Hi all -
It’s been a good while since I’ve posted but as I’ve been working through this build season I’ve encountered some things that I hope will be helpful for the community.
This past year has been one of the hardest off-seasons that I and my team have faced in a long time. We spent the first two months of the school year trying to deal with what meteorologists called a thousand year flood. In one parish (county for you other states) alone, 85% of all businesses and homes received water. The cost was greater than Hurricane Katrina and there are still thousands of people who have not been able to return home. This includes a number of our team. My grandfather received over 8 feet of water in his house and that’s not out of the average.
Add to this a number of personal issues and the average business of life, many of us did not have the zeal that we normally would have. Personally, I’ve felt disconnected and tired and dare I say burnt out. Yet this year, this build, I am watching my team do things that I never thought they could. They are designing and building in ways that I only dreamed of before. They are more unified at the build site and more focused in their ideas.
I had to ask myself a question - what am I doing differently that is allowing all of this to happen even when I’m not what I would describe as fully on my game.
The first thing - I’m trusting my mentors more. As a coach, I like to be in control. I want to have my hands in every pot and see every bit of every system as it is built. I am not a builder. I am not a programmer. I am not a designer. But I want to know how it’s being done and what is being done. This year, I’ve been unable to do that so I have had to step back and watch as my assistant coaches, parent mentors, and college mentors have stepped in where I stepped back and have done amazing things in leading our team.
The second thing - I’m trusting my students more. We have always been a student driven/mentor supported team but it’s a fine line that I walk as a coach. My school wants to see both student growth and robot success and sometimes it seems that those two things can seem antithetical. I have a tendency to step in right before the vase hits the ground and catch it. This time though, I haven’t had the same timing nor ability to do so and I’ve watched as my team has stepped up to the plate and started taking on even greater amounts of responsibility.
Finally, I’m letting go more. I want to win. I preach gracious professionalism. I believe it. I believe that it’s more about the robot but I am also a dyed in the wool competitor. Its what makes me drive forward through the night to complete a built or focus on that great Einstein in the distance. I want to be there one day. Unfortunately, in doing so, I can sometimes lose sight of where we are today. I forget the need to be present in what we do. I forget to watch for the small victories of a drive-train running by Friday or our first fully Solidworks modeled part. These are the things that made me excited in the beginning and these are the things that I am finding joy in now.
I guess the purpose of this post is really to all of those coaches and mentors who - even in the midst of build - are feeling tired or burnt out. Maybe life has thrown you a number of curve balls and maybe your team is as tired as you are. Don’t forget to lean on those who are there to help you. Let them take more authority. It’s amazing what people will do when you trust them. Trust your team to accomplish great things but most importantly, see the small things as great things. Little becomes much and it only takes a certain number of small things to become amazing things.
Right now I’m watching a student who I’ve struggled for years to really find a connection to finish up our drive-train in Solidworks. In a few weeks he will be testing to become a Certified Solidworks Associate. Right now I am in awe of what FIRST can do in the small things and the big things.