FRC Blogged - Invite to Decline Follow Up, and Thanks

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Invite to Decline – Follow Up, and Thanks!

Blog Date:
Friday, August 2, 2013 - 11:19
Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts on the Invite to Decline strategy. Reading through them has helped clarify my thinking, and the sheer volume of comments we received shows this was an important topic.

For anyone who may have been concerned my request for feedback was going to lead to a change in the rules, you can relax. I may occasionally ask for feedback on this blog just to stimulate discussion, and to help my understanding of how the community feels on different, and sometimes difficult, topics.

The good news is that I saw some suggestions regarding this particular topic that were so good we’re going to put them in practice, without the need for rules changes.

On Chief Delphi, Chris Pinecone of Team 2791, Shaker Robotics, suggested invited teams, when they wish to decline, thank the inviting team, but say they wish to form their own alliance. Later in the thread, Billy Lo, of Team 610, The Coyotes, suggested MCs change the question they ask of invited teams to ‘Would you prefer to join or form your own alliance?’

I love these ideas.

I would never try to tell teams exactly what words they should use when they decline an invitation, but a ‘thank you’ when someone invites you to something and an explanation of why you are turning the invitation down always seems appropriate. In this case, it also helps clue the audience in to exactly what’s going on.

With regards to Billy’s suggestion, I consulted with Blair Hundertmark, FIRST Staffer, the trainer of all our MCs, and an MC extraordinaire himself. Blair also thought was a good idea, and he’s going to be incorporating it in the training for all the MCs for the 2014 season. So, if you hear the MC at an event in 2014 asking an Alliance Captain who has been invited to join another alliance ‘Would you prefer to join or form your own alliance?’, or words to that effect, you can thank Billy! This is another great way, I think, to put this positively and give the audience an idea of what’s going on. While it’s true the invited team may have had completely different plans before the invitation, at the moment they are invited, their universe of options collapses to two – join, or form your own alliance, so this question makes perfect sense.

Thanks again to everyone who participated.

I’ll blog again soon.


Frank for life.

It’s great that we found a way to deal with the problem should it occur, but I think it is more important to try and prevent the problem from happening in the first place; by playing more matches and maintaining a ranking system that rewards the best performing robots (ie no coopertition points or qualification score sorting). Maybe FIRST is already taking this into consideration, but it would have been reassuring to see Frank mention it.

I’m also concerned that the line 'Would you prefer to join or form your own alliance?’ is going to be over used, and this will be said to teams ranked outside the top 15 that have no chance at forming their own alliance (unless several teams robots are broken beyond repair and choose to withdraw from the competition). MCs are going to have to be on their toes when to use the line, especially as alliance selection progresses and teams ranked 9-15 start to loose their eligibility to form their own alliance as teams outside the top 15 get picked.

Perhaps the alliance selection screen could be updated to highlight teams that are currently eligible to form their own alliance with one color, and also highlight teams that may still become eligible depending how alliance selection progresses. This would also make it clear to these teams that they are taking a risk by choosing to form their own alliance, as they may not become an alliance captain. The different color highlights would help both the MC and the general public follow along. Adding an asterisk or something to that effect beside teams that have chosen to form their own alliance would also be helpful, to prevent another alliance captain from trying to pick that team again.

On Chief Delphi, Chris Pinecone of Team 2791, Shaker Robotics,

It’s official guys. We’re sticking with Pinecone.

At events that I MC’d this year, I took an additional 15-20 seconds during the alliance selection invite/decline rules explanation to emphasize that teams who are declining an invitation are not being ungracious or unprofessional, but that they may feel their team strategy or robot capabilities are better complimented by a different alliance partner.

This isn’t in the stock script, but it seemed to reduce the amount of audience ‘grumble’ that you hear when a representative declines.

I think there is an important point to be made in this sentence. Any team member, parent, sponsor, etc who has been to an event before probably has some understanding of the alliance selection process. The ‘decline’ is a very legitimate tool a team has at their disposal.

