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Unread 03-22-2011, 02:44 PM
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Re: Coaches/Mentors on the Drive Team

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Originally Posted by wevets View Post

1. It imparts to the students that they don't have the ability to be analysts.
2. It deprives some student of a position on the drive team.
3. If, in fact, coaches/mentors have better judgement than students, it gives an unfair advantage to a team that has an adult on the drive team when other teams don't.
4. It just seems contrary to the FIRST principal that this is a competition of students, by students and for students.
1. Our student "analyst" didn't feel left out, he was our head strategist. Our Drive Coach never gets involved with the actual strategy itself, we have a student to delegate that with other teams than he tells the drive crew what's going on. He used the opportunity to help alert the other alliances like "minibot down!" and was able to be in a calm place to study the teams on the opposing alliance (scouting never ends at regional - it's year round for those who really know what they're doing). The adult drive coach on our team acts as the overall eyes for our drivers and pays attention to the clock (it's no different than coaching little league or soccer). Also we have a very close relationship between mentors and students on the team and having their drive coach there to console them right there when the Jag exploded during Lone Star Finals was nice. I even asked them and said that we wouldn't do it if they felt something was being taken away from them and they said it didn't, it helped them.

2. He didn't feel deprived or any other student on our team. Students and Mentors work together, it's all student designed and built but it's under mentor guidance so the student can learn on to design with realistic understanding with realistic goals in the short time and small budget we're given.

3,4. FIRST isn't a competition of by students for students (I believe it was by Dean Kamen and Woodie Flowers ). It's about For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology and their mission statement. Teams will never be successful if they don't have mentors to help guide them and drive them. It should never be one or the other, it needs to be a beautiful synchronization of both worlds motivating each other and even though one is teaching the other more, I learn from my students and fall more in love with the team every day. Thus great teams like 16, Bomb Squad with the Novaks come out. If FIRST was about doing the competition without the mentors than they wouldn't have been working so hard to make sure mentors feel appreciated at the competitions and giving every mentor a certificate and pin to say thank you.

I will say this, not every team understands how to decide how much mentor involvement there should be but the teams that do understand that FIRST needs mentors and figures out that synchronization between the students and the mentors, the team comes out amazing. Look at the Hall of Fame teams, they include their mentors as part of the team, not outsiders.
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Unread 03-22-2011, 02:54 PM
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Re: Coaches/Mentors on the Drive Team

To me, as a student, it doesn't really matter how old the RoboCoach is. My only concern is that they don't get ape-crazy when the game starts.
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Unread 03-22-2011, 03:24 PM
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Re: Coaches/Mentors on the Drive Team

While having an adult in the analyst position is clearly illegal, having an adult mentor in the coaching position is not only legal, but I also recommend it.

Having been in both roles before, I can tell you that there is a ton of stress on a student in the driver/operator position. As a driver, you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Every move you make is set up to be criticized by your peers. As a student, I always looked to my coach (or coaches as they allowed two back when I was in high school) to be the voice of reason. I dont know that I could have looked to a fellow student in the same way if he/she was a coach.

A good coach knows how to let cooler heads prevail at the proper moments. A good coach will protect his/her students from the stresses of angry team members. A good coach will protect his/her students from the stresses of other angry drive coaches. Fact is, I have seen coaching styles from other teams that I would choose not to subject a student coach to, because maturity in a situation like that might cause an issue.

I also feel that sometimes the mentors should be allowed to have their fun. While this competition is for the students, sometimes you do have to throw the mentors a bone. To some mentors, coaching is an excellent reward for a great effort they put in over the season. After all...most mentors are just big kids too.
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Unread 03-22-2011, 03:53 PM
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Re: Coaches/Mentors on the Drive Team

Quote:
Originally Posted by AZNkommander View Post
To me, as a student, it doesn't really matter how old the RoboCoach is.
There was a RoboCoach position only in 2008 (FIRST Overdrive), and like every human player position it had to be filled by a pre-college student.
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Unread 03-22-2011, 04:06 PM
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Re: Coaches/Mentors on the Drive Team

I thought about this issue a lot when the previous version of this thread was busy: http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/sh...ad.php?t=91144

This year I switched from student drive coaches to a mentor drive coach (me). I didn't realize how hard this job was until I tried it for an entire competition. My plan for future years is to give this job to a student in years when there is somebody that is committed enough and capable enough to do a good job of it.

