Should FRC be Fun?

Yes, this is a legitimate question.

My question is derived from this: In all other competitive sports, the bulk of the effort it takes to become the best, win championships, or even compete, is not fun. Running laps is not something the majority of people do not look forward to. Yet, year after year, millions of Americans go to work doing things they don’t directly enjoy for months on end, for what they learn along the way, the way they grow physically and mentally, and the satisfaction of competition.

There certainly is and should be a greater reason why someone is doing sports; however, in my opinion, up until competition, there really shouldn’t be much physical “fun” happening.

I realize this may sound harsh, but its a genuine question for the world of FRC. Should FRC students have the same level of seriousness and focus and tenaciousness that football players have. What should this look like?

Why should FRC be treated like any other competitive sport when I often hear that the students enjoyment of the build season is more important than the success at the end of the year? Any coach for a high school baseball team would get fired for that attitude. Would that mindset help expand FIRST? Would an increase in competitiveness result in a more impressive program, and thus drawing competitive kids from traditional sports, which offer little upwards momentum, to FIRST which give kids far more skills to be successful.

Finally, if you disagree with the notion of all of FIRST being strictly bussnies, would a compromise of making FTC the “fun, learning, growth” zone and FRC reserve for those who intend to win at any cost be more appropriate?

I don’t know. I’m not sure anyone can answer those questions. But I would love to hear from the community of what there beliefs are. How do these beliefs dictate the leadership and direction of your teams? As a team captain, I find trying to balance competitiveness and robot performance to be the most frustrating thing I have ever encountered.

Please include if you are apart of a low tier, mid tier, or high tier team as I feel responses will vary widely biased off of that.

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I think you can have both
We’re a fairly mid level team in terms of the world from what I know of, but as much as we are competitive and work a ton on the robot but we also have fun in the camaraderie and competition. I think there’s a place in FRC for people to learn and grow but I think that we also should have a serious competition.
I also get that FIRST as a buisness would want to be as inclusive as possible to get more teams/players.

I think in the end this is an issue of vision, and I think even if FRC stays as a fun, growth thing, that there will still be teams like ours that will try hard and want to win, so I really don’t know either

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This is a good post. I might post a longer reply when I have more time. My answer is yes, FRC should be fun. FRC is fundamentally different from high school athletic sports in that HS sports exist almost solely for competition. On the other hand, in FRC, the competition is manufactured for the sake of inspiration and education (IMHO). Frankly, I wouldn’t think FIRST was worth the resources it requires if it was just another way for schools to beat other schools. I was personally drawn to FRC because the way it transforms kids, and competitiveness is only a means to the ends for that purpose.

Just my 2 cents. I’m interested to see what others will write on this subject.

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Certainly a matter of philosophy. Here’s mine…

If you don’t net an overall sense of enjoyment, satisfaction, or fulfillment out of something, you shouldn’t be doing it. That goes for FRC, sports, work, whatever. You’ll invariably go through times when the thing doesn’t feel fun. Growth opportunities are often like that. But, you should be getting a positive feeling from it, even if it’s deferred until the end. Athletes may not have fun during practices, but often do during competition, and especially if they win. While I think the harsh coaching atmosphere classically associated with sports and a do-or-die competitiveness aren’t right for an FRC team, I do think seriousness and focus should exist for teams to get the most out of this program. But, I think there is one critical societal flaw preventing this…

Many students join sports and other long-sanctioned extracurricular activities as something to add to their college resume. Unfortunately, FRC is not yet viewed in the same light as these other activities. It’s not universally considered as something colleges will consider when reviewing your application. FRC teaches a fantastically broad set of skills, yet it’s predominately treated as nothing more than a fun club that has little real value. Even with an ever-increasing focus on the importance of STEM, this is somehow still true. This frustrates me to no end, because I see students who clearly have an affinity and passion for this program who choose to prioritize other “college worthy” activities over robotics.

