How to get better at making decisions in split seconds

Yesterday we played 1678/3476/2437 at Aerospace Valley and my teams defense (5124) played a major role, where we defended 3476 for a majority of the time. 4913/2658 were great teams and were able to keep up with the slowed down 1678/3476 and I am so grateful for this. If I remember correctly 1678 can’t climb with only 1 robot on one side as they need to be balanced with the second robot. On our way back from defense we were blocking 2437 but as a new drive coach I told my driver to come back to climb to level 2 which we couldn’t due to the low battery. I should have told him to keep delaying/defending 2658 so that 1678 won’t get the 36 climb points and stay at 71 points allowing us (5124) and 2658 to stay on the field and not get any points for the HAB climb. leaving the blue alliance with 83 points, and successfully winning it and making a major upset. I am really sad about my decision making and was wondering how I can improve for the off season events. That being said, I know it is an ambitious plan that could have failed but as soon as I said to my driver to come back I knew we would loose and winning this regional is one of the best things that could have happens, showing that 3 cargo ship bots can beat 2 Einstein and world winning robots.

Nevertheless I am very happy for 1678 and that they can keep their 17+ regional win streak.


Watch lots and lots of matches. While you’re watching matches, don’t just focus on a single bot, watch whole alliance movement to get a good idea of their strategy and decision making. When watching matches, try to understand why an alliance is winning or what an alliance could have done to turn a loss into a win.

As well, understanding how to coordinate bots on an alliance is one of the most important jobs as a drive coach. Especially this year where there are only two loading stations but three bots, coordination and traffic control are especially important. I think a lot of times pre-match strategy comes down to “we have this part of the field, team B has this part of the field, and team C has this part of the field”, but what happens when defense is played or a bot breaks or something goes wrong? A good drive coach is adaptable and can think on their feet to maximize their alliance potential no matter what happens.


I agree with watching a lot of matches as a whole to understand the flow of matches. (not from any particular year) But it is also important to watch the game from the perspective on 1 robot to understand every minute decision that the specific team made. So watching a single match several times is very beneficial for understanding these more complex plays. I would recommend watching high levels of play because this will be very time consuming and to look at years past also.


Yea, I agree even in our 2nd match with 1678/3476 we could have won if we moved forward and placed that panel in Auto. I personally watched all our matches after the LA regional.

Also watch them from the opponents perspective, even though you do not know their inner dialogue, you can see how they understand the game and make more purposeful movements to stopping their game.

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Yea, it was suuupper easy to defend 3476 because their coach just points at where they are going its funny. We just follow him :crazy_face:


how would you describe the result of this, long-term


Sorry I don’t understand the question

Effective defensive decisions are made in advance of your target’s current movements. If you’re reacting to what they’re currently doing, you’re already too late.


First off, don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s in the past – live and learn.

Frankly such things come with experience. Watching matches is great, but don’t just watch. Watch actively. I probably wouldn’t go so far as to take notes but I’d definitely think about what strategic decisions are being made that seem smart. Or if you see something dumb, then consider what you would have done differently.

Playing in as many matches as possible is also great. Off-season events will help. Part of it is also just being on drive team for longer. I’m not sure which grade you’re in, but carrying through your learning through many years is great. Watch your own matches and take notes. Especially if you’re doing multiple competitions in a season. What was your initial strategy? How well did you stick to that strategy? What did you miss, what could you have done better? what decisions did you make that were good and which ones were less good? Reflection and review is by far the most effective way to detect and correct mistakes.

Ultimately, yeah it’s experience. But by doing these things you can accelerate your experience or gain additional experience you wouldn’t have gained otherwise.

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I realized as soon as 1678 dropped their buddy climb but I couldn’t process it quick enough as I was telling the driver where to go and I had just told him to go to climb but by the time I looked at the battery he had already let them through. I realized right there we were screwed.

Still too late. Should have realized they were dropping the triple going into match 3 considering the point differentials in matches 1 and 2.

