Being the drive coach

I’ve volunteered to become the drive coach this year.

After reading through the forums, I’m still unsure about what my role will be and more specifically, what kind of work I’ll have to be prepared for at competition.

Our team is competing this upcoming weekend. We have a practice bot that is just getting finished and half a field to work with for about 5 hours everyday this week. I’ve got this week to train myself along with the two new drivers.

It would be greatly appreciated if someone could explain the process that a drive team goes through from preparing for a match to finishing the match on the field.

Anything specific that I should be doing this week with our drivers?

Is there anything all of us should be familiar with? I’ve seen I can quiz them on rules which I will be doing tomorrow.

Should I be memorizing a set of strategies that we can use? How does an alliance decide on a strategy if all three teams are pushing for theirs?

How should I be ensuring that the operators are ready for driving on the field? Are there any drills that should be run?

How do coaches interact while the game is in progress? Is there any specific way I should be getting another teams attention? It seems like coaches will have to be communicating more than normal due to the nature of the game.

Does the role of the coach change much during eliminations? Does the first seed of the alliance have a precedence over the others? Is there much more time spent on strategy during the eliminations?

Sorry if this is asking a bit much, but I really want to be prepared going into our first regional of the year. I don’t want to mess anything up due to a lack of knowledge.

Thanks

I haven’t been the coach. However, I’ve picked up a few things from coaches posting on CD.

Rules knowledge is important. You’re already dealing with this.

Generally, the process of preparing for a match starts well before that match, when the drive teams agree on a strategy. For this, you need to know what you can reasonably do, and what your partners and opponents can (and can’t) do. (Get this from your scouts.) Discuss based on what you can do, what your partners can do, and what your opponents can do. Change it if necessary before the match.

Once you’re in the box, about to play, the coach shifts to more keeping the strategy going and giving the drivers broad instructions (as broad as necessary, but no broader), say “Block that robot” or “get that ball” or “we’re catching this time” or something similar. Trust your drivers to take care of doing that, and telling you if they can’t. You’ll also need to stay in contact with the other coaches in case of a strategy change or a breakdown.

After the match, you’ll need to act as a buffer for your drivers–you’ll probably deal with some Monday morning quarterbacks. Repeat the above until you’re knocked out of competition.

In addition to what Eric said, make sure you communicate with the other robo-coaches during the match! I can’t explain how frustrating it is to need another robo-coach’s help in coordinating a task and find that they are unwilling to communicate during the match.
One of the most important roles of the coach in the match is to call out the time remaining in the match every 10 seconds or so. Don’t forget to do this!
Something else to remember (and make sure the drivers know this) is that the robo-coach is the leader of the drive team, not the driver. You make the decisions (not to say that you don’t listen to the drivers or are in any way mean). The drivers need to know that there is a person standing behind them that is level-headed and will make good decisions during the match. It helps them to focus on their tasks better if they don’t have to worry about strategy or what the next move is.

