I know (wink) you are all wondering how we did. Well, for the second year in a row, the team I coached placed second to last in their division.
I have to admit that last year my son’s team probably did not work as hard as others in his division. But this year? This year felt different.
With one year of OoTM under my belt, I felt a little more prepared when my son came to me asking if I would coach his team again this year. I agreed, with two conditions: the problem could not involve balsawood and the team had to have an equal number of girls on it.
I took the same approach with coaching OoTM as I do with everything else in life: Got organized, made a plan, kept us on schedule.
My team was enthusiastic, creative and original. They worked well together. I enjoyed spending time with them (for the most part–even when at one practice they all called me mean). I loved watching them problem solve together. I honestly felt they were going to place. Out of 10 teams in our division, five would get ribbons. 50-50 odds seemed pretty good.
But two days before the competition, I realized I failed to understand a key part of the problem and thought that maybe I gave the kids a bad piece of advice when I told them their idea met the qualifications. In my effort to take the “no outside assistance” rule seriously, I read and re-read the problem to the kids more times than I can count. And as I wrote a while back, when the group finally decided on a concept for their skit, I was so excited to see them come together that I didn’t want to squelch the idea or their creativity. I knew our interpretation of the problem was more creative than literal, but assumed we’d be OK.
To document what went wrong at competition would take too long to write up. But suffice it to say that my son’s balloon car, the one he designed and built out of a styrafoam egg carton, bamboo skewers, straws and lego wheels had mechanical issues. The car went, but got stuck in the tunnel on all three required runs. It was, excuse the pun, deflating.
This being only my second year with OoTM, I still am working out what level of adult supervision, interaction, and input is technically appropriate. Looking at some of the other elementary school teams I had to wonder whether these kids truly came up with their solutions on their own. Some clearly did. Others, maybe not so much.
So another year goes by and while Tommy and I have both recovered from our loss, our competitive fire still burns. He tells me he’s not ready to give up on OoTM until he gets a ribbon. A real chip off the old block, that one.
I think my husband would prefer I return to my old ways of avoiding volunteering at all costs. “Maybe you should leave the coaching to someone who actually has the time to study up and understand all the directions.”
He’s right, there are probably coaches who simply have more time to work with their teams.
And yet I can’t help but think there may be a germ of truth to what a coworker said after hearing me lament over letting my team down. “Sounds to me like maybe OoTM is a competition for parents,” he said. “You know the kind…where parents do the work and then coach the kids on how to hide it from the judges.”
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