Scouting for Penalties

For those teams who track penalties while match scouting:

How do you avoid false positives? It’s pretty common to see a referee point at a robot, wave the flag at it, tap the tablet, even make the big X, and then after the match, there are 0 foul points.

Conversely, there are matches that show a significant number of foul points awarded, and nobody saw any specific fouls being called. Furthermore, unless it’s egregious enough for the MC or HR to get on the mic, there are no explanations to the spectators.

So, if you do track penalties during qualification matches, how do you verify the team and action being called?

Or, if you don’t track penalties, what are your reasonings?


Since Indiana will have ZEBRA capabilities at some events, you may be able to use my Data Parser to estimate some zone-specific penalties as outlined here. In particular, G3, G10, G11, G12, and G14/G15 will all be able to be estimated in at least some capacity this season. This system will certainly have some false negatives and some false positives, but it should at least get you close. Even if a team doesn’t technically get a penalty on a possible violation, repeated risky behavior will eventually catch up with them, so I think close false positives may still provide predictive insight on teams.


We plan to scout for fouls/penalties and then verify the data using the TBA API. Obviously it isn’t perfect, but it’s better than nothing I think.


From my personal experiences, scouting every penalty doesn’t usually change how you formulate a pick list at the end of the day. Teams that incur the most penalties, usually are ranked lower and their other performance markers are generally below competition average. With that being said, a robot that incurs penalties while playing defense may show this, but may also in the long run be very effective at what it does.

My take on scouting penalties, is that you can probably just note when a robot gets a lot called against it, unless you have a system like the ZEBRA capabilities.


Pretty much our stance on it. The scouting sheet last year (and very likely this year) had a couple lines at the bottom titled “Notes (obvious fouls, cards, observations):” If it’s not obvious, then I’m not too concerned as the stat line will show it.


I’m curious what the gurus @Katie_UPS and @Brian_Maher have to say

I picked this up from @AllenGregoryIV - I don’t really bother with penalties. I trust that if its egregious my scouts will note it but otherwise its hard to catch/verify and I’ve never looked at it. I’d like to believe my strategists see the note and make our drive team aware (especially if the robot in question is on our alliance), but they run autonomously from me 99% of the time so I don’t know for sure.

Maaaaaybe @ThatSoftwareGuy remembers from 2018?


I’m inclined to agree with Katie here. I’ve tried collecting quantitative penalty data and converting it into useful analytics, but those numbers tend to have issues with accuracy and don’t tend to tell much beyond “team 254 gets lots of penalties” or “team 254 doesn’t get many penalties”. Even if I could have accurate penalty counts, I am much more concerned about the reasons why a team incurs penalties than the exact number that occur. This information can be used to make decisions on how and if we could reduce the risk of penalties while playing with them. For example, at CNY 2019 our scouts noted that 395 got a lot of fouls for extending outside of frame while playing defense. We talked to them and confirmed this was the source of the vast majority of their fouls and that they would be able and willing to remove the offending mechanisms in playoffs. This information was far more valuable than the average number of fouls they picked up.

For these reasons, I prefer encouraging scouts to take detailed notes on penalties they observe rather than collecting any numeric data.


Penalties are going to be a huge part of the game this year “Just count the Tech Fouls” any scouting that does not take that into account is omitting huge point swings. Scoutings purpose is knowledge of relevant facts 15 points IS relevant.

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We don’t track penalties (but probably should at least for cards) because we don’t want to overload our scouts any more.

1775 has tried scouting penalties before, but it hasn’t worked out. It’s not so much false positives as not being able to name the foul, as there is not enough space on the sheet to put all of the penalty options. We changed it to that if you see a penalty being called mention it in the comments/other section. If it is repeated or egregious then bring it up during the scouting meeting on Friday night.

I would also suggest that if one is announced after the match, it should be noted. Those are usually cards.

I agree that this years penalties have been made to be a part of the strategy embedded within the game. This is in tune with the Star Wars movies. Trick your opponent into making a mistake. This is how the rebellion survived. And how the Empire managed to destroy a planet. Big part of training is how not to receive 60+ points of penalties.


Can’t believe I overlooked that, thanks @EricH!

If I recall correctly, we sort of viewed occasional penalties as “they happen even to the best teams”, but if a team was consistently getting penalties every match then we let our drive team know if we were with/against them in a qualification match and we took consistent penalties into account when making pick lists.

EDIT: Clarification

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My team never tracked penalties and I wouldn’t recommend any team track them unless they have the resources to both collect and sort the data.

Penalties happen for essentially 6 reasons (ranked from most to least common):

  1. Drive team made a mistake. This is usually due to lack of effective coaching or poor drive team habits (not eating, too much caffeine, etc)

  2. Team was put into a situation they weren’t comfortable with. This happens when team 9999 is put together with 254 and 1678 (examples only). It doesn’t matter how kind and gracious the drive teams are from 254 and 1678, team 9999 is gonna end up playing a role they aren’t comfortable with and will probably agree to do it.

  3. Team doesn’t know the rules. Self explanatory.

  4. Robot breaks and causes a penalty. You’re lying if you tell me you haven’t lost comms during a pin or had something break and fall outside the frame perimeter.

  5. Team doesn’t care about the rules.

  6. Referee mistake.

The top 3 reasons are all fixable. Reason 4 is preventable. Number 5 is something you can’t fix. If your data doesn’t show the difference between those groups then it isn’t worth looking at.

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Answer: Question Box

Teams that rack up penalties is not usually a rotating referee mistake , more like a habit

I have my scouts track the foul pts at the end of a match, and then allocate 1/3 of the alliance’s fouls to each robot, partially because I do not trust my scouts to know every foul and write down every foul for that robot, because it isn’t reasonable

One way to do this is see where foul points decide the game, then try to determine what foul (s) made the difference in that match and more importantly whom either gave it or forced a reception of it. I think a scout can track fouls the ones you want to track are teams that either give away or gain a win from foul receptive actions. Fouls are points and omitting them is omitting scoring, IMO Blue alliance tracks scoring.

If you only track fouls given in aggregate, that is only half of the equation of fouls net aggregate… not sure why that would be valuable only tracking half spread out?

Example: Team A has an average foul score of 3 per their random alliance, however you missed (failed to track) that all the alliances they play have a average foul score of 20…did Team A manage to make Techs happen? Inquiring minds want to know.

Its about knowing yourself and your foes. Not averages of random alliance play

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