FAHA: Why weren't we picked?

So here is the deal. You’ve worked hard and built a competitive robot. You’ve advertised yourself and you’ve played the best you could. And still, you don’t get picked at the Championships. I know this has happen to my team and it is certainly not a good feeling. What advice can you offer this FIRST-A-Holic on ways to be better prepared next year? Note: FAHA is a source for people to let out their frustrations and get advice. Please share your wisdom in the right manner as I feel this is a topic that hits home for many teams.

I’d like some feedback from the Chief Delphi community on something that has me puzzled and a little upset. 

We are a pretty good team, with a pretty good robot, scoring a consistent 40 or more points each match. We ended the day with a 5-2 record, within the top 20, and were usually the top scorer on the alliance. According to our scouting, we were in the top 15 in scoring. We’re also a team that reaches out with our scouting teams, not ‘asking’ teams to pick us for an alliance but providing hard facts and data, they make their own decisions. Note that our performance in all 7 matches was very consistent, except for 3 or 4 times in Hybrid where we did not do as well as usual.

We’re also a relatively young team, at 4 years old, and we have never won a regional, so we have not built up a large network of ‘friends’ in the FRC world, although we have some teams near us with whom we communicate regularly.

So, being what we think was a very pickable robot, why weren’t we picked? To say we were disappointed is an understatement – we had a darned good robot and were feeling a little bit angry, honestly. This really was the first year we had a robot good enough to be in the finals – in our opinion, at least.

All we could think of (and these are guesses) were:
- We have never won a regional, so we’re not considered ‘good enough’
- Many of the 8 top seeds didn’t understand scouting and just picked on record
- Picking teams didn’t know us
- Our scouting teams didn’t get out the message well / properly
- Something else.

Your thoughts please?

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I have been on teams that have both made and not made the finals at the championship and understand your frustration. The major issue at the championship is the shear size of the division. With 85 teams fighting for 24 spots your chances are worse then 1 in 3. My guess would be that it is a combination of the things you mentioned with some other factors considered.

The best way to explain this is to tell you the way that my teams choose members to join the alliance.

The first thing that we do is define a strategy for the eliminations. Within this we think about who is likely to partner with who, and what would be the best combination of machines for the game. The first pick is normally fairly obvious as if you are in the top 8 looking at the other teams in those spots tend to reveal the gems of the event. This is more of a guideline then a rule as some of the best teams may have had bad alliances, but if you are in the top 8 and have been watching any matches throughout the event you know who has the best robots.

The second pick is a tough one and for me is driven by 3 factors. 1) does the team fit our strategy and how they will work with our first pick. 2) who is available at the time, this can change our strategy. example: We only want 3 hurdlers if it is one of these teams, if none are available then we go with our second list of lap/poker bots. 3) what position we end up in and who we are going to play throughout the tournament to win.

Now we always look at friend teams, teams that have strong reputations of success, and mechanically sound machines ( I would rather have a team with a less scorer than one that will break)

Overall I think you didn’t get picked because you were probably a middle of the pack machine. You weren’t amazing, but aren’t bad. You fall into the middle of the pack and with 85 teams there were probably about 20 with your same ability level.

I urge you not to think of your championship experience as a failure. The championship is and always will be a celebration. Go to your regional to be competitive and try to win, go to the championships to have a good time. But lets face it MOST teams don’t get picked for the eliminations at the championship so don’t feel bad. Just move on to next year and continue doing what you are doing, because when it is right for you to win I am sure you will do so.

If you aren’t in the top 8th, it is a crapshoot plain and simple. Some really good teams were left out this year (notable to me, 1902 & 343). Some not so great teams made it in. In 85 team divisions only 28% of the teams will make it into the finals. Some people were picked due to performance (regional/champs) on the field, some for their relationships and history. Unless you were to check with every team about why they made the choices they did it is unusual you will know the specific teams’ reasoning. No worries there is always next year.

I’m going to say that it wasn’t any fault of yours. I also don’t think it was because you weren’t noticed–it’s just that there are quite a few robots out there who can do just what you did. Possibly even do it better, possibly not.

Somewhere along the line, the top 8 have to decide on a strategy, and if you don’t fit the strategy as well as the team at the bottom of the seeding order, they will get picked and you won’t. That’s just how it goes.

Just keep doing what you are doing. Sooner or later, your time will come.

