How to develop your team from forming to performing!


Stages of Team Development 

  1. Forming – simply getting the group together.
  2. Storming – A certain amount of conflict inevitable as a newly-formed group learns to communicate and work together.
  3. Norming – Once the roles and relationships are established, the group can start learning to work together more efficiently.
  4. Performing – this is the phase when good things happen. It isn’t simply last-minute crisis management that causes teams to get 80% of their work done in the last 20% of the available time. Much of the early time is spent in steps 1-3

Team Development Exercises

These easy (and fun) exercises can help you get your team moving in the right direction!

  1. “Balloon Train” — Have each team member blow up a balloon. You then stand in a straight line and put the balloon between your chest and the back of the person in front of you — no hands now. Give them a path to follow. The team must figure out how to move the whole line, without dropping any balloons. They can use their voice, but no hands. This exercise teaches the students how each person can impact the team, and how important the communication in a group can be.
  2. “Survivor” — A great game that got all my girls working together last year: Put together a basket full of goodies — tin foil, ball, candy, water, screwdriver, etc. anything you find around the house. Tell the team to close their eyes and imagine they are stranded (shipwrecked, caught in a snowstorm, whatever your team will identify with) then each member chooses one item from the basket that they believe will help them survive. Team all gets together and has ten minutes to discuss each item and hear out why each member thinks the item they chose is important. (This really gets them listening to everyone’s individual ideas) Then team has to choose together the five most important items to help them survive till help comes. (This really helps them come up with team solutions instead of individual) After they decide they perform a skit which shows how they will use these items to survive and work as a team.
  3. “Knots” — Stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder. Ask everyone to reach out and grab two other hands. (You cannot have both hands of one person, and you cannot have the hands of persons on each side of you.) If possible, try not to criss-cross. Now untangle so that all are standing in a round circle again.
  4. “Skin the Snake” – Have people line up, one behind the other. Reach between your legs and with your left hand grab the right hand of the person behind you. The person in front of you needs to reach back and grab your right hand with their left hand. Once the chain is formed, you’re set to go. The last person in line lies down on his back. The person in front of him backs up, straddling his body, and lies down behind him. Continue until the whole group waddles back.
  5. “Alligator Attack”– Each team is given a piece of cardboard just big enough for all group members to stand on. All teams are at one end of the field or gym. All members must have a hand in carrying the cardboard (their “boat”). The leader will have a choice to two commands: “Go” means the team may advance forward, holding their boat, at any speed: “Attack” means that the team must place their boat on the ground and all members must get aboard and stay there. If one member should fall off the boat, the whole team is a goner. The last team on their boat is eliminated or must take a chunk out of their boat before the next “Go” command. See how many teams make it to the end of the field or gym.
  6. “Life Boat” — Tape a square on the floor smaller than an area where the whole team could stand. Tell the team there will be a flood in the next 5 minutes and the only safe place is in the square (lifeboat). This feat can be accomplished by each team member putting one foot in the lifeboat and holding hands with the person across the boat, everyone balancing through the use of teamwork. Don’t give the answer, let the team struggle to figure it out.
  7. “Stepping Stones” – Hand the team four blocks 2″x6″, cut 6″ in length. Tell them they have to get the whole team across the gym without touching the floor. Any team members who touch the floor must go back to the starting point. There are no right or wrong solutions, but teamwork must be utilized.
  8. “Blanket Ball” – Two blankets and at least one ball are the equipment. Students gather around three sides of each blanket. A ball is tossed between blankets. Teams must work together to catch and throw the ball. As students become better at blanket toss, they may trade two balls simultaneously, and they may begin longer distance tosses, moving a pace further apart at each catch and a pace closer together at each miss.
  9. “Pencil in a Bottle” – Students face back-to-back in pairs. A string is tied around their waists so that approximately 3 or 4 feet separate them. A pencil on a string is tied to the middle of the first string so it hangs vertically. A soda pop bottle is placed below the pencil. The goal is to get the pencil in the bottle. Variation: use a coffee can, blindfold the pair, and have the teammates provide the clues.
  10. ” Blind Maze” – One student from each group shuts his/her eyes. Beanbags, paper, or other markers are placed about the area in a random arrangement. The blind student must step on each marker. The rest of the team can call one direction at a time and then must allow the blind student to carry out the whole direction before calling out another direction. This game can be timed and students can try to beat their own record.
  11. “Balance Beam” – Place a long board on two cinder blocks. Have as many students as possible stand on the board. They are told they are in a lifeboat and there are alligators in the water. If any of them fall in, the alligators will know they are there and they will all die. Have students line themselves up by height, birthday, the second letter of their first name, etc.
  12. “Dragon’s Tail” – Students form the dragon by standing in a line, hands on the hips of the person in front. A handkerchief (dragon’s tail) is placed in the back pocket of the person in the back of the line. Now the dragon lets out a few yells and at a signal the dragon tries to catch its own tail. Of course, the tail tried to avoid being caught. When caught, the tail becomes the head and the game begins again.
  13. “Four Directions”– The leader stands and faces the group. The group spreads out and makes sure they have room to move. The goal is to stay in the same place relative to the leader.

