Gracious Professionalism

What does Gracious Professionalism mean to you? Stories and examples are more than welcome!!!

One of my examples:
Last year at regionals, my team’s robot damaged another team’s robot, and we asked if there was anything we could do to help them repair their bot.

Many would say it is both gracious and professional to make sure your robot will not damage another team’s robot.

I’m disappointed that this question doesn’t have 200 replies already!
Gracious Professionalism is loosing and congratulating the winning teams and really meaning it!
Gracious Professionalism is winning and congratulating the losing team and being truly happy that they were there to compete.
It’s offering advice, materials or tools to help someone that may beat you.
It’s facing up to the challenge of the competition. It’s coming back and losing,
It’s coming back and winning, it’s acknowledging that what makes one of us strong, makes all of us strong.
Best example I can’t find but of a team who lost their robot but was given parts and help by other teams to build an entirely new robot in order to compete.
Most of all it’s about inspiration. Something I have gotten from every group of kids I’ve mentored since I first became involved.


At a regional event last year we damaged a critical component of our robot. I local team drove back to their school and found what we needed to go on. No questions asked, didn’t ask for payment, didn’t ask for it to be returned. This item probably had a street value of over $100.

At nationals last year our team made a rookie mistake and we were not ready with charged batteries for the quarter finals. We could have had 10 extra batteries when it was all said and done with the outpouring of support from teams around us.

A mentor from a local team also happens to be a robot inspector for our local regional. Last year (and again this year) he gave up a valuable work day to leave his team and come over to our school to give us courtesy inspection. This was very important because we were a rookie team and we would not have passed inspection for several reasons. He saved us a lot of frustration.

The list goes on but you get the idea. There is always someone there to extend a helping hand regardless if they are a stranger, competition foe, neighbor or live 1,000 miles away.

Thanks FIRST community!

All of what was stated above is a great example of GP. However, most people forget that it goes beyond just FIRST. GP applies to everyday life. If you don’t believe me, check my link below for a great example how it applied to my life.

Team 1523 was the recipipient of GP at the 2007 DeVry University Mission Mayhem event. Despite being beseiged with robot problems, we made it into the final matches; playing against the alliance of experienced Teams 233, 180 & 108. When MARS suffered a major part failure and had used up its time, these amazing competitors used their time-out to ensure MARS could finish replacing its stripped gear plate & continue play.

See this thread if interested:

This is only the most recent and dramatic of many examples MARS could give. We try to embody the GP shown by role model teams like those mentioned above. It adds not only to the respect you have for others, but also to your own self respect.

Thanks for all the life lessons FIRST!

GP is Team 399 making thier entire shop available for Rookie Team 2339 without any limitations, along with their advice, skilled mentors, and experience. They also check up on us to keep us on track:)

very true :slight_smile:

Gracious Professionalism is a modern update on the Golden Rule in my book. Do unto others as you will have them do unto you.
I just wish more people in FIRST would remember to apply it outside of the shop, the competition venues and Chiefdelphi.
I’ve been noticing alot of people in FIRST posting online about FIRST and using it as opportunities to openly bash alliance partners or to engage in vulgar trash talk on Youtube. Obviously they feel insulated by online anonymity and selfishly think that no consequences will befall them never once taking a moment to think that that fate will instead be bestowed upon their team.
I wish these people would take the time to consider all of the long hard hours of hard work many students and mentors before them and currently have put into the team and now because of their own selfishness they are sabotaging for the sake of an ill thought out good time.

I’m glad to see this thread created during build this season. Thank you, Lindsey!

I’ve been thinking of the many examples of Gracious Professionalism that I’ve been privileged to witness or be a part of and I honestly wouldn’t know where to start with specific examples.

Many acts of kindness and generosity have come from rookie teams over the years. They are busy with their competition/season and yet they find ways to reach out and help others and each other. I’ve seen it time and time again and each time I am amazed.

Watching students, parents, and mentors in the team I’m a part of, 418, consistently learn about and exhibit Gracious Professionalism over the years has been a deep source of joy and pride for me.

Continuing to meet the members of teams from around the world and to talk with them and learn about their struggles and successes as a robotics team that competes in FIRST is an experience that I value and will hold as one of the most important things I’ve ever done with my life. I’m very lucky that my family supports the travel and the time that it takes to be a part of our FIRST community.

Watching engineers, mentors, and volunteers working with students under the stress of competition and seeing the cooperation, interaction, mutual respect that exists among the teams is a very special opportunity. Every person who reads this, knows and understands what I am saying. If you don’t now, you soon will.

Not everything is rosy - some teams struggle with Gracious Professionalism and what it means, just as individuals who make up the teams do. But there is always that opportunity to grow, develop, mature into a member of a FIRST team who embraces and reflects Gracious Professionalism in a way that Dr. Woodie Flowers would appreciate.


In 2006, we were in the finals at Pittsburgh. Our alliance had won the first match, but one bot was damaged. After using up our time-out, the other alliance called their time-out for us. The robot was repaired and we went on to finish the last two rounds.

When I want to teach my students what GP means, I tell them a little story about our rookie year.

We were a first year team with no engineers, just some college mentors who had been on FRC teams in high school. We built a robot that we worked really hard on for 6 straight weeks, and went to our only regional, West Michigan. We were so excited to go out onto the field, but the first time we went out, we went to grab a tetra. The grabber that we worked all 6 weeks on fell apart, never to function again.

