Program Blog

Enrichment Activities, For Coaches and Teachers, For Parents, Resources

Twisted Tournament Practice Problem

Creating a Mind Sprint is all about balance. There needs to be right amount of challenge for the student’s grade level. However, the activity also has to be 10 minutes or less, including listening to the instructions. Sometimes, Creative Director Alison comes up with a fun problem, but it just won’t work within the confines of a Mind Sprint. This happened while developing Round Robin 2, and the logic problem “Twisted Tournament” had to be swapped out for the “Gone Fishin’” Mind Sprint.

But we didn’t want to see a good problem get left behind, so we’ve prepared it for you as an enrichment to use at your next USAT practice. It is set up like a Mind Sprint with verbal instructions to be read by a coach or parent, but solving the problem itself will likely take 30 minutes rather than the regular 10. This problem can be tackled by a team or an individual, so if you don’t hold regular practices for your team, it can still be a fun way to keep our Triathletes’ brains working between Meets.

The PDF below includes the instructions, the answers, a sheet of clues, and the worksheet your students will need to complete their task.

Have fun!

Twisted Tournament Practice Problem

Enrichment Activities, For Coaches and Teachers, For Kids, For Parents, P.A.R.T.Y. in a Box

Help Your Team Get the Most out of P.A.R.T.Y. in a Box (Practice Materials Inside!)

Hello parents, teams, and coaches!

The USAT team hopes you had a great Round Robin 2 last week. After the first Meet of the season, we provided some reflection questions about Mind Sprints. This time, we’d like to challenge the students to think critically about P.A.R.T.Y. in a Box and how they could improve next time. So, if you are looking for something to do to enhance team-building at your next practice, here are a few prompts to get the students talking.

  • Describe P.A.R.T.Y. in a Box skits you’ve done before. Can you remember the theme, characters you created, or favorite part of the skit?
  • If you could change any of the rules about P.A.R.T.Y. in a Box, what would you change?
  • What skills are needed in order to do well in a P.A.R.T.Y. challenge? Is there anything you can do outside of USAT competitions to hone those skills?
  • Did any of the prompts remind you of books you read or movies you saw?
  • If you could create your own P.A.R.T.Y. in a Box prompt, what would it be? How would you want to score it?
    • DIVE DEEPER: Why not give it a try? Give your students 30 minutes to design a P.A.R.T.Y. in a Box prompt and scoring rubric. If they want to try acting it out, too, all the better! If you need an example of a scoring rubric, check out our sample PARTY in a Box: Butterfly Effect

Do you have anything you want the USAT staff to know about Round Robin 2? Leave us a comment or email us at

For Hosts and Facilitators

We Honor Creativity and Teamwork in USAT Through These Special Awards

In addition to honoring teams that score the most points at each Meet, we also have special awards for individuals and teams that exhibit the qualities that we hope to promote through the US Academic Triathlon program.

The “Mary Ann Berdan Creativity Award” is a certificate named for an artist/educator and long-time USAT board member who passed away. Any student or team showing an exceptional degree of creativity and follow through during any USAT Meet is eligible for this special honor. This is most likely to occur during a Mind Sprint or P.A.R.T.Y. performance, so facilitators of these events should be aware of this special honor for our most creative students.

Starting in 2017, the USAT staff also instituted a new award in honor of the program’s founder, Peggy Sheldon. Any individual who exhibits exceptional conflict resolution and compromise skills, and teams that go above and beyond to make sure everyone is heard and respected are eligible for the “Peggy Sheldon Teamwork Award.”

Candidates for these special awards should be brought to the attention of the Host/Facilitator before the conclusion of any Meet. We provide both nomination forms and certificates for winners on our downloads page. There is no minimum or maximum number of nominees at each Meet, but we encourage you to look for reasons to celebrate these students and their achievements. The real achievement of all of our students is to grow during the season, and facilitators and coaches are integral to that process.

Have a great Round Robin 2!

For Coaches and Teachers

Reflect on Your Team’s Mind Sprint Experiences as a Team-Building Exercise

Hello parents, teams, and coaches!