    Start simple: The leader can take one step either forwards, backwards, left or right. The group then tries to follow, but of course reversing the direction. As they get better, allow the leader to take diagonal steps.

    Afterwards, chat about how difficult/easy it was being the leader. Did you have to modify what you wanted to do to make sure someone didn’t knock over the lamp? Was it scary to be in front of all these people? How about being a follower? Were you able to anticipate what the leader was going to do? What happened when you were wrong?

  14. “Lighthouse”– One person is the “Boat”. Another is the “Lighthouse”. Blindfold the “Boat” and spin them around 3 times. Create obstacles for the Lighthouse to direct the Boat away from (other team members can be great obstacles!). The Lighthouse can only use words to direct the Boat from the starting area to the ending area and around whatever obstacles have been presented.
  15. “Dictionary Game”– Someone makes up a nonsense word. For instance: Breblefraxion. They say it aloud.

    The team stands in a line facing the leader. They are a human dictionary machine. First they spell the word, one letter at a time. The first person in line says ‘B’, the second says, ‘R’ and so on until they word is spelled. It is spelled when one of the team members says ‘Breblefraxion.’ Then, one WORD at a time, they define the word. Once again, it is completely defined when someone says the word.

    Invariably, each person has his or her own idea of how the word should be spelled, and tries to ‘stage whisper’ a letter or word choice to another team member. Or there’s just the ‘that’s not how you would spell it!’ response.

    That’s when it’s time to point out that good team members SUPPORT EACH OTHER WHEN THEY MAKE MISTAKES. It’s not the job of a team member to point out the mistake of another team member. It’s the job of a team member to make it look like no one on their team EVER makes a mistake! If for some reason a Q shows up in Breblefraxion, then its’ up to the team members to make it look like Q is the best idea in the world when it comes to spelling Breblefraxion!

Successful teams always know what they are working towards, and have a plan about how to get there. Team members talk about progress and acknowledge each other’s achievements. Achieving consensus is the first step toward any team goal. This positive team approach will support resolution of any difficulties that arise during the year.

Team Rules

Have a meeting with ALL the team members and have them write the “rules for the team.” Everybody should brainstorm ideas for how to treat each other.

Here are some ideas for team rules: 

  • You should come to meetings on time unless you have a good reason and let someone know you’ll be late.
  • You should give everybody a turn to talk.
  • Listen to other ideas before interrupting.
  • Be kind to your team members and team manager.
  • No name-calling.
  • Take turns giving in, don’t always get your own way.
  • Don’t tear up or alter anything that you didn’t build, if they worked with someone, they have to talk it over before any changes are made. Both sides present their reason and the team then acts as a negotiator.
  • Don’t speak poorly of another team member, EVER, not during a team meeting, not at school, not ever.

If the team is in disagreement, a simple vote does not necessarily count. Every team member has to say they can “live with” the decision. So each person has veto power to some extent. Each team member has a feeling of control over the situation if things get out of hand. This would have to be modified if you had one team member that insisted everything be his or her way or they couldn’t live with it.

Write all these rules up on a poster board and have the whole team sign it, like a contract.

AND bring it to every meeting.


Then, team managers and team members should GENTLY point out when somebody doesn’t follow a rule.

-You can even add rules as you go along, provided everybody on the team agrees to add something.

-Try and close each meeting with a positive feedback time – at the beginning of each session we draw names from a hat – and whichever name you draw for that session you have to observe that person – then at Positive Feedback time each person has to provide a positive comment about AND a quote from the person they observed – increases the chances that they are listening to each other and validates at least one contribution from each team member.

