Mentors on drive team


This is my 4th year with FIRST, and at every competition I’ve ever attended, every Championship I’ve ever volunteered at I often see mentors filling the position of “Strategist” or this year: “Analyst.” My team has a policy against mentors being on drive team, but I’m curious about costs vs. benefits. A lot of older teams can be seen with mentors filling a role, and I wonder if it might be advantageous for us to as well. The reason my team did it was due to a “mentors hands off” policy following the philosophy of “student design, student built, mentor approved.” Meaning that the students did all of the work, and the mentors never touched a thing, but gave constructive criticism and guidance. The founding team members felt that mentors on drive team contradicted this. Thoughts?


If you have a veteran mentor with 5+ years experience, they an notice things happening that many of us wont. We use a mentor for that very reason. They are there to guide, not be a boss, just remember that.


Mentors cannot be drivers or human player/analyst only the drive coach.


2791 has always had a mentor coach and will for the foreseeable future.

For us, FIRST is about mentors working hand in hand with students. The lessons an adult coach can teach a drive team and the collaboration the students and adults experience together form some of the strongest student-adult partnerships that are so key to FIRST. Student coaches are great too, though. I was a student coach when I was a student and the experience was invaluable.

It is worth noting that 2791 doesn’t strictly share the “mentor hands off” approach to the robot, though. No part of the robot lacks student involvement, but mentors often work hand in hand with students on design and construction. Machining is done as much as possible off site and out of meeting times.


The analyst is a student position this year, a non-high school aged team member cannot fill this position.

There are many teams that chose to have adult mentors be the Drive Team coach. For some teams this is due to policy and for others it’s due to the experience that the mentors have.

816 has always had an adult coach for on season events with the exception of 2009. Having driven under both a student coach and an adult coach, I can say that it doesn’t matter who they are as long as they can provide the proper insight and assistance to the drive teams.

To answer your question, if the mentors are there to provide guidance and criticism then why not have one on the field during the match to give insight into game play? If you have a mentor that is especially good at strategy aren’t they better than a student who is not? It’s really a question that the team needs to ask themselves and then answer.

(Personally, I’ve found that Drive Teams with Adult Coaches are often a bit more professional, but this is not always the case.)


My sentiments exactly. I ended up as the human player for BattleCry last year and we grabbed a mentor that started last year and put him as our Coach. It really doesn’t matter who it is, it’s more what they can see and how fast (and accurate) they can relay that information to the Drivers (or operator, what I call our arm/kicker person).

The entire point of the Coach is to give the two drivers another pair of eyes to see with; by contrast, the Analyst is the Alliance-wide Coach, and (as I see it), will be more about signaling the Feeders and keeping communications between the 3 teams.


I will echo what has been said already (and what has been discussed many times on CD before). Mentors tend to have a firm grasp of how the game is played year in and year out i.e. the experience factor.

That doesn’t mean a veteran high school team member can’t have the same knack for game strategy and experience that the mentor has.

While the drive team changes from year to year, we find it’s nice to have a constant on the drive team. They can help new drivers catch on quickly during ‘strategy meetings’ before each competition match, or they can watch the clock or scoring rack to calmly tell the driver which action to perform next.

Overall, I think it’s important for the drivers to trust the coach, and we find there is minimal conflict when it is a mentor.


We usually use student coaches on 1551, but not always. It depends on the year, and who wants to do what job.


Perhaps your team could discuss the limitations that you are establishing for yourselves by following this philosophy. It would be a good topic to explore. Wisdom and experience are valuable to FRC teams; often, mentors are the storehouses of these valuable assets.



We have always had an adult coach and I believe we always will. We have one for the same reason that you have adult coaches on all sports teams. Students do a great job but sometimes their emotions get the best of them.

We always have the students enter into an open dialogue with alliance partners. There have been times when the adult mentor needed to decipher fact from fiction when it came to capabilities for both us and others. This does not mean that the adult took over these conversations but spoke to our students and had them be ambassadors for the team.

The two drivers generally end up with tunnel vision because they concentrate on the robot. A key responsibility of the adult coach is to be aware of what is happening on the entire field and watch the clock.

The coach also gathers the drivers and human players after each match to critique what happened. This dialogue makes us better by nationals.

We also make sure that there is a great relationship with coach and drivers prior to any competition. It starts at driver tryouts, continues with driver training and goes on for life :stuck_out_tongue:


I don’t want to open the huge can of worms on this subject but there are many reasons that we use an adult coach on the drive team. I will share the one that is my favorite.

