During the 2022-2023 season, we marked the 40th Anniversary of the Virginia Odyssey of the Mind. Since our beginning in 1982, we have been most appreciative of the dedication, perseverance, and contributions of ALL our volunteers — school program coordinators, coaches, and parents, judges, problem captains, program coordinators, and the state and region board members. Without the tireless efforts of our volunteer base, the Virginia Odyssey of the Mind program could not have achieved the level of growth and creativity it has seen over the last four decades.
Odyssey of the Mind was founded in 1978 in New Jersey by Dr. Sam Micklus, who continues to participate in World Finals. The program has experienced remarkable growth and now includes associations in Europe, Asia, Canada, Mexico, and South America. World Finals brings together the top performing best teams from the state associations and the international community.
Virginia’s Odyssey of the Mind journey began in 1982, with the first teams forming in and around the Richmond area. In 1999, the national organization split due to irreconcilable differences in views of management direction and approaches. Virginia uniquely straddled this divide, with some regions choosing to remain with Odyssey of the Mind while others joined Destination Imagination. The decision-making power was vested in the fifteen VA Region Directors, and six of the original regions opted to stay with Odyssey of the Mind – Piedmont Region 4, Tidewater Region 6, Rappahannock Region 10, Northern VA (NoVA) West 13, NoVA East 11, and NoVA Northwest 15. To avoid future legal complications, the board voted to change from “VAOM” to “VOICES” (Virginia Opportunities In Creativity ExplorationS). By the year 2003-2004, VOICES had approximately 300 memberships, representing over 900 teams.
In 2011, the VA Odyssey of the Mind Northern VA regions experienced growth due to increasing popularity and interest in Odyssey of the Mind. The scarcity of high schools that could comfortably accommodate a region tournament of more than 200 teams led to the split of two of the original NoVA regions. NoVA West Region 13 was split into NoVA North Region 9 and NoVA South Region 12. NoVA Northwest Region 15 was split into Catoctin Region 14 and Dulles Region 16.
In March 2020, the organization faced unprecedented challenges as all remaining regional tournaments were canceled just before the VA Superintendent of Public Instruction suspended all extracurricular activities due to COVID-19 health and safety precautions. Fortunately, Creative Competitions Incorporated (CCI) developed a virtual tournament format along with virtual training tools and processes for regional and state tournaments and for the World Finals. During the 2020 – 2022 seasons, VA held two successful Virtual State Tournaments and advanced many VA teams to two Virtual World Finals and two World Finals. Several VA teams secured World Finals trophies and international recognition. Hats off to the many veteran coaches and new coaches who handled the virtual tournament format and kept their teams creatively thinking, motivated, and productive. We greatly appreciate all the teams and coaches that participated and demonstrated their creative solutions. While we sorely missed the personal interactions and shared excitement with the teams, we also express our sincere thanks to all volunteer judges who contributed many hours reviewing and scoring team performance videos.
Most of the region and state board members were previously coaches, judges, and/or parents and veteran OMers who appreciate what the program did for them, their children, and fellow students. What motivates these veterans to return year after year goes beyond mere Officials’ T-shirts, lunches, and pins. They share in the following enriching experiences:
- Witnessing teams evolve their comprehension of the Spirit of the Problem, leading to unique creative solutions, and taking risks to imbed their concept into the team performance.
- Learning how teams assessed early failures, solved challenges, or developed alternative techniques or approaches.
- Observing teams infuse their solutions with clever settings, scripts, memorable humor, notable creativity, and detail in the production of the set, props and costumes.
- Hearing young team members assume responsibility, ownership, and pride in their individual contributions to the team’s solution.
- Observing support and encouragement team members provide to each other during and after the team performance as well as their appreciation for their teammates’ dedication.
- Witnessing team members’ quick thinking when encountering unexpected technical mishaps during presentations, adeptly keeping the presentation progressing.
- Hearing the teams express anticipation for the next season, eager to demonstrate the new techniques and ideas they learned.
VOICES continued to flourish, offering creative problem-solving opportunities to students from kindergarten through college. We express our deep appreciation to the many VA school district superintendents, principals, administrators, and other school personnel for their support to the program and use of their facilities.
Some of our goals for near future include:
- Rebuild memberships in current regions and support development in central VA regions (Charlottesville-Richmond)
- Apply for regional grants to offset costs for VA teams advancing to the World Finals
- Apply for grants to update state and region IT equipment to be compatible with Microsoft Windows software upgrades.
We extend our heartfelt appreciation to all the volunteers who have contributed to the success of Virginia Odyssey of the Mind. Additionally, we acknowledge the dedication of our Association Directors (AD) from 1982-2024.
1982 – 1999 Susan Nunemaker
1999 – 2003 Lisa Love (1 st AD for VOICES)
2003 – 2006 Nancy Ragland
2006 – 2009 Judy Nuckols
2009 – 2012 Kimberly Beckerdite
2012 – 2015 Kimberly Beckerdite and Dennis Godfrey
2015 – 2018 Dennis Godfrey
2018 – present David Tsuda