Thoughts on North Carolina district merging with South Carolina

Hi, I was wondering what your thoughts might be on the North Carolina district merging with South Carolina to create a Carolinas district. I feel like it makes sense considering that North Carolina is a small district and South Carolina has only one competition at week one unless you travel to Tennessee. What are your thoughts on this?

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According to firstinspires, there were 92 teams in NC and 47 in SC last year, so it would increase the team count of the district by roughly 50%. There were 5 district events last year (plus the championship), I imagine that would go up to 7-8.

Not knowing the area or the team distributions, I would encourage you to look at those details. Where would the new events ideally be located? Would it make sense to shift any existing events south a bit? What are the travelling distances like if a SC team wanted to go to an event in NC, or vice-versa? Would the travelling distances result in basically 2-3 events with nothing but SC teams, 5 events with nothing but NC teams, and the only thing they share in common is a championship?

Try asking yourself why SC wasn’t included as part of the district in the first place, and work backwards from there to see if that decision still makes sense today.

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Well, I am in North Carolina and there were 65 active teams in 2022. According to FRC map, there are 29 active teams in South Carolina. So to add South Carolina to the North Carolina district they would need to add 2 30 team events. They would also need to increase the district championship size by 15 teams for the first year. So right now it doesn’t seem like it would be that hard of an expansion.

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Not related to the Carolinas, but if you replace this with “basically 2 events with mostly Upper Peninsula teams, 23 events with mostly Lower Peninsula teams, and they only share a state championship.” is almost how Michigan is.

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Check out this thread (starting with this post) for an interesting discussion on the idea of merging SC and NC. There is more to tell based on some conversations held at various events over the years, but this will give you the broad brush ideas.

Trust me that this is something that a lot of people think would be great for SC, great for NC and great for FIRST. Many of us have concluded that this will happen some day (or at least we can dream).

The schedule does not really allow for two additional events, but if the size of each event was increased from ~30 to ~40, then you would only need to add one event which the 2022 schedule did allow for (there were no FNC events in week 1). There are issues with the size of some of the current venues in terms of being able to host a 40 team event, but we’ve been creative in the past (anyone remember the 8’x8’ pits?). If you look at where the teams are located, an event in Charlotte would be very close for a lot of the SC teams and, for us here in Greensboro, an event in Columbia would be as close as Asheville.

Anyway, there are a lot of questions that would need answers. But I’m confident that those are all solvable.

Someday…

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Awesome. I hope it happens.

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Thanks!

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This would make it really difficult on Tennessee, especially Eastern Tennessee. With Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia all going to districts, the number of regionals within reasonable distance of Eastern Tennessee has decreased dramatically. The Smoky Mountains regional is in Knoxville, but other than South Carolina, there is Rocket City in Huntsville, AL, Greater Pittsburgh in California, PA, Buckeye in Cleveland, OH and then events even further than that. Seven of the 43 teams at Smoky Mountains in 2022 were from South Carolina, so if it went to a district, that would deplete the Tennessee regional as well.

Moving states or regions to districts individually works for a while, but at some point, the non-district states or areas start to get carved out into unsustainable islands. If South Carolina goes to a district, something needs to happen at the same time to keep Tennessee and Kentucky sustainable. Alabama might be getting pinched as well, although Rocket City and the new Tallahassee regional are pretty good options for them. West Virginia might also be getting close to the line, although they are closer to Greater Pittsburgh and Buckeye and may be somewhat less impacted.

There is a path!

There is a path towards the eventual dissolution of district borders, which I think is a goal that we can and should have, for the improvement of the sport.

These things lie upon the path:

  • Interdistrict-play-for-points
  • Universal district points
  • Flexible, boundary-crossing DCMPs

FIRST Chesapeake was going to be a part of a multi-district interdistrict-play-for-points pilot program. This was planned for 2021. I hope we will be able to try again soon, under our new district leadership.

