New Coach Guide
The majority of this content is taken from the Virginia coaches handbook |Coaches Guide.
Volunteering to coach Odyssey of the Mind will change your life in an amazing way. Basically, as the coach, you will teach a team of up to 7 students how to think creatively, work as a team, manage time and money, all while they expand their skills in a safe, fun environment. You will get them to consider new ways of doing things without you giving them any answers.
New coaches should understand the timeline of competition season.
A Coach’s Basic Responsibilities
Find a time & place for the team to meet; supervise ALL meetings and ensure safety of team members. Most teams meet for 1-3 hours per week; this is entirely up to the individual team, however! Some teams meet in homes, some meet in schools or churches – this is also entirely up to the team. If you cannot be present at a meeting, make sure another responsible adult supervises the team. Note: A Division III team may have a team captain who is in charge of meetings, but must still have an adult responsible for the team.
Help the team learn how to read and understand the Long-Term
problem, and brainstorm solutions. Encourage the team to read the problem, read the problem, and then read the problem some more! Then read the clarifications
Teach the team how to solve spontaneous
problems; teach strategies for doing spontaneous. Practice some spontaneous at every meeting. This will help them learn to solve the Long-Term problem, as well as teach them the skills to do well in spontaneous at the tournament. There is NO such thing as Outside Assistance in Spontaneous … the coach may help the team in any way to learn this process.
Avoid giving “outside assistance
” for Long-Term & Style solutions; help keep parents from doing so
ALL ideas and the implementation of those ideas MUST be the team's own. The team will know if the coach has done something for them … and will feel less pride inside as a result.
Keep the team on task. Have a calendar - write goals and mark the tournament date
. Have the team make lists of what needs done and who will do it.
Teach the team skills
they need, or help find someone who can teach them; help them obtain materials. Sewing, woodworking, welding, acting, writing music, dancing — any skills the team requires, the coach, or someone else, may teach, but the materials produced while teaching (ie the cut block of wood) may not be used in the solution! The team must decide on the materials they wish to purchase, but the coach (or a parent) may take them to the store(s).
Be certain that forms
are filled out by the team, and registration is sent in on time. The coach must register for the StateTournament online using the link found on www.missouriodyssey.org
or on the Missouri Odyssey of the mind FaceBook page. The team must have copies filled out of Outside Assistance Form, Cost Form and Style Forms. Division I and Primary coaches may fill out the forms, but only using the exact words dictated by the team.
Help find officials for the tournament. Ask co-workers, neighbors, relatives, but please, try to help find enthusiastic adults (over 18 years of age) to evaluate teams and all the others. Tournaments don't happen without officials! Look for judge application to come from tournament directors. NOTE: A parent or relative who serves as an official will NOT get to judge (or even see) their own team … we ask our officials to score teams with whom they have no close affiliation to remove bias.
Encourage the team to work together; encourage them to meet their goals. Team building
activities – even just going bowling together, or going for ice cream – can help the group learn to appreciate each other's talents and to work better together, which is key to a team's success.
Help get the team prepare for the tournament
and then organize logistics on tournament day, with props, supporters, and self-confidence in their solution. Ideally, one or two team members will be in charge of making a list of everything that must get to the tournament. However, coaches should also double check. (A repair kit
is good to bring along, but the team should put this together!)
(or what to do with 5-7 creative minds)
So… now you have a room full of excited young minds, ready to get started. What do they do? What do YOU do?
Coaching an Odyssey team can be the most rewarding activity you have ever experienced. The primary key to success is to keep your sense of perspective. You need to enjoy and appreciate young people. You need to laugh, giggle, scowl, sigh, tease, moan, and maybe even growl at your team. But if you LOVE YOUR TEAM and keep your sense of humor, there are no problems they cannot conquer, with your guidance. Just remember that the team's problems are not YOUR problems. They must solve their problems by themselves with some nudges and facilitation from you. They are creating things no one has ever seen before, learning things they never learned before, and that fact alone should make you very proud of them. YOU will make this possible, and that makes you a hero, regardless of scores or a performance on one given day! You are making a difference in children's lives forever. And it should be FUN!
Ideally, your first meeting will include the parents. You need to set guidelines for behavior, agree on meeting times, days, and places, convince all team members and parents of the importance of attending every meeting possible, and, perhaps involve the parents in a spontaneous problem … just so they can experience a sample of the activities their children will be doing.
