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Unread 04-16-2013, 07:43 AM
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Dealing with Disappointment

Good morning, FIRSTers.

Before anything, I want to send the love and thoughts of every member of 3337 to everyone involved and hurt in the Boston Marathon bombings. To be honest, it wounds all of us in some way.

My main topic today is called dealing with disappointment. This has been one of the best and worst seasons that I've had the privileged to coach. It is my third, and the first season that our team has won no awards and has not been in any eliminations. We got to experience a large dose of disappointment as we watched our robot fail time and time again, and experience the sting of watching other teams walk up to the stage to get every award under the sun.

Secondly, after being invited to go to the World Championship because of the Waitlist this past Friday, we experienced the sting of administrative bureaucracy as we managed to find the funding, the bus, and the hotel in a period of two days and then not be given permission, then given permission, then not given permission again by our administrator. So our season is officially done.

With these things in mind, I bring up this topic. How does your team deal with disappointment? Like it or not, there are countless teams that have to deal with this feeling of loss each year. It comes at regionals, it comes from our community or administration or coaches or mentors or at World Championship - it can come from many different directions. When you've worked as hard as you could and still find that it seems to not be enough, how do you continue on without shutting down for the entire off-season before you dust yourself off?

This is an open discussion but I did want to give my own insight.

First - I've learned the value of redirected enthusiasm. While we were not selected to play in the eliminations, a team that worked down the street from us played amazingly well and ended up ranked #1. One of their mentors had been one of our students. So - once the alliances were chosen and I could feel the disappointment from the team, I brought everyone outside and had a discussion. We decided to turn our efforts to cheering on our fellow Baton Rouge team. It was amazing to watch. We were asked questions by a number of other teams. "Why are you cheering so loudly - you aren't on their team." But in some way we were. We found a team to invest in and used our best cheers, our best chants, and our roar of excitement from them. Later we were told that we could be heard across the entire audience.

Second - Never undervalue the benefit of instant refocusing. We all play with gracious professionalism, but in the end, when someone wins and we do not, it is easy to blame ourselves or blame the judges or blame a whole slew of other people. In the end, though, the truth is that someone did something better than we did. We lost the Chairman's Award because another team did some things that we did not. While we could discuss all day whether or not the goal of Chairman's is to inspire competition. In the end - it does. Until we've made it to the Hall of Fame row at Championship, we continue to compete. This is not a bad thing. Its not about fault or blame. I was proud of my awards coordinator this year. After the tears and the self-recrimination, she was able to refocus: "What do we need to do to prepare for next year."

With that question, we were able to galvanize our team, and instead of leaving wounded, we left motivated.

Finally, for the mentors and coaches out there - let our disappointment be our own. Don't bring it to your team. This is not to say that we do not express disappointment, but that our disappointment must always be contained in optimism, in the pursuit for greater things. The hardest thing to do yesterday was to write the Facebook post that told the twenty members of our team - some who have never been to a Championship - that their Senior year would leave them without ever having gone. I know how the system works though. I could have easily had every student's parent calling every person in our system from here to Timbuktu. Instead, I had to make the decision to refuse the desire for revenge. I had to explain that our administrator was concerned that leaving so close to the end of the year may affect the grades of our seniors especially and in lesser extent that of the rest of our team. I had to make the choice to write the Principal and let him know that I did not plan to go anywhere and that I understood where he was coming from. What words are we using when we talk to our team? Who are we blaming? How are we as mentors and coaches presenting ourselves? We we are is who they will emulate. It is the nature of coaching, the nature of leading.

I know this was long. I think I needed to write this out for myself more than for you. But in the end - the FIRST community - my community is who I can be most honest about these things with because many of you have been disappointed and then found victory.

So now again for my question - how do you deal with it? The feelings of not-good-enough or anger or frustration? How does your team get through?


Thanks for reading.
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2015: Bayou Spirit Award, Bayou Chairman's Award, Bayou Dean's List Finalist (Danielle Massey), Bayou Volunteer of the Year Award
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Last edited by MysterE : 04-16-2013 at 07:45 AM.
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Unread 04-16-2013, 08:01 AM
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Re: Dealing with Disappointment

Quote:
Originally Posted by MysterE View Post
Good morning, FIRSTers.
My main topic today is called dealing with disappointment. This has been one of the best and worst seasons that I've had the privileged to coach. It is my third, and the first season that our team has won no awards and has not been in any eliminations. We got to experience a large dose of disappointment as we watched our robot fail time and time again, and experience the sting of watching other teams walk up to the stage to get every award under the sun.

