Team attitude

Each competitive team that I have had the privilege of participating on had a certain “no-nonsense” attitude. From what I observed at Championships, the “competitive” teams (1114, 469 to name a few) have that same attitude. I saw these teams and several others of the same caliber stay after the GM ice cream social to just run on the practice field so their drivers got as much “wheel time” as possible.

Sure, competitions are fun, but we had almost half of our team miss the last qualifying match on Friday to go see the arch. In the morning, I saw some teams with their entire team there right when the pits opened, regardless of when matches started. While some teams had everyone there, our drivers didn’t show up until they had to so they could get as much sleep as possible after staying up late goofing around. How do you do it? How is it possible to keep so many kids serious about how the team does all three days?

Where does that competitive attitude come from, and why doesn’t AndyMark have it in the KOP in the same tote as the chassis. After all, attitude is as important as the robot.

Teams that find success foster a culture of hard work and doing everything possible to succeed. It takes dedicated, hard working leadership to foster this culture.

Those teams turn it into another subsystem that is the backbone of their team. Next year I hope we can allocate the weight to push our students to such a level.

There is a difference between being competitive and striving for excellence which shouldn’t be a bar set for our drive teams only.

I would say that this is something you need to explore as a team.

I am perfectly fine with teams deciding that they will allow students to go sight-seeing. One of the most exciting aspects of traveling somewhere for a competition is getting to go somewhere new. I do agree that they could have found a better time to do so, but if that is what they decided to do, it is their decision.

If your team decides that it does not want students leaving championships, then you need to clearly communicate that and make it clear that students are expected to remain with the team at the venue for the duration of the event.

As for the attitude- it typically comes from the environment both at the competition and leading up to the competition. At the competition, make sure that they can find ways to stay engaged. Teams with great robots make for great incentives to get more motivated. Leading up to the competition, always strive to instill team spirit into each member.

I strongly believe that personal investment is how you can get students to really care about what goes on at competition. When you pour your heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into your team (whether it be through programming, design, fabrication, documentation, PR, scouting…), you want to see it through to fruition.

By making sure that students are as involved as possible creates an incentive to participate later on. A robot that was fabricated FOR the students will have a different impact than a robot that was fabricated BY the students. Sure, the robot built/designed by mentors is really shiny and performs fantastically, but students might become disillusioned by the program and goof off instead of working at competitions. Not that there is anything wrong with shiny and effective machines (that is one of the points of this program, is it not?).

It’s disheartening to see students that don’t care, but I feel like it is a failing of the team structure (not necessarily yours, but in general). I feel successful as a mentor when I can accompany my students to a competition, step back, and watch them run the show. We are there to guide, offer firm “no’s” when necessary, and make sure responsible decisions are made. Past that, it’s THEIR robot and THEIR team. Watching their faces light up when they fix a problem, or drive it for the first time is the best feeling in the entire world.

I think this might be an issue that you want to take up personally with your team. I know its satisfying to post issues on here, but keep in mind that everybody can read what you post, including your team mates and mentors.

Alec, about 2 years ago I commented to one of your mentors, “548, the best team no one has ever heard of.” Well, this year they’ve heard of you. The rollercoaster of up-down-up at MSC, being mentioned by “Looking Forward” and being selected on an alliance in St Louis. 548 is arriving - not there yet, but arriving - at the top tier.

Attitude can be encouraged, but not enforced. Some of it is inherent in the people that come to the team - look at the work ethic of 51’s backup driver as reported by Chris Hibner. Look at JVN’s blogs.

As others have said, there can be time and place for fun and sightseeing. Not everyone has to be “on” 100% of the time. Your team has to decide who, what and when the “on” times are, and allow for some “off” times to decompress.

One thing that you might look to in your team organization is how tasks are assigned. Even in a huge team, everyone must have some unique responsibility. Don’t assign these 6 kids to do X, because then 2 of them will do it while the other 4 goof off. Instead, break up X into x1, x2, x3, x4, x5 and x6, and assign the tasks individually. When everyone has some personal ownership in the outcomes it could improve overall attitudes.

The TechnoKats team wranglers (i.e. teachers) made it a priority this year for the entire team to be a cohesive group. We could have sent just the pit crew early and had the rest of the students follow later, but it was considered important for everyone to be a member of “the” team.

Almost half your team was gone during one of the qualifiers, and you were doing well enough to get into the elimination rounds? Huh, that’s just odd to me.

With our team, at both our regionals our entire team (all 18- of us) was involved the entire time, whether it was on the drive team, watching over the pit, or just cheering in the stands. Of course, we were a heck of a lot more excited in the elimination rounds and award ceremonies in Dallas (We exploded when we won one of the matches in the semifinals against the first-seeded alliance, who ridiculously outclassed us, and after we won the All-Star award one of the volunteers had to tell us to slow down heading down to the arena if we won anything else)

At the championship, though, there was quite a bit more non-team related stuff going on. I mean, there was so much stuff in the pits! There’s also the part where we had accepted a LONG time ago that we didn’t have a chance at St. Louis.