For a student to do a great job as a drive team coach, it seems like a bunch of things need to come together. The student should be very assertive, quick thinking, very knowledgeable about the current game, have some knowledge of general wisdom from past games, be very good at communicating with the other teams, have the respect of the drivers, good at communicating with scouts on our team, able to concentrate on the rest of the field instead of being distracted by our robot. The list goes on... able to choose wisely which information to yell out, able to know when they should try to influence the alliance partners in a tactful way, able to keep their cool when other people are over-excited or frustrated, good at remembering to offer encouragement to teammates and other competitors, able to recognize new strategic options when novel situations emerge....

Basically, I think that the drive coach has a really tough job. Expecting a student to do all of that is a lot to ask. I hope to find the right student for the job some years, because they are out there.

I also think the coach has a significant impact on the competitive success of the team. And that is relevant, despite the fact that the competition isn't the main point of FIRST. Success in the competitions makes it easier to motivate the students. It's also a lot easier to take a defeat when we think we did the best we possibly could. And it doesn't feel that way if we were in the stands asking ourselves, "Why are they wasting time over on that side of the field? Why don't they go to the other side and do xyz?"

It does bother me to take up one of the precious positions on the field instead of letting an additional student go out there. It is a really intense experience that I wish I could give to all of the team members. For that matter, I have previously rotated drivers / human players / coaches to get more students out there. But that does make us less competitive, so it is a tricky choice. I know that if we manage to bring home a regional trophy (something that hasn't happened since I became the coach), it would be really exciting for the whole team, not just the drive team. There is a balance between the value of being competitive, which is shared by the entired team, and the value of putting one additional student on the field, which is a significant benefit for one person.

I don't have an opinion on the right way to do this. I'm just sharing a few thoughts since this is an issue I have been considering carefully.
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Unread 03-22-2011, 05:00 PM
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Re: Coaches/Mentors on the Drive Team

Quote:
Originally Posted by Avernelle8 View Post
1. It imparts to the students that they don't have the ability to be analysts.
2. It deprives some student of a position on the drive team.
3. If, in fact, coaches/mentors have better judgement than students, it gives an unfair advantage to a team that has an adult on the drive team when other teams don't.
4. It just seems contrary to the FIRST principal that this is a competition of students, by students and for students.
I've got an honest question related to point 4 that's been plaguing me for a while now. In regard to just putting students on the drive team*, how inspired do students get by rotating through and/or taking a position they're really not ready for? I'm honestly curious, as I spent 3 years as a driver but the impact was definitively long-term. It was also heavily based on adult coaching (see Paul and Andy's posts), but anyway.

How do you spot students that need 'just being on the field' or 'just rotating through' inspiration? (This seems like a skill I should develop if they exist) What does it actually do for them afterward? Any cool stories?

*I am certainly not saying that's the sole point of student coaches--I served as one (and continue as a mentor)--but if the point is simply "depriving some student of a position", I'd like to address the trade-off between getting more students on the field and impacting a long-term drive team.


Comment on point #1: Honestly, if I had a student who was capable of being a good coach but team philosophy prevented us from using them, they'd by definition be mature enough to understand why. Primary reason being because the actual coach's name is Raul, Brian, Derek, Paul, Andy, John...
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Unread 03-22-2011, 07:48 PM
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Re: Coaches/Mentors on the Drive Team

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr V View Post
The analyst should not be confused with the Human player that is functioning as a 4th analyst. In some cases there just isn't a 4th student up to the task or just a 4th student period. One of the teams on Olympic started 3 seasons ago with 3 students and 1 mentor so everyone was on the drive team. Last year they were at that same level. This year they managed to expand their program to 5 students!!! They also managed to be 5th seed!!!



If the analyst we are talking about is the 3rd human player, ie not the feeder then yes the are supposed to be a pre-college age students. However if we are talking about the regular long standing analyst position then a college age student mentor or adult mentor is perfectly legal.
Mr. V,

With all due respect, the word ANALYST has never before appeared in any FRC rules manual nor Team Update until this year (I have PDFs going back to 1998 inclusive).