Secondly, after being invited to go to the World Championship because of the Waitlist this past Friday, we experienced the sting of administrative bureaucracy as we managed to find the funding, the bus, and the hotel in a period of two days and then not be given permission, then given permission, then not given permission again by our administrator. So our season is officially done.

With these things in mind, I bring up this topic. How does your team deal with disappointment? Like it or not, there are countless teams that have to deal with this feeling of loss each year. It comes at regionals, it comes from our community or administration or coaches or mentors or at World Championship - it can come from many different directions. When you've worked as hard as you could and still find that it seems to not be enough, how do you continue on without shutting down for the entire off-season before you dust yourself off?

First - I've learned the value of redirected enthusiasm. While we were not selected to play in the eliminations, a team that worked down the street from us played amazingly well and ended up ranked #1. One of their mentors had been one of our students. So - once the alliances were chosen and I could feel the disappointment from the team, I brought everyone outside and had a discussion. We decided to turn our efforts to cheering on our fellow Baton Rouge team. It was amazing to watch. We were asked questions by a number of other teams. "Why are you cheering so loudly - you aren't on their team." But in some way we were. We found a team to invest in and used our best cheers, our best chants, and our roar of excitement from them. Later we were told that we could be heard across the entire audience.

Second - Never undervalue the benefit of instant refocusing. We all play with gracious professionalism, but in the end, when someone wins and we do not, it is easy to blame ourselves or blame the judges or blame a whole slew of other people. In the end, though, the truth is that someone did something better than we did. We lost the Chairman's Award because another team did some things that we did not.
With that question, we were able to galvanize our team, and instead of leaving wounded, we left motivated.
In life you will be .500.

Sounds like your post helped you to realize that you still had a valuable season. Adopting and rooting for other teams in the Eliminations is a great exercise.

I have been on teams whose fortunes have risen and fallen. It is not about the Robot etc.... Really.
Losing, like criticism, is the only thing that motivates one to improve.

"Always remain in a state of becoming." ~Buddha
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Unread 04-16-2013, 08:17 AM
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Re: Dealing with Disappointment

I think your second point was on target. With awards, it's not a matter of people losing them - that mindset is dangerous and poisonous. It's just that another team was able to leverage their resources very well, and they should be applauded. If that team is close to you, like the #1 seed was geographically and emotionally, perhaps this offseason you can work on things together and not only improve each other, but improve interteam connections.
Does your team have any large-scale projects coming up that could be shared among other groups to the benefit of all? (cough cough Red Stick Rumble sneeze)
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Unread 04-16-2013, 09:08 AM
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Re: Dealing with Disappointment

Ha ha,

We are planning on working together with the Rumble - especially when they get back from World. And I should have the date confirmed by the end of day.

-Daniel
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Unread 04-16-2013, 09:16 AM
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Re: Dealing with Disappointment

Disappointment is hard. I'd even go so far as to say it sucks... But as your story lends, it is a perfect indicator of who we really are.

In my many years, I've been on two teams that never won a single award, and a team that "won every award under the sun" (seemingly). And every single year brought amazing highs and amazing lows for each team. Trophies or not, we had some amazing successes and some amazing stories every year.

For me, I've found that I go through a cycle. Sometimes it's longer than others, but generally it maps to the same exact cadence. And I think it nearly mirrors your story above.
1. The initial shock of the disappointment sets in...
2. Then the annoyance and outward blame hits my mind ("that team cheated", "they did this to sabotage us", "the judges were biased")...
3. Then the realization and inward blame hits me ("I didn't do enough", "I should have...", "I missed...", "That was stupid of me to think...")...
4. And then I fall back into the moment... the "What can I do right now", which usually lends to picking myself back up and making the situation right, fun, better, etc...
5. And the last stage is the shear determination to do better next year, and my mind will start racing with new ideas, new plans, improvements, changes, fixes, etc.

I will note that I generally go through stages 1-4 incredibly quickly now, and generally 5 hits in less than 24 hours. I think a lot of this came from being a team leader and having to "put on that face". I realized that everything I did, every emotion I showed carried into my team... so it was up to me to lead them in the right attitude. And honestly the true challenge and the most fun for me was in hitting stage 5.

I think its ok to acknowledge that many of us hit stage 2. Its just something the mind does. But its how we get past that helps define how strong we are. If you allow yourself to wallow there for any length of time, it can eat at you. You can get stuck in the rut of comparisons, the rut of jealously or the rut of aggravation. I've had moments or days like this, but in the end, my determination to compete, to win, to do better always won out.