At the end of this section, there are suggested “LESSON PLANS” for the first 5 meetings. These include spontaneous problem suggestions, team building ideas, fundamental brainstorming methods, and ideas for tackling the Long-Term problem. Use these as a springboard for your own ideas … there is NO RIGHT OR WRONG METHOD for conducting meetings, so long as you avoid giving Outside Assistance. Feel free to adapt any or all ideas to meet your own needs and materials. Odyssey of the Mind meetings should be fun, but you should emphasize that this is your home (or their school) and insist the team respect each other and other people's property at all time! The rule is this: You may only have the input of 7 minds in any Odyssey year. So long as you have never had 7 team members, you may add up to seven any time up until you register for the tournament. If you have had 7, you may not ever replace someone who drops out. Other suggestions from experienced coaches include:
Teach the team skills such as sewing, painting, engineering, drama …
Do at least one spontaneous problem
Do some fun activity (can be silly) or eat a snack (mmmm…) for socializing (which is also team building!)
Brainstorm solutions to parts of the Long-Term problem – keep paper and pencil handy
Take a trip to a store, museum, library or other place where materials or ideas might be found
Work on Long-Term problem requirements (which might mean dividing to conquer) Where are the scores coming from? Read the problem!
Tips for a Functioning Team
Refrain from outside assistance. Sure, you can figure out how to attach that sheet to a board, and you can probably paint that tree trunk to look pretty realistic. But the Long-Term problem is NOT YOUR PROBLEM to solve!! If you do work for the team, or give them suggestions, they will not “OWN” their solution. One of the most basic goals of Odyssey of the Mind is to give children the power to do things themselves, and to feel the pride of knowing they did it all by themselves. If you so much as suggest a costume, or staple a piece of paper, you have “sank“ the team's “ship of self-esteem”!
Keep the team on task. Encourage them to make a “Must Do” list, and keep them on that one, not the “Maybe Do” list! Let them cross off items that are completed … we all like to feel a sense of accomplishment. Have a “Master Calendar” setting down goals.
Resolve social conflicts as soon as you notice them. Learning to work as a team is one of the most important things an Odyssey team can do. It is OK to allow disagreements, and, ideally, let the team resolve conflicts themselves. But do not allow feelings to be hurt. Avoid plurality votes — someone always loses. Approval voting, where each person tells all the ideas he likes, is better. Better yet is never to vote at all, but to come to consensus.
Make safety a top priority. Always supervise the use of tools, including hot glue guns, and make sure the kids know the safe way to use them. Use safety goggles, when appropriate (such as when testing balsa structures.) In addition, make sure adults and parents (including the coach!) know how to appropriately act around team members.
PRACTICE SPONTANEOUS at every meeting, if possible. Enlist a co-coach or parent to plan and bring materials for hands-on practices, if that makes your life easier! You may wish to have a Spontaneous Coach.
Talk with older teams (above Primary level especially) about all of the following issues:
Failure: something doesn't work? what can you do about it? how can you try to prevent : what does it mean when disasters at the competition? how do you handle mistakes? disagreements?
Competition: why is Odyssey a competition? against whom are you really competing?
Criticism: are there ever any “bad” ideas? how can the team choose ideas without ever insulting anyone?
Outside Assistance: what IS Outside Assistance? is there a “secret code” the team might use to politely give the coach or parents a cue that they should take a few steps back, physically or metaphorically?
Goals: what do you really want to achieve with your solution? what do you want to accomplish in this Odyssey year? how can you do that?
Learn how to ask questions and how to answer a question with a question. Learning the technique of questioning is the best way to help your team while avoiding outside assistance. The art of asking questions is mainly the ability to be very open-ended. Here are some examples of “good“ questions and “bad” questions:
| Limiting questions (and steering from the coach) || Open-ended (allow the team to be creative)
| How can you sew a duck costume? || How can you make someone seem to be a duck?
| Can you use (item) to solve that problem? || What exactly does this item need to do? How can you cause that to happen?
| Do you want some glue to put those things together? || How might you fasten those things together?
Well, you get the idea here — let the team make decisions for themselves, but encourage them to brainstorm the questions. Try not to limit their thinking… What they come up with won't usually be what YOU would have done … but that is OK!