If you know the rules, educate the people around you! Don’t ooohh and aahhh (or boo…) and simply let the process continue on. By making it a big deal, we’re making it a bigger deal than it really is…


To be fair, it’s 100% my fault - I wrote comments using the last name I use on Facebook, and I don’t have my full name on Chief Delphi. I’m cool with it.

I support BenB’s proposal, though I think it can be done in a more simple manner that doesn’t require software. At many events, the top 8 captains are already on field. If you’re picked and not on field, your effective seed is announced by the emcee as you walk onto the field along with your team name. If you are below the 8 seed, the emcee can word the question differently, such as “Will you play with this team, or are you going to take your chances on becoming an alliance captain” or something far more eloquent than that.

That said, declines from below the 8th seed are exceedingly rare, and are almost always done by teams that know what they are doing.

Agreed, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it myself. I have seen an alliance captain try to decline being an alliance captain though, that was weird.

SVR 2011. That was awesome!

I love how the kid walked away from the Mic/MC before anyone even had a chance to react as well.

“Screw your alliance system. I’mma make my own.” drops the mike

(I kid, the guy was a lot more respectful than that.)

Remember, that team also picked us. Our kids are now under strict orders never to yell out “pick 100!” at alliance selections ever again.

That was the only way 256 got picked for alliance selections at SVR in 2011. :stuck_out_tongue:

What exactly happened at SVR in 2011?

A team within the top 8 wished to not be an alliance captain.

Glad to see something come out of the constructive discussion we had here. Though now I might have to find my team a Deal or No Deal button to bring out to alliance selections (when not the #1 seed).

Not sure of the situation at SVR, but shouldn’t the top 8 teams have the choice not to play in the eliminations, just like the non-seeded teams? E.g. the team’s robot broke in their last qual match and they have no hope of fixing it?

In VEX in 2008, Team 294 withdrew from eliminations as a seeded team, but for a completely different reason. We had already qualified for the VEX championships by winning our first regional. In our second regional we were dominating and ended up as the #1 seed. Because in VEX only the seeded team of an alliance qualifies for championships (picked alliance partners do not) we wanted to give another team the opportunity to win the competition and get a seat at championships… so we withdrew from the eliminations! It definitely caused some consternation behind the scoring table as they tried to figure out how to drop us (I think the next software update added an easy way to drop any team).

In an ironic twist, we ended up winning the Excellence Award at that regional (also a qualifying ticket to championships). Not exactly what we had in mind…

I have read(generally in passing on CD, so I don’t remember specific instances…) of a team declining a spot in the top 8(I believe it happened once this year…somewhere in the central US I think)

I want to say I’ve heard of an MI team in the top 8 withdrawing from the tournament to get back home at a decent time–this was when their spot in alliance selection came up.

It’s not common for teams to withdraw from events they’re at in the first place; a top 8 team withdrawing means there is probably a pretty good reason.

I agree with Ben, we need to play more matches. I think it would also be pretty cool if the FMS highlighted potential ACs (or maybe you could just list teams by seed?). In Frank’s initial post he says that the new phrasing will be used when Alliance Captains ask other Alliance Captains which makes sense to me. Declining outside of the top 8 is rare, I would guess it happens at less than 10% of events (does someone know the true percentage?). If it happens, perhaps a stump speech can be given by the MC at that time to explain it. Not a bad idea to give that speech at the start of selection, but I would bet a significant portion of the crowd will forget in the intervening minutes.

Matter of fact, if you can actually read the screen (thank you graphic design, it’s tough to see the numbers from a distance), the teams are all listed in columns by seed in the “Available” list. The problem is that from a distance, say to the stands, it’s pretty tough to read the numbers easily. Webcast is even worse.

They wanted to decline being an alliance captain so they could then get picked by someone. Presumably they were hoping to get picked in the 2nd round and form a better alliance.

Once someone chased them down, brought them back, and explained that if they declined they wouldn’t play at all, they decided to not decline.