Drive team stress?

I’m going to be my teams driver this year, and after driving in last year’s exhibition match in KC, the stress kept building up. For those of you who are on or have been on your team’s drive team, how do you deal with the stress that ensues?

One thing that you need to remember is that you are your team’s driver for a reason. Whether it is because you are the best driver, or you put in the most work, or however your team picks their drivers, you need to remember that your team is behind you no matter what happens. If the stress gets to you, take a minute to leave the pits, sit in the stands and just take a deep breath. Remember that FIRST is supposed to be fun and you shouldn’t be stressed out over it.

Personally i thrive in stressful situations and have been in them numerous points during my life. But one thing that always helps is to eat,:slight_smile: eat slightly not enough to get you sick or anything but eating does help

After enough matches you get used to the stress. You just have to remember to say calm and do what you practiced. Also avoid drinking energy drinks/soda before the match, because that tends to make it worse.

It’s already been mentioned, but I’ll reiterate it. The driver was picked for a reason. If they did not trust your judgement, you would not be driver. Don’t dwell on it. I’ve been driver for two years now, and even though we haven’t won all our matches, I don’t stress out over specific decisions or situations that I will be in/have been in.

That’s another great point. You’re simply not going to win every single one of your matches. Even some of the greatest seasons in FRC history were not undefeated seasons. Don’t dwell on a loss, learn from it.

As it was said, your team picked you for a reason. Your the one down on the field that has to make the split-second desicisions. Your the driver, and you know what your doing, and what your robots real strenghts are. I was a driver for 2-3 years on an FRC team and 2 years on an FTC Team. For me, After every match, I usually had to sit down, breath, and calm down. Just find a spot and go there everytime, away from the rest of the team.

I know with my team, sometimes one or two people wouldnt aggree with what I did during the match, and it may happen to you, but you have to remember that your the driver, you have the best view of whats happening on the ground floor.

Most importantly, have fun when your down there! Not alot of team memebers get to go onto the real playing field. It’s FIRST, your suppose to have fun!

I aggree with the energy drink comment too… it never sat well my first year of FRC driving.

In anything in life, remember that no one honestly wants to see you fail, and for the .1% that might, they’re not worth your time anyways. FIRST is an environment that will bring out anxiety that everyone has in them. When you give a speech, your audience wants to see you succeed. When you take a test for a class, the teacher wants to see you ace it. When a team selects a driver, the team think’s they’ve already found a winner-you. The first thought yo ushould have in your head isn’t “the team is counting on me,” but “the team believes in me.” It’s a subtle difference in writing but the second one instills you with confidence instead of enabling fear.

After doing this for this for so many years, being in the driver station as a coach doesn’t even phase me- it’s just another match. At the same time I was the driver for my own team in high school and I know how stressful it can be. Just remember to focus on the machine and the task at hand. Try not to think about “what happens if I win/fail” or the loud music and distractions those are for the rest of your team to worry about.

Also remember that you have other people with you in the driver’s station- your coach and co-drivers along with your alliance partners’ coaches and codrivers. These people need to be helping you along by watching the field and giving direction when needed. As a driver you can’t be expected to keep track of everything going on during a match- you need to be focussed on your machine so these people need to be your eyes and ears for the gameplay around you. For example: If you are fumbling around trying to make a last assist of the match, your co-drivers/coach needs to be watching the clock and if you’re running out of time, communicate this to you so you can ramjam the ball into the low goal or fire it into high to end the cycle before the match ends.

Also be sure you get together with your alliance partners before a match and decide on a strategy. Having a clear definition of what is expected of your robot from your alliance partners will allow you to focus on one role rather than running around aimlessly during a match. Things are always easier when you have clear direction.

Stay away from caffeine and sugar, drink lots of water, eat well and get lots of sleep are the best ways to keep stress down.

There is a certain amount of stress that is a constant when on a team’s driveteam, or really, any crucial team role while at a competition. One of the best ways to lessen the burden of any of those roles is to eliminate any unnecessary stress that you can, and then focus on what you’re there to do.

