Scouting thoughts from a Rookie team (please comment)

Hi all,
As a Rookie team coach I trying to employ the spirit with my team of continuous improvement and focus our energy on what is in our control. Our team’s First competition was the weekend in Livonia and we very proud of our results. No we didn’t always the perfect alliance :wink: We gave a powerhouse one of their 2 losses and won 2 events we were predicted to lose by a landslide.
Our Robot and driver strengths are :
*A very solid catching robot (human player could throw an inaccurate and/or violate pass to us and we ALWAYS caught it). We also never lost a ball when being hit by others.

  • We could easily pass to another robot in a controlled manner.
  • We can score the low goal with ease. (We didn’t do it very often due to our role on alliances of an inbonder)
  • Our defensive ability of our drivers were some of the reasons why we gave some powerhouses a loss.
  • We also NEVER caused a foul point in any of our rounds and had eltorros on the front. (This is a point of pride for my team as the number of fouls occurring this year seemed pretty high )
  • Our robot had 100% uptime. Something we discovered was not always the case for even veteran teams.
  • We had a goalie blocker, but never used it. Reason: We were an extremely efficient and inbouding and very effective at “getting in the face” of other robots and limiting shooting opportunities from the field
    Note: The team is fairly confident they can catch a truss ball, but can’t find the opportunity to prove it on the field.

**Our robot weakness are:

  • We can’t throw. (over truss or at high goal). LOW GOAL, Efficient catcher, and good assist robot were our goals. Being a good defender was a plus to our ability that we never planned for.
  • Auton only gets 5 pts. (We have plans to fix that and get a low goal auton score at next event.)
  • Our auton strategy was to get only go for the 5 pts and NOT take a ball unless we had an alliance member that wanted to clear it during auton. Reasoning …If we still had a ball after auton is over, we would spend precious time trying to getting 1 pt, where we could be using that time to go inbound a ball and start getting 10 assist points. We list this as a weakness because we found some teams didn’t understand those balls on the field from auton limit our teams ability get assist cycles. This could have been viewed by some scouts as a “weak” strategy.

This strategy actually worked very well for us and helped our team be a very solid contributor to help win games that were very close. We estimated we were the difference in atleast 3 games)
We ended the elim rounds ranked 12 (and was in the top 10 for most of the day). Our team was relatively surprised that we were not picked, but then asked ourself “What we could have done better” and not complain about not being picked.

Here is what we concluded :
1.) Most of the scouting approaches used by teams are very heavily weighted for scoring goals, and lighter on assisting as well as an efficient catcher/inbounder
2.) A strong defensive robot that can also pass and catch is not necessarily something teams look for. ** This is a key point that I need some feedback around.
3.) Being a solid and cooperative team member is not something that is scouted for…but being an uncooperative alliance member will surely get your scratched from somebody list. (The drive team would give that feeback to our scouter)

Our thoughts on how we can improve for the next competition:
1a.) In auton always take a ball and put it in the low goal.
1b) Another auton strategy would be around when we compete against a single team that plan on shooting multiple high goals. When that is the case…put our robot in the goalie zone directly infront of them. Put the goalie post up and stop them from scoring the straight shot. (A very different approach…but would work to our strength and stop the other team from scoring 20-40 pts in auton). Our fear is …This would not show up on scouting reports as a strength as we didn’t score any auton point.
2.) Always score atleast 1 low goal per game. (**even if **we fill the role as an inbounder). Clean up auton balls would be the easy way to do this.
3.) Consider going out to promote our robot abilities to the top seeding teams. (if we are not one of the top 8).

Please comment on our conclusions and if we are missing something.

P.S. I am not looking to start a thread on the trials and tribulations of scouting and being scouted. I am really just looking for some guidance around if our conclusion has merit for a rookie team.

Sounds like you have a good grasp on the concept of the game as well as you abilities. That being said, the two things we look at in our scouting meetings is a robot that can inbound a ball and deliver it quickly to another robot. Defense is also good. Not drawing fouls is huge.

From what you said and looking at the The Blue Alliance results it looks like your team was just missed in Alliance selection. A rookie All-star with an understanding of the game as deep as you just presented is normally picked. Teams aren’t perfect and often teams get overlooked during alliance selection.