As a third-year student and a senior on a team, I’ve been through a lot regarding choosing alliance selections. We’ve been selected, and we’ve also been in the “picking” position a lot. I’ve been our team representative at a lot of competitions, and I can tell you that there is a lot that goes into it:

It is more than just ranking, and good scouters recognize that.
Two years ago, we were picked when seeded 34/41; our alliance won that regional. This year, we picked a team seeded 60/62; our alliance won that regional.

Teams are looking for robots which fit a certain strategy.
Sometimes your robot may fit that strategy, sometimes it may not. This year, we captained alliances of multi-faceted robots, but we wanted three hurdlers. Some teams wanted two hurdlers and a pure lapbot. Maybe in your case, you didn’t have the type of robot that alliance captains were looking for.

Experience is important, but it is not everything.
Last year we saw a second-year team on Einstein (1902), so it is definitely possible to perform well and be recognized for that early on in a team’s history. However, established teams are generally widely recognized and have built up a history and connections. Sometimes teams do get picked based on these connections and their history.

It’s important to be visible.
Let’s face it, not everyone is prepared to pick their alliance partners. Not every team has done their scouting homework. Sometimes the connections and the friendships and putting your team name on the map through GP or spirit or talking to scouters in the pits really does make a difference.

There are always decisions that surprise me in the alliance selection process. Teams with great robots are bound to be skipped over. Teams who have broken robots have been chosen. Heck, I’ve even seen teams who weren’t at a competition get selected. Crazy things will happen out there, that is guaranteed.

However, the important thing is that your team recognizes your own hard work and personal success for the season. Winning isn’t everything; the most important parts of FIRST are the experiences and the life lessons you get out of it. I’m sure your team learned a lot at the Championship, and maybe watching the eliminations instead of playing in them gave you a different perspective. You’ve got years ahead of you to improve based on what you learned, so stay positive about it. Good luck!

As the lead scout for team 968, I can offer some insight. I watched nearly all the practice matches on Thursday, and about 60 matches on Saturday. There were about nine data points we were looking at:

Hybrid mode lines
Hybrid mode ball(s)
Teleop ball knock (very important)
Place at the end
Driver Skill

Many of the teams were able to complete a similar amount of laps and hurdles. To develop our pick list, hybrid mode consistency was a large factor, as well as ball knocking ability, and driver skill.

We spent six hours Friday night going through all our data. Looking at every data point of every team. I kid you not. We made a “possibly” a “not sure” and a “definitely not” list. The definitely not list came to be as a result of penalty incursion, poor robot quality, poor driver skill, and poor strategy. Luckily, we ended up with about 27 teams on the “possibly” list. Saturday morning we took the “possibly” list, spent about an hour in the pits verifying all the robots themselves. We were generally looking at robustness and team quality. We took a look, talked to the teams, and determined “is this robot and this team capable of surviving in finals?” We did not have to make any eliminations from our “possible” list. For all the teams on the “possible” list, we watched their matches on Saturday and reordered a couple of them.

more to come…

As others have said, there are many things that can work for or against you when it comes to alliance selections.

First and foremost, you and your team should feel privileged you had the opportunity to attend the Championship. There are many teams who have never even had that opportunity. They don’t know what it’s like to walk into the Georgia Dome and see hundreds of robots. They don’t have the chance to meet thousands of amazing people that are all there for the same reason. So, I would look at your situation more as a learning process than anything.

Of course, you can evaluate what happened, but some things can’t be helped.

For instance, there is ranking. This year’s game was really interesting, because it was really easy for a robot to be ranked really high, and not even have the capability of hurdling. If you look solely at rank, a team isn’t going to get much from it, in my opinion; however, many teams do go just off of rank to choose their partners.

Those teams that scout know what robots are good. But, the other side of it is that since they scout, they also strategize, and they know what robot combinations work best with their robot and their team’s capabilities. They are looking for robots to complement them. Many teams were probably looking for two hurdlers and a racer. There are probably teams that wanted three hurdlers, in case something happened to one, they would still have the ability to score. The downside is that the third team might try to hurdle, even if another robot wasn’t broke. And if you look at last year’s game, the optimum alliance would have consisted of 2 scorers and a hybrid. You only needed 1 robot with ramps. Each year it is different; you can never predict how teams will choose to work together.

In addition, I have been on the field for alliance selections twice, and that was my freshman year. It was rather intimidating, and I learned very quickly how difficult it is to keep up with who is being picked, by whom, what robots are available, and at the same time, trying to confer with the team you have already chosen about what the second pick should be. It isn’t as easy as it looks or sounds, and I sympathize with the people who state teams that have already been chosen, or aren’t there, or something. Sometimes decisions are made on the fly because they are crunched for time, and they are being demanded to select a team, and don’t have time to think about it.
It’s something that can’t be helped, but that’s the type of situation that might keep some deserving teams from being chosen.