The role of the drive coach varies from team to team, but in general the coach is in charge of match strategy and in-match gameplay. As drive coach, before every match I look at who we are with and who we’re against, and gather our scouting data on each team, looking over their strengths and weaknesses. Once I have an idea of what my alliance partners and opponents can and cannot do, I gather the drove coaches of my alliance for that match and meet to discuss how we want to play the round. We discuss what each team can do, what we predict our opponents will do, what each team will need to do to win the match, and use this information to develop a somewhat detailed match plan for each team on the alliance throughout the duration of the match, as well as contingency plans if something happens to go wrong. When everyone understands the game plan, we all head back to our teams and prepare for the match, filling in our drivers on what the plan is. Once we get to queuing, I talk with all members of the alliance members drive teams and reaffirm what the plan is. When it’s time for our match, we get the robot set up, and go behind the alliance wall. Before the match starts, I tell my drivers exactly what to do after autonomous ends, which sometimes will be a conditional (if we make it, do x, if we don’t, do y). When autonomous begins, I not only watch my robot, but my alliance member’s robots and my opponent’s robots. It’s important to see what is happening live and make a decision instantly on what your alliance needs to do and quickly convey that message to your drivers and to your alliance drive coaches. If you see an alliance member miss a ball in autonomous and you don’t think they’ll be able to score it, you need to tell your drivers to get that ball and score it first thing in teleop and tell the alliance drive coaches that that is what you’re going to do. When autonomous ends my drivers have a command that I’ve already told them, so as they do that I survey the field and see what’s going on with all robots on the field. I make sure my alliance members can do their jobs, and if they can’t direct my team to aid them in whatever way we can. In this game especially it’s important that you help your alliance partners if they’re struggling, because this isn’t a game you can play by yourself. As the match goes on, I tell my drivers what to do and update them on how much time is remaining and change the strategy based on how the match is going. If my drivers know what to do and are confident in what they’re doing, I can quickly scope out the opponents and see what’s going on over there. It is also important to communicate with your human players. However as much as you need to look at the entire field and talk to your alliance members, you also need to tell your drivers what to do in the match. Always assume that they won’t know what to do unless you’re telling them. Drivers are very focused people. Having been driver before I can tell you that when driving, all you see is your robot and what you’re doing. Nothing outside of the small radius you’re looking at matters. If there is something happening outside the driver’s field of vision that could affect their driving (ie a robot coming to play defense), it is the coach’s job to see that and quickly direct the drivers on how to avoid the defense and keep on their scoring path. One of the big keys to being a successful coach is communication. You need to make sure your drive team and your alliance partners can understand the message you’re trying to get across extremely quickly with the utmost clarity and minimal confusion. Work with your drivers on developing a common vocabulary that you can use so that both you and them understand what you mean.

Overall, the idea of what the coach should do is pretty general for the entire competition, but what you will need to do will vary match by match. The role of coach is very dynamic and requires the ability to change strategies on the fly to be done successfully.

Hope this answers some of your questions.

Right off the bat, just the fact that you are asking all of these questions tells me that you will do just fine at your first competition as a coach, taking the role seriously will result in quick adaption and success.

Regardless, teams have many different uses for coach but generally the coach is the most strategic mind on the drive team. This year the coach may be more important than ever as it would seem that this years game is among the deepest in terms of in-game strategy. The way that you choose to communicate and decide upon strategy is ultimately up to you but most teams will have a preset strategy going into a match.

Before every match, it is common to discuss strategy with your alliance partners. You may have to go find them, but they may also come to you. Be confident in your knowledge of the game rules and don’t be afraid to speak your opinion on what strategy you think will be the most effective and why. Even teams that may seem to be set in their ways with what they want to happen in a match admire confidence and competency in a drive team.

As far as in game coaching goes, you will just have to figure out the most effective way to communicate with your drive team members and this year, other coaches as well. Some things to keep track of may be time remaining, status of you alliance members, and effectiveness of current strategy.

In eliminations, the alliance captain will have the biggest say in what strategy will be implemented but it is still a very collaborative effort.

Don’t try to burn yourself out and do everything at once, just make sure what you are doing is effective and you will be fine, good luck!

I’ve been a drive coach on and off since 2006 (mostly on), so I’ll do my best to answer your questions. Let me know if you have any others, or if you’d like any more information.

Generally before each match teams will go around and attempt to talk with the other drive teams on their next alliance, in order to discuss the strategy they will follow. Figure out who on your drive crew, whether it be you, your drivers, your scouts, or some combination of the above, will engage in these discussions. Sometimes, when matches are close together, this discussion will get pushed back until you’re in the queue line right before a match. But generally try to do it at least 10 minutes ahead of time, to give teams time to communicate the strategies to their drivers.