I would highly recommend building relationships with teams in your area so you can talk to some of the people generating pick lists and find out where you are on their list. Once you have been doing this for a while you can normally have a good idea of where you will be picked by late in the morning.

You have to also remember that it is people doing the picking so it’s not just about the numbers. How your team and robot looks and how you represent yourself go a long way to make sure you are playing on Saturday afternoons. Do you have a clear image? Did all the teams at the event know who you are? Pit banners, robot image, t-shirts, cheering all go into this.

If your goal is to be the best inbounder/defensive robot feel free to tell this to the teams doing pit scouting and also during your pre-match strategy sessions.

Everyone scouts differently I know our scouting sheet doesn’t focus to much on scoring in the goals. We look at inbound catches, defensive tackles, lost balls and many other stats to try to find the best teams available that can play the different roles needed in an alliance.

What you wrote up was perfect and what your team should be conveying to the other teams.

Are you also the drive coach?

If not, I would suggest ensuring that the message that you laid out here is what the team is conveying during pre-game strategy meetings and on the queue between the alliance.

I was drive coach for our team - and really take a back seat to the students on the drive team - and just help with making sure nothing is forgotten and we have everything covered for a match. With that said, it was a bigger detractor to have someone say one thing about their capabilities, and find out they weren’t based on … reality?

In Virginia, we sat at 3 through Saturday AM (but dropped to 13 after some re-scores) and got to work with a lot of great teams. The best were confident of their capabilities, talked through strengths and weaknesses, and stayed on strategy (but worked with the other teams when things went wrong on field). Great things to do in early matches: “hey we are pretty sure we can hit auto now and we want to load a ball and try”. We were all for it, we knew we could quickly bop it in the low goal if that didn’t work. After a few matches we expected more realistic self assessments.
I recall in the last few matches a team told us told us they had a low probability of hitting autonomous, the alliance discussed the opposition and decided better not to take that chance on this match. They loaded a ball anyway as the match started and did not score. They were immediately taken off our list (not because they didn’t score, but basically because they went “rogue” after they themselves committed to a plan).

High in general on our list were teams that did what they said they would, and were fun to play with behind the glass. Every team has weaknesses, it was more important to know what they were and find ways to optimize strengths of all team-members.

At the end of the match make sure to thank the other drive teams, complement any strengths they had and have a good time.

And none of this was meant as implication you didn’t do that - your self-assessment was great - make sure that’s what is being conveyed and that’s the message heard by other teams. After that, have fun and work with the other teams. Scouting by numbers is one thing, but we usually don’t indicate how much went in to just being a good alliance partner because it’s a hard thing to quantify. As some other folks here have suggested - relationships are very important.

If you can SUCCESSFULLY pull of a high goal block, teams WILL notice. Remember however that when placing you robots on the field in the goalie zone, the team you are defending against has the final say in where their robot goes (after your bot has been placed), so they can guarantee you are not in front of them.

So unless you can move in auton, and can accurately manage to place yourself in front of a bot to deploy your post, you might want to concentration your efforts elsewhere.

A good place to concentrate would be low goal auton, which if done reliably, would be a huge way to set yourself apart from the other inbounder-type robots. Plus it helps with your ranking!

-Good luck!

From everything you’ve said, it sounds like you were playing smart. We weren’t in picking position this season, and I haven’t played in Michigan, but here’s my take as a scouting mentor…

If there are auton balls left on the field, and you have the power to score them rapidly, absolutely do that. Getting the first cycle started is the most critical thing you can do for your alliance. That’s smart play, and it gets noticed. It may not be part of the numeric scouting, but there’s always a little qualitative “that was well played - I should watch them a little more closely” thing that gets you a bump. At the other end of the spectrum (which I have no reason to believe you’ve visited), there’s what I refer to as the “oh, honey… no” moment where, for example, the human player has wandered out of their box and is now standing behind the scoring table for some reason, or the robot is doing something that is simultaneously illegal and egregiously inexplicable.

I’m going to recommend against the auto zone defense strategy unless you’re 100% confident your robot can autonomously line up and make the block with no risk of driving out of the zone. Since the scoring alliance gets to position last and you can’t leave the goalie box, having to move to block is a huge penalty risk.

