[moderated]: A call for an end to inconsistency (sticking up for G25)

I am quite alarmed and frustrated by the inconsistency with which refs are applying G25 and the overaggressiveness 10-pt. judgement call FIRST wedged into the rules after they were released. At some events, ramming and tipping were being permitted with no penalty, causing damage and much frustration to offensive teams. At others, such as Midwest, refs are nullifying legal defensive strategies as defined by Rule G25 by their application of the overaggressiveness rule. I’d love to hear why they are choosing to levy these penalties, but oh yes, they don’t bother communicating their reasoning for each penalty to the audience. Pity. More people than I care to remember have expressed similar frustration in these forums and at these events across the continent. The same, tired old excuses of “Oh, they’re just volunteers” and “Oh, we don’t have the resources to oversee the refs as much as we’d like” is starting to wear thin. FIRST, you have a MAJOR problem with the way you “manage” your referee crews, and if you do not do something about it soon, I fear you are going to see some teams walk away from this program in disgust.

(Virtual shouting alert. All of you who get uptight about such things, grab your virtual Tylenol, use it on your virtual headache, and hush).

Yes, I freely admit it. I am biased. Biased toward fairness. Biased toward balance. Biased toward equality of experience at all events for all teams, both offensive and defensive. Why must we always have to deal with these extremes in judgement from the refereeing crew, extremes which cause students who feel they’ve just accomplished something amazing to suddenly have their spirits obliterated by a penalty that didn’t exist at their last event? THAT IS INEXCUSABLE, AND FIRST YOU ARE DROPPING THE BALL BIG TIME. This is the ONE area of the entire competition you SHOULDN’T leave primarily in the hands of the regional volunteer staffs. I know many of these refs are walk-ons at these events and have had little training. BUT THAT IS NOT AN EXCUSE - THAT IS EVIDENCE THAT YOUR REFEREEING SELECTION AND TRAINING PROCESSES ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH! THAT IS EVIDENCE OF YOUR FAILURE IN THIS AREA! I am tired of everyone asking us to use GP and look past these shortcomings. You exist as a non-profit organization who have dedicated themselves to serving the needs of the people and teams who quite literally buy into your message and choose to participate in this program. Each year, we all look to you to create an exciting game challenge, exercise fairness in judgement, and provide swift guidance and communication when such things are needed. When the central body fails to come through in these areas, the whole community is weakened by it. This is an area where we NEED more leadership from you. It is challenge enough for these mentors to run their own programs and find ways to inspire them in our home towns. We expect the competitions to be a capstone experience for the kids that lets us all celebrate the successes of the build period together, one which takes the kids’ breath away and leaves them wanting more. This refereeing inconsistency is severely hurting that experience for many students and their teams, and that is inexcusable.

FIRST, this is a call for help. Please fix what is broken, so that the great FIRST experience we’ve all come to know and love isn’t further eroded away.

I originally posted this in the Midwest Webcast thread, but moved it here.

Relevant posts can be found in the Midwest Regional Webcast thread, page 4 and beyond:

The video of the match in question can be found here.

I just watched the video of this semifinal match. Thank you to SOAP for providing this great service.

Some excerpts from the announcer…

“Some great defense by the blue alliance.”

“Captain Krunch…playing pure defense.”

Boy, those blue dudes sure had him fooled. Good thing the refs were there to set the record straight and penalize that overaggressive alliance for pouring everything they had into upsetting “the favorites”.

I will tell you that the vid of that match didn’t reveal all 2:00 of the blue alliance’s defensive activity, but from what I saw, they were pushing low. They never rammed. They backed off periodically to avoid the pinning issues. Basically, they played the defensive game the way it was meant to be played. Yet they were denied.

Did anyone actually bother to communicate the SPECIFIC reasoning behind the call to the crowd at the venue? Or was everyone once again left in the dark to fuel the flames of debate here on these forums and beyond?

I’m that much closer to bringing the G25 Freightliner to Atlanta.

Rule generalities such as the “overaggressiveness” penalties permit personal bias and inconsistency to taint both the quality AND equality of the game experience for participants across the board. They pretty much give refs free license to annihilate any explicitly-worded rule in the book at their leisure. IT STINKS. PERIOD.