More often than not, I find that teams are willing to cooperate on what strategy to employ. Most teams know what their role is, even if they exaggerate their capabilities. Teams are also pretty understanding and flexible about other teams wanting to get their mechanisms working on the field, and show off their capabilities to scouts. Granted, with only one ball on the field this year, there may be a little more contention for Aerial Assist. But overall, I only remember a couple of heated discussions about what strategy to use in a match. Late in quals, if a team is particularly high seeded, usually they’re going to be very focused on continuing to win matches to become an alliance captain. This may be the hardest time on attempting to determine a strategy, as they are going to be very win focused while other teams may be trying to make a final push at showing off their robot.

Both you and the drivers need to be very familiar with the rules. If there are any you’re unclear about, check the FRC Q&A. You’ll also have a drivers meeting before qualifications matches, and you should have an opportunity to ask the head ref questions about how they’ll be calling certain rules. It may be handy to have a binder with the rules handy, or to have it on your phone, in case an alliance partner is unsure of something or you need a refresher. There will be a question box where a student can ask the head ref about a ruling during the match that just transpired, should you be unsure of where or why a penalty was called.

Work with your drivers on some practice drills this week. Work to get a concise set of communications that can be relayed easily. Saying vague phrases like “go around” or “left side” may result in the driver reacting in a way other than what you intended. Come up with some simple sayings to communicate certain maneuvers clearly. Better yet, train those maneuvers until they’re second nature for the drivers. The less you have to micromanage your drivers, the better off you will be.

Communication with other teams during a match is always tricky. The coach will often have to walk near their team to do so. Speak up, but try to avoid sounding angry. Don’t touch them on their shoulder or do anything to take their attention away from the field. Speak clearly and explain quickly what needs to be communicated. Quick, one sentence instructions. “Help in red zone!” or “our arm’s broken, you guys shoot” are the types of communications you should give.

In the eliminations, usually the alliance captain (high seed) is given the final say on the strategy. That isn’t always the case, as some may chose to defer to other teams or get a group consensus. But assume the alliance captain is getting the final say, unless they say otherwise. After alliance selection, each alliance will gather and discuss strategy. Since alliance selections usually happen before lunch, make sure you find time to eat! Don’t skip out on getting food to talk strategy. Many alliance’s drive teams may chose to eat lunch together and discuss strategy, depending on how much time they have, what repairs need to be done, and the venue’s lunch situation. Expect for more attention to be paid to scouting information and the other alliance during eliminations than was spent during qualifications. More defensive strategies, and higher risk maneuvers, may also be used more often.

Overall, remember to keep your cool. Other teams are people, who can make mistakes. Your drivers are people, who can make mistakes. You can make mistakes. It happens. Take each one is stride and move on to the next match.

Andy Baker once said that the coach should always give credit to the drivers, and take the blame for whatever goes wrong. I agree.

I’ve been human player, driver, and coach in the past. I was coach last year, and this is how I do it:

—Before every match:
We collaborate with our alliance partners in making a strategy. I always consult my team’s head scouter, who brings us our database that provides all the information on teams from individual scoring, to predicting the outcome of matches extremely accurately. Based on this information, we use a strategy binder that includes dry erase mats of field diagrams that help us plan what we will do in a match.

I always ask the coaches’ permission from other teams in our alliance if I can coach their teams as well, and I also give their coaches permission to coach my team. I have never been denied this permission, and I do this to improve the communication between coaches, and between drivers, since drivers from different teams cannot usually communicate as easily as coaches can.
When I coach, I am constantly moving between alliance stations, giving other coaches instructions on what their team may need to do, and I accept other coaches’ instructions as well.

—During queuing:
I review the strategy with every member of the alliance, which includes the coaches, drivers, and the human players. I make sure that every single person on the alliance knows our strategy.

—When setting up for the match:
On our team, the coach sets up the operator console while the drivers set up the robot, and the human player stows the cart to the side.

—During autonomous mode:
I constantly watch the time to make sure that our alliance advances to the controls at time zero. I do not wait for the buzzer or bell to move forward, because the signal is usually a second late. The autonomous period is not ended by the bell. It is ended by the timer. Knowing this, I command all drivers to step forward at time 0 after the autonomous period.

