Judging Insight



Bob Lipman, currently co-Regional Director for the Redwood Region, has been involved in Odyssey for 20+ years. He’s been a coach, a judge, a team parent, and even the guy who puts together the slideshows at our regional competition and at State Finals. Here’s an article Bob wrote about judging:

Judging: The Heart and Soul of an Odyssey Tournament


I have been involved with Odyssey of the Mind for about 20 years now, and I still feel that it is the GREATEST program offered to students!  I began as a judge, back when Odyssey of the Mind could be referred to as OM, instead of OotM.  After that initial year of judging, I was hooked. Is everyone cut out to be a judge?  Well…truthfully, probably not. Since judges are THE FACES of the Odyssey of the Mind program to the teams who arrive at our regional competition at the end of a long, difficult, but hopefully FUN journey, here are some things that I think judges should be:

  • POSITIVE!  Smile, laugh, wear a silly hat or button that will make the kids smile.
  • EXCITED TO BE THERE!  Hopefully, you are choosing to be at the tournament because you LIKE seeing what students from K-12 can do with limited resources and a lot of creativity!  (Although, college students can also compete, we don’t usually have any college entries)
  • KNOWLEDGEABLE!  Know the problem that you are judging.  Be prepared for what you will do when teams don’t meet the required elements of the problem.  Trust me, some teams will have read the full problem several times and meet all of the requirements, and some will appear to have only read the synopsis of the problem and have no clue there were other specific things that they had to do.
  • FAIR!  No one likes to give a team a penalty, but if they didn’t follow the spirit of the problem… or the team had outside assistance… or spent more money than the cost limit allows, then a penalty or a score of zero is awarded.  Keep in mind that the penalty is not given by just one judge.  The judging team must agree on whether a penalty is deserved.  And how much of a penalty to give.  PENALTIES ARE NOT DISCUSSED WITH THE TEAM AT THE END OF THE PERFORMANCE.  They are presented to the coach when the Head Judge gives them their score.
  • GOOD LISTENERS!  Get up and talk with the team at the end of their performance.  Ask questions about the elements that you are scoring, but also questions about their journey in getting to the tournament (On what part of the problem did your team have to work the hardest?).  Give them the chance to talk about the highs and lows of getting ready to present their solution.
  • GRATEFUL!  The teams that you see at the tournament have worked for months on the 8 minutes presented to you.  Be sure to thank them for sharing their hard work with you.
  • QUICK!  There are several teams waiting to perform.  We would like them to perform at their scheduled time.  So don’t take too long talking with the team, giving your scores, making positive comments on Post-it notes, or discussing an issue involving penalties.  For complicated issues involving penalties, set aside that team’s scores and wait until the break time.  Clear the room during the break, if possible.  Then discuss the issue.

I hope this helps in preparing you to be an important and much needed part of our tournament.

Thank you for volunteering to judge!

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