I am doing this anonymously so I don’t defame my team and I am going to make this vague so I don’t give a way too much about who I am.
I have been on drive team since I joined the team as I am the only one on my team with a specific subset of skills. We’ve also had the same core students on drive team for this time period. These other students make frequent homophobic, transphobic, and ablest comments that make me feel very uncomfortable and emotionally unsafe so I just stay away from them and avoid being in a situation where I am present without a mentor I trust. During competitions, it is inevitable that I be around these students without a mentor present which scares.
Now we are going to start the process of building this years drive team and a few mentors have already made it apparent that I am assumed to be a specific member of the drive team. Last year I was in this position and I felt very anxious and depressed being around these people on top of that I was dealing with a lot of issues external to robotics. My therapist suggested for my own mental wellbeing that I quit drive team or only do it if I will feel comfortable around the other members of drive team.
I feel that my only two options are to tell the lead mentor I won’t be on drive team if those students are also on drive team which sounds very dramatic and entitled which I don’t want to do. I also don’t want to put the mentor in the position where they have to choose between my skills and the skills of the other students. My other option is wait to find out who the other members on drive team are and hope it is not who it has been in the past and if it is I just tell the mentor I don’t want to be on drive team and make up some bs reason why.
If you made it this far in my vent session, thank you.
So my question is:
If I were your student and you were picking drive team which would you prefer I do and why?
Just tell the mentor that you do not wish to be on drive team. Most will respect that.
If they press, or assign you anyways, tell them that if you are on the drive team, phobic and ablist comments stop, or they find a new driver. Or, just say “medical reasons, I can’t be on drive team”–that should stop the asking in its tracks.
If they can’t get the point, involve school admin…
Tell them for sure. Any good mentor will never want their students to EVER be depressed, anxious, etc. because of robotics. Whether its some BS reason or the actual one, you should let them know how you’re feeling. As @mrnoble says, Robotics is a 4th place activity, your health and well being come way before any sort of high school robotics competition.
Taking care of yourself in this situation is in no way letting the team down.
The students on your drive team will be the ones interacting the most with other teams. If they’re making inappropriate comments, it’s going to reflect badly on your team and the other teams won’t want to work with you again, specifically when forming a playoff alliance. Even putting aside the nature of the comments, leaving them off the drive team is just the best thing to do strategically.
If I were you, I would definitely make the case to your mentor as to why you’re uncomfortable working with the people who have been on the drive team in the past, for the reasons other people have mentioned above.
I think alternatively you should look to trust your mentors here to act to defend you and help make the team better for you.
To me it sounds like the mentors in question feel you’re very capable in the drive team position and want to see you take it on. I view that as them trusting you. If its the people on the drive team who make you not want to do it, and it isn’t the actual role itself that gives you anxiety - talk to your mentors.
Take a wager and talk to your mentors. While your mental well being is important and removing yourself from the situation is definitely an option, I don’t want students reading this to think that always giving into others should be the right move either. You have every right to be in that position and role, if you want it, without feeling anxious or unsafe due to other students.
If they think you’re being dramatic and that it isn’t a big deal, then move to not participate in drive team. But if that’s their reaction, then your team has a whole other set of issues that administration needs to deal with.
This is not your problem. Any self respecting mentor will act to make the team better for all. You probably aren’t the only kid who feels the way you do.
First I’d like to say that I’m sorry that you’re going through this. I can’t imagine how hard this is to navigate. I’d like to offer my take if that is ok.
From the way I understand it, this goes farther than just the drive team. From experience on my team and in my group of friends, communication is the best way to mitigate any kind of hurtful and insensitive remarks (both purposefully and not purposefully)
If these individuals are making you feel uncomfortable, it’s quite possible they’re making others feel uncomfortable as well.
What I would do is talk to a mentor you can trust about the entire situation, and then present your concerns about drive team. It’s possible your mentor will try to mediate a conversation with the team about mental health and hurtful comments.
I just wanted to highlight something here: this is not dramatic or entitled at all. You don’t deserve this treatment, and as a student it shouldn’t be your responsibility to deal with it. Assuming you are comfortable with your mentors, which it sounds like you are, I would absolutely let them know what has been going on. The way the other students are acting is not only bad for you, it’s toxic to your team’s culture as a whole. You should be able to fully participate on your team in any role without any fear of discrimination.
Good answers here already. Far from a pleasant situation.
