What I learned at Houston and Gracious Professionalism

Here are the rules about Gracious Professionalism that I learned at Houston.

  1. If you ask me for something and I don’t give it to you, I am not be a Gracious professional.

  2. If I am not being a Gracious professional, You can then go ahead and take what you wanted anyway.

  3. If you are now taking what you want because you accused me of not being a Gracious professional, then you can run me over with your robot and be absolved of wrong doing in your own mind.

These statements were true, however, it is not the incident that I wish to debate but rather the gracious professionalism slope. This is not the first time I have seen rule #1 being invoked on people.

What do you all think? Is the term gracious professionalism being thrown around more cavalier these days to shame people into giving into demands of others?
This didn’t seem to be the way 3 or 4 years ago (from my perspective), but over the last few years, I have seen more and more people invoke the term “You aren’t being a very gracious professional” and then follow up with doing what they want to do. It seems, invoking the above term now frees you up to not have to be gracious yourself.

This also isn’t the first organization I have experienced this phenomenon in. Where something began with the pride that it was a gracious or chivalrous organization, only to see those very aspects they prided themselves on become the catch phrase of those just wanting to advance their own wants and needs.

Someone stole your stuff and then ran you over with a robot?

I’d be happy to talk about Gracious Professionalism, which I agree (I think) is used quite often to mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean, and can end up being weirdly distorted. But I really want to understand how your list of three events happened.

The post was a real example of someone wanting something and when they didn’t get what they want, used “You are not be a gracious professional” to do what they wanted anyway as justification.

I don’t want to dwell on the incident, but rather the fact that incidents like this have become either more visible to me, or more common place.
Do you agree or disagree with this sentiment.

(To help clarify… it was an incident on the practice field where a team wanted to use a certain space on the field, but we were already using it. They placed not only their robot in a place to keep us from running, but also their students in front of our robot. Then they proceeded to run their autonomous, which ended it’s run up by backing up deep into where I was standing and ran into the back of my legs.) It was not the only incident I saw and have seen recently.

Using “Gracious Professionalism” as a put down has been going since about the time the phrase was introduced in the program. It’s relatively uncommon, and not condoned by the community at large, but labeling something “Un-GP” because you personally have an issue with it isn’t new. I felt like I became more aware of it once I made the transition from student to mentor.

From the description I am betting someone asked for space to test something on their robot (on a practice field, in the pit, etc.), and when OP declined because they also needed the space for their work (perfectly reasonable) the team proceeded to test anyway and cause a problem (because objects don’t generally occupy the same space very effectively).

Edit: Sniped badly there, at least I guessed correctly

This. In the most diluted yet reasonable definition, Gracious Professionalism should really just be about being a sensible human being, and helping others in ways others cannot, whenever it is reasonably possible. I agree with OP that it has been used in a different context in recent years to give someone or a team a bad reputation.

Many frustrations can arise from a competition; things get extremely tense, and it requires physical and mental strain. There will be people who can’t control themselves, but it’s just plain unreasonable to inexorably take out your frustrations on another person or group.

The terminology associated with gracious professionalism has become the brunt of a joke, and though I understand why, it’s one of those things that shouldn’t be the center of a joke. I’m not too serious of a person; I’m all for fun as much as the next person. But, it crosses a line when you take the idea of being a sensible, reasonable person with values of respect, trust, and responsibility, and throw it down the drain as a mock character that people should take on.

It’s literally “don’t be a jerk, and help others out” (to stay PG).

There’s a lot of frustration coming around the social stigma of FIRST and FRC, and it really grinds my gears that its devolving into a jerk-circle of “who’s the bigger man”. I graduated last year. Are there any previous graduates/mentors that have noticed the social stigmatization that I’m talking about? I know cases of it have been around for a while, but it’s becoming a focus.

Don’t want to be the “can’t we all be friends” guy, but this is getting ridiculous. People take this stuff way too seriously.

Yikes. I did see how busy the practice fields were and I’m not surprised that people were jostling for position. Gracious Professionalism is, like other catch phrases, subject to losing meaning when said too often and without proper context. The core of the idea is the Golden Rule, as applied to kids building robots. I hope that we can help foster an environment where the concept, if not the phrase, thrives. I know we don’t always succeed, though. Sorry that happened to you.

I think i know what the spoken event is, and obviously there are 2 sides to each story. I don’t wanna get into what happened there, but get more to the point of GP behavior.

As Dr. Flowers says, just behave like your grandma would have wanted you to behave. Does that mean being fair to other teams? Yes. Does that mean abiding to the rules even when they work against your own interest? Yes. Does that mean helping other teams when you can? Yes.

It is much harder to keep to those standards under the pressure of an event, but it is out duty.

This sounds like textbook manipulation. If somebody disagrees with you, just blindside them with an absurd claim. Really sad.

I don’t mean to hijack this thread into a rant session but,
We had a related situation where we were at a small hotel while attending an event, where other teams are staying…

Like we’ve done many times before, we have a pizza party and scouting meeting after the first day of the event at our hotel conference room or whatever space we can get.
This hotel didn’t have any conference rooms, so we asked the staff (earlier in the day) if we could use the common area off of the lobby which wasn’t very big and they said sure.

So that night we got our pizza delivered, we were having our dinner and a general meeting, and was going to be having our scouting meeting when another team showed up (coming from the event).
They didn’t ask… the DEMANDED to use the space for thier dinner and meeting. I don’t know if was just some of the mentors or parents or all of them, but that was not cool.
We would have gladly shared the space or figured out something, but it was the tone and attitude of some of the mentors of the other team that was “non-GP”, like they were entitled.