In general, like someone above said, if the students invest themselves in the robot, they will want to continue to do so, no matter in how small a way or how well it’s doing.

sometimes team members get so serious that they dont have fun. lol But then they have fun in the end. :slight_smile: Ive seen it during the competition not on my team as much but others.

My take on this is that you need many parents or mentors to keep the students engaged. The more team members you have the more adults you need to keep everyone busy.

I’m only a student, and heavily involved in everything 1676, so my perspective if from someone right in there and might be lacking a 3rd party aspect. I personally feel that when students put hard work in to something every time the get to see it on the field working is a moment of pure joy. For example I had a large part in programming autonomous code and it failed and failed again during our first two regionals but when it worked almost every time in STL I was elated! every single time. As well as having an investment in the robot, one of our mentors, Mr. Giraurd, had an amazing impact on me and get me even more motivated and passionate about the program then I already was. I think that a combination of amazing mentors and hard work on the students part is what really inspires students to be passionate about a team and a robot.

While I’m thinking of this I (not for the first time) noticed that almost all my friends and the people I talk to are on the robotics team. Since for 6 weeks and more I spend nearly every waking hour (after school to 9-10 every day, and more over break) with these people I don’t know anyone or anything else. I think that when a team reaches that level of, healthy obsession lets call it, they will never miss a match and that no nonsense attitude will came naturally.

That said we have somewhere between 70-90 kids on our team and only 30-50 MAX get to the point where they have that, professional, time for business, attitude.

3320 used to be like that in their rookie year until we had a major culture change happen to the team.

We work hard year round and build up this culture where every student is expected to show up and simply work.

It all comes down to culture and that competition mentality is built during the build season and off-season.

Despite the nature of competition, I feel like many people on teams that don’t win gain just as much from the program as those that do. Especially as a social experience.

I agree. Winning is fun though and teams should play to win the game. “Compete like crazy” as Woody is fond of saying. Every year the level of competition gets better. More teams innovate and the bar keeps getting raised.

But as Dean said at the kickoff a number of years ago, “It doesn’t mean a $@#$@#$@#$@# thing if your robot wins or loses”.

Down the road for FIRST participants no employer/college is going to say, “Oh that’s great that you were in FIRST and learned about science and technology. But did your robot win? No? I’m sorry, we’re not interested…”

To be clear, no where in the original post did I mention winning or losing, merely a lack of interest in the competition.

A culture like that almost always is created top-down. Your team leadership needs to push it throughout the year (not only though the competition or even just the build season). Turn dedication and hard work into a habit and no one even notices they’re doing it anymore - it’s just what they expected.

That means it’s up to the student leaders (and mentors, but this really should be a student led initiative) on a team to set the tone. Show up to every meeting ready to work. While others might spend the first or last 10 minutes of the meeting talking/goofing off, keep yourselves focused and working hard, setting an example. Often there will be 1-2 people who tend to start off the talking/goofing off… pull them into a project at the beginning and end of the meeting and work with them to maintain focus (without publicly identifying them). Publicly encourage those who exhibit this sort of dedication on their own (especially if they aren’t already recognized as a student leader!). Set aside specific time for work and time for fun - team bonding is just as important as working hard, and giving the team a structure for socialization/goofing off makes it clear when such activities are permitted. Make sure through all of this, however, you keep things positive. It’s not going to be good for the team if you spend half the meeting shouting at people who are goofing off.

My sentiments exactly.

The way this kind of culture is created is to Lead by Example. When students see their student leaders giving it their all, they will jump in. When student leaders see their mentors giving it their all, they will jump in.

I’ve thought a lot about topics like this through the last couple of years. I’ve learned that I have a Pace-setting leadership style, and I suspect that many FIRST mentors are the same. Its always about driving to do better, do more, and do it more efficiently. After a few years, I noticed this had a huge impact on Team 1511, and one I wasn’t expecting. By our 5th year, we had 2 RCA’s, 2 EI’s and a CMP RAS & a CMP Judges Award under our belt (as well as a host of other awards), yet we didn’t stop to celebrate. Every year, the plane rides home from Atlanta were all talk of Lessons learned and how we could do better next year. I realized that we rarely stopped to celebrate, and 5 years in, our students knew nothing different from 1511… they didn’t know that the amount we did in comparison to 80% of other teams was insane… they didnt know that teams out there didnt host a pre-ship, offseason, and numerous FLL events… they just knew that those are things we did, and we were always striving to do them better, and to do more.

The same attitude trickled to the competitions as well. Sure many kids would goof off at night, but the drivers were segregated to a single room, and asked to go to bed early. Everyone had jobs and shifts first thing in the morning. Students actually VOLUNTEERED to be part of the “early group” to go wait in line to go get seats.

