Role of Team Captain

In a recent meeting, the role of team captain was brought up. Up until this point on Team 1540, the team captain has been guaranteed a position on the drive team. The logic behind this was that after 4 years on the team, the team captain would logically fit into the drive team, and aspire for a position. It was also an incentive for team members to aspire to the position of team captain.
After Breakaway! however, certain opinions changed. The team voted in the final meeting of the year to restrict certain drive team positions. We, as a team, decided that the mangers of design and fabrication should not be eligible for the drive coach, or main driver position. The main reason behind this is that the person/people responsible for the main design and fabrication of the robot would be consumed by the maintenance of the robot during the competition and would not necessarily be available for discussions of strategies for the next match. The guarantee of a drive team position for the team captain remains intact.

We’re currently debating whether that should remain. One the one hand, a team member who has committed themselves to their team for 3 years should be able to choose the position that they would want to be in for their final year. On the other hand, we’d like to field the best possible drive team to maximize our chances at competitions.

So now we’d like to hear from you.

Is your team captain guaranteed a drive team position each year?

What are the responsibilities of your team’s team captain?

How do you form your drive team each year?

What role(s) does your team captain preform on your team?


Not knowing the game, how all your students drive, how committed they’ll be 4 months from now, etc… I would be hesitant to put such harsh restrictions on Driving.

We hold tryouts and try to pick the best compromise between skill, dedication (past dedication usually means future dedication to attend practice), attitude and contribution to the team. We won’t put a kid out there that doesn’t deserve it or has an awful attitude, but putting in 300 hours and designing half the robot doesn’t guarantee a spot either. There generally aren’t hard feelings about this from the gungho students, they know we’re out there to win matches.

It’s nice to have a driver not on pit crew in terms of stress and availability, but it’s also nice for the driver to be able to jump in and fix issues during eliminations. Generally the coach should handle the prematch strategy talks anyway.

Drivers should not be chosen based on class standing or team position, but on skill and on how they work with each other and the drive coach. When there are 4 team members on the field, if they do not understand each other, or work well together, then you may as well not build a good robot. Individually, they may be experts at what they do, but if the driver goes backwards right as the operator tries to hang, while the coach is telling them to kick a soccer ball, then you’re not going to do well.

In addition to that, team members with discipline issues, or who are not committed to the team, should probably not be on the drive team. Other students who the team decides should not be on the team are up to the team.

One of the best drivers in FRC started as a freshman. His operator was a sophomore. At least, that’s how it was at the start… When they finished four years later, they had picked up a world championship, several regionals, and two trips to the IRI finals, one of which they won.

For team 330, captain does not necessarily mean drive team member. It depends on who wins the driver tryouts.

There are many team captains who are not on the drive team. Every tournament after alliance selection, the head referee meets with the alliance captains - those who picked the alliance. One of the first questions the head ref should ask is if everyone there is on the drive team. More often than not, at least one of the alliance captains is not on the drive team, in which case the alliance captain is responsible to give all the head ref’s instructions to the drive team.

And I realize that the person who picks the alliance may be the scouting captain, another position althogether.

We have multiple team captains. 2 or 3 programing/electrical, 2 mechanical, 2 marketing. I am one of out programing/electrical captains and have been one of our main repair people in the pit. I have also been the driver for the past 2 years. Why can’t a main build person be on the drive team? You can’t work on the robot while it is on the field. We pretty much see who is interested in driving and have had them all see who is better and they have been the reserve drive team. I have been the main driver because I have had the most experience and am one of the more dedicated team members. you just have to find someone who will dedicate their time and can drive. then from there have your old driver teach new drivers. We have found that having a programer on the drive team helps because if something fails code wise they know what failed. if it is mechanical you can likely see it.

I think these decisions and selections are based on different criteria.

The team captain should be someone who knows and understands how the team operates, can communicate with all team members, can represent the team with sponsors and others and is willing to put in a lot of time to help the team succeed.

The drive team should be the best combination of 4 team members (students / adults as the team decides) who can get the most out of the robot, represent the team well on the field, and implement agreed alliance strategies.

The pit crew should be the group best suited to maintain the robot in a ready to play condition between matches.

Sometimes these groups / individuals overlap, but i don’t believe it should be restricted as a specific yes or no.

My personal preference is that these groups are all separate individuals. This allows the drive team to focus on creating a good match strategy (with support from the scouting team) and then completing the match, while the pit crew focuses on getting the robot repaired and ready for the next match. The team captain, meanwhile, can be making sure all of the team is engaged, talk to judges or focus on other areas where needed.

This approach not only allows each group to focus on their primary responsibilty, it allows more students to be in key leadership roles for the team.

Is your team captain guaranteed a drive team position each year?
No. No one on our team is guaranteed a spot on the drive team.