From another TM — With a couple of kids, it takes a little more encouraging comments or some one on one questioning like “how is the team behaving when you are over here with me?” And “are you respecting the team rules – that your team wrote at the beginning of DI?” I find I don’t have to do much, because the team will help the kid – “hey, you’re speaking when I’m speaking, that’s against our rules.”

This year, the teams created a “punishment” when a member broke one of the rules. At the first meeting, they wrote rules like “respect everyone”, “don’t talk when others are talking, “listen to everyone’s ideas.” When a team member breaks one of these rules, the other team members can demand 5 Hawaiian pushups. (A Hawaiian pushup is one pushup regular, then flip over and one backwards.) The kid that broke the rule immediately recognizes he broke the rule and the team laughs together as the pushups are done. It is a FUN way to address the kid that is not supporting the team.


Top 10 List for Getting Started with Your Team

10. Read and re-read the Rules of the Road and the Roadmap. Read and re-read the specific Central Challenge which your team picks. Have the team read it and re-read until you are sure they understand it.

 9. Make sure everyone understands Interference rules. You, the team, and their parents.

 8. Have a discussion about expectations. Let the team set their own goals for the season. If you start pushing a team beyond their desire to excel, things will go sour pretty darn quick. Let them discuss and set some team rules. Make sure they understand your expectations such as how they will behave in your house and how often they can miss team meetings.

 7. Remember that you don’t have to solve the challenge for the team. That’s their job. Understanding this can be a big relief for a new manager.

 6. In the early stages, concentrate on building the team rather than solving the challenge. Do a lot of improv and instant challenge activities. A team that feels good about working together and trusts each other will do a better job.

 5. Enlist your team members’ parents. Have a parent meeting. Don’t be shy about delegating some responsibilities. You’ll go crazy if you do it all yourself.

 4. Attend Team Manager’s training. They have some excellent training materials and a good training session can give you a big boost. Don’t miss it!

 3. Use the web. This list is a good start. Visit the Destination Imagination web site once a week or so. Check out the clarification pages at least that often. Find your affiliate web site ( Visit the VOMBO web site ( Follow some of the links and you will discover lots of resources.

 2. Find a mentor. If you can, find a more experienced team manager who doesn’t mind if you ask a few “dumb questions”. A good candidate would be a manager who is in your challenge but at a different level.

 1. Always remember to have FUN! If the team isn’t having fun and you aren’t having fun – something is wrong.

Taking Control Of Meetings

As a general thing I have a poster hanging Signs of Good Teamwork at every meeting. (Arguing is not on the list) Once they know what to do instead of arguing…I make a point of recognizing publicly any evidence of Teamwork that I see and letting the Team know how proud I am that they are catching on. I even write up little stickies with sincere & specific comments and post them for each Kid on a Teamwork Wall of Fame. Sometimes the stickies are for two or more kids and a positive interaction. Sometimes for the entire Team for an exceptional Team moment (they do come once or twice a season)

I start off with finding one for each kid and then add on randomly but as evenly as possible throughout the season. After awhile the kids can write up stickies for each other. This exercise even helps me to feel good about the Team when I might get bogged down by the negative instead.

Another thing you can do with arguing over a decision syndrome is to Brainstorm lots of ideas and then let them try to experiment or play with some of the ideas…and/or do the A- Lo-U (see Roadmap). The goal is for new or combo ideas to develop and to have their choice based as much as possible on first hand experience, not on politics. In your case, you can ask what are the things they like about each challenge…Are there elements in each that satisfy the same interests? For example, could the Transforming Prop in Holiday be made to have the same appeal as the StranDId Device? As long as everyone has something they are excited to do for the Team and as long as StranDId and Holiday are the 1st and 2nd choices of everyone..they should be able to stick with their choice. Remind them that in a matter of weeks this decision will be History and they’ll be on to bigger and better things.