—During teleoperated mode:
ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS keep track of EVERYTHING happening on the field.
Most importantly, keep track of the TIME! I remind my entire alliance of the time at least every 20 to 30 seconds. I also keep track of the live score so that I know if we need to score during a certain time. Sometimes, with the amount of time left, and with the score at the time, going a different route from the original plan may be necessary.
If there are changes to plans, I tell every other coach what is happening, and they will tell their drivers what to do.

I do my best to watch every other robot on the field as well, and also watch for where game pieces are, so I can also instruct other alliance partners as to what they need to do. From my driver experience, I’ve learned that drivers get tunnel vision, and when they are focused on driving the robot, they look at nothing else other than the robot, so they need a coach who has a view of the entire field to help them make better strategic decisions, whether it is driving towards a closer game piece that they didn’t see, or avoiding a defensive robot that they did not expect to be in their path.

—During the End Game:
Although the 2014 game does not have an end game, the keeping track of time helps me know when the end game starts, and how much time needs to be committed to fulfilling the requirements of getting the end game bonus.

—After the match:
As the coach, I disconnect the operator console from the alliance station, and I have the drivers remove the robot from the field, and the human player gets the cart back, and we head to the pit.

Again, this is just how I do it, and we got two regional wins in a row in 2013. Not only because we had good robots, but because our strategies were played through as was planned because everyone knew what needed to be done. We were undefeated in both elimination rounds in Sacramento and Colorado.

Welcome to the Coaching Game! I’m going to preface this with coaching is one of the most emotionally and physically draining experiences I’ve ever encountered. It’s a full time job during competitions, but it is extremely enjoyable and rewarding in the end. So I hope you enjoy your first competition as coach!

As far as preparing your team goes, drill them in real match settings as much as possible. My old team used to blare music throughout our practice area and have kids cheer and scream next to the field. Tip: On Friday and Saturday of competitions, things get really loud. You need to make sure your drivers can hear, and you can make yourself heard.

Drill them on things your team strategy will required. Trussing, passing, receiving passes, catching and scoring are all things you may want to try. If you don’t have another team’s robot available, have humans simulate their actions, like passing, trussing, receiving passes, etc. Just be careful!

Rule knowledge is important. I, personally, don’t like to direct my drivers every action. I like to give them main strategic points (pass forward-right, receive back-left, set up to catch) as opposed to step by step instructions (turn 90 degrees clockwise and drive, keep going, keep going…), so it’s important my driver knows what he can and cannot do to avoid fouls. Overall your drivers should know the big points to avoid costing your alliance the match for a dumb reason.

Memorizing strategies is where things start to get tricky. For this game especially, I think you need to know less specific strategies and more ways your robot can accomplish a task. When the three teams of an alliance meet, they all have common goals: To win, and to gain as much as they can to influence their seeding (i.e. assist points). Remember that. Each team will have their own ideas on how to accomplish this. This is a mutual discussion. You are all equal, don’t let another team try to impose their strategy on you if you do not feel comfortable with it, and vice-versa. Discuss match roles with your partners based on who is the most capable for the position, and what strategy has the greatest chance of success against your specific opponents. Make sure you and your drive team (as well as all members of the other teams) understand the strategy. Tip: DO NOT DEVIATE FROM THE STRATEGY. There are few greater ways to lose respect in the community then to deviate from a strategy and steal the spotlight, especially if you cost the alliance the match. Just stick to the strategy.

In-match, there is going to be a lot of inter-team communication. Make sure you know who is passing and who is receiving (have your partners shout “Team xxxx passing” and respond with “Team yyyy receiving”, or something like that). Just make sure you keep good, audible communication in-match. Other than that, it’s up to how practiced your drivers are. Make sure they stay focused on the match, and on what you are staying.