The word ANALYST is capitalized as it has an exact definition for the 2011 rules.

Quote:
ANALYST – a HUMAN PLAYER that assists the COACHES with strategy. There is one ANALYST per ALLIANCE.
Quote:
HUMAN PLAYER – a pre-college student team member that fills one of the ALLIANCE roles of FEEDER or ANALYST. There is one HUMAN PLAYER per TEAM.
I believe that you are the one confusing ANALYST and COACH.

Quote:
COACH – a student or adult mentor identified as the person wearing the designated "COACH" pin or button during a MATCH. There is one COACH per TEAM.
There is no "regular long standing position" for an ANALYST in FRC.

The ANALYST must be a pre-college student team member.

Regards,

Mike
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As easy as 355/113...

Last edited by Mike Betts : 03-22-2011 at 09:01 PM.
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Unread 03-22-2011, 08:40 PM
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Re: Coaches/Mentors on the Drive Team

wevets, did we change your thinking about this topic at all?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Streeter View Post
(Then again, our team has a history of not correctly discerning the intent of various rules, so it's fully within the intent of the GDC.)
WE all have to assume that the GDC is basically intelligent enough to write rules that reflect their intent. Being imperfect (as we all are) they provide the Q&A forum to clarify intent. If the GDC did NOT state that the COACH must remain next to the DRIVERs and that the ANALYST cannot stand by and speak with the DRIVERs, then we can say that the GDC did not intend to prohibit that action.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Siri View Post
but if the point is simply "depriving some student of a position", I'd like to address the trade-off between getting more students on the field and impacting a long-term drive team
Some adults strongly believe that ANY adult is de-facto depriving a student of a position. I just as strongly differ with this belief: An adult coach, if selected by the team, can offer the chance for the entire team to have a winning competition, or (by not coaching) deprive the entire team of the same. This deprivation includes inspiration., since a regional win can be arguably more inspiring than 37th place and no matches after qualification rounds.
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Unread 03-22-2011, 10:21 PM
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Re: Coaches/Mentors on the Drive Team

Totally understand where you are coming from and can see both sides. When my drive team lacks direction, I make sure a mentor is down there (myself or other) when the kids have a good handle on it, I leave it to them. I've also resolved inter-team issues where my kids were insisting on something that didn't make good tactical sense (egos instead of strategy...it happens). In the end I defer to Paul and Bob as far as a proven record of success and some solid teams. (Congrats Mr. Steele...you and your team set a pretty high bar that I'd like to reach as our program matures).

Each team is going to have their own approach...as long as it's legal, and it's for the good of the team...it's the right decision.
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Unread 03-23-2011, 12:12 AM
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Re: Coaches/Mentors on the Drive Team

Since I was just discussing the relation to high school athletics in another thread, I'll use it again. In high school sports, who is typically the coach of a team? And if FIRST wants to model itself as a sports program for smart people, why would it not want to have a similar competitive feel?

While there are certainly instances of students helping to coach sports teams, they usually serve as an assistant, and it is not the norm. Similarly while there are students who can make good coaches for a drive team, this (in my opinion) is not the norm. Adult drive coaches can help to keep a drive team calm, especially for rookie drivers, and they can often give valuable experience to a team on what to do in situations.

I was on the drive team for 3 years as a student in FIRST, and I actually started as a coach before acting as a driver for the next 2 years. While I did well as a coach and enjoyed the position I can tell you that it was somewhat bizarre telling my peers what they did right and wrong in a match (even more so since I was 2 years younger than the drivers), and you tend to receive a little more criticism from other team members since you are a student yourself. There's also the unique challenge of communicating with other teams, especially those with adult coaches, because age is too often used as a way of brushing off your ideas. In 2005 when I was coach our team was ranked in the top 5 and had the second highest scoring robot at the AZ regional, yet I still encountered instances where an adult coach would not work with our strategy and simply tried to tell our team what to do. Student coaches can be successful, but they face some challenges that an adult in the position either won't have to contend with or is better equipped to handle.
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Unread 03-23-2011, 02:52 AM
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Re: Coaches/Mentors on the Drive Team

Essay time.

