Competition and Jealousy

For the last couple months I’ve tried to post something like this but it never felt right. It has been sitting in a document for the past 2 weeks and still doesn’t but I think the important parts are there.

Why is it that these people who Dean constantly belittles get FIRST better than the rest of us? When was the last time you heard a person in sports say, “[Organizing Group] needs to level the playing field because some players always win.” Take Sean White, he didn’t even need to make his last run at the Olympics. Did his opponents say he was just too good and pack it up? Did they complain about how unfair it was? Did they attack him personally? They may have in private but never did I see them insult him publicly. Publicly they acknowledge how hard he worked and how he deserved it.

I am from Michigan, home of the Lions. For anyone who doesn’t know about it the Lions stink. I don’t mean rotten eggs I mean like students on a 14 hr bus ride to Atlanta with broken AC stench. You don’t hear them complaining about how some team (I don’t know football) wins all the time. In fact, you hear them have the attitude of, “We are going to keep trying.” You know, I bet they know they can’t win the Superbowl right now but I bet that doesn’t affect how they play or train. I bet they watch what other teams do and try to emulate it. I bet they don’t sit around on the football forums griping about how the Packers (know nothing about football!) only win because have more money or because they have more people. Why the heck do I see that in FIRST?

Most athletes that I know of are not in it to win it. They are there for the love the game, they trained their whole life because they LOVE doing what they do. I think maybe that is the reason that FIRST hasn’t been more successful; So many of us, it seems, are in it for the wrong reasons. FRC started in a high school gym with no fancy lights, no cool audio systems, no celebrities. Just a group of people who had a passion for changing the world for a group of high schoolers. Maybe we should get back to that instead of worrying about beating other teams.

Sorry for the rant.

Eh Im in it for the challenge, winning is just a side effect…

Not saying I agree or disagree with your post but a few ideas/comments.

  1. While it may not happen as often in football, baseball teams (and especially fans) do complain about how teams have more resources than other teams. A TON of people complain that the Yankees just buy their championships. Recently, I remember reading a story where the Brewers’ owner or GM was complaining how they simply cannot sign their own players when the player knows they can sign for a ton of money with other teams.

  2. While most professional athletes do play for the love of the game, a significant majority (especially the great ones) play to win. I don’t think Brett Favre would spend most of his nights in the Viking’s film rooms just because he like to play (he could play without watching film); he does it because he wants to win.

  3. Did FIRST start as “a group of people who had a passion for changing the world for a group of high schoolers”? I was like 3 when FIRST started, so I have no idea. Maybe someone who was around back then could chime in.

I completely agree. Our club mission, verbatim, is:

Our mission is to help students experience the practical implementation of science and technology through the process of constructing a robot, and to interest them in the greater technological world.

Retrieved from:

But after last year, there’s quite a bit of loss in faith in the club by those who are completely dedicated to the club out of passion, because our club painfully clearly is not geared toward fulfilling that mission, but rather on winning. Winning should be (or is) just the medium by which the mission is achieved, though winning certainly does build interest.

It seems that our mission is a noble placeholder stuck on our website meant to gain support for the club. There are few people in the club that “get it”: gracious professionalism, FIRST’s mission, our mission, all of it. There is a reason why the Chairman’s Award is more prestigious than the Championship trophy…

But this year and likely for the next few years, it looks like we’re finally getting some members, including a mentor, who really “get it” into the leadership. Hopefully, our team is heading in the right direction…

P.S. The members of our team who care enough to extend outside the bounds of our team, i.e. look up teams on TBA, check CD, view past videos have this idol worship of Michigan teams (esp. 33/67) and Team IFI. I’m not an exception :smiley:

I don’t see how that’s any different from FIRST. The powerhouse teams are powerhouses because of a desire to win. FIRST is not all about winning, or the competition, but winning is a lot more inspiring than losing is.

I know I’ve talked to you about this topic before and this may be the 5 AM, Dew-fueled, engineering-analysis crammed overstressed brain talking, but I think athletes participate not because they love “the game”, but they love the journey to victory. Of course, most of them will not be successful, but they participate with the desire and relentless pursuit of victory, and that is what they enjoy. In FIRST, you get that too, and you enjoy it even if you’re not holding the trophy in the end.