We love to Brainstorm, but at a certain point they have to come to a conclusion though…there’s always the pressure if the schedule. My Team is getting pretty good at Teamwork (and not arguing…but it’s still difficult under pressure of time. Here is something one TM did last year that has stuck with me as an inspiration. (Perhaps she would like to stand up and identify herself too.) This TM agreed to dye her hair blue if the Team accomplished must have been major! My idea, is a bit less drastic as I am not that brave (yet?!) . They have had weeks of generating , brainstorming and exploring. At our next meeting…If they can come to consensus about who their Travelers are and what Country they are going to On Holiday (..that means a decision they all feel good about with out negative arguing…)I am going to let them give me a TM makeover…goofy hairdo and a new outfit from the dress up box. How’s that for positive reinforcement?

Another technique is to fold a piece of paper (computer size) (you need seven pieces of paper) in half and then in half again one way and then the other. Each paper has about nine spaces then to write.

Each team member should write three ideas for say a prop across the paper and pass it on. No one can repeat ideas but they can build on ideas. It can get noisy but not as much as talking.

A few ideas about meeting control –

1) Present the problem to the team re: noise, complaints, maybe needing to meet elsewhere (at their homes), etc.). ask them to find solutions.

2) Last year with my 5-7 year olds, I gave them a lollipop as an IC. 1st, one had to pick one & give a creative idea as to what it might be. While they ate it, I would give tell them anything I needed to – but if they talked, they would lose their candy (although it wasn’t a problem because they were too busy eating!) Anyway, maybe you could do something similar – 1 person give an idea at a time, going around the circle while brainstorming.

I also had private talks with a few of the noisier ones. I asked them why they were in DI, what their goal for the team was & how their bad behavior added to the solution. Just making them aware (away from the group) of their behavior & its negative effects helped. Having them come up with solutions (1 said he was bored, etc.) to bring back the next week helped, also. I reminded them that it is their team and they are in control to make it work for them.

When your team is hesitant to try something new

Remember, amateurs built the Ark. Professionals built the Titanic.


When your team seems to be too pleased with themselves too early and has quit coming up with new ideas too soon:

Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.


When they keep on procrastinating:

In just two days, tomorrow will be yesterday.


Mata Plumb

Running the Meetings

Don’t tell my team, but for years I have used a devious plan for getting them to work on parts of the Central Challenge – disguise it as an Instant Challenge!

Let’s say your Central Challenge is to construct a “water vehicle” – you might create an Instant Challenge in which the team uses the standard list of IC materials (straws, labels, stirrers, corks, paper, string, index cards) to create a floating structure. After the IC, initiate a discussion of how they decided to give those items buoyancy, and get them to think about how they would solve the challenge if the items were bigger or smaller? If the items were heavier, lighter? (Of course, be very cautious about wading into interference waters – make sure that your discussions are very open-ended and that YOU have no pre-conceived notions of “correct” answers!)


With younger teams especially, I think part of the role of the TM is to help the team break down the Central Challenge into smaller challenges, and IC is a great tool to do this! And just between you and me, I’d be careful about having your meetings be too structured – or too close to what the kids have been doing for 6 or 7 hours in school that day – even the word “Homework” might be changed to something more intriguing?


Each year we seem to have a couple of kids who enjoy the research and a couple who are deathly allergic to it! Here’s an idea – each kid who has completed thorough research on her country gets to run a GAME for the others in which answering her questions about that country correctly allows each kid to take a step forward, with some kind of silly prize to the first one to reach the end – we’ve used things like having a soda while everyone else has drink mix- or being able to grab the couch rather than floor or chairs for watching a video- whatever your team values! The key is to turn this over to the kids – have the kids decide the prizes, have the kids make up the rules, have the kids run the game.


And don’t worry too much about each kid bringing their Challenge copies, or Current Events or notebooks – (all good ideas, by the way!) – It’s more important that they keep looking forward to meetings and bring their enthusiasm!

Team Expectations

Expectations of Team Members 

  1. Your team manager has volunteered to work with your team. He/she has to give up other activities to manage your team.
  2. Even though your team may not be school-sponsored, behavior that is inappropriate at school is inappropriate at your DI   meetings & tournaments. Your team manager can remove you from a meeting if you are interfering with the group’s progress.
  3. In Destination Imagination, all ideas are worth hearing. Rude remarks about the ideas of others will not be tolerated.
  4. Being on a team means being responsible for your share of the tasks. If you volunteer to do something, follow through.
  5. Destination Imagination is an extracurricular activity. That means it should not interfere with your school work in any way.