Our mentor helps us with game strategy in meetings before the tournament, and helps us plan out what is going on, but for a couple of reasons does not want to be on the drive crew: he recognizes his tendency to focus too much on a single robot rather than on the whole game and he would rather watch from the stands that be down on the field. He feels that, in terms of strategy, it is his job to teach us how to play the game, not to do it himself.

This does not mean that we don't get his advice on how we're doing in matches. We always go up to him to ask what he thinks we did right and wrong... it just means that ultimately the decisions on the field are those made by us.

We feel that having student drive coaches increases the feeling of camaraderie between the drive crew and between different teams. Although I am two years younger than our team's driver, we respect each other and get along really well--and the age gap between us is certainly less than it would be between a student and a mentor! Students often find mentors imposing and don't question their advice, which we find can be detrimental to the team.

For some teams, though, qualified student coaches can be very hard to find. If you have difficulty finding a student to coach, I would recommend having one volunteer as a commentator at local VEX or FTC events. Coaches need to A) not get tunnel vision, which is fixed by having to keep running commentary on four robots at once, and B) be able to communicate, which is helped by being an announcer. Field crew experience from VEX or FTC is also really helpful for developing strategies and learning how to work with alliance partners. Students can be great coaches given proper training and opportunity.

Great coaches can be either students or mentors... but either students or mentors can be bad coaches, too. Really, it depends on what you feel is best for your drive crew. I don't disrespect teams with adult coaches; I just acknowledge that they don't do things the way we do. I also find the notion that one is inherently better than the other quite hard to believe.
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Unread 03-27-2011, 06:38 PM
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Re: Coaches/Mentors on the Drive Team

Quote:
Originally Posted by AZNkommander View Post
To me, as a student, it doesn't really matter how old the RoboCoach is. My only concern is that they don't get ape-crazy when the game starts.
As a rookie team mentor (teacher) it was hard not to go ape-crazy when the driver kept getting close to the other alliance's scoring zone.

As a general observation, in the LA regional I saw many teams (some powerhouse) with an adult coach in the driver area. Sometimes hanging over the kids' shoulders even. I know my kids felt a little less stressed knowing I was there to give them direction when they got mixed up, and remind them of the strategy they worked on with the alliance.
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Unread 03-31-2011, 11:12 PM
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Re: Coaches/Mentors on the Drive Team

Quote:
Originally Posted by DonRotolo View Post
wevets
Some adults strongly believe that ANY adult is de-facto depriving a student of a position. I just as strongly differ with this belief: An adult coach, if selected by the team, can offer the chance for the entire team to have a winning competition, or (by not coaching) deprive the entire team of the same. This deprivation includes inspiration., since a regional win can be arguably more inspiring than 37th place and no matches after qualification rounds.

I disagree with those who say it is "unfair" to have an adult coach or that such victories are tainted - FIRST makes this rule with full knowledge that different teams will take different approaches. If you're going to put an asterisk on victories with adult drive coaches, you may as well do the same for teams with large budgets or where adults build much of the robot. FIRST allows all of this, because there is no "one-size-fits-all" on how to structure a team. However, I agree with those who say an adult coach deprives a student of an amazing role and growth opportunity.

Mentors teach the students to solder, drill, tap, program, and design. Why can't mentors teach students to coach the drive team? We mentors set a higher standard for our mentoring when we seek to teach the students so thoroughly that they perform well enough to take jobs away from mentors. To me, saying an adult should be drive coach means the mentors are giving up on training a student to do the job.

It's good when a mentor helps coach the drive team to victory. As you point out, Don, it's less good if a poor student coach drags down team performance, and the overall team feeling with it. The best situation of all is when a mentor-trained student coach leads the team to great success. A team that achieves competition success in this way has accomplished more for its students than a team with an adult drive coach. It goes beyond a better FIRST experience for that student drive coach. It produces even higher inspiration for all - it gives every student on the team another role to strive for, another "maybe that can be me someday."

