Ok, so basically our coach and his son wrote a whole handbook and let us have no input on it, and then they are barring students with less than 90% attendance from going to competitions, but are they really allowed to restrict students from going to competitions, I get not participating if you sat around every meeting but it’s just all confusing. They also say that anyone with lower than 75% attendance gets kicked off the team which I feel is unfair as most of us have jobs. They also explicitly state that being involved in other extracurriculars is not ok as it doesn’t let you focus solely on robotics. I just feel it’s unfair and if you guys want a follow up post with the handbook itself let me know please.
I don’t have any input on this other than empathizing with you that this seems overly strict, but you may want to take your team number off of your profile.
Good luck, and I hope your team can find a solution.
Are you a school district team or community team?
school district team but we’re considered a club
Couple more questions
Is your team large or is it hurting for members or somewhere in between?
Is there too many team members for mentorship to manage?
The school activities director may have policies for this already. it might be worth checking to make sure team leadership is adhering to them.
Our team is very small no more than 14 at the moment, and it’s really one mentor for every three students, and I checked with our assisstant principal and there are restrictions against what rules club leaders can make
Our team doesn’t let students go to our second competition if they don’t have enough shop hours, however those shop hours are around 50% of the possible shop hours. (We have ~18 hours possible per week)
How many meetings do you have per week? I feel like it’s reasonable to give more of an incentive to show up to meetings, but the percentage of meetings seems excessive to be honest.
We have 5 meetings a week, so if you miss one you’re not eligible for competition and you’re 5% away from not being allowed on the team
It’s not uncommon for a team to have travel requirements. I’ve heard stories about students who sign up for competitions just so that they can miss school and evade parental supervision for a few days, with no especial interest in robotics. Requirements are often expressed in terms of total hours during build season.
Having said that, students have a lot of demands on their time between academics, other extracurriculars, and jobs, and so it’s normal for these requirements to be pretty low. 75%/90% attendance at daily meetings sounds pretty strict to me.
Different teams have different philosophies about membership. Some teams are very exclusive and have a selective application process just to join. Other teams have inclusivity as a fundamental pillar. Obviously teams have an interest in incentivising participation, but holding loss of membership and travel over students’ heads is a blunt tool to achieve this.
My main advice for you is to communicate more, and try to avoid being confrontational about it. Ask why it was necessary to change policy, what the goal is, and what the backup plan is if (when) the policy fails. Suggest alternative ways to achieve the underlying goal. Get parents and teachers involved in the conversation. Find out what the policies are for other local teams. (https://frcmap.com/)
Update: As @ ns3517 pointed out, it makes a difference if the team pays for travel or if individual students pay. I’d expect some increased scrutiny when the team is paying, but any requirements need strong justification when the student is paying. For a 14 student team, I’d be focussing on growing the team, not reducing it.
I was looking around for published policies, and I found this page from BraveBots that lays out very detailed requirements on how to qualify for a “Varsity Letter”.
Having students “earn” the right to go to competition is part of a lot of teams requirements, but what your mentor is proposing is almost unachievable. What has your teams attendance been in previous years? With only 14 team members, has your mentor considered how long it would be before you won’t have enough team members to compete?
One of my mentors tells a long story about him wanting to sell DIY spot welders, and after gathering up everything needed realizing that while he thinks it is a great idea that not everyone else thinks the same way. Anyhow, the strict meeting requirements come across as not being able to relate to how other people are thinking.
I think most here will think that with less than 15 members causing more attrition won’t benefit your team much. I talked with a very successful coach for this season (3 blue banners) and one of their difficulties and something they wanted to improve was utilizing better satellite students, or ones that aren’t always there or as invested as the core students. With the increase is students with jobs or other activities I think getting better at guiding those students in FIRST will benefit some teams, especially smaller ones, as lot. How to do that is a challenge, particularly finding shorter focused tasked where can contribute or help core members.
Like many we are more in line with 40% of build hours to travel and 80% to letter, which work out to 50 and 100 hours. It can be a little frustrating when you have fewer show at some meetings, but maybe just meet less and keep hours so you’d have enough there each meeting rather than make it the requirement to be on the team. Also, we don’t have hour requirements to be on the team but just paperwork, so even those not going to competition are members. A few of students that are short hours also can volunteer for events to earn hours. At end of day we are here to inspire students and they may not for whatever reasons think like some of us that are there all the time, so we have to think about that it we want to impact those students too and give them opportunity to develop into core team members.
Teams are within their right to decide what it means to be “on the team.” Generally, events are open to the public, but if you want to attend in the capacity of a student on a team, your team is allowed to restrict who makes it onto the official roster.
As others have alluded to, schools and other organizations involved may have certain protections that don’t give the coach ultimate authority, but generally, if the coach has decision-making autonomy over the team, they can restrict its members.
What exactly does going to competitions entail for your team. You mentioned in thread that this is missing less than one meeting a week for your team which seems high regardless, but what this threshold should be really varies based on how expensive getting people to competition is for the team. For us, we’re pretty much able to let anyone who wants to go because we carpool 30 minutes to one competition and the other one is literally at our high school so cost to the team is negligible. If the team was paying for a flight and hotels for instance, you’d need a higher threshold.
Ours are usually less than an hour away and we all carpool. For hotels we get a discount due to parental involvement within hotels in the area
Generally with school clubs, the school is the ultimate authority of club rules. If the school has a fully developed bureaucracy, General club rules will be in a handbook somewhere. The principal has the ultimate say in club rules. That authority is delegated to the club advisor, coach, whatever. If you think rules are against school policy, unfair, or inconsistently applied, you can talk to someone over the coach i.e. the assistant principal. That may or may not work out well for you.
other ways for some credit are volunteer for FLL and FTC mentoring, sponsor and potential sponsor visitations, fund raisers, and come to a meeting and do school homework if need be and if there isn’t much work needed on the robot or even if there is work to be done on the robot - homework always comes first.
Everything seems unnecessarily strict, and not how we would run it. That being said, I’m trying to think back and remember if anyone on the high school sports teams I played on would be able to miss three out of four practices and still stay on the team. I kind of doubt it. And I really don’t remember anyone have extracurriculars going on at the same time as the season. So I can at least see the thought process behind rules like that.
Personally, I think running an FRC team as if it were the same as other high school sports is a bad idea. But different teams have different philosophies and I know nothing about your team. I do see mention of talking to school administration, but nothing about talking to the coach. Again, I know nothing of your situation. But mentors make mistakes. And I hope a student would come to us to discuss rules they feel are unfair before going to administration and posting on CD asking for advice, so we have awareness that the rule is unfair, and give us a chance to fix it.
It’s funny, I usually hear robotics students tell me they need to miss meetings or competitions because their sports or band coaches will kick them off the team if they missed a single practice. So I guess there is a precedence for it outside of robotics.
Ultimately it comes down to what rules are in place as delegated by the school club rules as enforced by the coach.
Did anything like this exist on the team prior?
Our team has commitment requirements to come to events (because the team pays all expenses at events) and also be in prime positions on the team. We do not have any requirement to be on the team though. Sometimes we have people who are interested in only getting a fundamental understanding of tools, we will bring them on board for just the summer and then they leave during the school year. We are happy to help more youth experience it in some capacity, even if its not in its entirety.
Ours is not 90% and also if a student has school work they need to complete, or have a shift at their job, then it is an excused absense and not counted against them.