Expectations of Parents

  1. Be considerate of the team manager’s time. Be prompt when dropping off or picking up your child for meetings.
  2. Do not schedule appointments for your child during the time regularly reserved for team meetings unless it is absolutely unavoidable. Every team member is needed at meetings.
  3. Expenses incurred by the team in creating its solution must be shared by team members. Some team managers are uncomfortable about asking for money, so make it a point to ask from time to time. Materials should not cost much, but the team manager should not have to pay for everything.
  4. Please don’t say: “I wish I could help you, but I work.” We are all busy people. Most of us work full-time. Helping the team by being a go-fer, assisting the team manager or providing snacks can be very inconvenient, but it’s all part of the package. Please try to say yes when asked for something.
  5. If you have any concerns about your child, the team’s progress, or the team manager, communicate with the appropriate party. Don’t wait for a small problem to become a bigger one. Tell the team manager or school DI coordinator.

Expectations of Team Managers 

  1. Team managers should give team members and parents monthly meeting calendars so that everyone knows when and where meetings will be held.
  2. TM should help every team member contribute his or her unique skills and talents t the solution of the challenge. In all teams, there are members who are outgoing and assertive and members who are quiet and less likely to volunteer ideas – team managers should try to “level the playing field” so that all members of a team feel comfortable sharing ideas and expertise.
  3. TM must have respect for the integrity of the team’s solution. “No Interference” means just that. The team manager should never allow his/her ideas to enter into the team’s solution.
  4. TM may not have competitive goals for the team. A team manager’s role in DI is to oversee the process, to help the team organize itself to meet its own goals. Out of all the teams in your affiliation, only 15 will go to Global finals. Pushing the team towards its best effort is different from pushing the team to win. Emphasizing “winning” rather than “best effort” may result in the team feeling a sense of failure at anything less than first place. TM need to remember that the emphasis should be on the process of getting to the performance, not the performance itself; and above all else, DI is supposed to be fun!

Some TMs have students and parents sign a “contract” that outlines these responsibilities. This works in some cases and is not needed in other cases. The objective here is to be sure that everyone involved understands-up front-what they are getting in to when they decide to commit to involvement with a Destination Imagination team. Having a clear understanding of what is expected will go a long way to preventing problems during the year.

Team Goal Setting

Once the Challenge is chosen, the next step was to get agreement on how hard the team members want work. This is an important step for teams — because if a couple of team members want the team to be “competitive” — while other members want the team to be “casual” — it can create a LOT of friction. There are three options:

  1. Casual — In this mode, the team agrees to solve the Challenge, but doesn’t worry about how well they do at the tournaments. In some cases, team members will realize that their time and resources are very limited but that they still want to participate in the program. In this case, a casual solution will work well.
  2. Serious — In this mode, the team tries to solve the Challenge to be best of their ability (given the time and energy they have available) — but don’t worry too much about how they actually place at tournaments.
  3. Competitive– In this mode, the team not only tries to solve the Challenge as best they can, but they spend some extra effort trying to “tune” it so it will score as well as it can at tournaments.

    The nice thing about having this discussion with the team is it allows the team members to set their expectations and commitment at a level that is comfortable for them.

Some Secrets of a Winning Team

  1. Read the challenge again and again. It is very important to know the challenge well. Always have a copy of the challenge handy. Too many teams lose focus of what they are doing because they stray from the rules or scoring categories.
  2. Define creativity. As a team, define creativity. Make sure that you are getting the most creativity out of your ideas. Think about creating and what that means when trying to make a creative solution to the team challenge and when practicing brainstorming.
  3. Eliminate the common. When trying to solve a challenge, eliminate the common ideas. For example, a cat and mouse theme in a challenge based on mousetraps is probably not going to seem creative (appraisers will be expecting it). Be different. Do something inspired – be creative!
  4. List your goals. DI is a great place to learn real life skills. Setting and accomplishing goals is a skill that works beautifully in DI and in real life. It is a simple task which can add a lot of efficiency to a team.
  5. Use creative inspiration. If you know of a painting, play, TV show, book, piece of music or any other work of art which is very creative, watch, read, listen or do it. Creativity is contagious. Try to have music a constant creative atmosphere at meetings. Relax and be creative.
  6. Work hard and often. My teams has consistent meeting times and we met at least three times a week during the 2-3 months before competition. Team members came in above and beyond our scheduled practices. This much work is not for everyone, but it is necessary to reach the top.
  7. Solve the challenge completely. Some teams do great with one part of the challenge, but get too wrapped up on one aspect. Take the time to try and cover every scoring category. Get a strategy and decide specifically what direction to take. Then delegate duties and trust your teammates to get it done. In creative categories, make it so creative that appraisers can’t help but give you high scores.
  8. Have a good attitude. Do your best and worry only about your team. You can control how well you do and how you carry yourself. But remember that DI is not about winning. Don’t be so competitive that you miss what DI is really all about.
  9. Simplify Instant Challenge. I think that IC can be the most intimidating part of DI. Practice a lot. Try to recreate competition situations. Do challenges over and over again, analyzing what you can do better the next time. I think that the most important fact to remember when training for IC is this: your goal in training is not to solve many problems, it is to learn the skills to solve any small problem.
  10. “Gifted’ doesn’t always mean “Creative.” Gifted students are usually given this label due to testing of language, math, memorization, etc. Rarely are students ever tested for creativity. Open team membership to all students.