General advice: It’s not possible to give what you don’t have. Focus on your own health and stability first. Only then consider what you could give to the team.
Don’t feel bad about letting the team know you have limits, or need to limit yourself. It’s easier said than done, but exactly zero managers, mentors, or peers I have ever known would willfully push you past a hard limit you set for your own sanity. If you say something, someone is bound to listen.
And if they do try to push you past that point, it’s an easy answer - the team never deserved your help in the first place. But - I’m 99% sure it won’t come to that.
While I do believe others have a valid point about potential cultural issues on the team, I’d advise caution in attempting to fight that battle yourself. Others can and will fight it for you.
I appreciate everyone listening and replying. I feel very validated which is rare. I would like to add that I have told mentors about the things that have been happening and there was minimal impact. There were no consequence for the students and the only thing that was done was saying that those types of comments are hurtful and so the students responded with making more comments that were worse than before and being careful about what they say around mentors. I am also worried about 1) Ruining the senior year of the other students on drive team because they have also worked hard to be where they are and 2) if I choose not to be on drive team, which is what I am leaning towards, I know that my team will struggle with getting the robot ready for matches and a decreased functionality of the robot all together and I feel it would be a net negative for the team and I would feel guilty the whole season. I personally believe (and this could be wildly inaccurate), the position I have requires a lot of training and is very difficult to teach and replace, and the positions of the other students could be easily taught and there are a few students ready as back ups. I know my mentors and if I give them this ultimatum, they will probably choose me and I would probably get socially ostracized even more. I feel there are no good options and I wish people just didn’t suck.
Any student making frequent homophobic, transphobic, or ableist comments would be immediately disqualified from being on drive team if mentors knew about it. Maturity is our top criterion for drive team selection, and drive team is often the most public faces of our team at events, and making sure that they represent us well and reflect well on us is really important. Additionally, we work hard on drive team culture, making sure they all work together well and communicate well - a drive team that’s making people on it miserable will not be an effective drive team.
As a mentor I try very hard to make sure students feel comfortable coming to me with challenges they have, knowing that they won’t get into trouble and that any actions taken will be reasonable and won’t be tied back to them. I would want to know, because no student gets to behave this way to another student (and chances are they are being this way to more than just you.) I understand it’s difficult, and nobody likes feeling like a snitch, but if you have a mentor you trust, I would tell them directly how you feel.
With this new information, I would say that you would be completely in the right to ask your mentors to either disqualify these students from drive team or suspend them from the team entirely. No one should be making these comments. It’s possible the mentors don’t know that the hurtful comments have been continuing. It’s possible that by telling them, they may take more serious action.
I understand how being assertive with adults can be difficult but the mentors are here to help you and your team mates not just build a great robot, but teach you life skills and to make sure you feel comfortable with yourself and in your shop.
It is possible that the team’s culture is toxic and this team is not a good match for OP to participate with. Since that is anathema to the FRC culture a note to headquarters is warranted and about all OP can do to effect change.
If this is a “normal” inclusive team then it’s up to the mentors to do the hard work of straightening out the offenders. (And make no mistake that if it’s up to me I’m going to a competition with the team that wants to play “Charged Up” with the right spirit and not worry for a second that the best drive students are on probation and staying home.)
Of course OP is wondering is this a “fight” or “flight” situation and only OP can know for sure. As a mentor I’d hope students would tell me of a bad situation (they aren’t all obvious to mentors and coaches) so I could eliminate it.
This thread is essentially similar to other recent threads that can be reviewed.
My team lists (often!) individual priorities - health (including mental health), and then school (grades, homework, etc), and only after those comes robotics and other extracurriculars. Prioritize your mental health.
As a mentor, I would want to know about that behavior, and I would want to do something to curtail and correct it - it goes directly against my team’s core value of Compassion (and FIRST’s core value of Inclusion!), and that sort of behavior would have consequences.
Based on this, I would simply tell them that you won’t be on drive team this year. It’s not worth “sacrificing” yourself to try to make the season somehow “better” for everyone else. Protect your mental health - in the long run, you won’t regret it!
I pulled them “him or me” card once with my team. We had another mentor who was not interacting with the students positively. I didn’t think it was that bad at first, I thought our personalities and styles just grated. Years later, I finally had enough when he was being over critical after every match, to the point of making our driver cry (we were a top-5 team that event and did very well) after ever match. Despite being an LRI, I found myself trying to head him off after every match to protect the student, which I shouldn’t ever have to do.