Congratulations to the winning alliance in that Midwest semifinal, for you played your best and did nothing wrong, but I truly salute you, 107, 79, and 648, for a job well done and, in my opinion, improperly rewarded.

Ironically, that was the loudest cheering I heard all day yesterday over the webcast.

This is disappointing. IMHO, there was nothing wrong with their defence. At all.

FIRST should have 5-10 main “Aggressive” refs that travel to the Regionals each weekend and only they are allowed to call G25. That would limit the inconsistancy, I would hope.

Speaking as a referee (from the Detroit Regional), G25 is a very difficult call to make, because it is, at its heart, a judgement call. Even when you know the rules extremely well, as I do, it is incredibly difficult to make that call, and to keep it consistent, because every situation you witness is different. What may be crystal clear in one situation is clear as mud in another.

In addition, everyone has a slightly different idea of what counts as G25. Some believe that most contact should be eliminated to encourage offense. Other referees take a laissez faire approach, saying “let the teams play.” This is, for the most part, how we called the rule at Detroit. If we thought a team was intentionally ramming or tipping, we would call a 10-pt. penalty, warn them, and tell them the next time was a DQ (we never got to the DQ stage). If, however, the contact appeared to be incidental, legal defense, or the call was very questionable, we would call nothing, and just give the team a warning after the match.

So, as you can see, it’s not an easy call to make, and an even harder one to make consistently. Is there room to improve on this? Absolutely. There are ways, I’m sure, like requiring all referees to attend a training seminar at FIRST HQ, but you have to remember: referees are just volunteers. They sign up on the FIRST website like everyone else, and, often, FIRST needs all the volunteers they can get. When you run things that way, a 2-hour training session on Thursday is really the best you can do.

Finally, even if you were able to get all the referees to a weekend training session, and had regular meetings to ensure consistency (both of which are possible for a small number, perhaps, but not every single referee), G25 is, in the end, a judgement call. You can define it extremely well, but it’s still up to the men and women on the sidelines to make the final call, and, they’re only human.

I cant tell anything from watching the video, so lets give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume a bad call was made by the refs.

Show me a sport where this never happens, where fans never BOOOO the refs, or feel like they have been robbed?

Ok, shall we talk about teaching students about good sportsmanship now, how to go with the punches when you feel like you DID get the short end of the stick?

Shall we talk about mentors setting the example?

If the measuring stick was the same length from week to week, perhaps that would be an easier task to accomplish…

I’m sure it would be easier for those opposed to my opinion to try and counter with the “You’re just whining and bitter” defense, so I’ll just cut off that angle right now - it’s been a very long time since I can remember my team being directly and majorly affected by a ref’s call. Any penalties we’ve received this year have been well deserved and have been explained to our kids as such. We’ve been fortunate in that area; many others have unfortunately not. I make these pleas solely in the best interests of all FIRST teams, and specifically for the emotional states of the kids who are affected by such inconsistency.

There’s also the popular argument that “well this is how the real world works - it’s not always perfect, and it’s a good life lesson for the kids”. I’d like to think that the bulk of those lessons, both positive and negative, should be learned in the metal shops, warehouses, tiny storage rooms, and dimly lit hallways of high schools throughout the world, as well as in the pits at the competitions. There are times when your team will struggle and there are times when it will achieve great victories. There will be times when unknown and uncontrollable factors will intercede to provide an unexpected outcome for which your team must compensate. Referee inconsistency is both a known AND controllable factor that should NEVER be allowed to create an unexpected outcome on the playing field. It’s not a life lesson that should be accepted and learned from; it’s a PROBLEM that should be eradicated as quickly as possible, so as not to detract from the TRUE and VALUABLE life lessons these kids learn at these events.

I always thought the great thing about FIRST was that it wasnt a sport… :rolleyes:

I think it’s great Travis made this post. There has been controversy about this rule going around these boards and elsewhere. Obviously, many people are upset about these inconsistent calls. But what is this in the eyes of FIRST? To me it would just seem like a whole mess of sour high school kids complaining because they didn’t win. I love everything the great mentors of FIRST have done for us, and appreciate it immensely; without you guys none of us would even have this opportunity. But at the same time, its the kids who pour their hearts and souls into this… its their game. While an unbiased, unaffiliated adult may take these “bad” calls with a grain of salt, saying its just a part of the game, a student who has devoted everything they have into this robot is going to take it a little more seriously. And it will be their quest to fix the problem that will result in something good. Maybe this will be a rule change, or better referee training… but hopefully it will be that no one else has to get their heart broken the way he/she just did.

