Program Guide are typically mailed starting in late August or early September, once your membership application and payment have been received.
- Send flyers home with students and organize an awareness meeting at your school to promote the program and recruit coaches.
- Set the dates and locations for student information sessions and for parent informational meetings (if different). These awareness meetings are typically held in September and October.
- Contact our Regional Director if you’d like to invite a representative from the NoVA South regional board to attend and help out at your meetings.
- Download a sample flyer and signup form you can use—just change the information as needed.
- Share an overview of the program and copies of the problem synopses with the attendees.
- Consider holding Odyssey of the Mind “mini-sessions” for students (and parents!) at your information sessions so they can get a taste of what it’s all about. Give them a chance to try a few spontaneous problems.
- Make sure everyone is aware of the date of the Regional Tournament. It makes it hard for everyone if team members will have to miss the competition.
- Before their children sign up for Odyssey, make sure the parents understand the program and the commitment involved. Be sure they know where their participation begins and ends. Be sure they know every team must provide a JUDGE and a 2-HOUR VOLUNTEER for the Regional Tournament and that they should start looking for them now. Every team will need a commitment from someone who will serve as a judge in order to register for the Regional Tournament by the deadline in January. The team’s tournament helper volunteer must be identified before the day of the tournament.
Once you know which students are interested in participating, you’ll need to form your teams. Different methods of grouping students include:
- Problem interest
- Individual characteristics
- Letting students choose their teammates
- Past Odyssey experience
- Dates and times when team members can get together
- Geographic location
- Coach input
Some schools have tryouts either to limit the number of teams or to determine commitment on the part of students. Some schools have other methods of selection. Ideally, all interested students should have the opportunity to participate!
Many times coaches are parents of students interested in participating, but try these methods as well:
- Explain that every team must have a coach. It is also possible to have co-coaches for a team who can share the responsibilities.
- Send a letter home with students interested in joining, inviting parents to try coaching a team
- Invite teachers to coach Odyssey—and don’t forget student interns, librarians, and support staff.
- If your school has a parent/school organization, ask to speak to the group about Odyssey.
- If your school has an enrichment coordinator, ask him or her for suggestions.
- If your school has a business partner, ask to speak to that organization.
- Put Odyssey information in the school newsletter or newspaper asking for help.
Coaches are encouraged to solicit help from team parents to provide snacks each week or even to take on a specific role, such as coaching spontaneous problems regularly.