In eliminations, strategy does change some-what, because you and your alliance partners are focusing on long-term success, rather than just one match. It’s really up to you how you want to handle it. I try to treat it like an even fielded discussion, but in the end, I leave it up to the alliance captain to decide. They picked their alliance, they earned the right to direct how we play. But that’s just me. Other than that, the same holds true for the rest of the game.

Post-match is extremely important. If you win, celebrate with your team. If you lose, make sure to stay positive. It can get very difficult to keep team morale up if you’re racking up losses, but it is important not to let your team get disheartened! Wins and losses are meaningless in everything except ranking. If you perform well, the good teams will recognize this in scouting. Play your all every match, and always discuss with your team on what they can do to improve next round. Never stop improving! You can always get better.

I hope this helps!
-Leeland

Because everyone else has posted such great stuff, I’ll keep my comments brief. This experience comes first hand, as well as from listening to many of “the greats”.

You should work closely with your scouts, before and after matches. You should never go into a match not having a good idea of who you’re competing with and who you’ll be facing.

Don’t get tunnel vision to your team. Especially if your drivers know what your role is in a match, you can sometimes make far more difference coaching annother mediocre robot to great defense than by telling your team what they already know to do. This is even more true in elims, when how a third seed plays will often make or break an alliance.

Finally, and most importantly, your job as coach is to tell your drivers how much more time they have and what the score is. They don’t have time to look at the scoreboard in a match, and them having this information is critical. More so than anything else, this is your job as soon as the match begins.

To review:

  1. Know thine enemy (and alliance partners).
  2. Work with other teams during the match, if appropriate.
  3. Never leave your alliance partners guessing about time or score.

Your drivers have tunnel vision since they will be super focused on your team’s robot. There is a lot of other stuff going on that they won’t be aware of, so the coach should try to pay attention to those things: the score, the clock, and the other five robots. That is pretty challenging, because your instinct is to watch your own robot.

Sometimes the drivers won’t give up on a task that isn’t working. Your fans in the crowd will be asking “why don’t they give up on that and do the other thing?” Drivers have a certain expectation of what is going to happen, and under the time crunch of an intense match they are often poor at changing tactics when things go differently than expected. The coach should try to have the presence of mind to recognize those situations and make adjustments.

I have been a drive team coach for many years both as a student and as an adult mentor. I have coached both a rookie team and veteran teams.

As drive coach, your role at a very minimum will be to keep your drivers focused at the task at hand. Ultimately you have to do what your drivers need you to do and as you’ve spent some time coaching you’ll get a feel for that. It isn’t something we’ll be able to tell you. Some drivers need a lot of work; some only need a little bit. At competition, while in interactions with other teams, your role will be to act as an advocate for your team. The drive coach should be present in the discussions of strategy with other teams, ahead of a match, in the pits (Not in the cue). They should be familiar with both the teams on their own alliance and with the teams they will be competing against. Keep track of your drivers and make sure you know the match schedule well.

A timeline of events from before a match to after a match goes like this:
Teams start out by getting together in the pits to discuss strategy for the upcoming match. Teams work together to figure out what the best role will be for all robotics involved in the match and also discuss potential issues with the opposing alliance including working offense and potentially defense. The drive coach makes sure all the drivers are present with the robot and all are ready to cue at the appropriate time. While in the cue, go over the robot and make sure it is ready for the match, confirm strategy with the other alliance member and make sure the level of function of all the robots has not changed. The coach may also have to run and get anything that is missing. Here is where many teams differ and you need to plan ahead of time what you want to do. Sometimes the coach will help carry the robot onto the field. Sometimes the coach is simply in charge of moving things out of the way for the students. I, personally, allow the students to handle everything and do what they need me to do. When the match starts, make sure your drivers do not jump in during autonomous. They must stay behind the line. After the match, assist in taking everything off the field and debrief with the drive team. This is the time to talk about how a driver could have done things differently, give them praise for things in the match, or whatever you need to do. It may be wise to use the roses, thorns, and buds techniques. Tell the students things they did well (Roses), things they could improve on (thorns), and things that are starting to look good but could still use work(Buds). Be sure to keep the message positive overall.