  • With my teams, I generally prefer to talk in terms of “success” rather than “winning.” I really do think that talking about winners sets up expectations about beating other teams, which is really not in your control. Instead, we talk about expectations, about what we want to accomplish, about what it will take to be successful – having fun, learning something new, taking on a new challenge, whatever goal the team sets for itself (such as improving teamwork). We talked a lot toward the end about how successful they had been – and that was also the main topic of conversation at the party after the regional competition. They didn’t win at regionals, but they were a success and they felt very successful.
  • Success is also defined by the attitude and behavior of parents and TM. Now that a TM is allowed at IC, they can pump up the kids and point out how great they did at IC – even if they bombed most of it, hopefully a TM can find something that the kids did that was creative, innovative or funny. Point out the positive.
  • Also, parents, especially those that watch their child’s and other performances, can affect if a team feels “successful” or like “winners.” They should also be upbeat and positive during the tournament day. If they criticize or berate team members who might have flubbed a line or if a prop fell down – then the kids will feel down and like they worked all this time for nothing. Parents and other supporters should be upbeat – find the positive. There is plenty of time in the weeks after the tournament to figure out how they might have done better and what went wrong.
  • And I’m not talking about setting your kids up for a fall – telling them that they will win if their performance in long-term and IC was obviously not. But dwell on the positive or the creativity they saw that day and how it might be fun to try. And dwell on what they did well. This is the way to make kids feel successful – and like winners, even if they don’t take home a trophy.
  • And plan a party after the tournament or the next day – whether you come in first place or last place. Celebrate the creativity, what the team learned and the fun you had together.
  • Teams have to learn that competition is never totally fair because of the subjectivity of the appraisers. They need to learn that the value of what they have accomplished is not diminished because they did not come home with a medal. That attitude needs to be exuded from Team Managers and hopefully the parents.
  • The appraisers do a great job in making the teams feel as if they have a wonderful solution on every level. Team Managers, parents and team members need to support each other and prepare each other for competitions by discussing the facts. There are only so many teams that go on to a higher level of competition – state and global.
  • I talked to many TM at state and reminded them to tell their teams that scores are not necessarily going to be as high as they are used to seeing – Global scores are even lower. Too many TM and parents are only prepared for winning. Teaching teams about coming in the middle or at the bottom (one team has to come in last) is very important because this is where most of us live out our lives. Live with creativity and love it!

On winning…

  • I wish the competition aspect could be eliminated. Every time a team doesn’t place they are turned into losers. I see in the comments TMs subconsciously measuring the “quality” and performance of their teams by listing wins and awards. Please, by all means, be proud of winning and advancing to the next level. But in this activity, more so than in many others, it is the process that is important, not the outcome.
  • If one of your kids learns to get along with their teammates…
  • If a kid gets a tiny boost in self confidence because they learned how to use a glue gun…
  • If a kid discovers that duct tape exists…
  • If they made even the tiniest connection that some of the things they learn in school are marginally useful in the real world…

    And they come in last, you have been a wildly successful TM and DI has fulfilled it’s goal.

Tournaments and the Meaning of Success to a Team

Near the end of the year, many teams and TM are VERY frustrated – only one technical element done, no script (we don’t need no stinkin’ script), costumes are non-existent, props only half done and no solution in sight.

