How to Find Judges and Volunteers

Each Odyssey team is responsible for finding one judge who will commit to attending training and judging at the State Tournament. It takes almost 100 judges to successfully operate a Tournament so that teams are treated fairly. A mix of new and experienced judges makes for the best experience for students, as is a mix of judges from different areas of the state. Make sure the judge you solicit has a clear understanding of their commitment. They must attend training and they must be there on Tournament Day. They will not judge the team they are representing, and they will not be able to leave the judging assignment to see other teams perform. The pay is minimal: lunch and snacks at training and the Tournament, and an “Official” Odyssey of the Mind t-shirt are the only remuneration, but the rewards of helping a team and seeing real creativity at work is more than worth it!

Start with teachers and others at school. Explain that each team needs a judge and may not be able to participate unless one is found. Some teachers have coached teams before and are familiar with the program; you can begin with them.

Ask family members who will want to support the team. Make sure they understand that they will not be able to judge the team they are representing, nor will they be able to see their family member perform.

If there is a co-worker or other person who expresses an interest in Odyssey, suggest that judging may be a way to learn more about the program.

See if there is an Odyssey alum (over 18) connected to the school or a team member. Former team members usually make great judges, as they understand the program.

The School Coordinator may be willing to be a judge.

Ask the PTA/PTO if someone might be interested in helping the team by being a judge. Again, some of those parents may want to find out more about the program and can learn much from this experience.

If someone on the team has a connection to a community group, see if there’s someone who especially likes to volunteer.

Some school administrators are willing to judge for their school(s)’ team to keep them involved in the program.

If there’s someone who seems to have a particular interest – building, technical projects, theater – suggest that they might make a great judge for this interesting and positive opportunity for students.

Locate people who used to coach an Odyssey team. Former coaches understand the need the teams have in finding a judge.

Have the team members ask one of the above to be a judge, but make sure an adult follows up with the person to make sure their commitment was certain.

If there is a retired teachers group nearby, or a senior citizens’ group, ask if someone would like to judge. Often seniors really appreciate the work that children do.

How Can I Find Volunteers?

Volunteers are critical to a successful Tournament. They stand watch at doors, keeping people from interrupting team performances, work at our sales table, bring lunches to our judges, act as “gophers” and perform other needed tasks. The easiest source for volunteers is family members and friends who will be attending the Tournament in support of the team. Like potential judges, they should be approached early. Unlike judges, though, they do not have to attend training, and they will be scheduled around the performance of the team they are representing. Volunteers are able to see their team(s) perform and are only committed for 2-3 hours of the Tournament day, so it is easier for someone to agree to take on this role.

So, who can you ask to be your team’s Volunteer?

Ask parents or family members who will be attending the Tournament.

See if anyone from school is planning on coming to the Tournament to watch the team (a Teacher? Aide? Administrator?). If they are taking their time to be at the Tournament, they might be willing to donate a few hours to help out.

Is there someone the team knows who attends Bates College or will be in the Lewiston area? They might be able to stop by, see the team and work at help out.

Check also the list of potential judges. Unlike judges, not all volunteers will see team performances. However, if they are coming to the Tournament to find what Odyssey is about, they might not mind the break in their day.