The USAT team hopes you had a wonderful return to the competition on Friday. The program benefits from feedback, but did you know that having your students reflect on how the Meet went as a group can be a powerful team-building tool? If you are looking for something to do at your next practice, here are a few questions that you can use at any time to get the conversation going about Mind Sprint challenges.

  • Describe Mind Sprints you’ve done before.
  • If you could change any of the rules from a Mind Sprint you did, what would you change?
  • What skills did someone need in order to do well in each Mind Sprint?
  • Did any of the challenges remind you of things you’ve done before?
  • If you could design your own Mind Sprint challenge, what would it be? How would you want to score it?
    • DIVE DEEPER: Why not give it a try? Give your students 30 minutes to design a Mind Sprint of their own. They may not finish, but it’s fun to think about how to design one!

Do you have anything you want the USAT staff to know about Round Robin 1? Leave us a comment or email us at

For Coaches and Teachers

Rules for Coaches Reminder

With the first Round Robin right around the corner, we wanted to post a quick refresher about the rules and responsibilities of all coaches and facilitators at a Meet.

1. If a person agrees to become a coach, they also are agreeing to abide by the rules and spirit of this program, to conduct themselves according to their state’s High School League rules, and to host a Meet. Coaches must be at least 16 years old.

2. Coaches must run Meets as prescribed by the Program Manual. In the event that a coach intentionally does not follow this format, her or his team or the coaches may be disqualified for the remainder of the season.

3. Copyright laws must be respected. No alterations to Program Manual rules or the challenges themselves are allowed without prior written authorization from the national office. Meet forms may be downloaded and photocopied by coaches during any year in which dues have been paid. Other materials, such as used Meet challenges, may be reused in the district classrooms that year.

4. Coaches must absolutely refrain from assisting teams as they compete in a USAT Meet. This includes in-Meet prep times as well as when answers are being given. From the time a team registers until after all P.A.R.T.Y.s have been judged, no adult should confer privately with team members. A neutral facilitator should be present in special cases, and the Host/Facilitator should be informed.

5. Coaches must set high standards of good sportsmanship and fairness during and surrounding competitions.

6. Coaches must reward good ideas and positive attitudes as they see them displayed by students of all participating schools. Use the Mary Ann Berdan and Peggy Sheldon awards for this purpose.

7. Coaches must serve as facilitators during Meets, or provide a prepared substitute in their place, if they are unable to attend. “Prepared” means “familiar enough with the rules of USAT to serve as a judge/ facilitator at a Meet.” As a professional courtesy, Head Coaches and team coaches will make sure that all volunteers have a good, basic working knowledge of USAT to ensure the integrity of Meets.

8. Coaches who serve as facilitators must always let a team member finish giving a response if a verbal answer has been started before time is called. They must respect student competitors’ rights to compete in an atmosphere of acceptance.

9. Coaches must exercise good judgment in serving as facilitators for Meets. This includes the occasional hard decision regarding the levying of penalties on their own or another team. Issuing a warning is often recommended, though not required, before assessing a penalty. Find out more about assessing penalties correctly. 

10. Coaches need to make sure their teams are familiar with the use of Caution Comments:

a. “Louder” – A student should repeat the answer, enunciating for the sake of the facilitator.
b. “Clarify” – A student must explain why an answer is pertinent to the question. (If the student says “Make a boat” as a use for the flyswatter, it may be necessary for the student to say, “Use the handle as a raft,” so that the judge can score it.)
c. “Inappropriate” – A student is being given a chance to change a socially unacceptable or non sequitur answer, with or without loss of points, depending upon intent.
d. “Repeat” – A student has given a duplicate answer, and must come up with another response.

In the Program Manual we have usually put the list of Competition Kit items  under the heading of “What a Team Brings to a Meet.” In addition, teams are also responsible for contributing specific items to the P.A.R.T.Y. in a Box round as specified on the schedule. However, this is also the responsibility of the coach. Please make sure to familiarize yourself with this information before Round Robin 1.