Here is a truly INSPIRATIONAL story that was passed along by Dee Urban, AD from NY.

It must have been more than a decade ago, tournament day in our region, and it was all the wonderful things that tournament day always is….. here’s a great big secret that Regional Directors have known for years – we plan and try to have everything just right for the kids, but know that it really doesn’t matter what we do….. if we provide a space (even the minimum allowable space) and some caring and enthusiastic folks to appraise the solutions, that’s all we really need to do because the kids are going to come into the building, they are going to bring all manner of ‘stuff’ with them, and then the ‘magic’ happens! The kids take over, they ARE the tournament, and they make everyone associated with a tournament look great!

Anyway, at this particular tournament there was a vehicle challenge, it was one of the large, ride-on types of vehicles the kids had to build that year, and things at that particular venue were going very well…….until…… I got a call on the walkie talkie from our Challenge Master/Head Appraiser, Julio, that he needed me IMMEDIATELY! I have to tell you that this particular fellow was one of those rock solid folks that NEVER panics! Always knows exactly what to do, and is ALWAYS there for the kids first and everything else is a far distant last…… so when he called I knew something must be very unusual!

When I got to the site, the Julio explained to me that he had a ‘team’, well, actually two girls, out in the staging area who had no vehicle, no props, pretty much nothing done, but they had the plans and drawings of the vehicle they planned, they had a rack of costumes they had made, and they had storyboards and a script. They wanted to show the appraisers what they had done, and they wanted to be scored….. Julio asked “what do we do?”

We looked at one another for about one second and KNEW exactly what to do. We went out in the staging area and chatted with the two girls. They had started on a team of seven kids, one by one the kids dropped off the team for one reason or another – that was not the important part – but these two young ladies were determined to complete a solution and compete. The Team Manager had told them early on that all they had to do to be champions was to show a solution to the appraisers and that simple act would make them champions in everyone’s eyes…. and they believed….. we asked where the Team Manager was and the two girls told us that he had also dropped out….. so we went back into the performance site and spoke with the timekeeper announcer – who introduced this ‘team’ by telling the audience what the team had told us in the staging area.

There must have been 300 people sitting in the bleachers in that gym, and it fell dead silent as these two young girls came out dragging a clothing rack behind them, with rolls of drawing paper under each arm, and no vehicle. They read their script, using ‘voices’ to denote different characters, they held up the costume that each character would wear….they indicated they were ‘on’ the vehicle and where they were going and what they were doing, they showed the audience and appraisers the drawings of the vehicle and props they planned, when time ended the last thing they said to the audience was “Next year we will be back WITH a vehicle!”…… the audience sat stunned for a few seconds (felt like an eternity) and then as if attached to each other rose as one to it’s feet to offer a standing ovation….. these two girls really did embody the Spirit of CPS!

The appraisers, combed through all the schematic drawings of the planned vehicle with the girls in the post performance interview. Clearly these two had done a great deal of planning and research and had completed a marvelous solution, very creative, and very innovative, but of course not ‘real’.

The team performed in it’s Instant Challenge, and got some points on their team challenge for what the appraisers could give points for….. obviously they could not offer any points for ‘tasks’ but they could offer points for design of the vehicle, and for costumes, and script etc.

As it turned out this ‘team’ did NOT come in last at that tournament. They did get a special SPIRIT award, and when it was offered at the awards ceremony everyone once again stood to their feet to cheer….. these two young ladies had really made a difference in the lives of everyone at that tournament!

Now you would think this is where the story ends, but it’s not. About two months later, after Globals, in the summer, my phone rang and it was one of these young ladies, she wanted to know if I could come and SEE the vehicle, they had just finished it and wanted to show it to a appraiser. I got in my car and drove the two hours to the school parking lot where I promised to meet them the next day…. and there they were…. both of them riding on the vehicle! Laughing and crying at the same time! They had set up the course as it was set for the tournament and were showing me all the tasks one by one, that the vehicle could do…… the three of us laughed and cried together that day in that empty school parking lot.

Now this was a VERY long story, but one that I think has some bearing on team’s in a similar situation……. the tournament does NOT have to be the end of the journey for the team, and they CAN be a team with only two members who truly strive to be champions! (A champion is defined as a team that BEATS the challenge!)…… it’s never too late…. there is time ….. and if all they do at a tournament is IC that’s still more than many kids dared to take on!

