Acceptable Behavior during Competition?

Hello Chiefdelphi. After an intense competition season our team didn’t make it to houston. Reflecting on our competition season together as a team, I came to find some off putting behaviour between some members of our team and other teams. Our scouting leading found when she was discussing strategy with others many male members of other teams would unnecessarily squeeze her arm or shoulder repeatedly, bug her for her number and even when she told them to stop and focus, they wouldn’t.

This started a rolling conversation where almost 5 other female members revealed they’d received unwanted hugs, requests for dates, and incessant text messages and emails. It definitely made my uncomfortable. To add, some male members revealed instead of their pit responsibilities, they were out trying to get other girls numbers, and were flirting with members of other teams.

What can be done to prevent this at future competitions, and to keep members on task? The conversation made me uncomfortable and our mentors won’t acknowledge it, saying its normal teenage things.

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Edit* when our scouting lead asked for them to stop they usually would, but go through the rest of competition ignoring her

That’s actually… kinda creepy. At that point I would possibly go to a mentor from that team (say it was someone from team XYZ, go to a mentor from XYZ) or Pit Admin, someone in power, and calmly explain what happened (probably XYZ’s mentor first)? Just say what happened, ask if they can do anything to stop it.

That kind of behavior is unacceptable. Talk to other people on XYZ’s team to see if they can talk to their teammates maybe?

Didn’t think to talk to the other team directly. Will definitely do that.

Simply put these types of unwanted interactions are sexual harassment and something that no one should have to endure at a competition. This type of behaviour is absolutely unacceptable and the students who partook in the harassment need to be educated.

If something like this happens to you at an event or someone you know, please escalate the situation to a trusted mentor who can then decide how to proceed.

Thank you all for the prompt responses. I have spoken to my mentor and explained it to them again with some replies to the thread to get them to understand the gravity of the situation. He now agrees how much of an issue this is, and is planning on speaking to the teams mentors today. Thank you for the help!

That is NOT acceptable behaviour at ANY time. I wish FIRST required the “traffic light” video to be shown to every team every year. You should go to a mentor on the offending team and explain what happened. If the problem persists, take it to a higher power, like pit admin, or even finding an organizer.

As Karthik said, this is sexual harassment. It’s terrible.

I agree. Sometimes people unknowingly do this kind of stuff, not realizing it’s unacceptable. Better education Re: what constitutes harassment is definitely a way to start addressing the issue. If the issue persists, my mentor plans on taking it up with FIRST directly.

I can see your point, however in the cases you brought up, it seems intentional. I think it’s usually pretty clear when it’s unintentional, but either way it’s not good.

I see you’re from the USA, so maybe reviewing Title IX videos with your team would help?

Yeah that might help. I wish this was brought up at comps so it could have been taken care of and/or stopped asap.

+1 To everything Karthik said.

In addition, please tell (or have a mentor tell) the VC for the event or anyone else in a blue vest. VCs have the most training and experience dealing with sexual harassment issues at events and will be able to provide the widest range of resources. This also ensures that information about these behaviors filters up to HQ so that it can be addressed at the organization level. Nobody should be forced to deal with sexual harassment at a FIRST event. Period.

The first step, which you did, was to report the behaviour to one of your own mentors. I’m disappointed that their first reaction was “these are normal teenage things”, but that’s another conversation.

At a competition recently I overheard a lot of boisterous behaviour coming from another team in the stands near us. A boy came running to his friends screaming “I GOT HER NUMBER!!!” and was greeted with cheers, high fives, etc. While it’s possible that this was all perfectly innocent, when I hear your story on the flipside, it is a reminder to everyone to respect boundaries and also to watch out for each other. While we generally teach kids to persevere at your task until you succeed, this is one scenario where that approach might be quite inappropriate.


And this:

Mentors (and students too) - you should all know that the Non-Medical Incident Report (NMIR) forms are available from Pit Admin. These are incident report forms that can be filled out and filed for incidents such as these. At bare minimum, filling them out lets HQ know about the issues and leaves a trail of documentation.

Wow didn’t know about the NMIR. Wish I did earlier but will definitely let the team know for next year.

Wow so many resources in place. While i wish i knew this before all this happened, im happy to know now

Hard to find online but this is the form:

I have to agree with what many others on here said. This is definitely getting to the point of sexual harassment. This cannot be acceptable and needs to have harsh consequences. We also need an environment where people aren’t afraid to report this behavior.