There are flaws comparing FIRST to professional athletics:

  • We are not professional roboticists. To get a true comparison, you should be comparing FRC to high school sports teams.
  • Our continued presence in our sport does not depend on our performance nearly as much as it does in professional (or even HS) sports. When’s the last time you heard of someone cut from the robotics team, other than for disruptive behavior?
  • Even if the comparison was valid, most sports leagues do have some leveling mechanisms:
  • – Salary caps
  • – The worst team gets the first draft pick
  • – Scheduling
  • – In European soccer, promotion/regulation.

Are 1114 and 217 FRC’s equivalent of the “$@#$@#$@#$@# Yankees?” Maybe. But eventually every dynasty falls. It’s a special tribute to FRC teams and their leadership when the dynasty can last so long.

Instead of criticizing or whining about the best-of-the-best teams - and I’m not saying anyone has done that in this thread - learn from them. One thing I have noticed about every team that is successful in FRC, no matter how you define that, is that they are willing to share their success and mentor. They want other teams to be just as successful as they are.

I can respect the comparisons to sports but I’ve always thought that FRC can’t fit into that mold. Not even close. There are those who think of it in terms of sports and who apply the sports mindset to it, true - but the opportunities that avail themselves to the members and supporters of the teams and the program, stretch way beyond that mindset and narrow viewpoint.

We’re dealing with a unique and complicated blending of ages, talents, levels of skill, knowledge, and experience. We’re contending with communities who vary in their support and awareness of the program and its potential. There are so many parts of the program that are cyclical with students entering into the team as rookies and exiting the team as veterans - constantly. With that cycle, comes the responsibility of helping sustain not only the competitive edges gained but also the maturity and wisdom that should be growing and developing within the team and within the community. When teams are contending with immaturity in the members and in the team development, that is where jealousy will be found.

If you read posts and threads in CD that reflect this topic well, look at the posters. And - look at who is not posting in the threads. It isn’t helpful to the current membership of CD that is struggling with maturity, gaining insight, and experience to have the more experienced members of FRC refrain from sharing their perspective, insight, wisdom, and humor - but that’s generally the way it has been for a while. So - you’ll see a lot of posting that reflects jealousy and lack of understanding. Hopefully, a lot of this is actually addressed within the team, although - as new teams sprout up quickly, bringing new mentors on board - it is a challenge to help them understand FRC and the goals and mission of FIRST. It is also a challenge for veteran teams who bring in new mentors and parents - to get them up to speed in areas of the competition that can otherwise breed jealousy and resentment. It takes a lot of effort and hard work on the part of the veteran members of the teams and the members of the CD community. If no one cares to put out that effort, then the program suffers.

Competitors want to win - always. Wise competitors figure out what that means and what it takes to achieve that goal. Even wiser mentors figure out what the end goal is for the team as a whole in the long run - balancing their options with reality and then pushing for excellence both on the field and off. The standard of excellence off the field helps determine the mindset of winning in FRC.


Edit: an example of what could easily make a difference in CD - in threads that focus on what the best or most memorable moment of FIRST, FRC, the season is/was - many students post or may post about a specific moment during the robotics competition. That’s good. It’s nice. What we are failing to see, are the mentors and parents who could post about their best or most memorable moment of the season - keeping the threads shallow where they could be deeper - because of the wisdom, experience, and perspective that could be brought to the discussion. By having the input of the students combined with the insight of the mentors is what creates the beauty and the strength of the experience.

I am a mentor and my thought on FIRST is that winning is not the goal. The goal is to inspire these students in not only math and science, but in teamwork, respect, gracious professionalism, etc. I have been lucky to work for the last 3 years with a wide variety of students and every one has shown me there is hope for the future generation. They are kind, helpful, intelligent and great problem solvers. They don’t get upset if things go wrong, they just work through the problems. They would like to win, but are gracious if they are not the ones called for the award. They root for everyone and try to help those in need.

To me, the greatest awards are the Engineering Inspiration and the Gracious Professionalim awards. They show me the better side of FIRST.

I don’t think that playing to win is the problem…I think that everyone who is in any competition because they love the game they are playing also has a desire to win. Does that mean they had an unsuccessful season if they don’t win? No, especially not if FIRST, since success is measured on so many levels. This year we had our most successful season even though we never won a competition; however, we did win a District Chairman’s award which was sweeter than winning an event. Would we have liked to win an event or two also? Of course, but we’re willing to be patient and keep improving until we get to that point. We’re also not satisfied with one District Chairman’s award - we hope to keep building and improving there also.