If the team asks you a question, try to answer with another question that will start them thinking in the right direction:
| Team asks: || Coach asks:
| Do you think this glue will work? || How can you find that out?
| Should we put more yellow in the tree? || What does the team think?
| Why did the vehicle wheel come off? || Let's look at it… What do you think happened?
After a time, the team will learn to ask THEMSELVES the right questions. But, at first, it will be hard, because they are used to adults giving them the correct answers! Let them discover that THEY have the power to come up with answers, and that they can find “correct” ones… or, at least, ones that work… all by themselves.
Help the team understand what STYLE is all about. Be sure they DO NOT CHOOSE SOMETHING SCORED IN LONG-TERM for a Style Element. (If they do, the staging area judge will ask them to change it. Teams handle this just fine, but surprises the day of the tournament are best avoided!)
Arrange practices for the team when tournament day approaches. The best method is to simulate a tournament — practice setting up, time the performance, and perhaps videotape. Rehearsing a couple of weeks before the tournament will allow the team to go “back to the drawing board” with any problems. They can refine the script to get the performance under 8 minutes, repair or redesign sets or props, etc. Watching a videotape will allow them to critique themselves — can you hear everyone? are they facing the audience? (Note: if YOU, as coach, tell them these things, it is outside assistance. Help them critique and discover things for themselves!) NEVER allow the team to be discouraged when things go wrong. Tell them “this is what a rehearsal is all about!” Remain their biggest cheerleader.
NEVER feel that “this is never going to come together.” IT WILL! Don't get depressed — if you could see every other team at the same stage of preparation, you would learn that every team has some difficulties the last few weeks. Every coach feels like, in the words of one coach, “running down the hall screaming”. It would be unusual for a coach not to have a few dreams about Odyssey at this point! Have faith… It WILL come together! NEVER assume that the performance site will be a particular orientation or set-up. Have the team practice with different configurations.
BRAINSTORM “what if's”… What if the judges are sitting over here or aren't seated at all? what if the vehicle stops? what if someone forgets his lines? what if our structure isn't “legal? what if the sun is in our eyes? what if a loud noise occurs during our performance? (This happened once at a regional tournament when a TV began blaring, and the team never skipped a beat!). Being prepared for a disaster will help team members feel more confident going into competition, and help them keep it together if a catastrophe should occur. As in life, many things may happen which are out of their control, but they CAN control their reactions! Remember a fix-it kit — but this should, as always, be the team's work to put together.
Suggested "Lesson Plans" for the First Five Odyssey of the Mind Meetings
To the coach: it is the spirit of Odyssey of the Mind to encourage creativity, divergent thinking, and creative problem solving. Nothing less is expected of coaches. These lessons are only intended as a starting point, to get coaches thinking of ways to approach taking 5-7 excited students and get them to work together to make something uniquely theirs. Please feel free to change, delete, adapt, rewrite … in short, to vary… these plans to suit the team's needs as well as the coach's. Odyssey should be fun and exciting, and each team has an individual chemistry and its own way of working and problem solving. Keep this in mind as you take your own unique ODYSSEY OF THE MIND®!
Thank you to Lisa Love of Virginia Odyssey of the Mind for putting this guide together.
Meeting 1: Team Introduction, Logistics, and What is OotM?
This would be a good time to have a meeting of both parents and students (for Divisions I and II) and to cover some of the basics (in all Divisions.) It would also be a good time for at least one fun activity to demonstrate the principals of Odyssey of the Mind to parents and students. Discussing the parent guide (also in Word Document form) with the team member's parents is great idea too.
Suggestions for basics to cover with parents and students:
Odyssey is fun! Start (and end) with an activity that demonstrates the fun & learning in Odyssey. Some suggestions are:
A simple hands-on spontaneous problem. Example: Give each group some spaghetti, sticky labels, a piece of paper, scissors, a paper plate and a cup. Tell them to build the tallest possible structure with the cup on top. Allow 4 minutes for this. At the end of 4 minutes, each group places nails in the cup. Points awarded for height and for number of nails held.
A simple verbal spontaneous problem. Example: Have students and parents all be in one big group. Give them one minute to think and three minutes to answer the following: Name things that go around. (One point for common answers, such as a “carousel” or “hands on a watch,” three point for creative, such as “my thought when I'm undecided” or “a politician skirts - goes around - the issues.”)