That being said, I’ll mention that 5124 was at the absolute top of our defensive picks at AVR. Your drive team played well with a robot that was built like a tank. Every match you play will teach you something about yourselves. As others have mentioned, don’t dwell too much on specific matches but rather take them all as a learning experience for your team.
Every match/event/season/etc is different from the last. Take the positives and run with them, take the negatives and learn from them.

Good luck to you and 5124 in the future. I’ve been a fan since the early WTR FTC days.


Agreed, one of the things that I know a certain top team does is have entire drive team watch matches from many districts, in particular looking at very close matches from top alliances to see what decisions they made. They regularly stop the playback after a decision was made and actively and with deliberation discuss and debate if they feel that team made a good choice or bad choice. Then they watch others (different set of matches) with no stopping and do the decision making in real time.

Believe it or not, this actually trains your brain to think faster and is something that car racing teams do constantly, given that there are tens of millions of dollars at stake.

After that, it’s practice practice practice, which will help your driver to make in game adjustments and also give you battle tested decision making skills.

Well, you just answered your question in a way. You did something, and then learned something. Keep doing more things.

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As the driver on 980, we got quite the opportunity to play defense at AV this year. Particularly with Deep Space, we realized that lining up to score is the most time-consuming part of the game. We used this to our advantage in just going up to teams and pushing on their corners to turn the robot away from scoring (its much easier than pushing it in any given direction, especially when they’re cooped up on the side of the rocket), which both forced them to line up for longer, and rattled the drivers as the top scorers struggled to fill even half a rocket. Your job as defense bot is to be the biggest nuisance you can possibly be (see match 5 at AV, some of the most fun I’ve had).

Additionally, as his/her drivers become comfortable with their immediate strategy, the drive coach’s job turns away from micromanaging your robot’s movements and towards watching the match as a whole: calling out the time left in the match, figuring out what the opposing alliance is setting up, and getting into the head of each team. Our coach is a racing guy, and you may want to think of it as a crew chief kind of position; you are looking what your driver isn’t seeing. Students, particularly drivers (I know from experience) get tunnel vision as they focus on moving their own robot.

Many things happen in a match, and everyone else’s suggestion of watching matches and seeing what works, even before your team goes to regional, is the right way to do it. And it will come with experience. As you play drive coach for longer, you will be more comfortable with your decisions and be able to spot the big ticket point denial.


Quick math (less helpful with fake live scoring this year) plays a huge factor in the in-match calls I made. A sense of field awareness is huge, but at the end of the day sometimes you’ve just got to make a call.

Back in my day, I had a habit of watching matches and pausing at random times, quickly breaking down, making a call for what team #### should do and comparing it to what they actually did.


3476 got mad at us and claimed that we broke their robot and I think we might have and we went less on defense. The hit on corner strategy is a horrible strategy in my opinion because I experienced one of our alliances robot as it was inside the cargo ship placing the hatch panel 980 rammed it and broke the mech. They were broken for the rest of the match and had to be fixed for their next match.

edit: 3476’s member was not mad but a little annoyed as would be expected when another team accidentally breaks the robot. Our team identified the issue that caused their breakage and is working to fix it for the next robot. 3476’s member was in the right here and did not get angry and was very professional. I just meant to type he was annoyed. I’m glad they won and were able to fix the robot!


That’s something we genuinely try our best to avoid, you’ll see in matches where we go for a turn and see the arm get stuck, we quickly back off and let the team get out. Its one of our drive coach’s most stern rules, and we always try to go over to teams and help fix/ apologize if we see any damage during a match.
Sometimes its not obvious that we hurt others, or we have something of our own that’s broken and we get overwhelmed, but we do try.
Several teams have come up and asked specifically that we watch out when defending them (330 does it a lot), and we honor that, no questions asked. Thanks for the constructive criticism though, we’ll definitely be more cautious of other team’s mechanisms.

I guess I can do this for the top teams and hopefully learn from that.

No worries, Code Orange also said we broke something but watching the videos the announcer said it way later and we were defending another team at the time. I still think we did something that led up to it. Bumper placement is always a pain when we have the kit bot, next year our custom drive train is gonna be used so we have not gonna have issues of launching into other robots. If anyone from 3476 is reading this, we are working on it sorry we never meant to!