From a scouting perspective, if you were our alliance partner in quals, and you were reasonably honest about your capabilities and played out the strategy we mutually agreed on or adapted positively to field conditions when that strategy wasn’t working, then you would absolutely move up on our pick list. If you went rogue in a way that caused a loss or were a pain to deal with, you’d go down.


If you can get the low goal auton to 100%, that’s a definite plus. If it’s below 50%, then what you’re doing now is the right strategy. There’s a strategic breakpoint somewhere in the middle, but I don’t know quite where.

Get throwing teams to practice playing catch with you on the practice field if you can.

Absolutely do a little PR on Saturday morning to make sure probable picking teams know who you are and what you can do. Don’t go nuts, but a little nudge can help, particularly since you’re new. If you’re high on someone’s list, there’s also a chance they’ll send someone over to visit you to check for compatibility with their strategic plan and/or check on the health of your robot.

I don’t know what your imagery is like, but having a distinctive team and/or robot look can help folks remember which one you were when they’re looking for options in the back half of the draft.

Be ready with your own scouting data. Looking at the draft, you were within a hair of being on the field picking. (That may be the most painful draft result. You have my sympathy.) In addition to being ready if your captain is on the field, you can use your scouting data to guess where you’re sitting on other teams’ pick lists and what you can bring to their alliance, which can help focus your PR efforts. (Team # has a great truss shot, and we showed them on the practice field that we can catch it. Team $ is a great shooter, but needs an inbounder who passes well. Based on what we’ve seen of other teams, we’re probably their best/second/seventh choice because <reasons>. Team % is an inbounder and not a great high goal scorer, not a likely match for us unless they’ve already picked up a high goal/trusser and want a good passer.)

I agree that your team sounds quite ready and most of the suggestions are great. I suggest you focus on a couple things, most at least hinted at here:

  • Pay attention to which teams you’re playing with particularly the second day. Focus on teams that are either in top 4 in the rankings or have high OPRs. Unfortunately, the OPR this year is not a great indicator of offensive power (the correlation is only about 0.65 with our scout data this year vs. about 0.9 the last 2 years), but it works in a pinch if you aren’t scouting yet. If you are in a match with those teams, listen very carefully their instructions. If they ask you to jump, ask how high. During the match listen carefully to their drive coach and try to coordinate and anticipate as much as possible. We’ve dropped teams from our draft list because we didn’t like working with them.

  • Promote yourself in the pits. Pay attention the game strategy of those teams. You might even watch videos of the top finishing teams before your district and see how they play their game. Then decide what role you can fit. Ask them to visit your pit and give them some advice–top teams love to help out rookies! If you can, them show them a function of your robot that fits their strategic need.

  • Watch for the teams with scouting operations. There will be groups of at least 8-12 students focused on pads or computers or tablets. Find their head scout and ask them what they are looking for in a robot. If they’re interested in you, they’ll share some information, and might even ask you to demonstrate a role for their scouts. You’ll make it on their list just because you asked.

Hope this helps. It great that you’re asking and showing such interest.

Thanks for the advice. This will to help us make the most our of short week in preparation of our next event.
@ Doug. I am also the field coach and only there for the same purpose you explained. I let the Drivers work out the strategies with the other alliance members.

I also appreciate the perspective of having a recognizable image. We had a unique design, banners in the stands, but our robot decorations could be improved. We also could do a much better we explaining our capabilities and building relationships with other teams.

Based on this feedback I am sure our student team leaders will want to improve auton and our ability to pick up a ball from the ground. Will probably leave the goalie alone for the reason Nick points out …the other alliance has last choice of position.

Thanks again for the advice.

Let me start by saying it is very possible for you guys to rank in the top 5 being a assisting and defensive team only. (just look at any of our past matches this season). Both our teams are very similar so let me answer your questions from a team that basically ran the same game as you.