A perfect example of this is Ted Boucher from team 237. In the 2nd round of finals at the NJ regional, his team clearly won the match, but was forced to replay the match after a communications error, and it cost them the regional. While a bit bitter at first, Ted quickly got over the loss and moved his attention from his pain in losing to trying to make sure that what happened to him never happened to anyone else again, ever. I think this shows true maturity on Ted’s part, and I salute both Travis and Ted for their cool handling of the situation, and great understanding of the teenage mindset.

If you hadn’t started this thread, I was going to today. I agree 100% with you, the inconsistency shown at the Midwest Regional this weekend is unacceptable. G25 is a shady area and needs to be clearly defined to avoid these types of incidents. Just what is defense, what does it constitute, what is not defense, what is considered aggressive play? These all need to be clearly defined within the rules for all to see, and then need to be upheld to the fullest.

To put it nicely, I was outraged when 79 got the ten point penalty. Krunch played some of the best defense I have seen all season. How is trying to prevent a team from capping by shoving them with your drive and covering the goal with your arm considered aggressive? Krunch was doing what they had to do to stop the scoring machines 71 and 111 - they were executing the only strategy that would work, and they were penalized for playing the game. It’s absurd.

Quite frankly, I am so glad we did not compete at Midwest this past weekend.

The drastic change from Purdue in calling the ‘breaking the plane’ rule was insane. Teams who touched the plexiglass were disabled. At times, entire alliances were disabled. At Purdue, teams who went over the plane of the player station were not disabled even when one of THURST’s operators was hit with a tetra!

Another thing, why were refs running across to the player station to hit the E-stop button to disable the robot? Wouldn’t asking the scoring table to disable be much faster and make more sense…?

I can honestly say I was angry when I left the Midwest Regional, and our team wasn’t even at the competition. I really, really felt for all the teams that got the shaft this weekend - 107, 79, 648. You are handling this better than I would, you are amazing teams.

I will say congrats to 71, 111, and 537, because they really did play very well.

Just imagine you walk into your office one day, and your boss called a party because one of the employee’s did something great and took the company to a new level. It happens to be your best friend that has being credited with it even though you and everyone knows its you who has put in the work for it. How would you feel?

In the past years, there was not too many bad calls. This year, because the game and its rules, there are a lot. I feel really bad for the teams that go through these bad and inconsistent calls because I know how much it hurts. I don’t want to blame the refs because I know some of the rules are confusing and based mainly on human eye judgment. I do want to blame some of the refs because some of them are similar to past years, and the calls were still absolutely non-sense. I can’t wait to see how things turn up at the championship event. Every regional has had a different tone and different interpretation of the rules, which makes the game even more confusing for me. All I can hope is the championship will be a better event, with more fair and consistent calls. It’s just a game afterall.
Good luck to all teams,

Wow. I don’t know what to say other than I am disappointed that a FIRST mentor could set such a horrible example for his and other students.

You seem very focused on the impact to the students because of one call. I suggest that it is not the call, but your reaction to the call that creates any negative impact on the students.

Frankly, you do not get it. You do not get what FIRST is about. You do not get that it is not about a random ref call here or there. It is about what the students learn and are exposed to over the six week build and during the competitoin. No ref has ever taken away the FIRST experience from a student – the vast majority of the time they add to it.

I am not passing judgement on this particular incident, but yes, refs sometimes make mistakes – not just FIRST refs – all refs. Even the highly trained, highly paid professional refs. I’m not going to justify FIRST’s efforts to you other than to say that FIRST does go to considerable effort and expense to ensure that the Head Refs at each event are trained and communicate amoungst one-another throughout the season.

Lastly, if you feel you really need to make a gigantic banner with <G25> printed on it and bring it to Atlanta, I will suggest that maybe you need to reconsider taking the trip. The amount of negativism you would be displaying would be a big negative impact to the students – much greater than any ref’s call.