Did all this happen immediately? Happen our first year? No. It took a little bit of enforcement from the start. The teachers & coordinated schedules and the mentors helped me set the attitude for the events. But we lead by example. I was always the first one up, doing wake up calls/knocking on doors, and I was the last one sitting in the alliance selection meeting at 1am… often held in my hotel room. I would never expect anything of anyone that I wouldn’t offer to do myself.

So at least in 1511’s case, the attitude came from the top. I set the pace, and the team just ran full speed behind me when we first started… The scariest thing I learned somewhere around year 3 is that students were “afraid to disappoint” me… I’m not 100% sure how this happened in the first place, but I think its about respect & caring. They all knew I respected them, and they all knew I cared about them, in some cases more than anyone had ever shown them before. I didnt treat them the way many of their teachers & parents did, I treated them as responsible & intelligent people. I expected more out of them than most anyone ever had. So I got the same respect back.

My favorite quote (I’m sure people get sick of hearing me say this now…) epitomizes everything I want to be, and want everyone around me to be…

Excellence - is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible.

If you (& you leaders) really and truly hold yourself and your team to this, I think you will get the attitude you are looking for.

Next year listen to Jack the first time and we’ll get that elation in NJ…

1676 is on a journey to do just that. Particularly this year, it is very clear that while we’re a very good team, the GREAT teams do things a whole level higher than we do. Tighter robot, tighter team, everything.

The hard part is that it all must be kept positive. Our leadership has decided to kick our seriousness level up a notch for next year, in particular by reducing our team size and including only those who are serious/productive. The rest can find another outlet for their social needs.

It will be a lot of effort to implement this, but as Kim wrote, after a few years the students won’t know of anything else. Thus, a culture is changed.

As provisional team leader (elections haven’t happened yet, but the rising seniors and outgoing seniors have considered the power to be shifted) I’ve said countless times that I would rather have a team of 15 dedicated members than 35 somewhat-dedicated members.

We’re introducing a participation probation, tiering membership, but what’s so crazy is how accountable we’ve all made ourselves. The three other guys that have been in the program since we were wee freshmen assign ourselves duties to be taken care of until we meet again. Officers couldn’t ever get together over the summer, yet my mentors and my fellow team members have already begun committing to a summer intensive to transform ourselves.

We haven’t been raised in the program on a consistent level of “blue banner” success, but constant improvement. Our goal is to earn our spot at CMP next year by pushing ourselves. The transformation from a team that was well-run, to not well-run, to well-run has been difficult. You have no idea how frustrating it is to look at a nine-year old blue banner hanging from your rafters every day, knowing you can be so much better. But as our outgoing Build Lead says, “Sometimes, we’re just too stupid to quit.”

The hardest thing for me is knowing that all of the goals I have are out of reach during my short tenure as a student.

I’ve realized that this feeling of lost time felt by me was felt by other previous leaders, and their self-actualization must have been a concrete victory. I’ve spent nights neglecting arguably more important things drafting up a business plan with targets on it that are way beyond my graduation. The targets range from winning EI and a regional in the next year or two, up to the long-shot of taking home a World RCA by the time I am 24. Even the current freshmen won’t know the kids on that team. The team needs to develop members that can carry the momentum we’re trying to build, develop it, and pass it on to kids I may never see. It feels so insurmountable. I’ve told guys that we have to “iterate the team’s culture. Take what we have, and improve on it every day, and we won’t stop, and we can’t be stopped. I want the number 422 to mean something to more than the people just on our team.”

The root of engineering is problem solving, and the root of a problem is the lack of efficiency in the existing outcome. Our team will be run like a machine, and we will be seeing you all in St. Louis next year.

I think I sound like a lunatic, especially when you just look at our robots. We are nothing fancy with the hardware, but there is a constant desire to overachieve in everything on the field. Luck, strategy, and the best drive team in the world™ got us to where most people said we shouldn’t be in 2010. The same three elements got us to where people on our own team said we shouldn’t have been this year.

Maybe I’m just too stupid to quit.

DONT QUIT :slight_smile:

There are books out there on the Leadership Legacy. A TRUE leader does not need the credit, nor the glory, nor the successes for him/herself. Its all about vision and actualization. Even if you won’t be there when the successes come, think about all the kids you will inspire by helping set your team up for success!

My story isn’t all that different. I was a student on Aces High, the first three years they existed. They didn’t win a single Award, let alone a blue banner while I was there. But that didn’t stop me from helping set up my successors. The year after I left, they won the championship :slight_smile: I FOUNDED 229, and was denied the scholarship that was started for FIRST students BECAUSE of that program… 229 also never won a single trophy or award while I was there. Again, after I left, they began winning awards. I go back and talk with both teams, and several of their students know who I am. Its oddly satisfying that they have heard of me! But more importantly, I see the little things that I did still lurking around, having helped them achieved the successes they have.

Sometimes its better as you move through the program to think of the Legacy that you can leave behind, rather than what is tangible for you in your limited time left.

Keep pushing yourself & your team and you will go far. One of my other favorite mantras is ALWAYS “where there is a will there is a way”. I 100% believe that if you really really WANT something badly enough, you can get it.