A demonstration of how Odyssey of the Mind encourages both fluency and flexibility of thinking. Example: Divide into two groups, one students and one parents. Give each group a sheet of paper and a pencil. Ask the following question: How can you catch a monkey? Allow each group 3 minutes to brainstorm and write down all the answers they can think of. At the end of three minutes, ask each group to count the number of answers they have. The number represents their fluency. Then give each group 2 minutes to choose the THREE most creative answers. Have them read them. Each answer that is NOT on the other group's list is judged to be creative. The creativity of their answers represents the group's flexibility. Wild answers, such as “turn the monkey into a virus and catch it” are definitely allowed!
Meeting times, days and length (everyone might bring a calendar, or you might provide a printout)
Odyssey of the Mind costs - how much the team may spend and how it will be funded * Expectations of commitment from students AND parents! Use “contracts” if desired.
Date and location of tournament
Role of parents (Do you want help with spontaneous, providing snacks, taking the team to get supplies, fund-raising, carpools, driving on “road trips,” teaching skills like woodworking? sewing? particle physics (just kidding.) Also, the team must provide a judge and 1/2 volunteer - one for every 2 teams from a membership - at the Regional Meet.) * NOT Role of parents: outside assistance, i.e., explain all ideas & work must be team's own.
Importance of teamwork; fact that 7 perform in Long-Term and 5 perform in spontaneous.
You might want to give each team member and parents a copy of the problem synopses, if your team has not yet been assigned or chosen a problem.
End with another fun activity or snack
Meeting 2: Approaching the Problem
This meeting would be a good time to work on teaching the team the Odyssey philosophy and some of the basic skills used in Odyssey: thinking creatively and working cooperatively. It is still recommended that you not discuss a Long- Term problem solution at this meeting! You might begin this meeting, and all subsequent ones, with a spontaneous problem or team-building exercise.
IDEAS TO TEACH:
The Difference Between “Winning Prizes” and “Succeeding” (Being Winners) OBJECTIVE: To have the group begin to realize that ribbons or trophies do not equal achievement. FORMAT: Group discussion. PROCEDURE: The coach asks open-ended questions and lets the team members discuss such issues as: “Why do you want to do Odyssey?” “Why do you think Odyssey is a competition?” What does 'winning' mean?” “What do you expect from your teammates?” “What do you hope to achieve at Odyssey meetings?” “What do you hope to achieve at the Odyssey of the Mind® Meet?” (This is a good time for the coach to practice letting the TEAM come up with the ideas, and letting the coach be a “guide on the side.”)
“Rules of Engagement” for Odyssey of the Mind® OBJECTIVE: To begin to establish “Rules of Engagement” for team efforts; To practice brainstorming; To have the team realize that criticism of others' ideas undermines teamwork and prevents good ideas from appearing and evolving FORMAT: Demonstration and group discussion PROCEDURE: Give each team member a sheet of paper, a pencil, and a simple, unusual object (each team member gets a different object; could be citrus peeler, metal washer, etc.) Ask each team member to write creative use for the object. Then have them pass objects to their left until each person has written a use for each object. Have them read their lists aloud.
Discussion: Ask the team “what answers did you hear that you liked?” Let each person have a chance to contribute his/her praise of another person's written answer. Ask the team: “were there any answers that you thought might be impractical?” “how could you change or adapt the answer so that it is more practical?” “have you improved on the original idea?” “does hearing all ideas make you think of more and better ones?”
Discuss the idea that in Odyssey there are NOT ANY BAD IDEAS, only ones that may need further work or discussion. Suggest RULE No. 1: All ideas should be allowed and never criticized! Suggest that the team begin a list of “OUR TEAM'S RULES” tailored to “Just Us.”
(Note: empowering the team to make their own set of rules gives them ownership that will promote their following the rules by choice. It also begins teaching them that in Odyssey of the Mind, they are encouraged - required, actually - to do the work themselves. The coach may write team's lists in Div. I if words are the team's own.)
If We Can Dream It, We Can Do It OBJECTIVE: To give the team confidence in themselves and promote mutual respect FORMAT: Group interaction with some direction PROCEDURE: Ask the team members to take the sheet of paper from the previous activity and list all the things they think they are “reasonably” good at doing. If they know one another already, have them list at least one thing they think each of their teammates is good at. If they don't already know one another, have them write the other team members names and something they do know about them, such as where they live, how many brothers and sisters they have, what sport or musical instrument they play, etc. Let them discuss this if they don't know anything about each other - a sort of “get acquainted” time. You might consider SERVING REFRESHMENTS during this activity. Then let them share their thoughts and positive comments.
