I personally think, based on years of being a FIRST Senior Mentor for my state are that putting in some criteria to start a team will not be helpful in encouraging sustainable growth.
Teams fail for many reasons and the number of sponsors and the amount that a given sponsor donates are not even on the list.
There is a systemic problem with the way FIRST is organized and run in most areas.
There are RD’s, who are Directors of a given Regional or Regionals. Their primary job is to obtain the funding for a given Regional(s) and to recruit new FRC teams. It is not uncommon for them to have zero contact with the people who run the other FIRST programs in their state.
Traditionally FIRST has given an RD a target growth number and that number has been based on previous growth. So grow 10% last year and FIRST will expect the RD to grow another 10%. So RDs are essentially penalized for a year with strong growth. The bigger problem is that when an RD gets a lead they are there to sell them on FRC, not FIRST. The RD that I worked with in my first year specifically told me after we met with a potential school that I was telling them too much, that we didn’t want to scare them off.
Sometimes you do get a lead at the school district level and while they may be all in to spread FIRST programs across their entire district and even have funding for that the problem is that you need the right person to actually run the team that is at the building level. So in these situations it is not uncommon for a teacher, often new, to be told that one of the “perks” of their job is that they get to coach the FRC team, or that they can earn extra money with the coach’s stipend if they take on the FRC team.
W/o the right person the team will almost certainly fail and that is far and away the most common reason that teams fold, the lack of the right person, ie someone stupid enough to put in the hours needed to have a sustainable team for a very very small boost in their pay. Oh boy you get to increase your work load 50% for a 5% increase in pay!! No one stays around for any length of time under those conditions unless they have full buy in to the program and its benefits. The ONLY way you find out if the person is right for that and will have full buy in is to throw them in the pool and see what happens.
The FTC and FLL partners also get goals for team growth and again when they get a lead they also go there to sell the school on FTC or FLL, not FIRST.
So the first step in solving the sustainability issue is to fire all the RDs and partners and hire RDs who are directors of a region and not a Regional. This is what we did in the PNW and as a FSM under FIRST WA that didn’t have an RD and Partners for individual programs in the traditional sense when I got a lead I went there to sell them on FIRST and not a particular program. So I helped them figure out what program was the right program based on their particular situation. Some times that meant steering them into FTC and not FRC. Other times that meant converting FTC teams into FRC teams and vice versa.
As others have mentioned teams that fail are a problem for the program long term. I’ve went to those schools that have had teams in the past in an attempt to bring them back. It goes one of two ways. #1 “We love the program but I just can’t find anyone to take on the responsibility.” or #2 “Yeah that didn’t work for us” You also have those teachers who have done the program and left out there telling people to save themselves and run as fast as they can. I’ve been there at a round table where I had someone stand up and say the problem with FIRST is that they recruit you and then you are all on your own. (Note they said this referring to having a team before there was a FSM in my state).
The other issue that has also been brought up in this thread is the bit about leading a horse to water. As the FSM I’ve tried in vain to contact the person who has signed up a new team and got zero response. When they do show up at an event and they couldn’t run away or ignore me you would be amazed at the number that say, yeah I saw your emails and probably should have responded to them. Meanwhile I’m busy rallying the troops to get them a robot that is actually fully assembled and can at least drive in time for their first match.
TL/DR; Having these proposed requirements will do nothing to improve sustainability as the most important thing to sustainability is the right person leading the team, not money or number of sponsors. Those JCP teams didn’t fail because funding went away, they failed because the school voluntold someone that they were privileged to be chosen to run the team that the administration wanted to start because they got wind of the grant.
The long term fix, which I suspect will be implemented in the next 5 years will be to “fire” all the RDs and Partners and create local organizations who are responsible for all programs in their area and running a proper season for FRC and FTC, ie the district and league play systems.