And because it's so close to home, I will tie it back to the events in Boston for a moment. I think this city has shown amazing resolve, and everything I have been paying attention to has been of the amazing stories that have come out of this situation. I had several friends that work in the city, and several that were at the marathon, including one of my former students. The initial shock and fear set in as everyone tried to check with friends and family, but as we located eachother quickly thanks to the wonders of social media today, I started to see a few hints of the "we must hurt whomever did this", but then it started turning to the amazing stories of people helping eachother, people taking in displaced runners, people giving people rides home, restaurants donating food, people generally taking care of eachother. And the realization that there was just a calm resolve to help everyone in the moment and move through all of this together.

And while two very very different types of events (in fact perspective is a beautiful thing), you can see that its how we deal with the situations put in front of us, the disappointments, and the opportunities to do better and rise above those disappointments that really show who we are.
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Unread 04-16-2013, 09:17 AM
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Re: Dealing with Disappointment

Here's a thread from a few years back, maybe some of the posts will help. My thoughts are the same 4 years ago as they are now.

http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/sh...d.php?p=851898

Praying you and your team find peace, joy and celebration for all you have accomplished this season.

-Mike

As a side note, here's my post from a few years back: http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/sh...98&postcount=5

Team 1678 (who I wrote about in that post) has now won a regional 3 years in a row. There is hope
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Unread 04-16-2013, 09:19 AM
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Re: Dealing with Disappointment

Coach-
This year was very humbling for my team as well. 3999 won the Highest Rookie Seed and Rookie All Star at Alamo last year. We went into this season on an incredible wave of enthusiasm with pretty lofty goals.
Unfortunately, we all know that plans rarely go as we think they should. Our Chairman's submission was pretty strong(so we thought) and our robot was going to be pretty competitive(so we thought).
We did make it to the Quarterfinals at Alamo but lost to the eventual winners. The team did not come home with any awards. Our students were disappointed but we dealt with that by letting them know that the season as a whole was a success. We are going to be back for the 2014 season, have picked up a few new sponsors, have strengthened our presence in the community, and we still have the rest of this year to get ready for 2014.
Our team is more determined to come back next year and compete. Focus on the positives and use what went wrong as a tool to get better. This is the reason I keep coming back as a mentor and in the end it it worth it.
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Unread 04-16-2013, 09:26 AM
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Re: Dealing with Disappointment

We faced a similar season this year. It was the first time in 11 competitions (including offseason competitions) that our team did not make it into eliminations. It was very disheartening. We also did not win an award. However, instead of moping around, we cheered for our allied teams. One of our best friend teams one the regional, their first ever regional victory in their 13 years of existence. We really hoped and thought that we would get EI, but instead that same winning team won it and we didn't care that we lost it after they had won it. And then our rookie team went on to win Rookie All Star and they invited us to go to Worlds with them.

So, don't take losing as a slap in the face. Take it as an opportunity to improve and build relationships with other teams around you. If you truly feel you lost that badly, odds are you'll kick butt next season.
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Unread 04-16-2013, 09:28 AM
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Re: Dealing with Disappointment

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Corsetto View Post
Here's a thread from a few years back, maybe some of the posts will help. My thoughts are the same 4 years ago as they are now.

http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/sh...d.php?p=851898

Praying you and your team find peace, joy and celebration for all you have accomplished this season.

-Mike

As a side note, here's my post from a few years back: http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/sh...98&postcount=5

Team 1678 (who I wrote about in that post) has now won a regional 3 years in a row. There is hope
As OP in that thread, how I learned to deal with disappointments is to just keep things in perspective. There will always be someone who hasn't accomplished what you have accomplished, just as there will always be people who will do better than you. Brandon Holley also made a comforting post, he said that the fact that you are disappointed is a good indicator that you will work your hardest to improve in the future.

Best of luck,
Akash
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Unread 04-16-2013, 11:09 AM
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Re: Dealing with Disappointment

MysterE, I've definitely been in your shoes. I've been the driver coach of 1885 since 2007, and not once has our FRC robot done enough to get us to Champs.

In 2006, we made it to Champs because of RAS x2.

In 2007, we made it to Champs because of the waitlist. Both of our robot attempts were thwarted by random Radio issues, of which we had NONE at Champs :-/.

In 2008, the robot wasn't great either. It drove nicely, but slowly. It barely worked otherwise. We didn't have our lead mentor in Philly due to home life. It was rough. We made it to Champs because of business team though (EI), and were able to get the robot working great enough for a decent seed (lucky schedule though).

In 2009, our robot kept bottoming out on the regolith because the field was on carpet. It was manageable at Regionals, but at champs they added an additional rubber padding underneath which made the robot sink even more. We wound up in the bottom 0.1% of every statistic under the sun. We went to champs due to the business team.

