Drive Coach Strategies/Ideas

This will be my second year as drive coach for our team. After reviewing old matches from champs last year, and just a general conversations with other drive coaches in FIRST, I realized how different many people take the role.

Last year I would go to the different teams on our alliance before matches and whiteboard our strategy based on capabilities of our opposing alliance’s bots, keep a general track of our score through the match, and advise (okay, more like yell) at our alliance members during a change of strategy or if they aren’t adhering to our plan.

What do other drive coaches you know of do? I’d love to learn more efficient ways of handling the role.

My biggest advice to keep your plans fluid. Have contingencies for if different things go right or wrong. Be able to change your team and alliance strategies during the match quickly.

And also be nice behind the glass. A lot of students don’t drive as well when some coach from another team gets way too competitive and screams at them (trust me I’ve been both the driver and other coach having to deal with coaches like this).

Be able to wave off your drivers if something isn’t working correctly. Discuss said contingencies before the game starts.

Ask for help when needed clearly and concisely when you’re behind the glass. Trust that other teams know what they are doing when they go off script and kindly remind them if you see them breaking a rule.

Keep your cool. I have always viewed the coach as a resource to ground the drive team. If a match doesn’t go your way be gracious and let your team see that you’ve put it behind you, even if you haven’t.


I didn’t communicate this well in the original post, but I was also wondering if anyone had different things they bring with them. I.e. to keep score, for notes, etc.

I would say no, you should be watching the field. I would suggest having someone in the stands recording the matches and then watching them with your drivers after and going over how to improve.

Fluid coaching. Work with your drive team when they practice; make call outs and ask them what information they want to hear during a match. Some drivers like time call outs, some just prefer score call outs.

Keep an eye on everything that isn’t your team’s robot - let your driver worry about driving, your job is to keep them informed about everything that isn’t your robot’s direct path.

This. There’s such a difference between projecting your voice and straight yelling at the drivers. Yeah, it’s impossible to hear behind the glass sometimes, but it can get stressful when you’re focusing on the robot with people in both ears yelling and the music.

One of the best coaches I’ve seen was the drive coach from 3612, the Gearhogs. He was, by far, the most calm coach, and had this loud but soothing voice and would always stay positive and point out positives at the end of every mach to his alliance partners.

Congrats! One to realize to learn and get better at what they are doing is one of the greatest asset. Personally I never liked one who yells or boss around alliance partners. For an alliance to succeed the need to have mutual respect. In the heat of competition some times thing go wrong, anger and yelling will not change anything, except raising frustration among partners.

One thing I have learnt from Mr. Bollinger the coach from team 2337, the Enginerds is to show respect to other partners especially the alliance captain during play offs.

From my experience on a drive team (as I, too, am still learning the ropes of coaching)…

As a driver, I always appreciated being given space from other teams’ coaches, both in terms of match strategy and communication on the field. That means that things often work best when each team is performing tasks they are comfortable with. If you come in trying to bend the alliance’s strategy to your will and make your partners do what you want, it can get very uncomfortable for the their drivers and coaches, who are put in an unfamiliar position against their will. If you think the alliance really needs to work some way, just make sure you get buy-in. It also means that during a match, I didn’t want other teams’ coaches talking to me. It’s an unfamiliar voice and it’s not fun to hear conflicting instructions from your own coach and someone else. Try to keep all the communication among the coaches, and let your fellow coaches interact with their own students.

Lol so I guess my little input of yelling was not taken as I intended it to be. I don’t verbally assault the drivers, rather as you said project my voice for say either time or score. But that’s not really what I intended this thread to be. Like I said earlier, I was wondering about any tips or tricks coaches had. Yesterday at the Long Island FTC Champs, there were a decent number of coaches with clipboard, reading something off of it, and making notes of sorts. I meant to ask if any other people do anything like this.

Which is why we decide on strategy before matches :smiley: .

I agree with this, and during comps I make sure to only talk to my driver/operator/hp, and the other teams’ coaches.

I mean when you’re deciding strategy before matches. It’s certainly possible to tell your partners “I know what we need to do” and then get half-hearted agreements out of them, but if they don’t feel any ownership of the plan, it won’t go well. You can walk away thinking things were decided together, and your partners can walk away thinking things have been decided for them. At least in my experience, the best thing to hear from another coach is “What do you like to do?”

And to piggyback on a well-deserved shout out from Tungrus, Clint Bollinger from Team 2337 is always one of the best to work with.

I figured you didn’t literally abuse drivers. That would be very bad.

Yesterday at the Long Island FTC Champs, there were a decent number of coaches with clipboard, reading something off of it, and making notes of sorts. I meant to ask if any other people do anything like this.

FTC it’s a lot easier to look away from the field because the field is like a quarter of the size and you won’t lose track of things. Plus you can probably keep everything in at least your peripheral vision. After action reports probably wouldn’t be a terrible idea though; especially if your team is one of the ones that videos every match so you can compare your notes and do additional reviews.

Plus after a couple of regionals, you could start making your very own Driver Manual for current and future students to learn from.

Quick feedback and analysis is the best. We always had a team member with a media pass recording our robot during matches. The first thing the drive team would do after getting the robot back to the pits was watch our performance from the last match and make mental notes of things to improve on. It’s a helpful routine if you have the capability to do it.

I meant like both vocal and literally writing it down for review after the day has “ended.”

