Off season drivers: HELP

I need some help with something. Our team competes at the annual Cal Games off season competition each year. Our team had a driver practice today, where our lead mentor had us pair into groups (since some of our drivers last year have graduated), and practice driving.

Bottom line: He is under the impression that it’s only an off season event, and wants to have everyone drive at the competition. He says he wants everyone to have fun.

I disagree. While everyone should have the opportunity to drive, it should not be during a competition. In the non-competition time, when the club stills meets, then I feel that everyone should drive. Not only does it make your team more consistent at the competition, not everyone is a good driver. My idea is to have 1 or 2 drive teams (a main team and a back up team).

So the question is: Which is the best option: Having everyone drive, or to have 1 or 2 drive teams?

For our team, even in off season, we have 1 main drive team, and 1 back up team.
The having everyone drive is good, we do during regular meetings on driving days. But not at competition, even off season ones. Having people drive at regular meetings, it is pretty quick to see who is a good driver and who is not.

You know the excitement of driving for the first time during competition. Are the main drivers really missing out on that much practice to not let a few other people experience it? Or are you too worried about losing off-season matches to not let a few other people try it out?

From my experience, if you let everyone drive during practice but not during any sort of competition, they will just hear “We’re only letting you practice because we have to but you’re not nearly good enough to ACTUALLY drive.” (whether you meant to say it or not!)

Also, think about how much the old drivers actually need practice – sure, it may be important to get familiar with your robot before competition, but you won’t be driving that one during competition, so is it that important?

I know for us we go along the route your mentor recommended, let everyone give it a try during off-season.


Well yes everyone can get a chance to drive it at meetings during off-season, but let’s face it - it’s not the same experience as in a competition setting.

We do have exceptions to this. Typically at our higher caliber off-seasons, we throw in a static Drive Team (often a variation of our competition season drive-team), and also during all eliminations matches, as a courtesy to our partners.

With that said I can understand where your coming from, you want your team to be at your prime, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I think at the end of the day it really comes down to personal/team preference, what you are going to this off-season to accomplish, and I don’t think any of us on this forum can help make the decision.

If you end up going the route of letting everyone drive during off-season, I would not make it a total free for all and instill these rules:

  1. Anyone on Drive Team at all for the event (ESPECIALLY the DRIVERS) should have put in a decent amount (1/2 - 1 hour) time practicing operating the robot.
  2. If you didn’t practice/train you don’t drive.

We have had the open Drive team policy for ever and never had a problem until we went to Monty Madness. We had several rookies that felt that after only a run or two the week prior in our shop that they could do it (against us pushing them to practice more). While I’m not critiscing them, when their turn came up to drive, it was clear they didn’t feel comfortable driving, they even said so themselves. The next event we attended we implemented this system, while still giving everyone a shot, and saw much better performance, and no one froze while being under the pressure of competition.

Either way I hope you have a great time, and best of luck!

I agree that during regular season and at hi-caliber events like IRI you need to stick to a set drive team but does it always have to be about winning?

Off season events are great way to get more people the experience of being “behind the glass.” So few students ever get that opportunity to do so, why not spread it around?

While I understand where you’re coming from, a competition is a competition. I’m not a win win win kind of guy, but success is my goal, and I want the team to perform at the best it can do. That being said, while it’s fun for everyone to drive, it’s sometimes best to give up what you really want to do for the team. You can’t deny it, there are tons of people who want to drive. And in the non-competition season, they can practice their heads off, so as that next time they will be better and can drive. We’re not saying the other people aren’t “good enough”, but that there are people who are better than them. But for the competition, you want your team to do the best it can do, and sometimes that means sacrificing what you really want to do.

Also, I don’t quite understand your last paragraph. Would you mind rephrasing it?

I understand it. It’s better as two separate questions.

  1. The robot you drive at an offseason is not the one you’ll be driving next year, so how much practice for the next year do you really get?

  2. How much do your older drivers (the ones you had during the season) really need the practice?

The answer to the first one is that you don’t gain skill driving the robot for competition per se; instead, you gain skills that drivers need to have, which serves just as well. It’s like an R/C pilot flying a warbird when he’ll be flying an aerobatic plane at his next competition–he’s developing or maintaining skills and getting himself accustomed to the flying environment.

The correct answer to the second one? Well, that depends on the situation.

I may have come off that way, but it is in no way about winning. Our goal is to be successful as a teaml. We want all of our students to get something from the competition, but we can’t have everyone driving, since wee need other people, like a pit crew, human players, maintenance, etc.

I am starting to understand the other side of the debate, and I may have a good solution.

NEW question: What do you think of this: Everyone can drive, as long as they have had x hours of practice, and can get within the top 3 or 4 drive teams. We only have 5 drive teams at practice today, so I think we won’t be excluding too much if we have 3 teams that switch out every match or so.

We have one drive team for all the official FRC events each season. We hold driver tryouts, and the team coach (a mentor) makes the final decision on the drive team. Official FRC events are expensive, and we want to ensure that we have the best possible drivers to give the team the best chance at succeeding.

But for the post-season events, we let the students run the team and make 100% of all decisions, as these events are just for fun (and the cost of these events is practically nothing compared to the cost of a Regional). For these events, the students typically let whoever wants to drive the robot have their chance.

At least in the Northeast, because of the huge number of post-season events, most teams use these events to either let any student drive or to train new drivers, so it’s not uncommon at these events for a team that was doing really well in the official events to struggle on the field.