This week, try to get a feel for what your drivers need. Run timed matches, don’t just drive. Set the clock and start. Even practice load on and load off so you have a feel for what the role of each drive team member is.
As far as being familiar with the rules, focus on the things that can earn you fouls. Communicate frequently with your human player because he/she is a very important part of the drive team and this year can rapidly incur a large amount of foul points easily.

As far as the strategies go, this is your most important role as a coach. As a drive coach you will be the advocate for your team in making sure your robot’s strengths are incorporated into your alliances strategies. Often coaches, especially adult coaches, can be pushy when it comes to strategy decisions and it is important to remember to hold your ground especially when you feel as though you have a good grasp for your team’s performance and strengths and you feel as though they are going to be misused in that particular match. Teams will often misrepresent their performance in a strategy meeting and you need to be able to identify and gently correct those situations while also being realistic about what your robot can do. Over-inflating your performance only hurts your alliance as a whole.

During a match, coaches interact with each other and this year inter-alliance communication will be critical, especially later in the season or in eliminations. I tend to think coaches will play a large role in this season. While interacting with other coaches, stay calm, keep your tone even, but speak loudly enough to be heard over the sounds of competition. Generally coaches need to stay close to their drive team but if you need to move to relay a message to another alliance member, that is perfectly reasonable.

During eliminations, most of the strategy time should be spent between matches and not while you are preparing for a match in the cue. Often cuing positions of the opposing teams will be nearby and you don’t want to give up your edge with an opposing alliance. Generally speaking, there is no problem asserting yourself if you feel strongly about a position and have data to support your position. We have always treated eliminations as an open discussion but it seems to be the alliance captain that makes the call. We have been able to persuade the captain with scouting data, however. Strategy discussions should generally be closed-door with only drive teams. Don’t bring your whole team.

Best of luck at competition! If you have any questions, please feel free to send me a private message.

This is my second year of being the drive coach for our team, and I really enjoy it! The job really gets you more involved in what is happening in competition, and helps you meet other teams.

Last year, one of my biggest tasks was making strategies with our alliance members. Go well in advance to your alliance members and work out a basic strategy with them. I would usually take along our human player to help. Keep in mind their abilities and what their best roles would be. Sometimes you have to tell a team what you need them to do, and sometimes you have to act as the dominant member of the alliance. Other times, another alliance member may tell you what to do.

During a match, I think the coach has a much larger role this year. You must coordinate with the other teams on your alliance about assisting and other roles. The action on the field isn’t too fast-paced, so you’ll be able to be aware of everything that is going on. Additionally, you are the contact between your drivers and human player. Make sure they are on sync with their tasks.

I hope you enjoy being the drive coach. It really is an awesome job! Feel free to message me if you have any questions.

Good luck this year.

While I think it’s great that people are giving you a ton of advice, remember to develop you own style as well. And also be prepared to change your style based on your drive team. Some drive teams need more direct coaching, some need less. You need to be the flexible member, don’t try and force them outside of their comfort zone.

Above all else, this. Often times your teammates will question one thing or another even when you’re winning. You need to keep the drive team focused and positive. When you return to the pit after especially a loss everyone wants to know what happened or why you did this or that, you need to keep the drive team focused on the next match.

And this…

I have been on the drive team for a few years. Secondary Driver in 2012, Primary Driver in 2013 and now Drive Coach in 2014. While just this year becoming Drive Coach, I have always worked very closely with the Drive Coach. I will cover what I see as important. Bear with me as I feel this post will become long…

Your Role.
To put it simply: Strategize with the other coaches before matches. Direct your drivers during the match. Evaluate your performance after the matches. I’ll cover more detail on this later.

Preparation.
You are already doing a great job by asking these pertinent questions. Know your robot inside and out. Know it’s capabilities, including it’s limits! Consider possible strategies before you arrive at the event, what strategy best fits your robot? What styles of other robots best complement yours?