Although I dream of the day that changes, for now I see no problem with FRC teams and students prioritizing fun over competition. In fact, one of my written goals for this year is to help our team members enjoy this season - if they come out of this having had fun, I will have succeeded as a mentor. Maybe someday they’ll look back and think, “you know, I really enjoyed doing that… maybe I should consider doing something like that as a career.” As they say, do something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

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“The hardest fun you’ll ever have”

The biggest difference between FRC and traditional sports is that the purpose of FRC is to inspire students to pursue technical careers and post-secondary education. I’ve found it’s pretty hard to inspire students that aren’t having fun. Should it be easy? Should it be fun all the time? Those are different questions that have different answers… but if the overall FRC experience isn’t a fun and positive one, the program will fail to meet its objectives.

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In my 30+ year professional career, there are few events that I remember. There’s the few times I made a disastrous mistake with some hardware or some code. However, there are a few events that I remember fondly and are crystal clear in my mind.

Here’s one of them:

About 14 years ago, I travelled overseas to sit in a room with 6 team members that I had enormous respect for. We worked 16 hour days on a common goal. The music was cranked, the snacks were flying, the code flew from my fingertips like lightning. In 10 days, what we built was nothing short of magic. We ate together, we slept in shifts on the couch a few hours at a time. There was a lot of joking and camaraderie. It was simultaneously stressful, painful, mentally draining, challenging, gratifying, but above all else, it was FUN. When we all finished, did the cutover and watched our creation spring to life and hold its own against the greater internet, it was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Does that sound a bit like “build season”? I hope so. It’s what I strive to help my team experience every year. Sometimes we succeed. If you’re at all like me, you will crave those moments and treasure the memories always.

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I’ll start by quoting @Ryan_Swanson, as this says a lot with the least amount of words.

Regarding the OP’s question about …seriousness, focus and tenaciousness like football players… straight up NO (IMO). FRC is more than robots, and more than the competitions, its also more than education, more than personal growth. All of these things and more, combined in a magical synergy that makes a life-changing experience for everyone involved.

Sure, you have some of these elements being on a sports team, but on whole, its hard to compare them, because FIRST is so much more broad in growth opportunities. So while a baseball coach that ran his team like an FRC team, might find himself out of a job, I’d say the FRC coach that was ONLY interested in competition outcome, is missing the point of the program… and (IMO) should be relieved of his/her position also.

But in the end - this whole program does not work without a competition, and to have the most fun, you need a reliable robot that plays the game well. Hopefully the culture and experience of your team allows everyone to be organized, trained, focused and dedicated to designing & building a robot in 6 weeks.

So yeah, there’s a two step process in play here:

  1. Work Hard
  2. Have Fun
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I never worried about whether or not it should be fun, because it is fun.

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As a junior, I don’t know how much my opinion matters here, but for me FRC has always been something I keep coming back to because it’s fun. Sure, there are times where I need to take a day or two break so I can cool down and get my head back into the game, but in the end, I’ve come to a point where I want to go back and keep working with the team. Personally I think one of the most important aspects of FIRST is that it fosters a positive and fun attitude towards STEM.

Best example is yesterday when we were testing our robot, and we were trying to get our lifting mechanism (no spoilers :wink:) to hold at certain height, the first time it actually worked, our build lead jumped up and shouted, “IT HOLDS!”, which was easily the highlight of everyone’s day.

Another important aspect to consider is the attitude generated by the team about the program as a whole. There needs to be an acceptance that everybody will make mistakes, because the moment a student isn’t afraid to pitch an idea, is the moment that they’ll be able to enjoy this program to the fullest.

tl;dr: If a student is willing to put in the hard work, and a team develops a healthy atmosphere, then the true nature of this program will come out as some of the hardest fun ANYONE can have.

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If you told me to come up with some adjectives for build season, it would take me a while to come up with “fun.” Competition is fun, but build is exhausting, rewarding, stressful, and satisfying.

That’s how it should be though! Running a team (and all the work that entails) is a gigantic project and the payoff (for me, at least) isn’t “having fun along the way” it’s seeing everything come together in March.

