Un happy times

Good day all
I have a situation that I would like your comments on; I am a first year Mentor on a rookie team that took part in the Greater Toronto Regional last week (Very well don to all that took part)
At the games it soon became apparent that we were not well prepared, The Bot was not well designed for the task and the drivers had not had any real practise time.
But in we went we did make all the games require and ended up in the top 15 which
I was very proud of. I then here the Team leader and founder giving the some members of the team a very hard time for not operating the Bot in a way he had told them to, this was so bad and very embarrassing that some of the team would not take any farther part .Then came the threats that the Team was finished and there would be no more robotics at the school.
I could say more but at this time no.Please Comment.

15th is a fantastic finish. Do all that you can do to talk it up. Have the positive story told in the newspaper. All your discussions with everyone need to be positive.

I would reach out to the regional director and other local teams to help. Being a rookie team the expectations can be mixed. No one person or play style is correct. It sounds like some education is needed. Your 15th place finish is a positive.

Stay the course.

At some point soon, encourage a team meeting and go over this year’s experience listing the areas that went well and the areas that need improvement or development. Whether a team is a rookie or a 20 year veteran, it is always wise to take the time to evaluate the team’s season.

Every single team in FRC has had a rookie season. All those rookie seasons have stories. Some are sad, some are funny, some are inspiring - but all the teams have stories to be told. And that never changes either. Each year is a chapter in the team’s history book with stories to be told and shared. I think the word that our lead mentor uses a lot when he talks about our first year is - clueless. “We were clueless.” Hopefully, we’ve improved in that area. :slight_smile:


Competitions can be very stressful and tiring and sometimes people will lose their cool. I’m not excusing the behavior, just trying to explain why it can happen.

Decisions on the future of the team are best made after everyone has rested and the team has a chance to review the season, good and bad. Take stock of what you have accomplished and the potential your team has for improvement. It’s not easy, but a FIRST robotics team is very rewarding.

Like John said earlier, getting a robot to the competition is a great achievement in many ways. Finishing 15th is pretty darn good but you will soon find out that where you finish at the competition is only one aspect of what your team can accomplish. Take some time and discover as a team what the other rewards of being a team are, you will not be disappointed.

Good luck to your team.

I suggest you read this. Happens to everyone.

Just this past weekend, our 5th year team made it to Championships for the first time. That gave us a unique opportunity during our post-competition team dinner to talk about how far the team has come in the past 5 years, and all the milestones we’ve had all the way.

We started out talking about the first year. How myself and a few other mentors first met the faculty adviser. The original plan/timeline we had for meetings and how quickly that went out the window. Meeting in a barely heated garage (in Minnesota!). How we somehow managed to cobble together an arm to pick up tubes… and how it had about as much chance of picking up a tube in a match as a human player does of scoring a tube on their rack on the far side of the field this year. Mostly, the phrase “We didn’t know what we were doing” came out of our mouths a lot.

But then we moved on to our second year. Things were better. And the third year, and the fourth, and the fifth. Every year, there was something to talk about that was better than the last. They key to keep in mind is constant improvement. Even those teams that have been around 20 years have room to improve.

At the end of every year, we do multiple reviews. First, the mentors get together and talk about the season. What went well? What didn’t? What changes do we make for next year? Next, we get the whole team together and have an open conversation with them. The students have different views, and we ask them the same questions. We talk about what they need to do to give us mentors the proper direction, so we can help them move the team towards the ideal they want. Finally, we ask the students to get together on their own and ask the same questions. Sometimes students don’t feel comfortable criticizing teachers/mentors/authority figures, at least not to their face. This way, we can get those thoughts and feelings (if there are any) out in the open and dealt with anonymously.

Again, the goal is constant improvement. Take a look at where the team is now, and decide where you want to be at the same time next year. Then work backwards and figure out what it will take to get there. Not everything is possible, so don’t shoot for the moon. Only 6 teams from each regional cam make it to Championships, and as you saw this year, the competition can be very tough.