To even be considered for our drive team you have to have shown dedication and put in your hours to the team during build season. It’s a reward for effort given.

I spend many many more hours than any student does every year, being drive coach is my reward for that effort.


Ahh the old student vs adult coach debate :slight_smile:

Ultimately, do what works for YOUR team. And you may want to make some of decisions depending on your goals. If your goals are for the students to do and learn as much as possible, a student coach may be the way to go. If your goals are to learn from the past, have mentors & students work hand in hand and learn from eachother, maybe a mentor is a good idea.

1511 started with a student/adult pair that traded off, but since then has been fortunate enough to have very driven, interested & mature student coaches. Our team does a ton of strategy work in the background (which is done by both mentors & students) and has lots of scouting, and for the most part tends to lead strategy discussions with alliance partners. You need a very strong & intelligent student who knows the rules backwards and forwards in order to do this. If you have a student like that, I would say definitely go with the student. A mentor can be the backup in “tough” discussions with “pushy” adult coaches - believe me, we have encountered our share. In general at first glance, a lot of adult coaches won’t give the same credibility to a student, BUT, the good ones will quickly recognize knowledge & talent. However, if your student coach can’t control the drivers and can’t hold their own in a strategy discussion, maybe its a good opportunity for an adult coach.

Ultimately, again, its what works for your team. I have seen student coaches that are far better than many mentor coaches, but I have also seen drivers that do much better having a mentor coach. Really, its all about WHO you put in that position and the skills they have, not how old they are. Your drive team needs to have chemistry and they need to be able to strategize & work with other teams. So just pick the right person for the job :slight_smile:


174 likes to have a student coach rather than a mentor coach. Our reasoning is a little more about the relationships between the students. There is a sense of purpose when the adults give the students an opportunity to prove themselves as leaders, winners and champions. The mentors spend countless hours with students in building the robot, so during competition the mentors of 174 really take a step back. For our group of students each year, it just works better. Talk to any of the teams we have been paired with in elims and they will tell you how focused, driven and clam our student drivers and coach are - even in the face of defeat.

Not saying it works for every team, but it does for us, and we like it that way.


From what I’ve experienced as an operator, mentor drive coaches make team interaction more professional. The adult mentors collaborate in a professional manner, and offer the students a chance to collaborate professionally. The mentors shouldn’t be calling all the shots, but they can help bring a more professional relationship to the drive team, and to the interaction between teams. I know that had there not been a mentor coaching me, I wouldn’t have conducted myself in such a manner.


I have had years when I had a student who was capable and I let them be the coach, primarily because I have to spend alot of time in the pits working on the robot and I feel that the coach needs to be available to watch as many matches as possible in order to be the best strategist. I have had the student coach coordinate the scouting team so he knows what is going on with the game and the other teams.

However, my preference is to have a mentor for one specific reason. If something goes wrong with a match relative to scoring or a ruling, then a student has to bring it to the attention of the head referee immediately. I feel that a student is at a disadvantage debating with an adult in presenting their case while trying to be respectful of the adult, so I like to have an adult standing behind him for support.


Our team has a policy of having a student be the drive coach/strategist. Our rookie year, I was the drive coach/strategist (as a student) and every year since then I’ve helped coach our drive team including the drive coach/strategist (as an alumni/mentor). I could just be the drive coach/strategist myself but we want students to lead our team and represent us on the field. We think that’s important. I learned alot through my experience and i had the most fun i’ve ever had. We want other students to have that same opportunity.


2022 has an entirely student designed, student built robot. This philosophy transfers into everything we do. We have had a student coach every year of our existence, and we will until their is a radical shift in the philosophy. Everything about our team is student run, our mentors sometimes ask questions about our designs to make sure that we have thought them through completely. To me, seeing a mentor on a drive team doesn’t seem to make sense. Everything that a mentor can see, a student can see better, faster, and communicate it with the drive team efficiently.


On 548 we are a student lead team with a student coach every year. I have a great respect for out mentors and the time they put in. I also respect the mentor coaches on the field. The only problem I have with mentor coaches is that this program is designed to inspire high school students and I’ve found, from being hp twice and from letting 8th graders on the field during off season events, that the chance to be on the field really motivates a lot of kids. As far as experience with the game, I don’t see a huge advantage to an adult or a veteran student, both get the game on the same day.


What makes you say that?


Can you explain this statement a bit more?

There is a reason that the same Adult Coaches bring home Banners year after year.