Celebrate the successes of the team, continue to encourage them to achieve all they can, and they will amaze and delight you and make everyone look good that is associated with them.”

Pre-Tournament Time & the CPS Process & Edison

The important thing to focus on in February & March, when the stress of looming tournaments is upon teams and TMs, is THE PROCESS! There can be no failure in trying, and every success along the way should be noted and celebrated.

Edison found a thousand things that DIDN’T work for use as a filament in his light bulb, when asked how he handled the failure he responded something to the effect of “These attempts were not failures, I’m now a thousand things closer to success”

(The quote is from Ben Franklin: “I haven’t failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” )

…. sorry but I don’t remember the exact quote or number of things….. the point is – maybe the team isn’t going to be perfect at the tournament, maybe they are going to score in the bottom of the pack of teams all competing against that Challenge…. does that wipe out all the successes they have achieved along the way?

In 20 years in CPS I have never seen a team that I could not enthusiastically applaud at a tournament – I have never seen a team that didn’t deserve the title “Champion”…… on some days, some teams will perform better than others, that is what a tournament is about, but all teams who have taken on the challenge have had success….. how can a TM ever be embarrassed by that?

From another TM — I went in search of the famous quote by Thomas Edison about how he kept trying different solutions to CREATE the light bulb – something about how he was 900 ways nearer to getting it right…but found these three quotes instead. sounds like a round of D.I. team posters to me:

Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

I never did anything by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.

-Thomas Edison

Funding The Team

Hey guys! How do you determine how much money to ask each parent for? I am finding that I seem to be footing the bill for practice supplies and everything.

Also, any ideas on how to handle this situation… One family is having major financial problems. Their phone was disconnected before Christmas. I have heard rumors that their house may be foreclosed on. I don’t think I can ask them for money. As if this wasn’t sticky enough, this particular parent seems to hate me. She’s very confrontational with me. I can handle the attitude. I just don’t know what to do about the money. How are other DI teams funded? I’d like to continue doing this each year. Does that mean I pay for it each year?


I learned the hard way to KEEP RECEIPTS

My team is now an individual membership so we are not affiliated with school.

What our school district did was each kid was charged a set fee to do DI then money for registration and T-shirts for the tournament was taken out.

What was left the managers got. Last year I got 60.00.

This year as an individual membership I have asked each kid for 35.00 then I took the money out for registration as well as regional t-shirt. The rest went for balsa. I am keeping receipts but truthfully I have so much junk from doing this for the last 8 years that except for balsa and duct tape I have not spent too much.

Snacks we do a snack rotation. A monthly calendar has everyone’s name on it for snack and if someone forgets well no snack. Sometimes I tell the kids to bring money for marathon meeting and if they get things done we go out for a treat or order a pizza.

As far as the one with no money….well I’d just carry her or him. I have done that in the past. Funny the parent was also confrontational. In retrospect, I think she was looking for a way out (which I never gave her) because she couldn’t afford it. I wish I would have realized that sooner because I took a lot of it personally. It would have been better had she just told me they could not afford snacks etc……

Reply #2

A TM paying for everything? Absolutely not!

At your start-of-the-year parent meeting, explain that everyone shares all costs of supplies, both IC practice and stuff for solving the challenge and, perhaps, costs for any field trips or pizza parties. Two ways I’ve done it:

— collect an amount up-front from each family, maybe $20 or 30. Keep receipts and a record of what gets spent. Make copies of the record periodically and give to each family as an update, or

— keep all receipts, total them, divide by number of kids on the team and send a “bill” to each family at tournament time.

It’s also helpful to make lists of items needed and send them home with the kids. This works especially well for IC supplies, as most people will have a handful of straws or a half skein of yarn lying around and will be happy to donate them to the team. Or, when the team decides it needs a 2×4 or a sheet or a tennis ball, ask the kids if anyone has an old one lying around at home that their parents wouldn’t mind getting rid of.

If you haven’t told the families about sharing costs, perhaps it’s time to hold a parent meeting and explain the situation. Ask everyone for ideas on ways to address the issue of keeping the team supplied. It probably would be helpful to have copies of receipts or boxes of stuff you’ve purchased, in case your confrontational parent decides to argue.

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