What are the responsibilities of your team’s team captain?
Our team captain is the over seer of the other 5 students known as the steering committee, who in turn over see 3-6 subgroup leaders under them. So the team captain is the leader of all our meetings and has a step in every aspect of the team

How do you form your drive team each year?
We choose drive team on a number of practical tests, dedication to the team, what are the chances of them freaking out under the pressure and a small bit on seniority(only if the other 3 are extremely close). In the past two years the team captain has made the drive team; however 3 years ago the captain was not right for the part and did not make it.

What role(s) does your team captain preform on your team? See two questions up.

That’s just the basics of how our team is organized and I plan to get the organizational chart up on very soon

On Team RUSH, the role of team captain and drive team member are entirely independent.

Every year, we have nominations for team captains. Students and Mentors submit their nominations, and the students who have been nominated can accept or decline their nomination. Then, the nominees typically prepare a speech on why they feel they would make a good captain and deliver it to the team, and then everyone votes to elect 2 co-captains.

We also have sub-team captains for each sub-team, including those associated with building the robot, the “business” sub-teams, and presentation sub-teams.

If you hold the position of team captain, you are ineligible for sub-team captain and vice versa.

As for drive team, that is determined entirely by tryouts, level of commitment, and ability to represent the team professionally on and off the field.

Being a member of the pit crew and drive-team are also mutually exclusive. You can’t be a pit crew member (or pit programmer) and be on the drive-team.

As far as roles of the team captain, the captains on our team are responsible for taking care of anything that is needed from the mentors, as well as taking care of any issues on the team that don’t need the attention of adult mentors, as well as general organization and coordination with sub-team captains.

In my opinion, one of the most important things for a team captain to do is to set an example of professionalism and dedication for other students to follow, something that I hope I was able to achieve during my time.

4 year driver, 2 year team captain

You need to make the decision based on what is best for your particular team and situation. Some teams may have a plethora of talent where they can produce an extremely competitive drive team that is independent of other positions on the team. Other teams may only have a few dedicated students thus they must share those responsibilities. It’s really dependent on what your team and situation are like.

I don’t have a preference either way. When choosing drivers, our team takes the approach of finding a balance between skill and dedication. We as a team have determined that we want the person driving the robot to have earned that spot with hard work and showcasing their abilities. If that means the team captain is the driver for a particular year, then so be it. If not, then the captain can fulfill other roles and responsibilities. But again, this is just my team, and works for the situation we have.


I was a member of the drive team in my 4 years as a Student and was also team Captain for two of them.

That being said, on our team, the Captain is almost always a member of the drive team, but that’s not a requirement. Usually the most involved and respected members are also the people who try out and have the skills to drive.

When forming a Drive Team we usually hold open try outs and let students get a feel for the robot. From there we try to set up a test to showcase their strengths and weaknesses and decide from there. Personalities also play a large part in our decisions because we’ve often found that some of the best drivers are also the most cocky and have difficulty working with other Teammates and Teams. The only year when we didn’t hold to this was 2009 because of how the build season went. (Finished a week and half early, so myself and another student logged as many hours practicing as we could before ship.)

As far as the role of team captain goes, the captain is essentially the “Face” of our team. They’re always in or around the pit area to talk to other teams, judges, alliances partners, etc… They’re also the representative we send out during alliance selections.

The Captain on our team isn’t decided through voting or anything of that sort because we’ve never needed to. Usually, every year there is someone who demonstrates extraordinary leadership qualities, Devotion to the team, and is well liked and respected by their peers, and that is who becomes Captain.

In an ideal world, the Team Captain would be a non-technical individual. The TC would serve as liaison between students, mentors, teachers and coaches, making sure all are working, working well, and working on-time.

That being said, our driver last year was the TC.

I imagine this happens more often than not, simply because the type of person who would be the natural leader of the team would likely ‘live and breathe robotics,’ hang around the shop outside meeting hours, and have an intricate knowledge of many robot functions and mechanisms.

The definitive answer to this question is the usual: Do what’s best for your team. There is no right way or wrong way, there’s just your way.

If it were my team, doing any role wouldn’t preclude you from being on the drive team. I don’t think there’s ever a robot that needs so much maintenance that being on the drive team (where 75% of their work is done when you can’t fix the robot) would prevent them from doing that job effectively.

The drive team isn’t something that should be a “reward” for anyone. It’s a very specific job that isn’t really something a team interested in competitive success should take so lightly. Ideally, you have a coach that can interact well with a variety of people, has experience with the scouting team, and works well under pressure. Ideally the drivers are all able to do things quickly and without hesitation while being able to take inputs from a variety of sources at once. Drivers in my mind should be selected based on who is the most disciplined and mature, with actual skill being secondary unless you have no way for them to practice at all. (Luckily 2791 has a student who meets both these criteria perfectly)

That being said, it’s “your team” so whatever works for you guys, I guess. It’s not really my place to tell any other team how to run…

Maybe Scouting? :slight_smile:

Is your team captain guaranteed a drive team position each year?

  • Nope. There is nothing prohibiting a captain (we usually have 2-3 co-captains) from being on the drive team, but likewise they aren’t guaranteed a spot on it.

What are the responsibilities of your team’s team captain?

