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…
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!