I’ve wanted to write this post for some time, and with the recent threads about some events, it seems like as good of time as any. We need to discuss how users of Chief Delphi talk about volunteers & staff at events. It’s definitely not every user here, but there are recent examples (over the last 2 weeks), where many people have posted what can be interpreted as deeply personal attacks.
First, I want to give some background on me and my volunteering experience with FRC. This is my 16th year volunteering. I’ve been field reset, a scorekeeper, an FTAA, currently serve as FTA since 2014 and also currently serve as Co-Chief Field Supervisor since 2019. I’ve been to FRC regionals and district events across the country, have worked with hundreds of volunteers and teams from across the world. In 2016, 2017, and 2018 I had the opportunity to be an FTA on a competition field at Championships, during which I served as both Primary and Support FTA. All of this background is to hopefully show that I’ve been heavily involved in FRC for a long time and am not just a fly on the wall.
During the 2017 and 2018 Championship events that I worked, I struggled. I struggled a lot. I could barely sleep, I was grinding my teeth at night, I wasn’t having fun. I was stress eating and would go back to the hotel each night after matches ended and just want to be alone. I have many friends that I’ve made throughout my years in FRC and usually there are evening activities where we can catch up – I didn’t attend any of those. I secretly hoped that my field wouldn’t get selected for Einstein: I didn’t want – no, I couldn’t have handled - the additional stress of having to work in front of 20,000+ live attendees plus all the people watching the webcast streams. It was too much pressure. And I knew that any decision that I made would potentially be scrutinized by folks on Chief Delphi.
This kind of external pressure made me consider not wanting to volunteer any more. It was, and still is, not good for my mental health. After the 2018 Championship event, I decided that it was best for my mental health to not be on a competition field at Champs. I’ve requested to serve as an FTA on the practice fields since then (even though it was just 2019, I made the same request in 2020 before the season was cancelled).
I know I’m not alone in my feelings about CD affecting my mental health, because I’ve had conversations with other FTAs throughout the years. But like in so many other areas of our lives, mental health is a topic that is hard to broach. I hope this post helps others to feel like they can talk about their mental health. I also know that not everyone internalizes things the same way that I do, so I am certainly not speaking for all Key Volunteers or even for all FTAs.
Below are some example of what I’m talking about. These are all deeply personal attacks, or at least that’s how I interpret them. Am I being extra defensive because I consider the FTA a friend? Definitely. Do I think the FRC/CD community needs to think more about how the words that we write can have an impact on individuals (whether they are Staff or ‘just’ a volunteer)? Definitely.
Posts like the following are hard for me to stomach:
There are rules about not having WiFi access points in the venue for a reason. Non-sanctioned WiFi networks can have detrimental effects to the performance of the robots on the field. I was not at the event, but it’s my understanding that the Emcee and GA had also asked for WiFi access points to be turned off, and the response from some in the audience was to create new ones named like “ImNotTurningItOff” or even more vulgar. At this point, it’s not just the volunteers at the event that are aware of the WiFi networks around, but support staff at HQ as well. Both support staff from HQ and the Emcee/GA asked the FTA to get on the microphone and be stern about turning off WiFi. Which she then did. And now she’s being called “emotional” because some folks in the audience decided it would be funny to flaunt the rules.
The FTA made a conscious decision to be involved in the closing of the gates herself, even though it’s the job of the field reset team. She didn’t want the the poor field reset person to have to suffer while reading through a CD thread.
Also, the FTA didn’t make a decision to prevent the entire alliance from playing. That call was, and is, the Head Ref’s final decision to make. We don’t know what was said between the FTA and the HR while the far gate was closed, but she’s clearly passionate about whatever it was. I don’t bring up the decision-making process to shift the blame from the FTA to the HR - the blame should lie with HQ and with the rules they have written. This is reinforced by Frank’s blog post: https://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/frc/blog/2022-timeout-trouble
I’d also like to emphasize that we instruct our volunteers to follow the rules as FIRST HQ has written them. If time is up, and a referee or an FTA closes the gate on the field with a playoff team still in the pits, they are doing as instructed, whether they like it or not (and very likely, not). I ask that you direct any feedback or concern you have about this to FIRST HQ.
And since Brian Maher has so kindly notified everyone, the FTA is an employee at HQ. She, and the rest of the staff for FRC, definitely give more than “the hours of training & years of volunteering.” They are consistently working 7 days a week for months at a time to try to make the FRC program the best it can be - and they damn sure aren’t doing it for the money. Is FRC perfect? Nope. Is there room for improvement? Yep. Should we make assumptions about the intention of the decision to close the gates? 100% no. I can guarantee you that the FTA and HR did not want to “ruin the teams’ seasons”.
I too am nervous and terrified to post because of the backlash that I’ll receive. Sometimes CD is amazing (like the jumping robot reveal last week); sometimes CD is radioactive.
I’m not sure how to respond to this one. I think Bryan probably said it best.
There’s a lot of anger in the whole thread directed at the volunteers, specifically the FTA.
I hope that we, as a community, can come together and make the decision to treat each other with respect that we all deserve. I know that folks can get extremely passionate about FRC, but please let’s turn that passion into something productive. The “New Timeout Rules” thread is a great example of this!