How to be a better Drive Coach

Ive used Space Team in the past. Real effective at enforcing clear, concise communications amongst 3-4 people.

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How did you set up groups? Tell those who want to be on drive to download it and have a specific day to play?

this 100%. it was a bit of an issue when i was a driver as a student and a major issue when i came back a few years later as a mentor. have one mentor and one student coach that any ideas or suggestions or whatever go through rather than anyone on the team talking to any drive team member.

One thing that’s very simple but very important is make sure that absolutely everything works before you go into a match the last thing you want to do is overlook something simple then have it fail in the the match.

The backseat drivers/ Monday Morning Quarterbacks must be addressed before the first match is played. Our DT Mentor and I explain to the team at large that criticism/suggestions of the DT must filter through the DT mentor and not directly the drivers.
We impress that our view of the field is completely different from the DT’s.

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As a drive coach for 13 seasons, I have come to learn the most important thing about drive coaching:

80% of a drive coach’s influence on the outcome of a given match comes from everything that happens between kickoff and that match.

  • Be the number one advocate for a simple robot that is built early
    Drive teams cannot practice with a robot while it is under construction or being programmed
  • Realistic drive team practice
    It is your job to ensure the drive team practices under real field conditions if at all possible. The most basic example of this is to ensure that the driver’s station laptop is oriented and spaced appropriately relative to the field elements. Another example would be for a 2017 ground gear intake - ensure the drivers get some practice with pickup when there are fuel in the way.
  • Pre-competition scouting
    Know who you will compete with/against. Understand a small amount about the team history, what the teams’ strengths are, etc.
  • Plan for different scenarios
    The robot’s mechanisms will break, or a game piece will fall into the robot, or … some other weird nonsense will happen. At least run through these scenarios once or twice so the drivers do not panic
  • Keep track of time in between matches
    In elims, my usual jobs are to hold tools for the pit crew, make sure no one releases air (unless it is unsafe to repair something without doing so), and ensure the robot is back on the field at the appropriate time.
  • Keep track of the robot you have, even if it is not the robot you want
    At competition, ensure there is a pre-flight systems check. This will help you plan with your alliance for any contingencies that come up last-minute.
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I have only drive coached at a few off seasons so far this season, but some of the key things that have helped me is establishing with the driver and operator what my role will be, what I can do to help them the most, and providing that in the most effective way.
I also like to take a look at the team list for a event before hand, and try and get a understanding of the other robots at the event so I am not going in blind about the other teams capabilities for the first few matches. I normally just go on TBA and watch matches and take a look at average scores for that team across multiple events if I can.

Drivers/operator’s typically go into a “tunnel vision” during the match, and you need to be their guide. You need to be able to communicate with your drive team and never leave them with no instruction, there is always something to do. FRC is a game of seconds, and every second you waist could cost you the match. You also need to see the whole field, (Your alliance and the opposing alliance).

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Speaking as an FTA that has watched many matches with many drive teams behind the glass, and kind of keep mental notes of tendencies of drive teams. It has helped me notice when someone is having a particularly bad day or maybe not on their “normal” game whether it be coach, driver, human player, or technician. As “Dad” around the field, I like to see if there is something that can be done to cheer them up, or at the least just give them a sounding board that isn’t a team member. Several have taken me up on the offer and I thank them for giving me the opportunity.

Know where to get information before/during/after a match. During field calibration time, “calibrate yourself” by going into each alliance station and then behind them and see what the sight lines are to information sources that you will need during a match. Remember that you are not limited to staying right behind your drivers. You can’t touch the controls/game pieces, but that doesn’t mean you can’t move around to improve your view of a situation on the field to relay something to the drivers/other coaches to take advantage/get away. The entire alliance area is yours to roam in…use it.

  • Match Timer Locations - Learn 'em! Know 'em!
    -Field Display with the white stripe across the field, normally in station 2, but not always - See Steamworks when it was in the human player station on the scoring table side (The only official timers on the field)
    -Audience Display if visible (typically between the video portion and the score portion, tbd for 2020 game)
    -Driver Station display on the laptop (I don’t know how many times I’ve pointed this one out to teams when the field timer is obscured)

If the drivers start complaining about the robot not obeying commands or is really sluggish, look at the RSL (you have that in a location that is visible 360d around the robot, right? I know the manual says from the “front” of the robot, but help me help you and put it where I can see it from any realistic angle so I can in-match diagnose problems) and see if it is not just flashing regularly but flickering…then look at the DS display, right in the middle, and see what the battery is showing and if it is going solid red with voltages in the 7 or lower range. The roboRIO is turning off motor control due to low voltage. That is your clue that you need to get to wherever the end game is and hopefully complete it before the battery goes completely and strands you agonizingly close to your goal.

If the drivers lose joysticks, but the Communication and Robot Code boxes are still green and the RSL is still flashing happily (and probably have video), you are still connected to the field, and there is nothing that I can do to help the situation from my end. The joysticks have come disconnected either via software (drivers) or unplugged. Try rescanning by either pressing F1 (you might have to press the Fn key also since many laptops these days default to the F-keys being the “other” function (sound, brightness, what-have-you) and not F-keys even though the F# writing on them is larger) OR opening the USB icon tab in the DS and clicking the rescan button at the bottom of the joystick list. Press either the key or click the button ONCE, not repeatedly…you have to let it renumerate. If that isn’t working, demate-mate the USB connectors (all of them out at the same time and then in or the drivers most likely won’t load correctly), give it a second or two, then rescan. Notice that all of the above is something you have to instruct them through as you cannot touch it yourself, so going through it ahead of time with the drivers will hopefully help them remain calm when a problem happens (practice by having someone unplug the USBs in practice or something).

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Always make sure you’re always on the same page with your driver and operator. Have a short discussion with your team before the match or have them with you when you talk with the other teams. Also, your driver and operator have a lot of things to think about during the match, so pay attention to game pieces, the time, other robots, etc. for them. Make sure they only have the robot to worry about.

I would like to emphasize this whole post, but specifically this statement. Less than 10% of an FRC drive coach’s job is during matches.

The #1 thing that can improve your performance as a drive coach is to have drivers you can trust. If the match goes as expected, you shouldn’t have to talk to your drivers much, if at all. This is accomplished through practice. Driving practice, strategy practice, communication practice, etc.

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