Here are a few tips based on what I’ve learned over the years, some of which may or may not apply to your situation:

  • A robot can be fixed, but a match cannot be replayed. There is nothing worse than playing a match and losing because you limited yourself out of fear of damaging your robot. One good match like this can eat away at you for the rest of the competition.

  • You will make the best decision that you can make with the information you’re given, in the time allotted. Looking back on my own experience, when I was younger, I had a tendency to let my actions eat away at me, thinking about what I could have done differently, or better. Now I’ve come to realize that I made the best decision that I could, and that if that decision was the wrong one, it was because I needed more information, to think for an extra half a second, etc, etc. If you make a bad decision, learn from it, but don’t beat yourself up.

  • Trust those around you, even if you think they may not be as good as you. As a drive team member, you should actively avoid micromanaging every robot related task, unless you really need to. No reason to change the battery, fix something, etc, etc, if someone else can do the job. Sure, they may not do it as fast, but if it gets done right, and on time, who cares? Giving up some of those other jobs will add up over time, and you’ll start to see that your stress is going down.

  • Keep an open mind, take advice, criticism, whatever, and actually think about it. If you’re actively open to people’s advice (especially those on your team) it can help to improve your performance, while also lessening the odds of someone coming down on you hard after a bad match. If you make your entire team feel engaged in what goes on while you’re on the field, they’ll have a tendency to support, more often than blame. (If your team is that kind of team, again, these are general.)

  • Don’t be afraid to take a break, ask for support, vent, etc. I’ve seen a lot of people (myself included) take their job too seriously, and not just sit down and watch a match or something. When I was a driver (a long time ago) it took me the better part of forever to learn how to walk away for 5 minutes, look at the sky, think about nothing, and come back - but once I learned how to do that, my job became so much easier.

  • Leave it all on the field. Go out to each of your matches as if it is the last one you’ll ever play. Do not hold back, do not over think, do not hesitate, just drive. If you put everything into each of your performances, you may find that it eases the pressure that you’ll place on yourself to perform. If you know that you gave your all, and you lost, then so be it - but if you held back, and lost, then you might beat yourself up over it.

  • Go with the flow. Don’t fight battles that aren’t worth fighting - you’ll have enough battles to fight on the field. If someone wants to start their robot 3" to the left of yours, and it doesn’t hurt you in any way, but it’s a deviation from the plan, just roll with it. I’ve seen way too many people get worked up over little things that don’t actually matter.

Oh, and don’t forget to have fun. Yes, being a driver is a serious job. Yes, you’re responsible for your teams fate as far as winning and losing is concerned. Does that mean you can’t have fun? No. Be goofy, laugh, smile, make friends, do weird stuff, hug your robot, dance when you’re announced for a match, whatever. The more fun you have, the less stressed you’ll be - I promise.

This is going to sound tacky but the most important thing is to have fun. It’s really hard to be stressed in a bad way while you’re smiling and having a great time.

Keep in mind that you’re not alone out there, in addition to the other drive team members standing next to you all the people involved in selecting you as driver are backing you. They selected you because you are the best, therefore you are the best.

When you’re on the field there’s only one question that matters, Is XYZ going to change how I play the game? If it’s an elims match or a qual match, going to play to win either way, doesn’t matter. Other alliance is stacked or didn’t show up, going to play to win either way, doesn’t matter.

tl;dr: Go out there, do what you do, have fun, come home.

One thing that I have always found important is to drink water, eat during lunch break, and sit down occasionally. It is easy to get caught up in the events and get dehydrated. Lunch break offers a time to repair to robot and talk strategy. But don’t forget to actually get lunch. You will also be standing up and walking around a lot. If you get the chance, take a seat–your feet will thank you at the end on the event.
And no matter how well you place, have FUN!


Being a driver at competition is always stressful as you are always in demand, there is very little down time, and if there is…that usually means a broken robot which is only more stressful. Remember to take time to eat!

Other than that, try to focus on the task at hand! But have fun, driving is great way to meet people at competition.

FIRST is seriously intense and some of the drive teams do crack under pressure (the worst I saw was a student coach drop a ton of f-bombs on his human player for not performing up to his expectations). Some kids eat it up like ice cream and some look like a deer in the headlights. Not really sure if tests and interviews can really judge if kids can face the increasing pressure of the moment as the event draws on.