Yes

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It doesn’t work out very well when some of the students goof off and play around instead of working. When that happens, I lament to myself that the students in athletics and music programs probably don’t show up with the idea that it’s okay to behave that way in a practice.

There is a balance between telling people this is fun for recruiting versus letting them know how hard it is and how many hours it takes to be good at it. And in a work session there is some joking and socializing that should happen, and after a point people shouldn’t be in the program if goofing around is what they wan to do.

This thread is easy if you only think about successful FRC students, because they can have fun and be productive at the same time. Anybody who is convinced that maximum fun doesn’t have a price needs to consider what happens when students show up and behave with a focus mostly on fun. They shift the culture, distract people, leave jobs unfinished, create messes for others to clean up, and make the program less appealing for students who are more serious about working hard toward difficult goals. Those students usually end up quitting without benefiting in the ways they could have if somebody helped them become more disciplined and focused - and that process is not necessarily fun.

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FRC should be fun. If you don’t enjoy Build season, you don’t come. Therefore, only people who enjoy Build season come. Therefore, FRC is fun. I won’t even start on competitions.

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When I was a student in my senior year, our team was in its Rookie season. We only had like 10 members. One person would just come because her friend came, and would literally just distract and talk to her friend during the build (they were freshman). We would tell her off but were generally fairly lenient (I as the main student leader didn’t believe in kicking people off the team except for eggregious cases). This girl did nothing all build season. However, after the end of the build a lightbulb went off in my head, and I realized that her goofing around was a defense mechanism because she didn’t know how to contribute or how to ask to contribute. I made an effort to specific include her, and now she is one of the most active members on the team, and has been for the past 2 years.

My point is that there are many students like this. There are many students that goof around and don’t commit, but have the potential to really be impacted by FIRST. If FIRST only seeks to impact the people who will make teams win the most competitions, who already know how to commit and work hard, and who are already really smart, it’s falling far short of it’s potential and promises as a program.

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For a simple answer from someone who is in their 24th season, if you are not having fun, you are not doing it right.

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  • How much does fun inspire your students?
  • How much does winning inspire your students?
  • How much does hard work inspire your students?

Whatever the answers for your team, those provide the answer to OP’s question.

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Off topic, but may I ask what your occupation is?

As for OP’s question:

I’m on a (probably) low tier team in terms of robot performance, but this year my team has worked HARD and we have enjoyed it.

I disagree with OP on the notion that the work it takes to become a champion isn’t supposed to be satisfying or enjoyable.

My teammates and I have put in a stupid amount of time this year. We worked all summer on stuff to improve our build season. We worked all fall on a drivetrain prototype. We spent the Sunday after kickoff designing a drivetrain based on lessons learned. In the first week of build season I worked with my team every day for around 10 hours to make sure that drivetrain came together as fast as possible. We have worked hard in and out of build season, and we have enjoyed it.

If you aren’t at home when you grind, you will never be a champion.

I played basketball in High School and the coach asked us players if we preferred to win or have fun. The thinking was this, if we played to win, then he played his best players. The players responded by saying, “winning was fun”. The other point I’m going to make here is that all this must have a goal. I’m not talking about learning and experience, I mean you have to work hard and build a robot that is going to compete. Otherwise, they just hand out the participation trophies and everybody goes home a winner. Part of the learning process is failure and learning from them. But the fun part is all in there too. Who are the best players? Those that love the sport. The same should be true for robotics. You didn’t choose to be an engineer because of the money, did you? A famous person once said, “get paid to do what you love, then everyday is a vacation”.

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I’m thinking that “rewarding” or the similar “gratifying” may be a better term here than “fun”, per se.

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Depends on what each person’s opinion of fun is. For me, the competing and making something really competitive is fun. For others, the engineering itself is fun. I think FRC is really great at having fun for any type of person. As for whether it should be fun, idk. For me it always has been fun.

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