How do you coach your Drive Team/How to be an Effective Drive Team Coach?

This past weekend, my team called on me to be the drive team coach for elimination matches during an invitational. During the matches, I basically communicated with the other coaches by yelling at them and yelled at my own drivers to follow my instructions.

Is this the best way to make sure your drivers and the other teams follow the strategy you have laid out? Or would taking a quieter approach without yelling be better? How do you coach your drivers and communicate with other teams during a match?

Well, first off, yelling probably isn’t the best. During comps everyone’s on edge and the last thing other people want is to be yelled at by an emotional teenager. Believe me, I’ve been there.
From experience, I’ve found the best possible thing you can do is to speak calmly and concisely. People usually prefer getting information in the easiest way possible, without feeling distrespected.
I know that being calm during comps is REALLY hard, but try to make an effort to at least “appear” calm and collected; people will respect you more (and listen to you!).
During a match, if you need to talk to another teams coach, walk away from your driver station, trust that your driver will take care of things while you’re gone, and just talk to them (usually it ends up being short mumbles like “get them- we’re down” or “get them off us”).
Remember to be watching the whole field, and not just your robot; this is the point of having a coach.
Hope that helps

1 Like

Unfortunately, “yelling” is often necessary because you have to make yourself heard above the ambient noise from the crowd and competition. It’s important to learn how to be heard without being aggressive. The other thing to understand is that the on-field portion of drive coaching is only a part of the responsibilities of a drive coach. Working with your partners off the field all the way up to the teleop bell is as important, if not more so, to ensuring success on the field.

In addition to the excellent Simbot Seminar Ether linked above, the next Behind The Lines segment is all about effective team communication, including drive coaching. It’s airing live this Wednesday (11/19) at 8pm ET/5pm PT with Andy Baker (WFA and 3940 mentor) and Mike Corsetto (1678 drive coach).

The last half of the show is live Q&A, so tune in and ask questions!

I have an off question for this main topic. Our student field coach was put in a very hard situation during one of our competitions. What would have been the correct and best way to respond and react? It was a 3 robot full allience, all three teams had a driver, a shooter, and a field coach. Our field coach was a student while the other two field coaches were adults. Our field coach reached out to the other two (adult) coaches before the match and made a strategy. But, once the match started the (adult) coaches saw ways to make their own team look better (by ball hogging ect.) and took those ways instead of following to the plan. As the student field coach how would you react to an adult field coach not listening to you during a match. Obviously yelling at him wouldn’t be a correct response but to sit there and let your alliance loose because of another adult intervening too much? Most of the topics that have surfaced have been about students doing this but to talk to person similar to your age versus someone alot older to you is different am I right? What would you do?

I haven’t had any experience with this myself. However, the first thing that I would do would be to take that team off of my picklist on the spot (they don’t need to know that part, BTW). A team that cannot stick to an agreed-upon alliance strategy, or neglects to inform all teams in the alliance of a change to that strategy prior to the match (during the match is exempt from the change part), regardless of whether the coach is a student or an adult, except of necessity most dire (broken robot, etc), should not be picked. That’s my opinion on that part; yours may vary. (Now, if they pick you, you have to decide whether you can live with that.)

The next item would be to talk it over with my mentor. If this is a repeating pattern, having my mentor just kind of hanging around behind the drivers during strategy discussions can kind of head that off–and later, if they are blowing off the strategy, said mentor can kind of walk over to that coach and mention, mentor to mentor, that their actions are showing a lack of respect for other teams on their alliance, particularly for student coaches. A particularly wise mentor can then lead that discussion into any place it actually needs to go, if needed. Incidentally, my team uses the “extra mentor in the area” strategy for strategy meetings, regardless of who the coach is. It’s more of a precaution than anything else–if there’s something funny going on, the mentor can step in, but usually doesn’t need to.

During the match, there is no real remedy. You can ask if there’s a reason for the change–say, a broken robot that can’t eject the ball–but there’s really nothing you can do–same if the situation is going the other way.