I want all refs to consider this: A call for intentionally excessive rough play accompanied by a disqualification is an indictment of the team it is called on. When you flag a team for this, you are accusing them of playing dirty, playing contrary to the principles of gracious professionalism. You are pointing a finger at their drivers, saying, “You didn’t have enough class to play fair that round.” You shouldn’t make such a call if you are only 51% convinced the violation was intentional. By making that call, you are dissing a team, so you better be darn sure you are right. Remember that the next time you flag a team for intentionally excessive rough play.

The final in Philly was turned on an excessive rough play call, where the refs accused the Long Island Regional champion and Chairmans winner and former Regional Sportsmanship Award winner of intentionally tipping another robot.

I also do not blame the refs as much as the rule of G25. My team team 135 lost the boilermaker and buckeye regional in the finals because of hitting low and being penalized that cost us to lose. TWICE. The first time losing hammond team 71 in the finals we were just happy to make it that far but at the Buckeye where our robots arm did not work for the finals and the robot we hit had a high CG and tipped we lost the finals because of it. We are done and ready for nationals and hoping that at nationals the refs have some more consistency on the G25. Because we do not care how they inforce it just keep in consistent for all.

Just for reference, people may watch the match in question on SOAP108, the link is - http://soap.circuitrunners.com/2005/movies/il/il_sf1m3.wmv

Whoa! You are way off base here. The refs are not idicting or accusing anyone – they are doing their job of impartially enforcing the rules.

I want to ask everyone who is posting on this topic to take a deep breath, think back, and ask yourself:

“If all of the people at the regionals you attended were watching every move you made during the 6 week build season and in the pits at the competition, would they find any faults in your decisions or actions?”

I’ll say it–both Aidan and Travis have valid points.

G25, unless there’s a consistent plan in place to enforce it, will end in students, mentors, and quite possibly the random spectator off the street having a bad taste in their mouths. If someone gets too angry, they might just take their business to some other contest. You can say good riddance to a team that didn’t “get it” all you want–but FIRST still lost a team. In my humble opinion, we want to avoid that.

However, we can’t allow folks to harbor negativity over one rule. I’ve only been in FIRST for two years, but I’ve heard of some doozies in the past. Time will tell if G25 can join that list of doozies, but in the meantime, remember–it’s just a game! These competitions are the sorts of things that only happen three (or for some, six, nine–or twelve or more) days out of the year. As such, the refs will have three (or for some, six, nine–or twelve or more) days of experience. We come together, do our thing, and split. The fewer bad feelings at the end of those days, the better.

So, what’s a guy to do? I know that I’ll be pestering 1293’s drive team to ask the refs at Palmetto for as many details about G25 enforcement as they have, and for information on what caused every single flag we get. (Of course, my dream is to go the distance without getting a flag. :rolleyes:)

There are a few points to address:

1)In my opinion, 79’s defense was not a penalty. However, it was very aggressive and my vantage point was not as good as the refs.

2)I would prefer no defense. When that was tried in 2001, there was an uproar to bring back the interaction. In 2003, it wasn’t battlebots, but it was right up next to it. It was a “game of denial” where offensive bots were completely nullified. This game is an attempt at a compromise.

3)Lighten up on the refs. These people are volunteers doing the best job they can with the game they were dealt trying to keep it as fair as possible. Yes, they were calling it tight(we were disabled twice at this regional), so you have to adjust.

4)As far as defensive penalties, my analogy goes back to my basketball days. Every now and then, it came a time to give a “hard foul”. Most of the time, it was called a foul. Every now and then, it was called a “flagrant foul”. Sometimes it was deserved, sometimes not. But as a caution to teams that play “hard defense”, due to inconsistencies in human judgment, the risk will exist for a penalty under the current system.

  1. FIRST is concerned about safety, but have only a 6’-8" wall as a barrier. Put up a 2-3 ft Plexiglas wall on top of the current operator’s station. This will stop a whole bunch of disablements and make the game a more exciting game.

In conclusion, it was an unfortunate conclusion to the semifinal. Both alliances played well and were deserving. Let’s hope that this experience makes for a better Nationals and a better FIRST.