  • The captains are responsible for planing the meeting agenda’s, leading the meetings (where appropriate, sections of meetings are delegated), and often serve as influential leaders in the subteams they are a part of.

How do you form your drive team each year?

  • Mandatory driving “tryout” for all members during the off season, expressed interest (and if we see some real talent a little prodding from mentors), and if needed extended tryouts later in the season to narrow it down to 4 members. School year is also a factor - we are trying not to have the entire drive team all graduate at the same time. Some continuity is important.

What role(s) does your team captain preform on your team?

  • Our current 3 captains, in addition to captain duties listed above do the following:
    Head up the mechanical subteam
    Head up the programming subteam and serve as drive coach
    head up website development (in conjunction with PR) and work with the programming subteam on the robot

I think you need to ask yourself - what qualities should a captain have, and what should their responsibilities be at different points in the season (during build, at competition, off season)? For us, the captain’s have shown a willingness to do what the team needs, when it’s needed, and an outstanding ability to jump out in front of the judges and pit visitors at competition and explain both how the robot works and how the team functions. While others are also in the pit answering questions (and proving their ability to be future captains), the captains essentially form the “public face” of the team.

Our captains are responsible for the overall health and organization of the team. If we required them to fill a specific roll (like being part of the drive team), they would have a very narrow focus and find it difficult to relate to other areas of the team and understand what was needed in those other areas.

On the flip side of that, we require our drive team to be very dedicated to one thing: driving. They spend most of the build season in a different room driving the practice robot. We’ve tried having them involved with both driving and other areas (mechanical, programming, etc)… but often the driving suffers. As a result, the drive team now is almost completely dedicated and spends very little time working as part of other sub teams, and we’ve seen noted improvement in our performance because of it.

So, for our team, the concept of captain (broad knowledge, involved in everything) and drive team (narrow focus, only concerned about operating the robot) don’t mesh together very well.

I’m a large supporter of the idea that Drivers should not be part of the Pit Crew, and shouldn’t even have to worry about fixing the robot unless absolutely necessary. I’ve tried to play that role more than once at a few different levels and it justs adds another source of stress to an already stressful job. There’s nothing better than going out to the field with your machine and knowing that you can drive it as hard as you need to and should something break your pit crew would be on top of it.

Being a Driver and Scouting actually seem to go pretty well together. Having first hand knowledge (not filtered through a scouting system) of your allies and opponents can be the difference between winning and losing a match.

I always tell our Drive Team to watch as many matches as possible when we’re at events with the hope that they’ll gain some sort of insight into the competition.

On team 675 the captain is our ‘team leader’ their job is to make sure each division is running smoothly and to assist our head mentor in whatever needs to be done for the team weather it be setting up a fundraiser or budget work. They run our meetings and they are not guaranteed anything else. Our drive team consists of who ever does the most work, attends trainings and works best together.

The exception is eliminations. At that point, if the drivers don’t know how to fix some of the robot, even the extra pit crew probably won’t help…

As far as drivers and pit crew, drivers should at least know the easy stuff–thrown/broken chain, best guess at what’s wrong with the control system this time, breaker/wire insertion, and what’s likely to be the culprit when the whodijingle goes boing instead of sproing. Makes it easier on the pit crew to get a good idea of where to look for the problem while the drive team goes to strategize for their next match, plus if it’s really major the drive team can do the easy stuff while everybody else puts the magic smoke back in.

This is a bit off the original topic, but seems to fit what we are discussing now.

I like to use the analogy that the driver is like a test pilot. It’s the driver’s job to drive, but it’s also his job to report accurately what he experienced so that the problem can be found and fixed. If the only thing that the pit crew gets back from the drive team is that the robot didn’t work, they won’t be able to do much about it, whereas if the driver tells them that when he did x, the bot did y, and only when z was happening as well, then that’s a lot easier to work with.

The Team Captain, or “President” on our team, has generally been the driver of the robot, at least for the years that i have been involved.
There are a few reasons for this, and it’s not because we gave it to them.

  1. our team was so small, as to where, the driver needed to be as experienced with the robot as possible.
  2. the President has spent the most amount of time with and around the robot.

as for the roles of our President, the main goal is to be the “Face” of the team. Just to basically represent the team at all times, which also includes running meetings, giving presentations to prospective sponsors, etc.

one thing i would like to note, is that we always have our lead programmer on the drive team, not just to run the drive station, but they also usually have the best understanding of how to fix it if there is a code error with the field or robot.

For regular Regionals I can see this, but how did this work out for you at Championship last year?
With all the walking back and forth it’s really hard to see more than a fraction of the other matches, and some teams you never get to see play.
Our driver team gives Scouting input like which teams are easy to work with, which are demanding, uncooperative, and difficult, who has the coolest phone apps…

I both like and dislike the idea of having a programmer on the driver team. In one way it’s great for them to see and correct problems, in another it’s hard for them to have time to enact actual changes while they aren’t busy with drive team duties, or being on queue. My preference is for a drive team programmer to direct another programmer in making changes, so they can be ready to test when the drive team returns from a match.