When it comes to the phone numbers and dating, this on teams is inevitable, especially with hormones running around. It’s one thing if they ask once and mean in genuinely and not as a joke. I don’t see anything wrong with that. If it is persistent and or as a joke, this turns into harassment and is not ok.

Another thing to consider is when even acceptable behavior is impeding students from their main roles. If the primary motive behind going to a robotics competition isn’t focused on some aspect of the event, the member needs to be terminated, end of story. If acceptable behavior is happening in regards to dating, and it’s during free time (not impeding team responsibilities), there is nothing wrong with it in my eyes. The only issue is that it is rare that there is enough break time to fraternize when your true motive is behind robotics.

A good conversation to have should be breaking down what is NORMAL and ACCEPTABLE behavior and what is not. As many have said already, the scenario that you presented is definitely harassment and needs to be addressed.

Can we open up the discussion now to what is acceptable? Many of us have found our forever significant others through his program. Dating within FIRST can be awesome. But there’s definitely an appropriate way of handling it.

One section from our team handbook:

You did not join robotics to meet boys, and competition is not a dating service. While meeting people on other teams is highly encouraged, flirting will not be tolerated. Flirting can also be seen as undermining the integrity of the team as far as being taken seriously as competitors in the pits and on the field. Phone numbers should not be given out to other teams. Should you become the recipient of unwanted attention, please notify a mentor.

Note that this policy isn’t just based on “team image” - it’s a YPP concern as well. Giving out personal contact info opens students up to all sorts of stuff. Our team is instructed to give out our team contact e-mail address, which lets the mentors be involved and filtering things to ensure everything remains professional. In many cases (when it seems like a normal team-to-team e-mail, like asking for assistance or info on one of our events, etc), our captains or other team leaders are encouraged to reply, but in some cases things just don’t feel right, or it seems more like an attempt to get personal contact info, and a mentor will handle the reply.

As an all girls team, we have to deal with unwanted attention. A lot. Having to deal with it and having to constantly ask guys on other teams to restrain themselves leads to unfortunate reputation issues. The team got an e-mail from someone on another team after one of our events this year that said:

I’d just like to say that what I’d heard from other people about how “The Robettes are extremely rude to men”, was in fact quite the opposite. Several of your members were very kind to me so I’m very happy that the rumors were false.

We’re as nice as we can be, but we get a reputation of being “rude to men” because we have to constantly assert ourselves as equals when we aren’t treated as such. We have to constantly turn down advances from others. Every event we get a couple of guys from other teams that want to just hangout in our pit the entire time - not because they want to learn about what we do or discuss strategy or anything like that… but because they want to be there to talk to girls in the hopes of getting a phone number by the end of the event. And even worse, those same individuals will try to assert themselves in solving issues for us that we never asked for help with and don’t need help with, which undermines our entire team. How do you tell such a person to go away after hours of meaningless attention without having them go back and tell their friends that you’re rude?

This type of behavior is, quite simply, unprofessional. You don’t go around at work stalking your female coworkers, yet that happens at competition. Every team needs to spend time talking to their students about how to act professionally at competition and around other teams. Because, quite frankly, we notice when teams aren’t professional, and it can have a long lasting impact on how we view your whole team.

I’ll admit, I don’t have the best perspective of this, but doing my level best to “put myself in their shoes” and be fairly gender-neutral here.

If one student comes up to another student and makes a genuine attempt to socialize and start a relationship (I’m using a very broad definition of that here, including acquaintance and friendship), if they get shot down, so to speak, and graciously walk away or change the topic, respecting the other student’s wishes and makes no further attempt, great.

What if that situation plays out multiple times, by different approaching students with no knowledge of those that already tried before, toward the same student?

To cite a concrete example, what if 2 dozen boys (lets even say from different teams) attempt to hit on a girl at a competition? Perhaps none know the others tried. Individually, if they respected the girl’s decision to decline, that would be ok… individually.

But from the perspective of the student who is “constantly” approached, it may well, and rightfully, appear to be harassment.

At the same time, and I can speak to this point from experience, boys at this age are walking bags of hormones. It doesn’t excuse bad behavior, but challenges us to educate them that even with the best of intentions, do they really want to be the 5th, 10th, 20th, person to attempt to hit on the same girl at a robotics competition, while wanting to respect the want/need to socialize. (And learn social norms).

Specifically, I would hope this was not our event, and was not any of the students on my team. If I were approached with a situation like this (or saw students on my team giving/getting high-fives after getting a phone number), I can assure you there would be some serious discussions.

No one should be made to feel harassed, or uncomfortable, period. Especially at a robotics event.