Meeting 3: Long-Term Introduction and Initial Ideas
This meeting might be the time to begin discussion of Long-Term. However, you may continue to work on Spontaneous for another week. Some new teams might require three meetings to achieve all the goals thus far. Adapt to meet your group's needs! Again, you might start the meeting with a spontaneous problem, or, better yet 2-3.
IDEAS TO TEACH:
Brainstorming Can Be Fun
OBJECTIVE: To teach the team a brainstorming
technique: Diamond method FORMAT: Group interaction MATERIALS: Poster board, newsprint pad, or white marker board and some markers. PROCEDURE: Ask a spontaneous sort of question that might also be a Long-Term sort of category. (Example: name ways to make music; name ways to make backdrops for a play, etc.) Have the team generate ideas, building on each other's answers and adding more as they discuss their answers until they have at least 15. List all ideas on the paper or board. Talk about the answers that are similar and group them together. Eliminate ideas that are less creative and keep the ones that everyone agrees are the most creative in each column. Narrow the list down to one or two of the favorite ideas.
The Long-Term Problem Requires Much Thinking and Discussion
OBJECTIVE: To allow the team to see all the complexities and possibilities of a Long-Term problem. (You could actually do this without discussing THIS year's problem if you are still unsure whether everyone is committed - just evaluate a problem from last year.) FORMAT: Group Discussion PROCEDURE: Read through a Long-Term problem (can be the one the team has selected or been assigned, or can be any Long-Term sample problem.) Give everyone a copy of the Long-Term problem, if they have chosen one. Read and discuss “the creative emphases” of the problem and discuss what it means. (What is creativity?) Read “Spirit of the Problem” and discuss what this means. (Why is there a “spirit of the problem?”) Look at the problem requirements; look at the scoring criteria; look at the penalties
. Ask them to re-read it before the next meeting and bring 2-3 of their best ideas for themes, etc., to discuss at the meeting next week. If the team has not chosen a problem, they should choose one in this meeting or the next.
“Rules of Engagement” Part II OBJECTIVE: To continue the team's efforts to make a list of acceptable behaviors or “team rules.” To have the team understand that all must share in the work involved. FORMAT: Demonstration and discussion MATERIALS: 10-14 sticks PROCEDURE: Give each team member one stick. Ask them each to break it in half. Now give one person 7 pieces and ask them to break all seven in half at once. Ask them why it is harder to break all at once. Ask them what that might say about the strength of many as opposed to the strength of one. Ask them how this idea might apply to a team. Let them discuss this and perhaps discuss the idea that everyone needs to share the labor needed for a solution. You might discuss absenteeism. They might make a team rule about these ideas. (For example, if someone must be absent, they will have OotMwork.) End with another fun activity, such as a spontaneous problem or group artwork, etc.
Meeting 4: Attacking Long-Term
This meeting might be a good time to examine the Long-Term problem in more depth and brainstorm skills and task necessary to complete a solution.
IDEAS TO TEACH:
Brainstorming Can Be Fun, Part II OBJECTIVE: To teach another brainstorming technique: making creative connections FORMAT: Group discussion and interaction using the infamous newsprint pad and markers PROCEDURE: Tell the team that many great ideas have come from finding unexpected connections. And example might be the union of plastic and zippers to make Ziploc bags, or chairs and wheels to make a wheelchair. Give the team some of the following pairs and ask them to brainstorm at least 5 links for each: Film and Piano; Telescope and Shovel; Table and Lever; Button and Stove. The links may be tenuous, and do not have to be actual, practical objects.
Long-Term Attack OBJECTIVE: To begin brainstorming solutions to the Long-Term problem FORMAT: Diamond method of brainstorming PROCEDURE: Using the ubiquitous newsprint pad or white board, have the team brainstorm at least 20 possible themes/ solution ideas for the Long-Term problem. (They were to have thought of some of this during the week.) Let them narrow it back down to 2 or 3. Have them discuss all the creative possibilities of these themes. If they can narrow it down to one, great; if not, let them think about them over the next week.