Mindset.
You are a liaison from your team to other teams. You share the same goal as your alliance partners. That being said, you love your robot and other teams love their robots. However, the best strategy may not be the one that shows off your robot’s best attributes. You and everyone else needs to keep the ultimate goal in mind, even if that means doing something you wouldn’t rather do.

A thick skin.
Sometimes there is a disagreement among the team(s). Everyone involved, especially you, needs to understand that nothing is personal. Everyone has their own opinion of the right way to win. Some of these opinions are bound to conflict sometime. Don’t take it personal when someone opposes what you think is right. You are all working towards a common goal, don’t let your pride get in the way and don’t let your pride hurt you when things don’t go your way.

Accurate Data.
Collect all the data you need on your opponent’s and your partner’s robots and capabilities. Figure out the strategy that you believe is the best one to win the match. Listen to the other coaches, though. In your discussions give solid reasoning but take all ideas into consideration. Others may have thought of something that you did not.

Keep a clear mind.
Keep your cool. If you stress out everything goes downhill. Communicate clearly and be reasonable. I’ve worked with some teams that wouldn’t hardly listen to our ideas, and others that simply went with whatever we said. Your alliance is a team, work with them.

Don’t Exaggerate.
The one thing that annoys me most is when a team tells me one thing, and then they can’t go through with it. I know you think the highest of your robot, but don’t exaggerate it’s abilities. I think everyone would rather win the match on accurate information than make a robot sound good but then lose the match due to improper planning.

Communication.
Communication is key. I cannot stress this enough. You and your drivers need to be able to communicate seamlessly. You should be able to communicate instructions on the fly in a quick, clear manner. Develop “shorthand” instructions if you need to. Building this communicative ability will take time, which is an excellent segway into my next point:

Practice, Practice, Practice!
Drive practice is critical. Get as much time as you can to practice. Your drivers need to know the robot like it is a part of them and you should know them just as well.

More about your role.
Different teams run things differently, with drive coaches doing some more or some less. I’ll just explain things based on what my team does.

Pre-Match
Collect information from scouts on each of the other 5 teams in your match. Your team needs to decide what kind of information you need to know. Actively seek out the other drive teams to try and strategize with them before the match. Sometimes this is hard since they are always busy. You will have a few minutes to talk in the queue but the more time you have, the better.

Mid-Match
Keep an eye on the field as a whole. Give your drivers broad instructions, “block that robot”, “grab that ball”, “shoot into that goal” are some examples. Don’t worry about pushing a certain stick or pressing a certain button. Don’t even worry about the details of the path your robot will take. Your drivers know how your robot moves, they can get to it’s destination. You consider the big picture. Keep an eye on the clock and the scoreboard. Communicate with the other drive coaches as necessary.

Post-Match
My team does a quick post-match evaluation of our match with our entire drive team, plus an “eye-in-the-sky” that watches the match. We cover what went well, what went not so well and how we can improve. I suggest implementing some sort of post-match evaluation. This has helped us tremendously. It is also a help to have someone else prepare the robot for each match. Let them worry about it and you can take a moment to get a drink of water, refocus, then go back to Pre-Match.

I hope this all made sense, there’s sort of a lot here. Please ask any questions you may have! Congratulations on your new position, it is a tough job but is also rewarding. Have fun with it!

-Calvin

Almost exactly what I was going to say. You can get some great advice from others about coaching, but the only opinions that really matter are your drivers’. Don’t try to force things on the drive team because you read something on CD, do what works best for your drive team.

Also, the first few matches will probably not go as well as you had hoped. This is normal. Identify a few things after each match that you were not happy with, and make an effort to improve them. The only way to get better is to recognize your weakness. Experience really is everything in coaching.

I have been on the drive team the last 3 years with my beat friend, Johnny, and have had 4 different coaches. This is what I like as a driver.