Along with that desire to win is a feeling of wanting to earn it - I don’t want a victory handed to me. It is so much sweeter if you have to go through the battles to get there. Each year our team looks at what we’ve done and analyze what worked well and what can we improve upon. We are constantly looking at what the FIRST powerhouses do and try to emulate some of those aspects.

I don’t dislike the successful teams in FIRST - I use them as motivation to get better so we can eventually be one of them. Why should a team be faulted for wanting to win and being good at it? That doesn’t necessarily mean they devalue the other aspects of FIRST - in fact, I think you’ll find that most the powerhouse teams are successful not only in competitions, but in all aspects of FIRST.

A goal for me is to not only inspire students in science and engineering, but also to instill that value of having to work for and earn your victories. You have to take your lumps on the way to the top - learn from mistakes, emulate those who are successful, and just keep improving and plugging away. Persistance can be a wonderful quality!

I can’t believe someone hasn’t brought this up yet: Our competition season is not the first four months of the year… and it is definitely not about winning a robot tournament. The whole reason FIRST stands apart from sports is the definition of winning is totally different. You win at a sport if you can score the most points in each game more times than the other teams. At the end of each season, everyone’s points get reset. You win at FIRST when you achieve the goal of fulfilling your passions in a way that helps the world.

In my opinion, arguing about which teams have an advantage because of their resources is meaningless. My team has some excellent mentors that share their passions with students every day. Our students are increasingly challenging themselves to achieve more with the little they are given. Our seniors are attending higher education pursuant with their goals so that they can be on the cutting edge of their fields. This is what FIRST is about. The robot and the competitions in March and April are tricks to draw the students in. If my students graduate without realizing that, then I have failed to pass on the right message.

It would create an interesting dynamic if the 8th seeded team got the first pick for alliances. (You’d either have to get rid of respectful declinations or not allow picking within the top 8)

When you try to level the playing field between teams with no experience and teams with over a decade you run into issues. Its an idea I’ve been playing with but rather than leveling the playing field with the game, level it by making alliances of veteran teams and rookie teams, encouraging veteran teams to adopt rookie teams and help them learn.

They tried that in 2007. It was almost universally hated. The alliance generation algorithm that year separated teams into 3 groups by number, and assigned one team per group to each alliance. Playing against 1114 or 67 or teams of that nature for 3/4 of your matches or more (and never with them or with teams of their caliber) is not the most fun thing in the world, to put it mildly, and that’s what happened at some of the smaller events. (The larger events had it easier, due to larger pools to draw from, but there were still a huge number of repeat opponents compared to, say, 2009 or 2010.) Also note that age and ability are not necessarily related; I can think of rookies that are more veteran in action than some of the veteran teams.

A better way would be to encourage veterans to adopt rookies and help them learn. There are a number of ways to do this; the simplest is a pat on the back; a more expensive but more productive method would be to offer an extra discount on something. The hard part would be to convince the rookies that they need the help that the veterans offer…

My team generally runs on the philosophy of;
“We do what we do-with what we have”

Yes, I’m kind of jelous when I see other teams with robots that look way cooler than ours.(machined parts and stuff like that) But I feel like there is no need for that, I mean, we could go out and find a machine shop to sponser us, and that would be nice, but we dont need that kind of stuff to be successful in our minds.

My team has never won a Regional or Off-season competition. Yes, it’s frustrating to loose to basically the same teams at UCF every year, and I’ve only got one more year to drive the robot, but I just let it go, and think. “we’ll get it next year” :smiley:

I don’t think there is any real “jelousy” on my team, we just keep to ourselves and dont worry about how good other teams robots may be, we play at one of the toughest regionals is FIRST, but we dont get upset or “jelous” when we loose to teams that have won there nearly 4 times in a row. We just concentrate on getting better for next year so we can put up an even bigger fight, we did this after 09’ and it almost got us a win this year. so I guess it works?

I don’t think some attempts to “level the playing field” is belittling or bad.

Let’s be honest, the true powerhouse teams will always be powerhouses. I mean, always, like 1114, I guess.

In the NFL, for drafts, the worst teams usually go first in the draft picking order, in order to give them a little handicap – so even sports, this happens.