Drink plenty of water
Remember to eat/Keep your blood sugar up
Find a moment to get outside
Watch some other teams’ matches
Joke with your teammates
Queue for matches during the first call, if possible, to avoid having to rush to the match
Let the pit crew handle their jobs

On Friday night make a point of getting extra sleep.
I have seen so many students get excited and then have great fun with their team mates on Friday night … staying up… playing video games or watching tv … This only makes the problem worse on Saturday.

Get the rest you will need for the next day. You WILL be performing well.
You WILL be picked for Elimination rounds…so prepare your body…

You certainly should have fun but recognize that the stress takes a lot out of you even if you don’t really notice it.

Have fun!! Be happy!! Play Robots!!

I remember my first time driving the robot. It was at the 2009 WRRF CalGames off season event, and I was a rookie. The only reason I was driver was because the drivers were seniors and they had some standardized testing to do, and I was the next best choice. Being a driver can be extremely nerve wracking, because your team is relying on your skill. I constantly felt the butterflies in my tummy during eliminations, and it wasn’t even a full event!
I did my best to get past the stress by remembering that I’ve practiced for this, and I filtered out everything else and focused on my objectives. I let the coach do their job, and I communicated with my co-driver. We finished as finalists that day, and that was my first ever live match competition, and the experience of driving was very rewarding.

I was on the drive team every year since up to 2013, and the butterflies went away after my second competition. I think you have to find a way to manage stress on the field. One way to help you reduce your stress is understanding that all the pressure isn’t just on you. It’s also on everyone else on the entire team , from the human player, to coach, to the designers, builders, and programmers. All their work culminates towards making the robot, and their combined skills are necessary for the robot to even work. I think when you meditate on the fact that driving is an important job, but isn’t the only reason why you would win or lose a match, the stress can lessen because the pressure to perform is not just on you, but on the entire team. That’s how I look at it.

But the hands down best way to reduce your stress is to increase your driver confidence, and that comes from the experience of practicing and competing.

The first matches ever can be terrifying, but once you’ve got 10 or 20 matches under your belt, you just can’t wait for the next match to start!

During lunch, go play games with your team mates. That will alleviate the stress. For me, I behave kinda weird, and when I become a bit hungry, I become hyper. If i eat too much, I become hyper. So, make sure you find your range and eat accordingly!

bring a good laptop and play some games during down time. I also find it very stress-removing to go and wander different pits and talk to the new friends I make

I am the driver for 2175. Last year, we had some pretty high stakes matches. In our 2nd regional - Minnesota North Star Regional - we had a cRIO die randomly (nobody could figure out why…) and one of Pit Crew guys and I had to replace it in the dark in less than 6 minutes. That was pretty stressful. Then we entered the Finals matches and those were pretty nerve racking. The way I dealed with it was I just kept drinking water, and staying calm. I watched other matches, talked with mentors on the sidelines, and overall just having a good time and enjoying the experience. When the time came to drive, I zoned in and just ignored everyone but my Coach and Assistant Driver. I then focused only on my robot and its surroundings I essentially became the robot and didn’t pay attention to anything else until the match is over. During that time I am the most relaxed and I don’t think about anything but driving. During our time in the Galileo Finals, it was much different. I did the same process as before (hydrating, enjoying the matches, etc.) but this time there was the added pressure of maybe getting to Einstein. I know the way our Human Player delt with the stress was he started doing push-ups before each mach. It was actually pretty entertaining and helped me relax before each mach because it took my mind off the match. When match time came, I just zoned in on the robot and completed the match.

Some advice:
Keep hydrated, keep your energy up (be it with food or just excitement), never loose hope in a match (never give up), only listen to your Coach/Assistant Operator - don’t worry about the fans or MC, enjoy the atmosphere - who knows if you will get to elims again, and above all have fun.

When I get stressed or nervous driving in a match I find it best to get excited. Jump around and exert positive energy. Its best to use the adrenaline released by the stress. So get excited! It also helps the other drivers around you if they see you’re excited. They will feel more confident and perform their best. And so will you. Good luck this season