The Politics of FIRST

Hi All,

So I was having dinner with some fellow FIRSTers the other night. I must admit that FIRST hadn’t crossed my mind in quite some time being in a semi-FIRST retirement I guess but it occurred to me that Kick-Off is coming up. We got to talking and I got to thinking that there is a great case study potential on the politics of FIRST. So why not break my posting silence. It seems that FIRST is getting more and more political I guess this is an inevitability of any true culture. Some examples are unconfirmed reports of people actively seeking the Woodie Flowers Nomination (this was an inevitable by-product of the new voting system), as well as FIRST offering favors to members of the community…“Do thing X for us and we’ll try to do thing Y for you.” I’m just curious if people have any opinions on this or see any other ramifications.

Good luck to tall as the season approaches.


NOTE: I apologize if this has been covered or is in the wrong forum…forgive me since it has been a while since I’ve visited the forums…Thanks!

Politics, ah yes the forbidden topic. You are correct with the fact that there is politics involved with FIRST. No matter were you go there is politics. This can be both good and bad. FIRST would not be where it is if Dean hadn’t had some clout with sponsors etc. The who you know and how well means a lot when trying to get free bes or deep discounts.

As for the Woodie Flowers Award, I have not heard of any individuals actively seeking for themselves. There are probably lots of teams promoting people from their team or from another team. That is completely possible. The award is applied for by team members so why wouldn’t they try to get support if they think that highly of their mentor.

I for one try to stay out of politics. Leave it to the politicians I say. There is enough for me to do with mentoring, work and family than to get involved with the politics of a certain event or item. I find it is best to stick to what you are good and and leave the rest for others to worry about.

I hate to be the subversive anti-establishment type, but I agree. It’s better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.
If the upper echelons of FIRST are what I think they are, they won’t let bureaucracy tie them down much more than the occasional CYA (Cover Your touchAs). I wouldn’t worry about it too much if I were you.

We are some of the most ingenuitive people in the world. We can always find our way around nitpickers.

It’s gonna happen. And while the WFA stuff might be a bit much (the candidates probably should sit back and let the students handle it), I’m not too worried about politics in FIRST as long as people play nice.

Now, if the politics start getting ugly, we’re gonna have a nice sit-down chat.

There are politics in everything you do, so of course there are politics in FIRST (such as within teams).

And for the WFA thing … I can see it happening. But I can also see that FIRST is smart enough to figure out whether a person is sincere about the work involved or is only doing it for the award.

edit: there are going to be politics and “behind the back” talking with any group of people … whether it be a class … a group of friends … a FIRST team … or a multitude of FIRST teams … you cannot change it, you accept that it is going to be there and move on with your life …

Politics are far more prevalent, I think, on an intra-team basis, than they are on an inter-team basis.

I have seen this phenomenon. Not to badmouth anyone in particular on 1139, but there is a lot of behind-the-back talk, a little bit of backstabbing, and just a smidge of turning everyone against one or two people. It’s sad, but it’s true, and it’s just human nature. We all want to be top dog, we want to keep our friends close, and we want to drive our enemies into the mud.
Our team keeps it to a minimum, I think due to our all-inclusive listserv: if we don’t have anything nice to email, we don’t email anything at all. But it’s still bound to happen.

I read this post and wanted to respond but just couldn’t put it into words until now. So here goes…
Yes there is always likely to be some “political” goings on in any organization. People need to feel important and when you are involved in a great organization that is even better. Many mentors actively seek the WFA because it is so special an award. The fact that it is a nomination is reviewed by independent judges from industry makes it special. The fact that it honors a great educator, Woodie, makes it even more special. The fact that students make the nomination makes it the most special. Of course, any mentor would love to have this award, I would love to have this award. Yet every year a deserving individual receives this award makes it even more special. To be greeted by Dave Verbrugge, Andy Baker, Bill Beatty and all of the others when receiving the award, is the ultimate acceptance in an organization of great people.
As to FIRST offering favors, I think you misunderstand workings of an organization of largely volunteers. I am amazed each year that FIRST grows, that they can pull off what they do. Have you looked at the turn around at FIRST headquarters? Those folks are working so hard to make this whole thing work that they get burned out. Take a close look at what goes into your regional Look at all the folks making the weekend a success for the competitors. A committee works for nearly a year, picking venues, working out setups, video and sound, judges (40 or 50 for each competition) getting MCs scorers and pit admin. Have you seen what goes into setting up and tear down/pack on a field? It takes about ten people just to roll up the carpet sections and get them carried out. Of course FIRST must ask for help and trust goes with that help. So, when this next comes up in conversation, think first of all those who set up kickoffs, assemble your KOP, answer endless questions, give up family commitments, work long hours and weekends, give up vacations, sit inside on beautiful spring days in Atlanta or Florida, or inspect robots till there legs drop off, sit by doors in cold northern regionals or run post season events, or just help get everyone a hotel room.
“If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.”

i think that there are always political relations within an organization where there are accolades to be given or earned be they monetary or otherwise.

im sure people will try to bolster their own chances of winning some kind of award because that is just how it is sometimes. unfortunately whenever favors or something is being given most people will expect something in return. for example the companies here get the assurance that they will get a better educated/trained workforce if they donate time and money…i know the push to get the championship in certain locals is extremely political and certain groups are willing to go to great lengths for certain items, but i digress.

every team has at least one person that is participating in some sort of political game to keep the team afloat because that is what is necessary. be it politics at the high school, the companies, or in the FIRST organization…it really makes no difference because the kinds of things that go on are political in nature and that is just the way it is.