A good coach will be adaptable to the game. It’s always good to have a strategy going into a match but things change: robots break, opponents defense changes, partner’s change tactics. A coach must take that into account and direct his or her team the best they can to make their alliance as effective as possible. That may mean playing defense the whole time (a good defensive robot with good position could stall an alliance fairly well with one game piece this year), inbounding, or setting screens to open lanes for your partners.

A strategy is only as good as the scenario it’s designed for, when that scenario changes, so must the strategy.

I’ve loved this video since I first saw it, and I think the coach here does a pretty great job on the field.

Here’s my take on it. Matches are over in a flash. You need to communicate the information or instructions you have quickly, clearly, and without repeating yourself. You’re going to have to project. That doesn’t mean belittle or disrespect your drivers - it means you’re going to speak in a louder, more stern voice than you otherwise would. Don’t judge coaches for projecting.

How do you know that this was the case?

This is a tough situation to deal with. I think we’ve all seen this posted on Chief Delphi enough to know that it happens.

If I were you, I’d bring your student drive coach and one adult mentor and go talk to the other adult drive coaches following the match. Be civil, but if you feel the agreed strategy wasn’t followed then get an explanation on why it wasn’t. There could be a number of reasons that the alliance strategy had to change mid-match. But at the very least you’ll have an opportunity to voice your opinion and get an explanation that could turn into a learning opportunity - on multiple accounts.

Learn from your previous match, get feedback from your alliance partners if possible - and move on. Not every match will be positive, but you can’t let those matches get your coach or your drive team down. Being a drive coach means having thick skin, adapting quickly and being willing to do what it takes to win. This is the FIRST Robotics Competition and you’ll find many take this competition very seriously.

But you know, have fun with it too.

And as to the original thread topic - Project! Better to have yelled and lost than to have never yelled at all. Communication is key and it’s not always pretty during the intense time limitations of an FRC match. Sometimes I will preface our alliance partners that I will probably be yelling, but it’s never in angst - it’s just to clearly communicate. I always find that shaking hands post-match and talking on the way back to the pits helps emphasize this too. Usually I’ll even yell out time reminders for the alliance - a reminder that we’re coming up on 30 seconds never hurts.

The real key to drive team coaching is to tie your jacket around your waist. Got a couple championship rings that way.

1 Like

if this happens you don’t wast time and you just go and do what would be best for your alliance at that time.

Oh boy! He’s never going to let you coach ever again! :smiley:

You can read what Adam Freeman had to say over on being a drive coach over on beyondinspection.
If anyone else would like to do a coaches corner, please send me a message.

It may have nothing to do with the fact that your coach was a student. Sometimes people are just jerks.

I agree - have an adult mentor go with the student to clear the air. No need to have needless animosity toward a team if they saw an alternate strategy that they couldn’t articulate at the moment. Or conversely, if the teams in question really aren’t good partners at that event, that would be good to know.

Thanks so much all! What I concluded from the posts before is that an adult mentor would help alot durring the pregame time. Durring the game a student will have to do their best at projecting in a stern voice to the coach speaking to him. And lastly, reach out to other teams after a match to see why they did the things they did! Thanks so much and I hope to see you at kickoff!

What I do with drive practice (before we get to competitions) I try and teach all the smart driving practices and then during comp I back seat drive and let the drivers figure out how they want to do it.
So when I yell at them “Get them out of our house” (which I say cause while commanding is a fun non harsh thing to yell at them) then I leave it up to the judgement of the driver how they do it, be it a shoving match or they catch a side and t-bone them across the field. Now ideally if I taught them right they should pick the right tool for the job.

Thanks for sharing Adam’s thoughts on Drive Coaching. It is spot on!
For the amount of thought many talented veteran coaches put into the role, its no surprise that their respective programs reflect the same enthusiasm and success both on and off the field.

Never be angry.

Of course, this is a bit idealized - who has perfect control of their emotions? - but there is nothing I’ve seen demoralize students more at a competition than a furious drive coach shouting them down. That is a terrible sight, and is far more common than it ought to be. There is a major difference between being loud and assertive (which is necessary in a competition environment) and being intimidating and rude. It’s difficult to keep your cool under stress, but it’s absolutely necessary.