Brian Beatty

I need to weigh in here as a participant, team member and volunteer at the Midwest Regional. The position of referee is a very hard and subjective position in a competition where there is a rule book the size of a small town yellow pages. What you see from the stands and what you see from a webcast is nothing compared to the vantage point you would have on the floor next to the field. I spent some time behind the field during this regional, some time behind a players station in the stands and some time high up with my team and I can tell you there is a vastly different view of the game from those three positions. The aggressive play rule comes from the discussion on this forum and others following last year’s season. It has been discussed at length and the referees trained to know the difference between aggressive defense and aggressive play aimed at damage only. Anyone in this competition for more than a year knows that robots will sustain damage, have parts ripped off, break drive parts etc. When an aggressive robot leaves the field and it is littered with parts, that has crossed the line. During one such match in Chicago, the referees collected a double handful of broken parts from the field.
At the start of this season, I wasn’t sure that this would turn into an exciting game, but it has. I didn’t think aggressive play would be an issue with a populated field (6 robots and nine goals) but there are robots out there that can and will drive hard enough to inflict serious and fatal damage on another robot. Pushing doesn’t create damage but serves just as well in a defensive mode as ramming but there is a significant difference that only those up close may be able to determine.
Now, having been at two regionals back to back, and seeing the same people volunteering at both, I can tell you they are very tired. (I am exhausted) Do you know of any officials that will ref for two full days? Does any official receive the full immersion form of training that our refs do? As each match goes by, they get better and better. By finals on Saturday afternoon I think you have the best staff you can get.
I guess I am trying to say (in a Ken Leung, long post kind of way) that it is too easy to make a judgment call from the stands and be wrong. Making a judgment call on a webcast video should be like pro wrestling, for entertainment purposes only.

I can tell you we have the utmost respect for the teams we played. The finals matches with 107, 79, 648 were some of the toughest I have ever seen and they are the greatest competitors, playing the game well with a wonderful strategy that almost won. I would be happy to be in an alliance with any of them.

I think we should be careful of using words like “accused” here. If things were perfect, and they aren’t, I don’t think a ref’s opinion of intentional vs. unintentional should ever have to play a role in his/her decision, if the rule clearly defines what is wrong and what isn’t, and the governing body of the competition makes it clear that one and only one interpretation of that rule is acceptable. Sometimes, kids make mistakes, and they tip over a robot unintentionally, or they swing their tetras over a player station, accidentally causing a student to be struck. They should be penalized for their mistakes in just the same manner as the team that just went out, locked on to a target, and hit the gas, or drove around like hellions who didn’t care where their arms or their tetras swung, and they should accept their mistake and the consequences that resulted from making it. Ideally, the only application of referee judgment would come in deciding which teams to warn/watch/disqualify because of their continued reckless play and which teams to leave alone because they know the kids made a simple mistake.

There is naturally going to be a fair amount of judgment the refs have to make when assessing penalties based upon G25, but it amazes me that the range of interpretations is so very widespread. Sometimes, the aggressor is so obviously over the top that they tip or damage another robot, yet no penalty is called. Other times, the aggressor plays defense according to the strict wording of the rule, yet they are flagged. G25 seems very clear to me, and I simply cannot understand why all these different interpretations of this and other rules have been permitted to be exercised at these events.

I’ve said this before - refs at any one event tend to be consistent with their rulings and generally call the game true to what is discussed in that event’s initial refereeing meetings; it’s the inconsistency from event to event that is the true driving force behind this frustration for so many.

What is so different about calling this year’s game compared to last year’s that is causing so much widespread heartache and disappointment for people? It boggles my mind. Last year’s game was so memorable for me because I CANNOT remember one time where the refs and their calls became the focal point of the event - it was all about the great driving and hanging and ball gathering and Human Player accuracy - it was all about the excitement.