Don’t be my first coach that would stand right in between the middle of me and Johnny and tell us exactly what to do. The drivers know what they want to do, they don’t need to hear that they need to be a little to the left, or that the ball is right there. They know that and they don’t need to hear it again. Also, give us some breathing room (read: don’t stand in the middle of the two drivers)

Do tell the drivers what is happening around them. Did a team break down? Is there a blocking opportunity? Am I about to get a red card? You know, small things like that. Drivers don’t talk to other teams (in the middle of a match), that’s the coaches job. Are we going to pass the ball or catch or throw? Tell the drivers that stuff, the stuff that involves other teams.

In past years, where the game was more independently based (like cycleing in UA, RR, and logomotion) we would literally tell the coach to only give us the time. That was it. Johnny and I wanted to know the time every 10 seconds or so, and that was it other than alliance things (breaking robots/coopertition).

Ultimately, its what the driver want and need. The drivers know what they are doing, so let them do it, unless it is illegal, or, has to do with alliance things.

Also, a pre-flight checklist is also good for a coach to make and check every match.

It’s great that you are taking on the challenge of being your team’s drive coach. It is a difficult and taxing job during competition, but it can be extremely fun during competition.
The first thing that I want to point out is that you will more than likely be the most visual person on your team to every other competing team in the competition. You need to know every single thing about your robot in order to accurately set a good strategy with your alliance. You also will need to be the most gracious professional on your team throughout the day. That encompasses not exaggerating your robot’s abilities during pre-match strategy, not yelling at the referees when you feel slighted by a critical call, and by never blaming the drives for a poor on field performance. Developing pre-match strategy’s can be the most important factor due to team’s different feelings at that point in the tournament. My personal feelings are that the match strategy should be made in order to best win the current match but another team might want to “try” a new autonomous or new “goalie” stick when it might not be the best situation. This is where you would need to keep a level head and even sometimes bring in other team captains or mentors to make a final decision as a group. Also, once you decide on a strategy make sure your drives follow it even if they do not want to, a good pat on the back of the head works for this :wink: .
The other point I wanted to talk to you about is your practice time this week. Work on game specific situations in practice this week such as: human loading/unloading, assisting, truss tossing, pulling a motor pwm from a motor controller, missing an autonomous shot, etc. In order to have a better feel for matches and to learn more about what your robot and drivers are capable of. Another thing that I like to do is blindfold my drivers to where they can only listen to me while driving. This make both parties better in communication, but make sure to have your thumb by the disable button on your driver station ::safety:: . Good Luck this Season!

Everyone’s said pretty good things so far- Sean, Justin, and Calvin especially. Just wanted to touch on something I also find pretty important.

This one’s especially important in my head. After a loss (or even a winning match not going the way you’d planned) there tends to be this swarm of non-drive-team-students, either along the walk back to the pit or in the pit, going ‘what happened, why did we do this?’ While it’s certainly important to review what happened in matches and fix any issues going on, make sure you’re keeping your drivers out of that frenzy. Especially during the already-stressful elims. Keep them calm, positive, and focused on the next match.

On 1923 this is pretty easily solved, as we have one mentor who’s our drive coach, and another who’s the ‘pit boss’. When the robot comes back, drive team reports whatever issue is happening and passes on any relevant info, and the mentors and students stationed in the pit help take care of it without putting too much extra stress on the drivers. As Calvin said, other students who know how to prep the robot before a match can let your drive team relax before they’re meeting with their next alliance partners.

Sean touched on this as well, but it’s important for a drive coach to help act as a buffer around the students sometimes - when things go wrong, the coach needs to have thick enough skin to deal with things calmly and keep the team positive.

also as a coach it is important to be able to switch strategy quickly and not be stuck with the first thing you planned on doing. Also for this game in particular I feel it will be important to remind your drivers of a few things, 1) making sure all the Auto balls have been scored, 2.) keeping track of the assist points for your team. 3.) time left in the game 4.) keep track of human players position.

Thank you so much to all of you who gave advice.

Really has helped me feel more confident and ready for competition this weekend