In 2010, we went to 1 Regional, didn't win anything. We went to champs because of our FTC 1885 team, then wound up finding the lock-out strategy that worked great until Division finals when a partner bot broke. We went to an offseason and won it. 100+ matches as an FRC driver coach, and I finally got my first 'win'.

In 2011, we came SO CLOSE to winning 2 Regionals. We went to champs because of business team (EI x2). This was probably the closest thing we had to a 'break out' year.

Finally, in 2012 we seemed to figure out what it took to win CA instead of EI (well, we got both...). What it is, I still don't know. There is no magic 42 number, tbh. Just communicate what you do. Robot did so-so; we went to Champs because of the business team. Our FTC 354 robot did awesome, then went to Champs and won. Our FRC bot got to Champs Elims because of Karthik's inspirational words on Wednesday at champs.

In 2013, we're going to champs because of the business team (CA). The robot disappointments have been totally masked by the team coming together at the right times. We've lost mentors to their personal lives a few times this year -- even the primary build lead the Thursday of Chesapeake. We've had kids in critical roles be distracted, showing probably the failure of the greatest potential in a student driver we've had thus far. Yet we figured out how to keep moving forward. We've mentored and coached each other through it. We'll meet today to make a better robot for Champs. The plan we have is called "Going for Broke at Champs -- DRAFT.docx", though it will perpetually be in a DRAFT format, ha.

The point is, any team who is strong enough to face disappointment and come out on the other side will be bound for some level of greatness. All you have to do as a mentor is transform that into inspiration or motivation, and your students will catch on. Compound it all up over time and eventually the awards will come in.

I'm still trying to get a technical award for a software display, but I get the impression that's like telling a horse to jump a river of lava with demon frogs on lily pads of banshee fire. No one "gets it". Heavy sigh
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Last edited by JesseK : 04-16-2013 at 11:14 AM.
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Unread 04-16-2013, 11:37 AM
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Re: Dealing with Disappointment

One thing to keep in mind is why you are there. Every year and every season, I try to reinforce to the students the idea that the competition is but a celebration, success and failure for the team isn't about getting into eliminations or winning awards, of course those can be goals, but they shouldn't define the team.

One way to look at it, on average there are 40-80 teams at each regional, only 24 teams make it to elimination and 3 teams can win the regional, if you define a successful first season only thru awards and eliminations, then half of the teams failed. This is unacceptable in my mind with the goals of FIRST. Success is defined in learning of new things/concepts, of the level of confidence the students gained knowing they can solve problems, in inspiring young minds. Success is in the journey.

My main team has done really well this season. Before that, have only ever reached quarterfinal 1 time in the last 7 years (in the early years, we've had robot goals as simple as a robot that drove straight!). With this year's performance (5th seed at CVR and winning at SVR), we had to remind them (especially the freshmans) during and after both events, that everyone else have worked just as hard as they have to get there and every team was successful for being there. I know it sounds a little tacky, but i measure success in the growth of the team.
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Unread 04-16-2013, 11:52 AM
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Re: Dealing with Disappointment

To be quite honest, all teams go through this stage. Last year was a huge disappointment to our team. We won no awards along with scoring one point the whole competition. I will say it was probably the best and worst learning experience I have ever had. The best way to deal with it is to learn from it. This year, we were seeded 6th and made it to semi-finals and won the spirit award and recognized by many teams and we are going to the MN state competition. So, in conclusion, learn from it. It stinks, I know, I went through it, but if you learn from it you'll do quite well next year.
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Unread 04-16-2013, 11:56 AM
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Re: Dealing with Disappointment

Our team had to deal with disappointment earlier this season. We had a pretty successful season last year. We RAS and two other awards at GTR-E, won Archimedes at champs and we won IRI. We had a long way to fall from a first year like that.

In Seattle, our robot performance was very poor. On the practice day, we spent he whole day dealing with pneumatics and only got inspected in time for one practice match. During quals, we had two matches where we managed to have the shooter working and the rest we had to deal with multiple different issues that stopped us from being successful. When we didn't make eliminations for the first time in our history we were very disappointed. We had been planning a dinner after the event, but now we were ready to call it off. After some talking to from some parents we decided to have the dinner anyways. This turned out to be a really good idea. We had a opportunity to discuss our shortcomings, changes we wanted to make for Calgary, and review everything that went wrong during the regional. Not only that, but it improved the spirits of everybody on the team considerably.

I think a good way to deal with disappointment is to review a regional and consider your next steps. This strategy seemed to well for us.
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Unread 04-16-2013, 12:00 PM
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Thumbs up Re: Dealing with Disappointment

Interesting thread...