My advice is to just move forward, and make some goals for next year.
Scouting is very important. Good, reliable information is a must, and I think that many teams appreciate it when another team shows them straight statistics rather than gloating about their robot and trying to win a team’s decision. I think that method just backfires. So, I think that you should continue presenting your straight facts. In addition, I think some teams do consider relations. Maybe your team just needs to open up to people more. Did anyone on your team have a negative experience with someone on another team that might have influenced their decision? It’s just something to think about. It is incredibly hard to have every member of your team thinking aobut their image all the time, but it is something that must be done.

Whatever they do, someone is watching, and it only takes one situation for someone to get a bad impression. I’m not implying that this applies to your team at all, just that it could happen.

There are so many teams with deserving robots. It’s inevitable that not everyone of them will be picked. It may seem unfair, but it’s bound to happen to another team, if not to you. I’m sure almost everyone has been in a similar situation at one point and time, so you are not alone. Just continue to construct robots that achieve excellence, and continue collecting valuable scouting data, so that when you are the one on the field, you won’t be the one to make an “unfair” decision.

Somethings scouts may hve looked at are the strength of your partners. Were you with very strong teams in all your wins? That can change how you appear to picking teams.

According to our scouting, we were in the top 15 in scoring. We’re also a team that reaches out with our scouting teams, not ‘asking’ teams to pick us for an alliance but providing hard facts and data, they make their own decisions.

I’m going to be the jerk here to say this clearly:
Teams ALWAYS overinflate their own stats when giving out “statistically” based fact sheets to other teams for scouting purposes. Every time I get these I compare them to our teams own scouting and have found that teams pay more attention to what they do on the field than what the other teams do. It’s human nature for the students scouting to get distracted and lose focus. (The exceptions to this is the pre-championship statistical data that Simbots post here on CD as a white paper or Bongle’s analyses the last few year. They are reasonably accurate unless the sample size is too small.)

3 or 4 matches is half the matches you get at the Championship. How can you be consistent except for in about half of them

Never winning a regional is not really a reason to informed teams.
At the Championship the top 8 rarely has teams that just pick on record or seeding because of what it takes to get there.

I will add a few other possibilities that you may not have considered though, please don’t take them personally but these are things that many teams look at.

Did you incur a lot of penalties?
Is your drive team difficult to work with? I.E. they don’t follow an agreed upon strategy and just do what they want.
Does your drive team ask a lot of basic gameplay questions? If your on the field and don’t appear to know the rules don’t expect to get picked.
Does you rotate drivers all the time or do your drivers freak out in matches? These cause inconsitancy and are red flags to veterans.
Did your robot break a lot? If they see continuous repair activity or you appear to always be fixing and checking things it can give teams the wrong opinion of your durability/reliability.

I know this post comes off harsh but several of these items will land you on our do not pick list. We always set criteria for what we think each pick should be to play “our game” when picking and take those teams that fit it. We don’t care if you 2 of 85 or 34 of 41 so long as you have what we want.

1251 is a fifth year team we qualified for alliance picking at 6 and 1 had we not been in the top 8 I really don’t think we would have been picked either. We’ve had very good robots in the past also and haven’t gotten picked. I will say this we had a favorable schedule and had good showings. At 5-2 it sounds like your team was well deserving it happens. Go out and bring a better robot back next year and have fun is all you can do. Don’t take it personally we nearly won 2 regionals in 2007 went 3 and 4 in our division and didn’t get picked. It’s what the alliance needs.

Someone here on CD stated that there are “politics in everything” and that can hold true for alliance selections. i mean this in a good way, because not all politics are bad.

These comments are generic, since i do not know you or your team.

one factor we consider, beyond robot performance, is how a team worked with us in matches. did they stick to an agreed strategy, did they do what they said they could, how do they act off the field and do we think we can work together for several matches?

ranking is considered, but it is not a big factor because match pairings can make a good robot low ranked and a bad robot high ranked.

at an event like the championships, there are always a lot of robots in a middle group. what have you done to stand out, have you continually improved or gotten progressively worse.

and, have you been honest with partners. our students do an excellent job of scouting and give me a spec sheet before each match on all teams in the match (ours included). if i have data that showed a team hurdled 1 time on average and made 1 line in hybrid, and the team told me they “always” hurdled 3 and made 3 lines, that would cast a shadow on them.

when you scout, scout your own team the same way you scout others and see where you fall in your own priority system. See, objectively, if you would have picked yourself.

and, work for performing a little better next year, but also be proud of what you did this year to get to Atlanta and be able to play on one of the four big stages.

