How to Help me Drive Better

Basically the title. This was my first year driving, and I think I did good. Won a blue banner at a local event, finalists at the other, captain of the alliance for districts, and finalists on our field at worlds. However, I am looking to be better. I watched the matches after they were put on Youtube, and tried to see what I could do better. Is there anything other drive team people do to get better? BTW: I’m the operator on the drive team.

3 Likes

As some one that has been behind the glass before I would encourage improved communication between all members of the drive team (driver/operator/human player/coach) (or what ever your roles are) and make sure that everyone is one the same page for there receptive role (pre-season) and match strategy. This also goes into what you as a driver wants to hear mainly from the coach during the match.

It is usually (I would say) not the driver’s skill that leads to a sub-par match/competition/season more sub-par communication.

Purely for skill improvement any in driver station camera would be better than any video that would cut away.

Focus on a singular team each time you would watch it and pause at points and compare what you would do to what was done. (I would do this more for strategy assessment and game trends but I do feel that it would help a driver as well)

3 Likes

Hundreds of hours of practice. As much stick time as you can possibly get.

Personally, I think the video game Rocket League helps you build similar intuition and decision making skills, even if the mechanics aren’t exactly the same.

11 Likes

Watch your matches again and note things that could have been done better. When you run out of those, watch lots other matches from top teams with good driving. Every little subtle trick you can pick up and replicate in practice can make the difference in matches.

1 Like

Rocket League also helps with controlling the car/robot without looking at it from right behind when you have ballcam on. If you’re a fan of how it controls, it’s easy to give your robot similar controls with WPILib’s DifferentialDrive class.

2 Likes

I’ve been advocating teams move throttle to triggers and steering to a separate axis for a long time, so it’s a nice bonus that Rocket League works like this.

But really the benefits of Rocket League on driving (and coaching) go beyond mechanical skills. For one thing, it helps you practice being able to operate your vehicle while your attention is focused on your goal instead of your car. You get practice making adaptive strategic decisions based on the state of your opponents. There are directly analogous situations in trying to beat defenders in Rocket League vs FRC. And the pace of match play isn’t that far off from an FRC match either (5 minutes is only twice as long).

It’s very, very far from a substitute for actual practice and match experience, but it’s the best video game out there for those FRC driving soft skills.

2 Likes

I have been the drive coach for the team I’m with since 2017.
First you have to build a drivable robot. If your team is asking you to drive a complicated machine there’s not a whole lot you can do except practice. During the design process I always encourage to keep the robot to a few motions.
There’s always simple things you can add to help the drivers (limit switches, presets, etc.) These will hopefully make running the robot easier.
Repetition is a big thing no matter what for. You’re going to be better the 100th time compared to the first time.
Communication behind the glass is huge. Off-season events are a great way to find chemistry with your drive team. Find what works for your drive team. Outside of matches tell each other if it worked or not and what you think could work better. This will help once you get to your district event.
And of course drive practice will help. Get on those sticks as much as you can. Drivers are always better later in the season. Try to see if your team can afford to go to an additional event in season. Gaming helps too. When I was driver for the team my coach asked me to get good at flight simulators. This seemed to help. Any new coordination makes you that much better.
Hopefully this helps

I spent four of my five years as a student driving, and one mentoring a couple of freshmen on the subject. I won’t get too specific, but I always told myself and fellow drive team members that we were going to fully commit to any movement on the field (don’t doubt/hesitate), and if our strategy didn’t call for some form of interaction with the other team or fellow alliance bots (defense, etc.), to only watch what was happening with our robot and its immediate vicinity.
On inter-team communication, you should try to figure out individual roles before your bots are on the field, and have it all finalized before the gates closed. Having a plan B is fine, but trying to fabricate a strategy in the midst of teleop is similar to playing Rummy in the middle of a tornado.

+1 for Rocket League, also really fun to play with the whole drive team.