You said your robot was not well designed for the task. A good goal might be to have a robot that can successfully play the game, even if it’s not the best. To accomplish that goal, you would first need to work on your strategy meeting at the beginning of the year. Towards that end, in the pre-season, we’ve pulled out past years games and spent meetings talking about them. We walk through the games and talk about what a winning strategy might be, and what a winning robot might look like. At the end, we head over to thebluealliance.com and watch some videos from Championships that year. How close were we? was our idea represented in some form on the field? What were the important aspects of each robot that year? Once you know what you want to build, you have to set up your schedule for success. Plan your meeting times accordingly. ensure you have enough time to get things done, and set milestones along the way so you can give your drivers time to gain a little experience.

Eagle is absolutely right on the money.

How many mentors are on the team and what role/responsibility do you have? If you are a primary/lead mentor perhaps you could call a meeting of the mentors and discuss in general terms the goals of the team and how to handle situations.

For my team the winning is not our first goal. Anyone (almost) given the right support and funding can win (i.e. enough engineers, plenty of money etc.) but what else do you want your team to take from the competition? My BIG thing is the Gracious Professionalism, team work, and comradery not just between team mates but competitors as well. As a rookie team you probably did what I did and just jumped in head first and blind as a bat. Now that you have seen the competition and ‘been there done that’ you have the opportunity to develop and put in writing what you want for the team and expect from the kids AND mentors. Use this time between competitions wisely because believe it or not it will fly by and the next thing you know the 2012 season will be upon us!

BTW congratulations on the top 15 finish! Not even seasoned veterans always finish that high! :smiley:

Sorry to hear of the issue, first years are tough for anyone. I ran into this at the FLL level, and this is also my “rookie” mentor year at the FRC level. The FRC team is not a rookie, and is stock full of great mentors, so I am having a very easy rookie mentor season.

Here is my take on it from the FLL level where we were a rookie team. The expectations of the kids and team parrents, are typically much higher than what is realistic at the start. Playing with Legos looks easy, you look at the challenges, and say, I could do that… until you do, you do not applicate how hard it is. 15th is an excellent finish, you and your team should be very proud of your accomplishments.

Rookie season, the mentor learns more than the kids. Now that you have been to a tournament or two, you should have a feel the love that is in the room. There is a great amount of support from other teams in the area, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

I still struggle finding information on the FIRST site, and the Labview site when I have specific issues, but both here and on the Labview forums have been a great source of help this year, and I am thankful for both.

I’ve coached baseball for 6 years in our local rec league, and this is how I start each year with the coaches and parents. “This year I guarantee we will have a winning season.” Then I go on to how I define a winning season, as a season in which all of my players return to play next year.

Make it a winning season, see you next year.

If you haven’t yet, try talking to some of the veteran teams in the area and ask if one of them will mentor your team. A lot of teams ask for this in their rookie year, but the veterans will glad to help out a second year team as well (yes, congratulations on making it through your first season! that’s the hardest one, IMO). Have some members of your mentor team come in and talk about their experiences over the years in FIRST, encourage a discussion to allow members of your team to express their concerns - in a graciously professional way - and hopefully your mentor team can help to alleviate some concerns.

Remind your team (especially the mentors) that it’s not about the robot. That statement has become a little overused, but it’s still true.


My rookie team finished 34th of 63 in the Los Angeles regional. Sure there was some insane competition, but I think that we did pretty good.

I think whoever made those comments to your students should be removed from the team. Even when my kids made mistakes (red card, feeder penalty, etc.) I never blamed them. We took the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.

As a fellow first time mentor on a rookie team, I just want to say that you should be extremely proud at the performance of you and your team. Finishing 13th out of 35 and making it to the elimination rounds is an accomplishment, and you’ve set the bar high for your sophomore effort. And you did this despite the fact that you “were not well prepared,” and “The Bot was not well designed for the task.” I think that shows the strength of your team, and how much you’ve underestimated your value.

