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.

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