We ended up cutting our dinner and meeting short, giving them the room, and had the scouting meeting in someones hotel room.

[/hijack thread]

If you can do it within 140 characters then I’ve got a job for you!

Some people would say You’re Not That Special

“You’re being un-GP” is definitely something that is being used to justify simple disagreements with someone or as a threat to get a desired result.

I was once called un-GP and “reported” for asking a woman to NOT yell at the team in front of me. She was screaming at them for standing up and cheering for their team (how DARE they) before the match even started. She ranted that they were not being GPs. When I reminded her that by yelling at them for cheering for their team she was in herself being un-GP, she pointed at the logo on my polo and said, “I’m reporting you.” Five minutes later we all got a reminder from the MC to be gracious professionals. :rolleyes:

I think the FIRST community could definitely use a refresher on what gracious professionalism really means and that calling someone un-GP can’t be a go-to dirty word to guilt them into conceding to what you want.

Kudos for daring to start this conversation.

These days? No, it’s always been used as a tool for shutting down dissenting opinions. In 2011 I had someone claim that playing defense was un-GP in FTC. The basis for their claim was that their wheels hit the side of the defending robot that was simply blocking their path and they tipped over.

2014, I had someone claim using scouting data was un-GP when it contradicted their blustering. (I was also accused of only disagreeing because they were an all girls team, I didn’t know that fact until they blurted it out)

Of course, 125 got an award for huge GP-ness at CMP then proceeded to tear the can grabber off another team… I thought that was hilarious. Actually, I still think that it’s hilarious.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, don’t use GP-ness as a weapon, it’s a goal not a tool to beat people into submission with.

I think the obsession over this concept of being a “Gracious Professional” is sorta hilarious.

I mean, I’d rather strive to be a good person with certain moral values than a “Gracious Professional”. I could very well be in the minority on this one, though.

No you’re probably not, I think most of us are/want to be good people with morals, manners and do the right thing.

My opinion; GP is the after-effect, it’s supposed to describe a group, person or situation after it was observed and earned (or not).
And not if you simply don’t like or agree with someone or don’t get what you want.

I’m curious: did the accusation of not being GP come from a mentor, or from a student? If from a mentor, well then, shame on the mentor. If from a student, well then, shame on the mentors.

I admit to being a little passive aggressive about the term, once, at World Champs in St. Louis a few years ago (on a different team than I am now).

There’s a reserved seating area for teams that are currently playing. The idea is your team can scoot into those rows, sit and watch the match that you are in, then scoot out as soon as the match is done to make room for the next team coming in.

A mentor/coach from another team was trying to block off an entire row for their students to sit by standing at the steps. When some of our students found their way to the “reserved” row, they got yelled at. I said “that’s OK guys, we’ll move, because WE are going to be gracious professionals” while glaring down at the other team.

I don’t condone being snarky. I also don’t condone allowing yourself to be walked on in the name of being GP. Not really sure what the best response is for situations like this, other than to say “pick your battles” I guess.

I have mixed feelings about saved seating at regionals as it relates to GP. When a team gets up early enough to be one of the first teams in the event for scouting “line-of-sight” reasons and settle into an area, right away you always get a couple kids who go pit scout and maybe 2 -3 that go grab breakfast. You may have a couple of mentors who had to hang back at the hotel to do hotel room inspections. You try to hold 2 -3 seats for the pit crew so they can watch their robot’s matches with the team throughout the day. For these and similar reasons you may initially have 8-10 seats unused in the group that are actually going to be used as soon as the people return from what they are doing.

So at any given time, while we only claim the seats we need (no more then that) you have late-arriving teams that simply think an empty seat is an abandoned & available seat. To me, trying to scavenge seats that are obviously used by people that have momentary roles to fill (or simply going to the restroom) shows a huge lack of gracious professionalism.

I truly think the “no saving seats” was more directed at teams who feel the need to save 3 seats for every single person on their team for elbow room, not to create an environment where every seat can be up for grabs the moment someone gets up to stretch and have GP used as a weapon against someone who is defending their teammate’s seat.

If anything, what mostly causes this is the woefully small venues some of the regionals are in (Ventura, Inland Empire (RIP), etc). That forces an “every man for himself” attitude towards seat claiming / seat saving / seat stealing.


When it comes to “being GP”, there are a number of pinch points where we can fail at acting professional or being gracious. Two of them seem to pop up a lot in this thread: seating, and use of the practice field. Both are systemic problem areas, where human nature tends to override high ideals.

I was thrilled to see how FIRST addressed the seating issue in Houston. By putting each division on its own field with seating on both sides, the problem of getting a good seat that wasn’t blocked by standing fans, or where seats were “saved”, was almost completely eliminated. Did any of you ever find yourself frustrated at other teams blocking your view, or taking seats, in Houston? I know that I didn’t see it at all, primarily because it was organized in such a way that it couldn’t become a problem.

I really appreciate that FIRST and the convention center worked this issue out so well for us.

Yes, GRB was great and he seating arrangement was perfect. the only two (minor) issues that existed with the setup:

  1. reminding our scouts that blue was on the left and red on the right since we sat in the opposite side that is normally set up for regionals. This ended up being a nonfactor. Oh yeah, and remembering the video was opposite sides (red / blue) from our field of view.

  2. During our first match, the small TV monitor on the driver station wasn’t working and our coach could not see the scores on the mid-field screen during the match. That only happened that one match for us, but it sure gave our team an unexpected “blind spot” with respect to real time in-match strategy adjustments.

Overall, seating was an absolute non-issue in GRB and wish all regionals had that amount of seating.