It’s just so…disappointing to see so many discussions of this nature pop up this season. It’s also disheartening to see the actions of these volunteer refs placed squarely in the spotlight of these debates. On the whole, they are not the direct source of all this frustration for teams. They are just trying to do their jobs the best they can based upon the game, rules, and communication FIRST has given them. I continue to be amazed that someone can’t simply fix this problem - how hard is it to just communicate?! Perhaps there are forces and roadblocks at work behind the scenes that I will simply never comprehend, but I continue to hold out hope that the dedicated people at FIRST will find a way to make things better. Bharat was right - let’s hope the championship is the place where FIRST makes things right, for if such field-to-field inconsistency as we’ve seen so far is permitted to plague the playing fields at Atlanta, where the separation of the venues is a matter of feet, not hundreds of miles, I shudder to think of the team reactions and repercussions that would result.

To all whom post -
It is obvious that this year the interpretation of the rules (G25) has caused a bit of controversy. So I actually expected that issues like this would come up throughout the regional season.
Please keep in mind that it is NOT productive to post negative remarks about setting examples and such - everyone, and I mean everyone, is entitled to their opinion. Let’s not forget that mentors are human too and they also have opinions that might not match that of the FIRST leadership - FIRST can handle criticism - let’s just be careful in the manner in which we do so.
Now - back to the specifics about this thread.
Calling for an end of inconsistency is asking for the impossible. People are inconsistent, and the interpretation of this rule is inconsistent. As many have pointed out, what one determines as overaggressive someone else may not.
The rule itself allows the ref’s to decide from match to match, day to day, regional to regional. Unfortunately, there is no clear line that defines when a team is being “overly aggressive” - nor even just plain “aggressive”. Words like ramming, high speed ramming, pushing high, pushing low, pinning, and such don’t do justice to the intent behind the action.
That is why the refs are in a bad situation. They must interpret the action, and then the intent. The results are obvious (tipped over robots, parts scattered over the field, broken machines) - so afterwords the equation is not always balanced. Those teams that designed machines so that the intent is hidden by the shape of the machine have no excuses - the drivers and more so the coaches of teams that play defense as part of their strategy must realize that in doing so they are at risk (offensive scoring machines draw less attention in penalty situations - they are more often the victim of overzealous driving)
What can or should be done?
Define what is considered allowable defensive actions. Post them on ever teams table on Thursday. FIRST must make sure everyone that is allowed to call penalties has the same interpretation - use past matches on Thursday when the ref’s are trained, to make sure everyone of them is on the same page. I’ll call it on the job training using the YMTC method. Also, I’d install the 2nd pair of eyes rule on penalties associated with G25 - two or more ref’s need to agree in order for the penalty to stick.
Then, call penalties when those actions take place - starting when the first one is broken and be consistent throughout the tournament.
Sorry about the long post -
Agree or disagree as you’d like - but let’s all stay on the high road and not slip back making a bad situation worse.

Mike Aubry

Ok, I’m going to try to say this as calmly and clearly as I can.

Referees are on the field to make calls. If there weren’t judgment calls to be made, then they wouldn’t be out there. By placing them there, we are saying that we will trust their judgement. They are closer than we are, they can see better. Yes, they may make bad calls, but they’re human and there will always be calls where they will have to trust what they think they saw. Obviously, the rules cannot outline every possible defensive situation for clarification and must leave much of it up the discretion of the refs.

Now to the comments by those who were not satisfied with the referees consistency. Once again, the refs are only human and human error does have an annoying tendancy to upset us from time to time, especially when it’s our team or the team we’re rooting for or against. Maybe the refs inconsistency was them trying to make things more fair, trying to follow the rules better and do a better job. I almost guarantee you that the refs are not out there to try to ruin things for your team. They are volunteers, they have your best interest in mind.

In summary: Rules allot for human error. If there weren’t judgement calls to be made, there wouldn’t be referee’s. The ref’s out there are just trying to do the best job possible. Let’s all try to support each other and if there is a problem, let’s try to make sure our emotions don’t rule our posts, let’s let the facts speak for themselves.

This is exactly what needs to be done. G25 needs to be elaborated on with specific definitions in an effort to standardize the ref’s calls across all regionals, throughout the entire regional. I would not have a problem with the call at the Midwest Regional had it been called prior to Saturday afternoon.

I forgot to do this in my first post - thank you to the referees. Without you guys, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion right now, and that would be a bad thing. Thanks to all who volunteer their time to work these events.