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I bet I know of a district that wasn’t going to be a part of this.

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I hate being the one to throw some cold water on this idea, but I’m not so sure it would be great for many NC teams. Our district is already growing again (we were only at 65 for 2022 because of pandemic losses, including some long-standing teams) and it’s likely that we’ll be back close to our pre-pandemic numbers before long. So adding another 30-odd established teams from SC too (plus their own growth over the next few years) seems…difficult. The idea that we can just switch to larger events to account for this is not appealing. One of the great things about our 32-34 team district events is that we get a lot of field time, even for teams that don’t make it to elims. Making events larger means we’re effectively cutting back everyone’s matches to accommodate the extra teams. Plus, there is the venue issue, which I say when my team is one that’s all too likely to be a host venue in the future (we’re already hosting an off-season event this year) and has a relatively large facility for a high school. There just aren’t many available venues larger than high schools that can be obtained in March and April in much of NC. So while our school might be able to host a 40 team event (and definitely with those 8x8 pits at best) there are others where this would be problematic without eliminating other things (like practice fields.)

Then there’s the question of distance and travel. While I appreciate that this too would be useful for SC teams, who have to go quite a distance to get to more than one regional event, the same is not so true of many NC teams right now. I know that the Triad, Charlotte, and more western teams all have been dealing with long travel for a while, but the bulk of teams in NC is still in the Triangle and eastern counties. For many of us, it’s 4 hours (from the Triangle) or more (for eastern teams) to get to somewhere like Columbia. It’s also a trip across state lines, which for many school-based teams can be a whole other logistical challenge that in-state trips do not present. With the weight of the new district necessarily being in NC (by more than 2 to 1) I fear that the weight of events would stay here too and the SC teams would get no better a deal than they do now.

It’s not that I’m entirely opposed to the idea, but it has challenges that I’m not sure are so easy to overcome.

It rhymes with fish again

I am amazed at how consistently certain people immediately start to question the district system whenever it’s brought up. What about X? Have you considered Y? as if these questions are millennium prize problems and are the great unknown.

Having been in both systems, the experience of the student is significantly improved in the district system, and that’s the only thing that matters to me.

Where there is a will, there is a way.

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You need approval from HQ to run less than 12 matches at a district event.

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Echoing the above reply - 40 teams at a district event just makes the day longer or the cycle times shorter where possible, it shouldn’t remove matches from a team’s schedules. If you look at Michigan’s districts this past year they had everywhere from 31-41 teams at their events but everyone still played 12 matches.

That’s not to diminish the other challenges you’re raising. Venues need to be large enough and there needs to be interest in having enough teams travel to the event, across state lines, with extended stays. But playtime (other than maybe on the practice fields) should be unaffected.

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I cannot agree with this statement enough. There are plenty of examples of how to transition from the regional model to the district one, and I’ve yet to hear anyone who’s moved to the district model complain about it in comparison.

I understand there are some pretty big question marks, and efforts to be made. It’s a lengthy conversation that’s been happening in Wisconsin for a while. But I’ve had no struggle connecting with folks from other regions who run district models and getting their advice and thoughts. And it’s always, always, been excellent advice and thoughts.

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I have no horse in this race, and hope that every state, province, and region does whats best for their teams. I’m pleased that my team has the opportunity to compete in districts.

That being said, it would likely be worth hearing from some of the folks involved in other multi-state districts regarding some of the challenges involved in drawing district borders that don’t align with state lines. I know there’s been challenges for these districts to overcome when it comes to issues like obtaining state/public funding, incorporating state athletic/activity organizations, integrating multiple existing non-profits together, administrating FLL & FTC programs that are covered by these pre-existing non-profits, selecting event locations (and particularly district championship locations), and running/storage multiple fields. There are certainly pros and cons to different approaches to FRC, and even different approaches to district structure and size.

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This thread aged well

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There is always TN!

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Perfect timing :joy:

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