So, I told a teacher on the team he needed to go, and if not, then this would be my last year. He wasn’t around at our second event (he “had work”), and our driver told me that she felt so much better at that event even though the team was doing worse (bottom 10 at the event!). Then he announced he was stepping back from the team at the banquet that year. The atmosphere on the team has been so much better ever since (our core values were developed a few years after this), and it’s a decision that I’ve never regretted.
You will never regret safeguarding your own mental health.
Good news. at least in my experience - Some do suck, but there’s a lot more who don’t.
Again, and I know I might be going against the grain here, but there’s a lot of responses that smell like they’re saying “You should be upset!!”. And, well… you wouldn’t be wrong to feel upset at the situation. But just keep in mind, not all battles are yours to personally win.
While I don’t know the specifics of the situation, the wisdom once shared with me: “You’re never as good as you think you are, and you’re never as bad as you think you are”.
Sure - whatever choices you make, the team may have to do something that’s different. Perhaps unexpected. Perhaps even sub-optimal, from their perspective. But that neglects your own perspective, which is also incredibly important.
Realizing your own self-worth is a journey. Realizing it in a context where others don’t recognize yours (or, based on your description, possibly their own) is a really, really hard journey. Do your best - that’s all anyone could ask of you. Celebrate the steps forward. Recognize the setbacks to process them, but don’t let them hold you back.
And don’t let anyone, especially yourself, persuade you that you aren’t worthy of care, concern, belonging, or friendship. You are worthy of all that, and more.
Tell your mentors that you will not be on drive team, for your own health.
Tell your school admin that the mentors are not shutting down phobic and ablist remarks. Bonus for naming names on the team to admin, if they’re doing it on the team it’s pretty certain they’re doing it elsewhere.
I think I’d rather I get some knowledge that you just don’t feel like being on it, or ask for a reduced role (technician, HP). You have knowledge and experience which is valuable, but that you can share other ways.
It is definitely harder to have students you think might be interested but not hearing yes or no, so that you can encourage another student. On small teams you may have to talk more seriously about whether anyone else could fill all the roles, and how to handle that.
No one is ever required to fill a role on drive whether they’ve had a lot of past experience or not. While it comes with inherent pressure to perform on the competition field, it shouldn’t be pressure from mentors or team members to do so, but from ourselves, and if it is so much to not be fun I wouldn’t want a student to do it. I’ll add that as a mentor curating the drive team, that I try to work to put students together that will be supportive of each other and also try to isolate the team from as much external commentary from others on the team asking them to talk to me (or possibly the student drive coach) and trying to keep them from directly talking about performance to other drive team members.
But anyhow, I know you’ll get good advice on how to go forward, but talk some with your parents, therapist, and the mentor selecting drive team, and you should come up with something that will let you enjoy competition while feeling like you can valuably contribute to your team, whatever role that ends up being.
edit: I didn’t fully digest the comments, but if you are potentially a vital member on the drive team I usually try to not just assign the team without consulting about other members, and their potential conduct. So definitely put it out to the mentor that you only want to be on the drive team if other members are not, and hopefully that is well considered as well. You don’t necessarily have to recount your experiences, but just let them know you are uncomfortable to be on the drive team with them and the point should be made.
I do not know your team, but those kind of remarks would be absolutely unacceptable on our team and we as mentors would absolutely want to know about them. If you are able, I would suggest you speak honestly to a mentor you trust. Ideally this will put an end to such remarks. If not, then you always have the option to leave drive team. PS, hope your mentors realize that other teams hearing such remarks is a great way to for your team to make Do Not Pick lists.
[Edit: after reading your later comments it looks like I sadly assumed too much of your mentors]
If I was in your shoes I would not be on drive team since your mental health should take priority over drive team. If other students don’t reconognize your skills because of your personal prefrence its their loss they don’t understand your skill.
Edit: Either way such comments shouldn’t be tolerated at all and your mentos should be informed if said comments are affecting you in a negative way.
I wanted to point out how much easier it is for a mentor to not put someone on drive team than it can be to discipline them for something they say. We only really see students for a few hours a week, and we don’t get to see even most interactions that happen in the shop and don’t really see other communications or things that happen at school/elsewhere. Keeping more bullying or offensive language out of the shop itself can be a good start, but doesn’t go far enough sometimes.