I am fine with Dean talking about “leveling” the plane field. Some teams may not appreciate that there’s a “handicap” for them, but then again, it’s just for the best intentions, and I think that it’s perfectly fine.

I mean, say that there was no consideration of any “leveling of the playing field” and the newer or less resourced teams looked up to the powerhouse teams and took inspiration from them. Why should that cease when there’s a “leveling of the playing field”? I think it’s great that we can both be considerate of new teams with tiny budgets while keeping the game simple and enjoyable.

We have to keep in mind all the new rookie teams that completely dominate the older teams!!! :slight_smile:

Team 2502

In my mind there are two types of teams playing first:

  1. The power-house win-win-win teams that have great resources at their disposal and very effective management.

  2. The teams that just like making robots and competing for the sake of making a robot and competing with it, and maybe having an upset win here or there to make things interesting.

To be honest the most fun and enjoyable teams that I’ve ever been on (Robotics, Soccer, Volleyball, Ski Racing, Formula SAE, etc) always played because it was fun and we enjoyed it. There was always some team with way more resources, better equipment, more practice, better skis, or a faster car, it might just be me, but I love simply competing, regardless of the outcome. I find it very satisfying to give something 100% of my effort.

Oh, I completely agree. I was just responding to the quote by the OP: “Most athletes that I know of are not in it to win it.” I do think the powerhouse teams do play to win and the desire to win a certainly a good thing. Of course, if taken too far (such as winning at all costs by cheating), the desire can have negitive impacts. I do not think we are at that stage, yet.

My team has had limited success winning (we qualified for elims our rooke year, 2008), but the goal of FIRST to me is far broader than that. Sure, winning would be nice, but it requires sacrifices. If I am under extreme pressure (more that there already is to build a robot in 6 weeks) to win, it takes away the fun to a degree. I enjoy being able to laugh and joke with my team mates, even at the competition. If we ship a working robot and do ok at the competition, we feel accomplished.

Winning would be nice, but the goal of this whole crazy project is to learn and spread the influence of technology. As long as I learn and have fun, I feel like FIRST has done its job. If I win in compeition, thats icing on the cake. Granted my team does not have all the resources 1114 or 267 have, but we do what we can with what we have, and it adds to the challenge.

Interesting side note: we won the Engieneering Excellence Award and no one from our team was left at the competition to accept it. We dont put a lot of emphasis on trophies, but building skills, memories and friends.

Powerhouse teams also are very good inspiration for smaller teams with less resources. Teams watch and see robots that make their own look primitive at times, but it gives teams something to work towards. We may not have the financial resources, but seeing what resources can get your makes us want to find new sponsors. My team now, is far from being a powerhouse team, but we constantly look to what the powerhouse teams do as inspiration to make our team as effective and useful we can be with the resources we have. They make FRC interesting by showing what students together with mentors can achieve at their best, and give a good example of what teams should strive for.

I wouldn’t say entering a competition to win is the wrong reason to enter.

All in all I do agree with your post, but I would prefer not to downplay the importance of the competitive aspect.

The competition is really fun, despite all the fun and I’ve had in other aspects, the competition was the my enlightening moment where I decided FIRST was really something I wanted to do, which resulted in my aspirations to become a mechanical engineer. If my team wasn’t going all out to win in 2007, the competition would not have been have as fun or inspiring.

FIRST’s primary purpose is to Inspire and the competitive aspect plays an integral role in this. If people want to be competitive and do what they can to win, let them do it without others complaining.

Going back to how I agree with most of your post…It’s important that the values and goals of FIRST are not lost in the desire to win, but I feel like this certainly is not the case at this point. If it becomes the case further down the road, I’ll be more than happy to skeptically look at over competition, but for right now, I see no problems.

Considering the expence of FIRST it’s amazing its as successful as it is today…but it’s not random, there’s a reason…It’s because most of the things FIRST has done they’ve done right. I wouldn’t look skeptically upon lack of success even compared to potential. Consider all of the people FIRST has affected. In my opinion, that’s nothing but success.

I agree very much about people giving up, or not giving up though. Honestly my team has been getting competitively worse, our best years were 2007 and 2008, but our team has contiued to grow, we’ve worked hard and have a bigger effect on the community and inspired more people. You don’t have to win to inspire, which is where I agree with you, but the competition is really important and really fun (as described above).