Some compiled thoughts about all this:
2022 will be the first full season of FRC without the bag & tag rules. Together with the change to these one-day events, FIRST Chesapeake teams will need to acknowledge that we’re entering a new mode of competition akin to the switch from Regionals to the District Model.
I would expect FIRST Chesapeake to begin their occupancy of these 2 fixed event locations beginning in mid-late February. This way, they can begin setup of the playing field as soon as they receive it from FIRST HQ. This allows us to actually begin field debugging in earnest significantly before other districts. (In past seasons, we have lost many hours of playtime from Day 1 of our Week 1 events, because the competition field was missing parts or needed troubleshooting).
We should also be able to leave the field set up between event dates. This removes an enormous volunteer workload. It also provides an opportunity for teams to visit the facilities for informal free practice on the playing field on weeknights between event dates. I hope FIRST Chesapeake will allow this. Since the practice venue is the same as the competition venue, we’ll be able to do accurate camera calibration at these practice opportunities.
HQ allowing this program deviation demonstrates FIRST Chesapeake’s growing sense of ownership for local program execution, and strengthening advocacy for our local teams.
Why is FIRST Chesapeake doing this?
Ultimately we have to reckon with the fact that we are attempting to play a shoulder-to-shoulder indoor sport during a pandemic. The normal mode of competition is inadequate because of the large number of external dependencies that are out of our control: the government must allow large gatherings, schools must be willing to host the events, sponsors must be willing to be associated with them, participants must be willing to attend them, etc. If we plan for full-scope ~40 team events, we are sealing our fate-- we’ll be faced with a series of binary choices: either hold the event or postpone/cancel it.
Organizations with a singular focus on traditional events, whose sole backup plan is to postpone/cancel, are simply not doing their due diligence.
By planning for single-day events in fixed venues, we are eliminating external dependencies while increasing our operational flexibility. For every point on a spectrum, we’ll be able to select and execute a mode of competition that maximizes our participant impact. For example, we could hold physically-distanced 2v2 scrimmages every night throughout the month of March-- this would provide about 250 play slots for an estimated 90 teams.
Single day events provide a way to gain high confidence in our ability to play FRC (in some form) regardless of pandemic uncertainty.
What's bad about this?
These events will be very fast-paced and we’ll probably get less total playtime than in a normal district season.
We don’t know how the cost structure will work, but (pessimistically) we expect it to be expensive.
The logistics of this season necessarily rewards teams who are located close to the two fixed competition venues, and burdens teams who are far away. The rule that limits judged awards for teams playing back-to-back events is strange and inequitable.
What should be changed to mitigate the bad?
The playing fields should be an order of magnitude less expensive, so we could set up additional fixed venues dotted around the FIRST Chesapeake region.
We should receive these playing fields in mid-December. On kickoff day, teams should be able to visit them at the fixed venues. Teams should be able to continue to visit throughout the build season, enabling in-situ testing, and lessening the need to build game element mockups for home use. Between official events throughout the competition season, the fields should be open for unorganized practice, as well as organized but unofficial play.
The rule that limits judged awards for teams playing back-to-back events should go away.