We left the field trying to figure out what to do for the remainder of the competition when Team 33- The Killer Bees walked over and handed us a forklift. When they saw us struggling to put it on, Jim Zondag walked over to us. When he realized that our programming code was messed up, he sat down in our pit. He worked and reworked our code until security literally threatened to turn the lights out on us. He sat there after his team left, after everyone but our team had left, and not only helped us fix our code, but insisted that our students and whole team understood what he was doing. Jim gave his time, his knowledge and taught our team a serious lesson that day. No one forced him to do it, and no one would have thought any less of him if he hadn’t. There’s a reason that I have yet to meet anyone in FIRST who does not have the utmost respect for 33, and it starts with the GP at the top.

There is so much gracious professionalism at competition that you could go to competition with a bot frame and people would give you pretty much everything you would need to make it run.

I have seen many instances, ranging from teams sharing shop space to giving up timeouts (and parts!) for opponents to building robots for them to let them compete (I can think of three cases of this; the “One Day Wonder” of team 4 and the misdirected and replaced robot of 14__ are two of them).

But one of the best examples was at Arizona 2004. Back then, two teams on an alliance were on the field, one remained as a backup but had to play at least once. Teams 330, 1212, and 585 were in the finals facing another alliance (I forget just who). After the first match, 330 and partners were up 1-0 in matches–but 330 had had a serious problem. One of the ports on the controller was broken. One timeout was called, then another. Still no 330 with 585 on the field. The count started–and suddenly the entire arena is shouting to stop the count! 330 came sprinting around the curtain, robot in tow, and put their robot on the field barely before the match started. The head ref stopped the match before it started and asked the other three teams if they wanted to allow 330 to play.

Remember, these three teams are one match in the hole. 330 is about the best scorer on their alliance–a chance to even the score at 1-1 in a 2-on-1 match and maybe take the regional is in their hands.

Those three teams made a choice: 330 would play. 330’s alliance went on to win the match and the regional.

These teams showed GP in the heat of battle, and the judges noticed. Three Sportsmanship awards were handed out that evening–to those three teams. This is the only time more than one has been handed out.

At a competition last year, we were using our shooter robot from aim high.

our brilliant programmer wanted to drive. well, he managed to flip it over and crush the hopper. it was nothing short of a mangled mess.

and we had another match immediately after.

we were like. crud.

and then a team from heaven, i swear. i apologise, i cant remember who. they had plastic netting and zip ties and said “forgot your zip ties? well, here you go” and they subsequently made a hopper in about 15 seconds.

thank you mysterious hopper making team. thank you.

Let’s Socrates this thread up a little bit. We have been given many examples of gracious professionalism, but these are just the bees. I’m looking for the hive.

What is gracious professionalism, and can it be taught?

Taken from the FIRST website:

Gracious Professionalism

Dr. Woodie Flowers, FIRST National Advisor and Pappalardo Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, coined the term “Gracious Professionalism.”

Gracious Professionalism is part of the ethos of FIRST. It’s a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community.

With Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. They avoid treating anyone like losers. No chest thumping tough talk, but no sticky-sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended.

In the long run, Gracious Professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing one has acted with integrity and sensitivity.

The answer to ‘can it be taught?’ Yes, it can be taught. It can be role modeled. It can be lived as a way of life. It can be understood. It can be explained. It can be demonstrated. It can be recognized. It can be celebrated.

If you would like each person to provide their definition, I think that is happening in this thread already with excellent examples that are the honey, produced from the understanding and implementation of Gracious Professionalism.

I have found that GP can be taught, but the best way to do so is to experience it. It is also easy to teach it incorrectly. For example, I have a friend on a VEX team who’s lead coach, quite honestly, talked his students into building an inferior design because winning with the origional design would have been un-GP:confused: The kids got sick of the phrase, because the question “but is it Graciously Professional” was brought up for every idea having to do with the team.

The best way to teach it is to tell stories, and get the students to put themselves in the place of the team recieving help. Some that I have seen, from all 3 levels of FIRST:

-At a FLL competition, there were two robots using the pneumatics system. Neither team had any spare cylinders. One team’s cylinder cracked, rendering it useless. The team with the broken cylinder had one more run, which was coming up very soon. The other pneumatic team offered to remove a cylinder from their robot for the other team to use. The cylinder was removed with efforts from members of both teams, used successfully, and then reinstalled by both teams just in time for the team with the good cylinder’s run.

-My FLL team went to the world championship in 2005. A few weeks before atlanta, they went to a local tournament, and made a horrifying discovery: that our mat, which had been in use for six months, had been roughed up by our robot’s motion, and had considerably more friction than the brand new competition mats. The tournament director allowed us to take home two of the new mats from the competition to practice on.

-A vex team’s laptop crashed. The programs were still avalible on a flash drive. A team about to face them in the finals not only lent them their computer, but also pointed out a way to optimise their autonomous mode.

-In FRC last year, our team discovered a major design flaw during our inspection, which required major work. Two neighboring teams, and even our inspector, pitched in to help us out.

As for what gracious professionalism is, I think it can be summed up by the statement of a former member of my former FLL team:

“Gracious Professionalism is when your Noobish Yu-Gi-Oh cards get mixed with Alex’s Deck (Alex had really good cards) and you return them all correctly.”

I don’t know if it can be “taught” in any way other than by example.

It can certainly be learned.