Sure. I realized that what I was saying wasn’t exactly the same thing you brought up, but it jogged my mind and I remembered something else. We never did any written analysis, but I can see how it would be beneficial. The key is to learn from your mistakes as much as you can.

I guess I have been drive coach for something over 500 matches in competition.

Know what your alliance partners can really do… not just from what they tell you but from what your scouts tell you.

If other alliance partners during preliminary competition want to do something, have everyone talk about it. Whenever you can, let them do what they want to do. For playoffs, slightly different.

If 2 teams want to do the same thing, discuss it and if you have data, go ahead and bring it up BEFORE you ask them. If there is a particular singular task…say auto from a particular position, and 2 teams want to do it, have data on the success rate of both teams if possible and make it known before asking them. This can avoid a team making a statement from their own perspective, which is often skewed and then might seem foolish. Remember all teams see their own performance much more positively than a real objective position. This is quite normal and there is nothing wrong with it, they are NOT trying to deceive… We all just remember successes more than failures.

Get all three drive teams together in the pits prior to the match. Find out what everyone wants to do and craft a strategy that allows teams to do their thing. If you have something your own team really wants to do, bring it up but be rational and nice …

During the match, DO NOT watch your own robot. Your driver and operator are doing that… your eyes should be elsewhere, anticipating what the next move for your own team’s robot. Communicate this with them … sometimes a touch on the back or arm is necessary to get their attention. Yelling does NOT work. Guide them.

Your interface with your alliance partners is also predicated on “coaching”
You are Not their coach… communicate with their coach… don’t talk with their drivers… if you can… they need their concentration to be on the field on their robot.

Be ready to be flexible, think about how the game should be played…
Be ready to adapt your team’s play on what is necessary to maximize the score. Think scenarios out before hand and remember how to be flexible and even sacrifice showing off your robot for the sake of the alliance.

Take mental notes on things you see,

After the match, thank your alliance partners… no matter what happened.
Find something nice to say about their team… its not hard but it will forge friends with them. Thank your opponents too… Say something nice… win or lose…

We are all in this together… this is a tough sport and sometimes you never know how a compliment to another team will affect them… When other teams are having a tough time… compliment them… this can make their day… in actually… it makes yours even more…

If you have a chance, on the field, to help another team achieve something… do it… a push here, or some blocking there on an opponent that allows a team to gain their goal… NOTHING you will do in FIRST will fill you with a warm feeling more than doing this… you will NEVER forget it.

After the match, talk with your drive team… find out what they observed, share your observations, make a list of things that went well and things that didn’t, share this with your pit crew… with your programming group… again, praise them for getting the robot ready to play… they deserve it…
When you win on the field, the team wins… let other people share in this… if a particular mechanism works really well on your robot… find the team who designed it and put it together and tell them how much you enjoy their work…

Being a coach is so much more than just what you do in the 2+ minutes on the field, it is about constant observation and improvement… and great preparation leads to great performance.

When you make mistakes, learn from them… you will not be perfect…but acknowledge your mistakes…and learn from them… don’t lie to yourself.

In the end, be positive and have fun, help others to have fun… embrace Gracious Professionalism and strive to be your best and help everyone else to be their best.

I have been coaching most of my adult life, first in sports and then in FIRST for the past 17 years. I have made plenty of mistakes…I certainly regret many of them but i have learned plenty about what NOT to do.

Above all, be nice to everyone… .Twice in my career as FIRST coach I have said something strongly to an alliance partner during a match because of the tension and excitement. I remember those 2 incidents vividly and wish I would not have done what I did. I immediately apologized in both situations but it does not erase what happened and I will never forget…

Have fun, and perhaps I will get to see you on the field sometime.
I guess I have a couple of seasons left in me…

Everything that Bob just said, with one additional tidbit. When you have contingency plans for when things go wrong, or aren’t working. Know where your threshold is for “wrong”. Keeping track of things like how much time is left, and how much time does it take to complete task X, and then do I have enough time to accomplish task X, yes/no, then ok do it or no go do task Y instead.

I personally think that coaches should be watching the alliance as a whole and not their individual robots. I also am a firm believer in that their can only be one person in charge of the overall alliance. If a fluid adjustment needs to be made there should be one person making that decision. That way their is not any arguing between the coaches. Have that decision made a head of time.

Unless you are in eliminations and you are the alliance captain you really have no mandate to tell other teams what they HAVE to do. So when, not if when, another team deviates from strategy a gentle reminder and inquiry is in order but you can’t make them change. At that point you just adjust to the new situation and make the best of it that you can.

Beach Bots coach, Shane, giving talk at Beach Blitz this past October.

excellent points… I love the advice about knowing the threshold and when to make a change… watching the time…

The first thing I always do before a match is take my drivers and talk with the other teams on our alliance. We check if they need help with anything and what they want to do. After doing a checkup we go back to our pits and figure out a gameplan for that specific match.

I also make sure to talk with my scouts to learn about any weaknesses either on our own alliance or for the other alliance, so I know exactly what to expect when we are queuing.

Then during queue we tell our alliance partners what we will do and see if they changed anything and plan accordingly.

As for the match play, I keep it very fluid. Usually my drivers are able to make plays themselves and I alert them of anything that they might not notice, such as ref calls or the time. If we need to change gameplay I tell them and they do it accordingly. Remaining fluid and able to be flexible is something that I have found helps.