As for your team leader, people can get heated during competitions, especially if you’re the focus of a lot of stress or any issues that your team may be facing. However, now that competition is over, it may be a good idea to sit down with this individual and talk with them a bit. I’ll admit I lost my cool and raised my voice a bit when the chips were really down, but I never threatened my students, and took the time to bring myself back down and apologize if I felt I got out of hand. I would have given anything for my team to have done as well as yours during qualifications, and I think that’s the thing that your team leader had trouble understanding. These are just high school students, and just like all humans, they make mistakes. Your team leader needs to understand that they are not his personal robots that will follow directions to a tee. I can understand that he wants what he thinks will make your team the best, but you can’t start out on top. The “powerhouse” teams take years to get where they are, and they probably didn’t start with top seeded robots either. You as a mentor need to do your best to convince your team leader that what your team achieved was an accomplishment, and that his threats and attitude during competition will only cause the great team you guys have assembled to disappear.

My overall advice? Take this as a learning experience for the years to come. If you can get your team leader to cool down, realize his mistakes, and try to rectify them with your team, you’re off to a good start. For some people, it takes a little bit of adjustment to handle everything involved with FIRST, and plenty of people crack from it. And now that you know what happens when another team leader goes off the handle and starts to lose it, you can work on preventing it, or at least minimizing it. Next time someone is yelling and screaming, try to pull them aside and talk to them one on one. Sometimes all it takes is one person to just tell them that they are acting poorly for that person to realize what they’re doing. This goes for team leaders, students, and believe it or not, the occasional parent.

And for the worst case scenario where your team leader remains so short sighted the he does call it quits, it is not necessarily the end of your team. It’s always possible to reach out into the community, just as you’ve done here, and ask for assistance. Show how well your team did, and believe me, someone will jump on the opportunity to guide your team. The FIRST community can get you through this.

Just take everything that’s happened this year and apply it towards bettering yourself next season. As a student, our rookie team seeded 17th at the Philadelphia Regional, and we realized we had a few problems during the season that we could fix in the next. During our second year, we came back to Philly seeding 4th. Take in what you saw with yourself and other teams, and use that knowledge to create the best robot that you can. It’s possible to keep improving as long as you keep working at it. Don’t let your team leader get in the way of this happening. In the end, it’s not about him, it’s about the students on your team. As long as they are having fun and learning from the experience, then you guys have done your job.

I sincerely wish you the best with this situation, and I hope that it all works out. If you ever need any help, just reach out to the community, and we will do our best to help. Also, if you want to talk more, just send me a PM. Again, good luck, and be proud of your team!

I would try to bring the offending member back into the fold. Recruiting could be difficult when there’s a student badmouthing the team to everyone. Regarding hjow you did in the tournament, 15th is a good finish, especially for a rookie team, and especially in a regional with powerhouse teams. As others have said, try not to blame people, everyone makes mistakes. I know that I’ve touched a tube in autonomous without thinking, and I know that we’ve lost an important match because the minibot battery wasn’t strapped in. The important thing is to learn from mistakes, and make sure they don’t happen again.

I have tried to come up with a good response for this post. The best I can come up with, I will gladly speak to your mentors via phone or email anytime they wish. Please contact me via PM and I will exchange info with you.
Every rookie team has a mentor or mentors that feel this way after their first event. I was involved in helping start a strong program a few years back. During the first meeting, the lead told me “I think you ought to know, these guys do not like to lose.” I let that lie as all of us do. We know that with a little bit of thought and some time to rest, nearly every mentor will see the benefit of being involved with this program. Any person who volunteers knows that the effort is worth every missed minute of sleep, lack of good meals, lost match, missed work assignment and problem student. As they progress, they will figure out how to grab sleep after build, live on what they can eat from a machine or fast food, chalk up lost matches to experience, take vacation if need be, and recognize that sometimes you turn a student around just by being there.
BTW, that organization now sponsors something like twenty teams. Not bad for just sticking with it.

I will gladly drive out and meet them and your team if you are within a few hours of Chicago.

Remind your team that you are competing against teams that have been doing this for years. Making it to the field for every match is quite an accomplishment in itself. Of course there are always lessons to be learned for next year, like what mechanisms proved to be effective for other teams and how important driver practice can really be. And that’s what everyone is here for, to learn, so if you and your team have learned a lot this year, you have been successful regardless of how the competition ended (15th is very solid and nothing to be ashamed of anyway).