Tournament success is all the more sweet if you achieve it with greater student involvement - at the lathe, in the pits, in the drive team box. Mentors sell themselves short if they don't strive for that.
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Unread 04-01-2011, 01:01 AM
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Re: Coaches/Mentors on the Drive Team

Don et al,

Yes, you have changed my thinking on this, but not much. I see where you're coming from and I acknowledge that others will see this differently than I do. Of course I can't argue with including an adult on the drive team when the whole team is 3 kids and an adult as was cited by Mr V in this thread. But that's the degenerate case and not common.

And it's quite clear that the rules allow for adult coaches on the drive team.

But I'll jump back to the sports analogy introduced by Donut: The coach may not be the quarterback even though the coach may call the plays from the side. The quarterback tells the team what the play is even though he may be green and scared. The coach will do his best to teach the quarterback before the game, but he won't go out on the field. Coaching is limited to what goes on between actual plays. The play is owned by the team.

I've read his post above this one a couple of times and I completely agree with PiKman. His "best situation" is, I think, truly best.

But I want to cite an experience I had with the senior coach of our team. I had been getting, shall we say, too involved with how we were programming autonomous. The coach and I discussed my behavior and he observed: "You are not willing to let the kids fail. I am." He was right. When the kids fully own the decisions, they fully own the victory. When the adults make many of the decisions and the team wins, the kids are on the winning team, but they don't fully own the victory. There's a difference. There's a lot of judgement here - kids can't be allowed to make harmful, dangerous or immoral decisions and they often need to be guided to pursue a decision to full closure or be made aware of alternatives. Providing and training judgement is one of our primary coaching responsibilities.

On the flip side, when the kids don't win, the common case, they should own that, too. Handling that with gracious professionalism, getting up and trying again, maybe realizing that they have a few things yet to learn and that their mentors are there to help them but not do it for them, is a very valuable experience. Helping the kids through this is a coaching job.

I've had this discussion with a few of our senior students. They don't like competing against adults on other teams. They think its unfair when they see adults on other drive teams and when, for instance, they see adults rushing in, even pushing students out of the way, to repair a robot damaged in competition.

I believe that we mentors should provide guidance and we should create an environment where the kids can learn to provide the leadership and ownership of the team and its results. They're capable if we let them.
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Unread 04-01-2011, 08:31 AM
MentorOfSteel MentorOfSteel is offline
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Re: Coaches/Mentors on the Drive Team

This is an interesting thread. As a FIRST newbie, I was surprised when I learned that it was legal to have a mentor in the coach position during competition. I was even more surprised when I started going to competitions and saw the number of teams that take advantage of this rule and the level to which some mentors get involved in the execution of the actual game. I was also surprised to read about the aggressive role that Amir Abo-Shaeer takes as described in The New Cool. My first year in FIRST and FRC has been full of surprises, but frankly, this is one of the less pleasant ones. I am against having adults in the coach position. This discussion so far has been excellent and has presented compelling arguments on both sides of the issue. I do not have much new insight to add, but I will try.

The arguments for having adults on the field that I am most sympathetic to are the ones about being there to help the students handle the stress, to protect the drivers from the ire of their fellow students, to intervene when competitive impulses start to erode sportsmanship. These are noble instincts, however I think a mentor can manage these issues without actually being in the coach position. I agree that it would be easier to manage them from on the field, but "easier for the mentor" does not necessarily equate to "better for the team".

The arguments for having adults on the field that I am least sympathetic to are the ones about making the team more successful and more competitive on the field. One of my guiding principles in making mentoring decisions is this: the drive to win should never come at the expense of taking opportunities for growth away from the students on the team. Of course having an experienced adult running the show during the match will improve the odds of winning, but it also deprives a student of a unique experience to compete and make snap decisions in a high pressure situation with thousands of people watching. For me, it is an easy call to make. Maybe this means that my team will never grow into a perennial winner, time will tell, but I can live with that. There are other ways to define success.

Finally, I think that some of the responders were a bit rough on the original poster and the assertion that having adults on the field goes against the principles of FIRST. It is true that there is nothing explicitly written in the canon to support this opinion, but it is still a reasonable opinion to hold. Everyone seems to agree that FIRST is about training and inspiring the technical leaders of tomorrow, it is not much of a stretch to conclude that putting a mentor into _the_ leadership position during match play is antithetical to this higher level objective. The best way to create leaders is to give them opportunities to lead.

-George
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