A strong defensive team that can assist is definitely something that a lot of teams are paying attention too. It can really sway how a match is played. So playing a tight defense and assisting well is really helpful to any team. Now I won’t guarantee you guys as 1st seed draft but if you play a good defense and pass well you stand a strong chance of being multiple teams 2nd pick. Also you are right. Teams scouting will be looking for teams that can shoot and that is just something that is going to happen, but in the matches you need to be able to show that you guys are there pick by playing well.

Being a solid team member isn’t something you will be scouted for but you will be remembered for it. If your team is wasting time on the field and are being hard headed. That will be remembered so you need to be adaptable especially while being a defensive/ assisting team.

For autonomous we originally had it so that we would just go forward and do a 180. But we later changed it to run forward and deposit a ball in low goal. This really helped us out for quickly getting in place to begin our first cycle. After seeing a team that was able to play the goalie position, I see no real use of playing in that position a good defense can do the same thing that the goalie can and even more. So in my opinion the goalie is a fairly unneeded position. So for Auto I recommend having both a move forward and a low ball.

Then for scouting, I recommend that you go around to all the teams and “sell” your robot. Tell them why you are the number 1 pick for them. Try to talk to either the drivers or the scouts. We found that if you talk to these members they can use the information a little better. Also if you have a short video of your robot in action show them! We had a 1 min video from dallas that we showed in OKC it showed what we were capable of. Also don’t be afraid of just talking to teams. Have fun and remember these are other high school students who like the same stuff so have fun!

So in conclusion I’d say just be adaptable and ready to play defense. You might want to watch some videos of other teams playing defense. (Texplosion and 2950 are some great teams to watch and learn from as they are assisting and defensive teams) Good luck! I Hope I was able to answer your questions, if you have any more please either PM me or post it here and I’m sure everyone would love to help.

Not sure how other teams do data, but we do keep track of assists as much as we are able. In each cycle we see how many assists were made. If you consistently were in high assist cycles it would show over the course of the event.

We also keep an eye out for fouls, etc. Putting in a 1 point auto wouldn’t be something we’d look at for the most part (unless something is wrong with our bot we do 2 balls). With your ranking unless you guys were jerks (you don’t seem like it btw) :slight_smile: then you would have been on our 3rd partner picks. We usually want someone who can truss or high goal for our first partner. Then the 3rd needs to be able to get the ball inbound and pass it off. It helps if they can high goal because then we can switch up strategies.

One thing that really helps move up our list is if you have good human elements (ones that don’t get “throw the ball” yelled at them a lot) and are willing to work with more experienced teams. The 3 partners have to come up with a plan and follow through it. Make it clear you are a team player.

That said sometimes you just don’t get picked and it doesn’t have anything to do with how good you are… it just happens. Last year we didn’t get picked at state at all but we made it to the finals in Archimedes.

Good luck.


Everyone else on this thread has given you some great advice so far. Being at the competition with you all this weekend, I have a few comments. We played 1 qualification match with you guys, and you definitely were a big part of the alliance, and part of the reason we won that match.

As far as not getting picked, I’m not sure about most other teams, but I do know a few teams, including my own, and you were on the list as a 2nd pick. Sorry that you weren’t picked.

Good luck with your improvements this week, and your next competition!

I second this 110%.

As the drive coach this year, I make sure to do this with every team we’re paired with. It helps build relationships and if teams are really looking at how well you work with others, this is a positive. Especially if the match went horrible. You have to remember that everyone is there to compete and have fun. If the match went bad, a simple “Hey, sucks that match didn’t go the way we planned but it was still fun working with you guys” goes a long way with a team.

Overall great post. Analyzing your performance after every event is the only way you can improve for the next one. It’s a good routine to follow and I’m glad to see you guys are implementing it as rookies. Keep up and you’ll surely be picked (or picking) for eliminations more frequently.

I’ll tell you three things.

First, sometimes teams are overlooked. At North Star this past weekend, a great team (4607) was overlooked by almost everyone, which made the #1 seed’s dream come true - they got their top choice for a second robot.

Second, sometimes the teams that are picking are just looking for something else. My team wanted to fill the niche of “truss shooter” in elims, which is why we passed on 4607 - they filled that same role.

Finally, having seen the carnage from two regional elims, I know the beating these robots take out there. It makes good sense to pick a third team that can also shoot, just so you have a backup plan if something happens to one of your first two.