We've been there, a lot!
Our team has only won 2 regionals in 16 years, and not while this author has been associated with the team.

We usually compete in one regional a year, and for the last 4 years, have mangaged to get atleast into the quarter finals each time, by either getting picked or by being a runner up when a bot breaks. And the last two years brought home a team award each time.

This year we competed in two regionals, making it to semi-finals in both. The last one we seeded 6th for the finals. We didn't win any team awards, but we were happy with the robot and team performance.

So for us, yes we go through all the stages of dissappointment too, but we make the best of it, happy for other teams, proud of what we accomplished during build season and at competition.

And yes, try better next time, I think that is what FIRST is all about.
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2012 - Mainely Spirit: Spirit Award, Human Player Award- GSR: Gracious Professionalism Award, Quarterfinalist- Beantown Blitz: Finalist
2013 - Mainely Spirit: Sportsmanship Award- GSR: Semifinalist, Woodie Flowers Award- PTR: Semifinalist- Beantown Blitz: Semifinalist
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2016 - NSD: Industrial Design Award, 3rd seed, Semifinalist- PTD: Excellence in Engineering Award, 2nd seed, Event Winner, Championship; Carver Finalists

Opinions expressed here are mine alone, and not necessarily of the team.
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Unread 04-16-2013, 12:13 PM
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Re: Dealing with Disappointment

There has been some really good advice so far. So here is my 2$@#worth.

First, as my signature says and several posters have noted, you have to break yourself of the mentality of "losing" an award. This year at the Buckeye Regional 2016 won the Chairman's Award. Our Chairman's team (and much of the rest of the team) was disappointed at not winning. They felt (rightly) that our submission and our team were better than last year, when we won. The feedback had uniformly high marks and said there were two teams they were considering and it was a difficult decision. We have gotten that kind of feedback before (thank you 291) and it is always a little frustrating. My job is to make them realize that they did an outstanding job and even making the judges seriously consider us versus 2016 is an accomplishment. I kept asking them "Did you do your best?" Then you should be happy. Keep working hard and we'll be better next year. I do think that Chairman's is an easier award to not win because you get feedback, and that feedback can tell you where to focus.

My philosophy in dealing with not winning has been influenced by running and coaching cross country and track. When I was a senior in high school I was running the 1600 meters and winning the race, but in a slow time. I heard my coach excited yelling "You're on fire Greg." I thought it was strange, as I was running a slow race for me. It turns out he was yelling for a friend, also named Greg, who was in the process of dropping his personal best time from the 5:50s to 5:15. My coach was really excited by his race, and quite appropriately not as excited about mine. He did tell me "Good race" afterward, and immediately said "Look at Greg" so I could watch my friend complete his race. I was lucky enough to go to college and have a cross country coach with the same philosophy. I have always tried to coach like that. Focusing on every individual and the team doing their best. We have a saying on our cross country team "You can't play defense." It means that all you can do is your best. You can't control how well your opponents run.

I have found that if the adults are sufficiently upbeat about the future at the end of any season, most of the students will be too. Our team did not qualify for the Championships this year, and we already have many members of the team focusing on what we can do next year. The hardest group are the seniors. Their disappointment gets magnified by the feeling of this being the end. I have also found that my own disappointment is easier to manage when I stay upbeat and focused on improvement rather than immediate achievement. Coaching of any kind is really hard when you define your own enjoyment and achievement primarily by winning. There are always going to years when you don't have as much talent or when the alliance draws work against you and you don't advance as far as you would like. Only three teams win the championships each year. Only one wins the CCA. "I need to win" might be the kind of philosophy that lands you a coaching job, but it is also likely to make you unhappy a lot of the time.

When my college coach retired, there were national champion former athletes and never ran/swam a varsity race athletes there. While he coached many All Americans, what he most wanted to be remembered for were the women who got to run (he almost single handedly forced small colleges in Ohio to have women's cross country) and the legions of swimmers and runners who developed a love of their sport and a healthy attitude toward competition. I want that to be my legacy when I retire. I can think of nothing better than to have a bunch of engineers and weekend 5K racers telling me thanks for helping me a little bit with figuring out who I want to be.
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Team Spirit Award: 2007 Buckeye, 2015 Queen City
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Dean's List Finalists: Phil Aufdencamp (2010), Lindsey Fox (2011), Kyle Torrico (2011), Alix Bernier (2013), Deepthi Thumuluri (2015)
Gracious Professionalism Award: 2013 Buckeye
Innovation in Controls Award: 2015 Pittsburgh
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