Thanks. I agree with your answer for the first question. For the second, I was one of the drivers from last year. I am the only one left, and have been teaching the other prospective drivers. That being said, I’m not necessarily going to be in the best drivers, but like you said, I gained some skills that the average driver needs to have, which is helpful. The more I practice, the more I understand the robot, and the more I can help the other drivers.

I am going to make the assumption that you have some competition for the driver spot and it seems like if it were 2 drive teams you would most likely be on the one already determined.

To be completely honest, if you deserve it and are the best that’s how it will pan out. Your mentors want to see other potential that could be used down on the field to win competitions at later dates. If not, then so be it dude. You have to prove to your coaches/mentors you want it by dictating the actions on the field. Also, you have to keep calm and maintain composure.

I believe that at off-season events, all kids should be granted the right to drive if they have completed a certain amount of practice first. Once 2 or 3 competitions have passed, then the agreement on a driver should be made.

Just drive better dude and you will get the spot.

While I am in the group of people who want to drive, it’s not about me. My sole interest is towards the success of the team, and therefore think about 3 drive teams should be just fine. Since I am the only remaining driver from last year still on the team, I’ve been spending countless hours teaching the new people. The only problem is, we can’t have EVERYONE drive, which is what my mentor wants. Some of them don’t even want to drive. However, our team’s goal this year is to be more effective, and work more efficiently, and currently IMO, a set of 3 drive teams would be perfect.

Plus, a majority of the team (most of which who are not driving) are new, and I really want them to start off the year excited with the new competition. While winning isn’t important, being successful is. I feel a success at Cal Games will make them get more into the FIRST spirit, since right now they are kinda bored.

I’m truly sorry if I’m coming off as selfish, arrogant, or a person who only wants to win. I just want my team to be able to get started off on the right track. If any of you read The New Cool, you should know what I’m talking about.

This is entirely up to a team as a whole. Not one person (no matter which side of the spectrum) can just declare how a group wants to treat an off-season.

There are people on both sides of the debate. However, since reading the responses, I have come up with a solution that we agree on.

Thanks all for your help, and I hope I didn’t come off the wrong way.




My team is diong this: Our route is stating “If you come to driver practice on this day, and get some stick time, you will be able to drive during the qualifiers as long as the robot isnt broken”. However, we have less prospective drivers than you.

What I would suggest for you is to have 3 or 4 teams.

This way:

Two drive teams will drive in the eliminations: the main set of drivers (who are not allowed to drive during Qualifiers) and the best set of drivers out of the remaining 2 or 3.

Those other 2 or 3 drive teams will compete in the Qualifying Matches, for the match and for a chance to drive in the eliminations. It also becomes a small friendly competition at this point, and hopefully that will bring out the best in your drivers.

I am assuming that since you are the only returning driver, you will be on the best drive team, and thus will be able to tell the others on your drive team that they are not driving in Qualifiers. Just in case you aren’t, it may be best to only tell your mentor this plan, and keep it a secret from the other drivers so they don’t purposefully try to suck during practice, and suddenly do really well during Cal Games.

See you in a week!

Last year at our off season, and I presume this year as well, we rotated students through during qualifiers and and then substituted our “main driver and operator” in the elimination.

Given that we found our current “main driver” at an off season when he was a Freshman driving the our Lunacy bot, I doubt we will change our approach.

The other thing we did was our usual coach stepped back from the qualification rounds so we had students filling all four roles, which has made for some interesting matches.

Thanks beltsander! What we’re trying out is very similar to what you said. I am on the drive team, getting the fastest run, but I also want the other drivers to get enough practice. Too many drive teams, and each drive team will get less participation time. 1 drive team doesn’t let the others show what they can do. Depending on our opponent (or ally), we may not have just the other drive teams drive if they don’t think they can take on the opponent cough cough 254 cough cough :slight_smile:

I won’t tell you the right way to do this, but do consider that off-seasons aren’t just about winning, and they’re also not just about practice. Sometimes, they’re about tryouts and familiarization.

On the one hand, I may have a great at-meeting driver, only to find out s/he can’t or doesn’t want to handle the stress of an actual competition. (If they can’t do this at off-seasons, just wait for Worlds.) This is worth finding out early, but not at an official event or high-caliber off-season (read: IRI).

On the other hand, you may find that someone originally uninterested in driving gets completely addicted to it after a few matches, and becomes part of your future Einstein ticket.

On another hand (foot?), you might have two excellent at-meeting drivers, only to find out that, while neither buckles under pressue, one utterly excels under it.

As a three-year driver and three-year-and-counting coach, these are all far from unheard of circumstances. Each can help with inspiring students (FIRST), in addition to helping your team win. Just a thought from someone who’s been around that block for a little while.

As number of drivers increases; confusion, stress, complication, etc increases. I think it’s better to stick with one drive team, but it’s up to your team. It kinda depends on how competitive your team wants to be at the competition… just some thoughts

The experience is probably different on the east coast, especially for me coming from the New England/Mid-Atlantic region. There are tons and tons of offseasons here, so theres not as much of a ‘build up’ to them as there may be in other areas of the country that have fewer events.

For us, we put out our regulars at IRI and went for it. At BattleCry we mixed it up a bit through the qualifications, but settled on 1 constant (usually experienced) drive team for elims. For other events such as our own Beantown Blitz, River Rage, Where is Wolcott, Bash at the Beach or Mayhem in Merrimack, we let as many people drive through qualifiers as possible. We then will pick a drive team for elims and let them have at it.

We’ve found this to be a happy balance of getting new people experience, and still “going for it” come eliminations time.