Two Meets down, my how the time flies! We’re already hard at work on RR3, so if you’ve got any comments or questions this is great time to share. Did you see a P.A.R.T.Y. skit that blew you away? Team work that won the day? Or were there challenges we could help you overcome?
Yes, US Academic Triathlon is a program for middle-school students, but it wouldn’t be possible without dedicated teachers and parents who volunteer their time so their students can learn and grow.
There are a few ways to manage a USAT program at your school – if you plan to have more than one team, a Head Coach/Program Coordinator is recommended. Most importantly, this person manages registration and liaises with the national office, while ensuring the school’s program is run with fair play, civility, and good sportsmanship. The head coach can then recruit additional coaches to help with team practices and help staff Meets (each team is required to provide two experienced coaches/parents for each Meet to help the competition run smoothly).
Who makes a good USAT coach or volunteer? Anyone 16 or older (yes, high school students can help coach teams – and often former USAT competitors make the best volunteers!) who is dedicated to helping students gain leadership, creativity, and out-of-the-box thinking skills.
While specific details regarding coach duties can be found in the Program Manual and our Coaching a Team page, there a few MUST’s USAT requires of its coaches:
Coaches must set high standards of sportsmanship and fairness during and surrounding competitions. Students look to you as examples – show them what it means to be a leader and a good teammate.
Coaches must reward good ideas and positive attitudes as they see them displayed by students of all participating schools (speaking specifically when at Meets). USAT isn’t ultimately about being “the best,” but growing as an individual. Encourage and reward any student when you see them exemplifying this ideal.
Parents, guardians, teachers, older siblings, high school volunteers, college students, and grandparents – anyone willing to give their time to the growth and education of a student can be a USAT volunteer coach. Our students – and our staff – appreciate your time and efforts!
Convincing district or school officials to add another extracurricular activity – and another budget line item – can be difficult. However, US Academic Triathlon takes a different approach to academic extracurriculars, working to prepare students in grades 5 through 8 to be successful in their next stage of education and the rest of their lives. Five-student teams must display good sportsmanship and teamwork while exhibiting the outcomes of their creativity and positive risk-taking.
USAT is a creative thinking skills program that employs a competition to teach and reward creative, divergent thought processes, cooperative brainstorming, general intellect, leadership, and a flare for the dramatic – all while providing an entertaining, user-friendly format for both students and adults.
Anyone who has enthusiasm for building things, writing plays, solving puzzles, answering trivia questions, or thinking on their feet will love USAT. The program offers a wide range of problem-solving situations across several disciplines in order to find something to interest and stimulate every learner.
Students of all ability levels are welcome, and the program is designed to promote contributions by every team member, making the strongest teams the ones with members who have a wide range of strengths and knowledge. One student may be great at drawing backdrops while someone else is good at complex math problems, and they all can find a home in US Academic Triathlon.
The season includes three Round Robin Meets, a Regional Meet, and the opportunity to compete at the State Meet. Each Meet is comprised of an oral and a written round of Face-Off!, three Mind Sprints, and a P.A.R.T.Y. in a Box presentation. During Face-Off!, students are challenged to recall age-appropriate facts and knowledge in the categories of math and music theory, English usage and literature, science, social studies, and current events or “Kidsumerism.” Mind Sprint puzzles challenge and yield quick, creative solutions that require divergent thinking skills, visual problem-solving, logic, construction, and team cooperation.
In Preparation And Re-enactment Theater is Yours (P.A.R.T.Y.) – In a Box!, teams receive a problem in the form of a theatrical scenario, and equipment to create props, costumes, and a backdrop with which to demonstrate their solution. Students practice good sportsmanship and theater etiquette while watching others, and learn performance and public speaking during their own skits. USAT gives students a chance to practice their presentation skills in a safe environment that is less high-pressure than a class presentation or an audition.
The real product of USAT competition is personal growth. Students learn to think outside the box, to find ways to apply creative solutions to real world problems, and have educational experiences that last a lifetime. These “triathletes” have to take positive risks and approach each new problem with creativity and a sense of humor. This is done within a supportive environment, so any stumbling block can turn into a success and a chance to build confidence in their academic and problem-solving abilities. Students learn so much by stretching themselves and by taking a chance but USAT also builds “safety nets” into events so even if one member of the team is stuck, they can ask their teammates for help or find a creative way to tackle each Meet challenge. And because USAT is a competition, students also learn that sometimes they aren’t going to come in first place; but only through these kinds of experiences can children become poised and balanced adults.The final, lasting experience of USAT is to overcome not the people, but the problems. Teams grow to realize that:
1.Each idea is only one of many that occurs to the human mind;
2. Each student brings to the team individual strengths that can be built upon;
3. Flexibility opens doors to new possibilities;
4. Positive risk-taking in an atmosphere of acceptance yields experiential learning and great memories; and
5. Students are able to handle the curves that life throws them – especially if they approach each problem with a sense of humor and a sense of their own self-worth.
The pursuit of new and creative solutions can result in failure, but this does not negate the journey. Oftentimes these “failures” turn out to be successes – they are simply the answer to a different question. This type of experience encourages students to think constructively and creatively, and reinforces a sense that their ideas matter. As students process out of their USAT season, they will become aware that AT really stands for “Able Thinkers.”
We will need volunteers for this year’s State Meet on April 16, and we wanted to open the opportunity to any former program participant as well as the Minnesota Honors Society students who help us every year. We’ve included the pertinent information below, and we’d appreciate it if you could help us get the word out about this need.
Middle school students across Minnesota have been practicing hard and competing since November for their chance to show their creativity, teamwork, and out-of-the-box thinking at the 2016 State Meet of US Academic Triathlon – and we need your help to make the event run smoothly.
US Academic Triathlon is an academic and creativity competition for grades 5-8. Learn more about our organization at www.usacademictriathlon.com. Volunteers must be at least 16 years old and can be a former student competitor, former coach, high school student, or general volunteer. (Please note, if you coached a team this year that makes you a “current coach” rather than a “former coach” even though the regular season has ended.)
This year, our State Competition is at Cottage Grove Middle School on April 16.
Volunteers will be assigned to shifts based on first come, first serve basis. Sign up to volunteer by emailing email@example.com with your name, email address, phone number, and experience with US Academic Triathlon. Further details will be sent out via email, so including an email address is required.
Contact Executive Director Sarah Sheldon with any further questions at 507-645-2560.
Congratulations to everyone for a great season! Even if your team isn’t going to move on to the State Meet on April 16, every coach, facilitator, host, and team deserves a pat on the back.
And we want to keep improving! If there is something about this Meet or this season you really liked and want to see more of, we want to hear from you. Was there anything that seemed too challenging or too easy for the age group? Do you like the series on Multiple Intelligences, or are you most interested in posts about the program itself? Let us know by contacting our Executive Director, Sarah Sheldon, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 507-645-2560.