We have a few things that help us drive better, the first is, obviously, a lot of practice. We practice during the off season at least once a week(this off season we want to go for twice a week) and during the season we practice every time the robot isn’t with software. We also try to build a prototype robot at around week 2 to let our driver get a feel for the field and game tasks.
The second thing that we do is try to reduce the number of things that the driver has to focus on at any given moment. Because we prefer having one driver over two, that is super important for us. For example, to pick up a ball, the driver presses a button and the robot moves the intake, starts intaking, and the moment the ball is in, the robot automatically stops the intake and folds itself back up. In general, we try as much as possible to make driving the robot really intuitive and easy(our driver is also the software lead, so that helps)
IMO having one driver is also a big perk, that reduces the risk of miscommunication between the two drivers, and frees up one member of the drive team. That member usually functions as the “personal drive coach” (this year it was mainly letting the driver know where he can place whichever game piece he wanted to next), which in turn frees me up to be more with other teams during the match.
One more crucial thing is having match reviews. We give one student from the stands an Ipad and he films our matches, after every match we go back to the footage and give ourselves feedback. At first, each of us, in turn, says what he thinks he did well and what he did wrong, then we let people give feedback to each other (otherwise it starts feing like a pile-on sometimes). Having a mentor there that understands the game and can give outside feedback also really helps.

7 Likes

Talking 'bout practice man!

But seriously that’s about it. Drive as much as possible. Our driver plays a bunch of Forza as well which really seems to help. Reviewing film and going through what you should technically be doing is great and very helpful. So is reviewing film from 254 in 2014… watching their jukes is really useful for adding some tricks to your bag. But there’s nothing that can replace actual stick time!

1 Like

Our driver this year practiced playing with Forza Horizon 4. He’s also an avid RC car and drone user so his fine controller motor skills are tuned in.

Its more than just practicing to drive that makes a driver/driveteam better, its how you practice. This includes the practicing environment, what you’re practicing, and how you’re practicing.

For environment, you want to make sure the enviornment in general is one that the driveteam as a whole will enjoy. Effectiveness of practices is surprisingly dependent on how practices are going (excluding the actual driving), and I myself noticed which scenarios allowed us to improve the most. Practices where the driveteam didnt have a good time/enjoy practice resulted in reduced gains from that practice. Some driveteams may prefer music, a large group of memebers at practice, smaller practices, some a more relaxed practice, and others a rigid schedule of practice specifics. This is something your driveteam should figure out early.

Next is what you’re practicing, and how you’re doing it. Although you may want to initially jump to running full practice matches and grind through the 2:15, its not always the best path. If the driveteam is newer, a set of drills with and without gamepieces are important. Finding and adressing the weak spots will help create a strong foundation. For me specifically, I remember I initially struggled with turning around sharp corners. Practicing those specific maneuvers helped me reduce cycle times in the long run. After that, we transitioned into practicing game specific drills and eventually full match practice. We routinely would polish game specific drills to reduce cycle times.

Outside of practice, I watched matches of top teams with bots similar to ours and how they were able to reduce their cycle times to incredibly low times.

The communication aspect is also important. At some of our first practices back in 2017, our drivecoach would have to remind us to communicate more because we would barely talk in game. Talking eventually became natural and we communicated everything necessary after that. Practicing concise communication is important, along with having an in match “hierarchy of command” (in a high pressure situation, whos inmatch decision is being done. Initially it will be the coach, however it may shift over time)

At comp, driveteam would quickly discuss what went well and what didn’t go well, along with how to fix the mistakes. Learning from mistakes and taking criticism is extremely important.

5 Likes

One thing that helped us tremendously this year was when we built a 6 cim 6 Colson defense robot and let our previous driver('15-'17) play defense on our current driver and teach him some moves.
BTW still the toughest defense we played against this year. Train hard, fight easy I guess

3 Likes

+1 Rocket League
+1 Forza

Rocket league really helps improve a driver’s depth perception because of how one has to time the car with the ball to move it around the field. This game is also very stressful at times, because when the matches are close it can sometimes feel like an FRC match.
Forza is also a great game as well because it helps with precision arc turning, at least when one is using arcade style drive at least. If one turns on shifting mode, its a great tool for operators because one has to shift the car while driving and it can be a difficult thing to do, but great practice.