Another factor to consider is that if your two best matches are on Saturday morning, you may be off the radar screen of teams that do most of their strategizing on Friday night. Sure, they’ll have a list of “possibles”, “let’s see what they do” teams. But if you haven’t done anything on Friday to get on one of those lists, you may be out of contention unless you do something so spectatular on Saturday that the scouts are saying, “Who the heck was that, and why didn’t we notice them before?”

Sorry, was in class, had to shut down the CD quickly. Ulimately, our decisions came down to “is this an Einstein level robot?” Over the years we’ve seen enough matches to determine which are and which are not. Finals and Einstein are brutal. Not many robots can tough it out. The decision to pick 233 over 39 or 2056 was not an easy one at all to make. Pink clearly wasn’t doing really great in qualifiers. But we knew their robot, knew their driver, and knew that it could do more than we saw. It was an Einstein level robot. For our 3rd alliance member, initially we wanted a 3rd hurdler in case one of ours broke, or in case we got pinned. However, we took a risk and said “let’s assume the first two robots don’t break and don’t get pinned. The amount of points a good defender can potentially take away from the opponents is far more than the amount of points a 3rd hurdler can score.” So, we picked 60. They had some of the best driving and defending I have seen over the past several years. It was our best chance at taking down the crowd favorite (1114) which we almost did.

Unfortunately, many teams don’t put the time or quality into their scouting that we and other teams do, and make poor decisions. So, not getting into finals is not necessarily any fault of your own. However, for next time, just do the best you can. Be consistent throughout your matches, and try to do something that puts you at a clear advantage. With a field of 80some teams, any mishaps put your chance of getting into finals at risk, since there will be other teams with similar capabilities who have played consistent matches.

As a final note, several teams approached us in the pit wishing for us to choose them. While this is quite flattering, if we chose a team based on last minute begging, there’d be a serious flaw in our process.

I encourage all teams to watch all the matches, learn who the robots are, and make well informed picking decisions. :slight_smile: Good robots and teams don’t need to be “sold”

PS. Ranking plays absolutely no role in our alliance partner selection.

This is definitely a FAHA success story. Someone came in with concerns and a heavy heart and after a bunch of magical posts, they are left satisfied. Here is a response from the original poster and since the topic is resolved, I am closing this thread. Thank you all for your insightful responses.

Just a follow-up and formal thank you to all who commented.

Greg, we didn’t think of our appearance at the Championships as a failure – this was by far the best robot we *ever* built and are rightfully proud of what we did this year – we are young, but definitely took a huge step forward this year by all accounts.

Strategy is one factor I just forgot – two hurdlers don’t really need a third, especially a ‘upper middle’ one. This, more than any other factor, is likely the reason the ‘good’ scouters didn’t pick us. Thanks EricH, smurfgirl and techtiger1 for the insight.

We (think we) are one of the ‘good’ scouters, and we also do not consider match ranking in our decisions. We also spent several hours Friday night going over it all. And, our two best matches were Saturday morning – after the analysis. I hadn’t considered that, either. Thanks sanddrag, MGoelz and Gary for reminding me.

Peter Matteson, thank you for the very insightful list – I am happy to say that we didn’t fall into any of those categories (except for the consistency thing – hybrid was 0 lines in 1 match (malfunction), 1 line in 2 matches, and 2 lines in 3 matches. Once, we made 3 lines. Very consistent hurdling and ball placement at endgame tho) but **that is a great list.**

Sanddrag, we also consider those factors, and we have benchmarked our scouting process against many others and found ours to be at least equal to the best. We also get approached by teams ‘begging’ but that tends to hurt a team more than help. That’s what was meant by “we share our facts and let them draw their own conclusions”.

Again, **thank you to everyone who commented**, this was very helpful to us as we focus on dave’s Jell-o game for 2009 :D

FIRST-a-holic Anonymous mailbox is a place to share your concern and frustration about your FIRST experience anonymously. It is the perfect place if you just want someone to listen, or ask for advice when you don’t know what to do. Submit your letters today at the FIRST-a-holic anonymous mailbox forum. If you wish to respond to this thread anonymously, please PM Beth or Bharat with your response and thread title.