TIME is of the Essence OBJECTIVE: To have the team begin working on a timeline for Long-Term FORMAT: Group discussion MATERIALS: A Large, One-page Calendar with all the weeks until the tournament shown PROCEDURE: Mark an “X” through all the days team members will be out of town (that they know of.) Circle the Meet Day in RED. Back up two weeks and circle a weekend day in RED. Tell the team that that day is “House Arrest Day” - they are YOURS for the day until all Long-Term items are finished and ready for dress rehearsal. Mark all other meeting days & see if there are some additional ones they want to add (such as teacher in-service days, for example, when they are out of school.) Keep the schedule handy and add to it as the year advances.
Skills Workshops and Road Trips are a FUN Part of Odyssey of the Mind® OBJECTIVE: To identify needs for Long-Term Problem Solving & expand the team's horizons METHOD: Brainstorming for fluency PROCEDURE: Ask the team to answer the following questions: What skills do you think you need to have someone teach you to solve this problem? What places do you think you might visit to get supplies? What are all the ways you can think of to fasten things together? What ways can you decorate props? etc. Have the team make lists and post them. Find a creative way to post the lists that fits your situation and environment. You might have each item on an index card and hang them from a clothesline in the basement. You might make a file. You might make a huge poster or two. But let the team do the writing if they are old enough. In Division I, a coach may write down the team's ideas verbatim, not adding his or her own
Meeting 5: Off to the Races
The lesson plan for this meeting is less detailed. By now, you should have a thread going through your meetings, a team “style” for brainstorming and for working together. You should also be going in some direction in terms of Long-Term and planning your time together. Some suggestions for this meeting might be:
Spontaneous Fun. This meeting might be an excellent time for a “road trip” spontaneous. Go to McDonald's for an ice cream cone and brainstorm “Name ways to make a better cone,” or go to a neighborhood playground, and brainstorm “playground equipment in the year 2050,” or go to a nature trail, take a walk, and brainstorm “how could you build the world's greatest tree house?”
Brainstorming Can Be Fun, Part III Teach the skill of piggybacking. One possible activity would be to take a large sheet of paper, give each team member a marker, and ask the team to sit around a table. One person would draw a line of some sort on the paper. The next person would add one more line or object, etc., until the team had created a picture. No talking would be allowed, and no planning, so they would have to use visual clues to add to teammates ideas. A verbal activity might be do have the team sit in a circle. The first person would name an object, the next person would give two verbs, the third person would tell how the object could be related to the two verbs. Then the fourth person would start over again. (If you have six people, you might have them skip a person on each round so that everyone would each have a “role”.) This activity also teaches the “making connections” skill.
Long-Term Attack, Continued. If the team has chosen a problem and discussed themes, you may be ready to narrow down to one and begin brainstorming solutions. EACH TEAM will approach a problem in its own way. Some may wish to start by discussing one small portion of the problem and branching out from there. Others will start with the main theme or overall motif and work downward. There is NO ONE CORRECT way to solve an Odyssey problem: that's the point! Allow your team to work in whatever manner they like, but make sure that they stay on the subject. If you see interest begin to lag, you might take the point they are discussing and turn it into a verbal spontaneous problem (for example, “name all the ways to make a person seem to be a bear” - one minute to think, three minutes to respond.) Or it might be a good time for the 15 minutes of fun (which, of course, you have planned in advance, since we all know that Odyssey coaches never have to come up with something on the spur of the moment )
Spontaneous Practice. Remember to practice both verbal and/or hands-on spontaneous at every meeting. At this point, you should have set a pace for meetings, and the team should begin to be making its own decisions about the tasks to accomplish each week. But it will be up to you, the coach, to provide spontaneous problems for them to solve.
An appreciation for creative young minds (because this is NOT a quiet, structured activity most of the time!)
A sense of humor (because Murphy's Law prevails)
A copy of the rules in the program guide (because this is the team's ultimate authority, superseded only by Long Term Problem Limitation and Clarifications)
Spontaneous problems to practice (found in many books, and on the internet)
Your regional coaches' training (because we are all in this together… for the kids!)
Supportive parents (because the team needs help with transportation, snacks, and encouragement)
Clarifications and clarification forms (because that is the only way to ask whether a solution is “legal” if your team isn't sure, and clarifications take precedence over all other rules)
Websites all over the country dealing with Odyssey of the Mind, starting with http://www.odysseyofthemind.com (but be VERY careful of discussions that might be Outside Assistance!)
Food (because teams will be much happier when snacks are involved)