I would also recommend any Call of Duty game because these games offer split second decision that need to be made over and over. It can really improve the reaction time of drivers and operators.

My favorite game out of all of them when I couldn’t get drive time was the FRC 2013 computer game from Catalyst. It is the closest thing in my opinion to a FRC video game that works. Its also just really fun to play.

Even though getting practice from video games helps, the more time on the actual robot is the best one can get for both a driver and operator.

+1 for this. Even if you have an absolute potato of an old drive base, even if you just kick it over toward the cargo ship to make them react, it’ll help make the drivers think about scenarios and how to score when a preferred spot is unavailable.

+1 on communication. Don’t do your drive practice by yourself. Work with the main driver, establish some key words or phrases that allow you to succinctly get your point across clearly and quickly. Become a hive mind, where you anticipate each others’ moves and goals.
Do the same with the drive coach. As you know, there is a lot of information to parse out while behind the glass; make sure your team communicates clearly, efficiently, and effectively.

2 Likes

Here is some unconventional wisdom right out of the world of esports: Physical Exercise & Proper Diet

Start getting into a fitness and health regiment. This will help you in the long run. All things equal in practice time, strategy undertstanding etc. The driver who has done this will have an advantage over stereotypical mountain dew chugging and minimal fitness level gamer

I had bought these reaction training balls a while back to attempt to get my drivers into a better routine they didn’t quite grasp the need for next level training. They also weren’t fond of me saying they should cut out the energy drinks and soft drinks, and drink water, and maybe mix in a salad or some fresh food instead of processed garbage.

some supporting documents:

Also I know a lot of esports teams hire dieticians and personal trainers for this very reason

https://www.acer.com/ac/en/US/content/training-room-importance-of-exercise


1 Like

Clearly, the solution is to get sponsored by a local Chevy dealer and drag some Corvettes up and down an airstrip.

Failing that, building up a couple small, fast, short-wheelbase drive bases will test any driver. AndyMark had a Peanut Chassis with 8" wheels and fast gearing when I worked there, and I could barely operate it without smacking a wall.

Best thing you can do is practice, communicate, and understand the game.

As silly as it sounds, over the last few years our drivers had countless of hours of Rocket League game-time under their belts. When it comes to improving your driving skill, sometimes your actual robot/practice robot is unavailable but having a feel for the controllers and buttons in general help build the skill you need to make your driving smoother and your on-field decisions faster. Just don’t replace this with actual drive time - they’re NOT the same.

Part of being a good driver also amounts to how good your whole drive team is. Drivers get tunnel vision, and that’s why you have a drive coach. Talk with your drive coach ahead of time of how and what you’re going to communicate. If you want specifics on what ball to grab, let them know that. If you want more freedom on your driving, let them know. Having experience as a driver, operator, and drive coach, it has become significantly clear how reliant each person is on the other - especially if you had less practice time than other teams during the season. Communication can really make or break a match within the team, and the alliance.

Expanding on that, as drive coach I run my drive team through the strategy three times before every match. Three times assures me that they’ll at least pick up the sandstorm, teleop, and end game strategy each time. Ideally by our second event, the only person talking is the drive coach and the driver/operator work as one unit. After each match we go through our scouting sheet and pin point improvements in driving, operating, and overall strategy. Have an open mindset about criticism.

Last but not least, it amazes me how many times I’ve seen basic rule violations from lack of game understanding. Knowing where the rule violations are and avoiding them can save your team a match. We create a ‘Drive Team Rule Sheet’ compiled of all the rule violations that pertain to the drive team, study it all season, and reference it constantly. We even remind our alliance partners of potential violations that may occur on-field after finalizing our strategy. Also, knowing point values is key too. Squeeze in as much as possible in the most efficient way.

AND BIGGEST THING: Stay hydrated and eat throughout the day. Crazy how many forget that during competitions. Good luck in your future driving and congrats on the great season!

2 Likes

To add to this, we recorded our matches at our events, and immediatly watched them afterwards with the strategy and drive team (and any other teams in the match) to learn what we did wrong and what we did right immediatly after. Helped our drive team a ton.