Why do team's fold?

We have been asked by our school board to identify why teams fold. http://team1389.com/the-meeting-with-the-montgomery-county-schools-interim-superintendent-went-ok/

We are trying to find people who were on the former teams in the county and have had very little luck. So we figured we would ask CD to weigh in and provide us with a data point we can reference when we go back to the school board.

Please consider taking the poll (pick your top 2 or 3 reasons) or point us in the direction of data that already exists that we can use. Thanks,

Because they’re pliable… :smiley: :wink:

It could be for many reasons. Running out of funding, losing mentors, losing students, losing facilities.

I don’t have any data on hand to reference, but I can give you my opinion after having been a FSM for 5 years…

Number one reason a team folds is the loss of a primary mentor or teacher leaving no one left to lead the team.

My anecdotal experience is the same as Rick’s. Loss of main teacher sponsor/lead mentor is a killer.
Another problem I’ve seen several times is the mentors not getting along. It will fracture teams, sometimes they’ll split off and make new teams and usually both teams fail.
The common denominator is that when adults can’t play nicely in the sandbox, it’s the students that suffer.

I agree with this. Conflict only serves to slow progress. Too much of it can affect the students, even going as far as draining motivation and morale from them. Another issue I feel would be ineffective leadership. Having the wrong people involved with running the team could also affect student support and motivation.

In the end, a team is only what its mentors and students want it to be. If students and mentors don’t have the motivation to make a team work, then it simply won’t.

I believe the previous iteration of Team 1257 (2004-2006 seasons) lost founding student leadership and its lead mentor after the 2005 season. The gaps were not filled for whatever reasons and the team disbanded after a rough 2005-2006 year.

Something I think all teams are guilty of is short-sightedness. This means only looking far enough out for the current season and not looking at the risks every team faces. I know I’m guilty of it and working with our leadership to identify and mitigate the risks of our organization.

Life happens. Teams should have a plan for what happens if their lead mentor has to resign. What about if you lose your workshop? Main sponsor? All sponsors? What are contingency plans for when a key person on your team (student or mentor) becomes incapacitated?

Anybody reading this thread should have a conversation with their team leaders as to what their risks and plans to deal with them are. The preseason is a prefect time for this. Doing a Google search for risk mitigation brings up a great deal of information on the subject.

I was on team 415 RoBoCRAFT that folded (for the second time; they were originally the Electric City Screaming Eagles) after the 2013 season. It was mostly due to a falling out between the school and our main sponsor, Bosch (who had presented the idea of forming an FRC team with our school in the first place). Our Bosch mentors wanted more input on the team because it was their company’s money that allowed us to pay for everything. Also, the teachers wanted to use the money from sponsors to pay for their “overtime”. In the end, our school decided to drop FRC and focus only on Vex (they also dropped their FTC teams). Also Vex was a lot cheaper and allowed them to pull in more students due to a lower fee to join a team.

As I understand it, Slidell High’s team from about a decade ago ended because of a lack of funding; once the rookie funding sources dried up, they didn’t have enough other to fall back on. They competed twice, seeding second and fourth at Bayou, but were unable to raise enough money to compete a third time. Their head coach still teaches at Slidell High, but is not involved with the current team.

I suspect that many are a lack of key leadership. However, most of those defunct teams probably do not have anyone currently following CD.

As others have voiced, one of the main reasons a team folds is because the person who was the advocate for the team had to stop for one reason or another. This could be the lead mentor or lead teacher. Every team has at least one and without them the team would not exist.

Often that advocate wants to pass the torch but no one is willing to pick it up and the team just dissolves. It is a position that takes a lot of energy and time and when you find that person you need to make sure you don’t burn them out. I also think this is why it is so hard to start a team because you need to find that person who wants to do it.

Sab-BOT-age went through a couple of crises which came very close to shutting us down.

In 2008 we lost our Teacher / head mentor in the middle of build season. One of the other mentors (me) fortunately stepped forward to keep things going, but nothing had been arranged or discussed ahead of time, so this was largely a matter of luck (and a great deal of ignorance on my part). But we kept alive.

Without a teacher, we lost school support and a place to work. Fortunately, we were able to reorganize into a corporation (and eventually into a 501(3)© organization) so that we had a financial entity. We were also successful at convincing companies with unused warehouse space to allow us to use this space under very reasonable terms. The team spent a few years moving from warehouse to warehouse before finding a new home.

We were very fortunate in having a dedicated core of mentors, students and parents during these tough years willing to put in extraordinary effort to keep the team alive and active. Without this passionate effort directed at keeping the team alive, we would not be around today.

So I find it easy to see how teams fold. It’s also great to see so many able to stick around for the long term.

This topic is something team 703 has been dealing with for a few years now, but our problems are a bit different from most of the others I’m seeing posted here…

Our team has maintained its core leadership and a good working relationship with our school, but over the past few years we’ve slowly been loosing support mentors and experienced students, shifting more responsibilities to the few mentors and students that are left to the point that many are on the verge of burn-out (myself included). This year it’s gotten the point where we have had serious discussions about what to do going forward; whether we should fold the team or if there are things we can do to avoid it.

Our situation is somewhat unique as our team is not based out of a traditional high school, but instead a part-time technical high school for 11th and 12th grade students to attend half day. As a result, we recruit students to the team from a variety of schools in the area (including 9th and 10th graders), but we have no native student population to recruit from and very little school loyalty to work with. The problem has been made even worse by the expansion of new FIRST teams in our areas, as many of the surrounding schools we used to pull students from now have their own teams.

On the mentor side of things, we benefited for many years from the help of mentors from our sole financial sponsor. Over the past few years, however, we’ve seen many of these mentors leave the program and we have not been able to fill their roles. I personally suspect this is due to a lack of interaction with our sponsor over the years. Essentially they had always just given us whatever financial support we needed so we never really looked for any additional sponsorship or did very much to maintain our relationship with our existing sponsor (and consequently, we have no one on the team with any experience in soliciting sponsors). This year we found out that our sponsor will be cutting our budget in half in 2017 due to them starting to fund additional teams in our area. The classic case of getting burned because we put “all of our eggs in one basket”.

So essentially, if our team folds, it will be because of some combination of three things: lack of students, lack of support mentors, and/or lack of money.

Often it is not just one of these. Sure, one starts it, but another is what ultimatly kills it off.

Example: A team that died this year (AFAIK, based on the testimony of their head mentor whom I spoke with earlier in the year), 1760, a team from Kokomo, IN (Taylor HS IIRC?). They had long had issues with student involvement. as a result, their fundraising began to suffer, and the students that were involved lost interest despite being a somewhat competitive team. Near the end (2015 build season), all the work was being done by said head mentor, due to a lack of student interest and said mentor’s self-admitted perfectionist tendancies. Between this and being a key volunteer at Indiana district events (AV crew among other things, how I met him in the first place), the stress was too much for his wife to handle, and he was forced to call it quits after said team failed to make district championship. As he said right after Purdue District, “this is the end”.

Sad indeed… in a city known for FRC success. Dead after 10 seasons. While the withdrawl of a key mentor was the final straw, several other issues on the list led to said outcome.

If I had to pick one cause over all, its a lack of interest/dedication at any level; said issue will, like a bad cold, spread to all levels in time. The other issues, a dedicated team will find a way around. Lack of space nearly sacked 16 numerous times, yet they still keep going (to say the least). 111 lost a lot of resources (space, most of a sponsorship, etc.) and they’re still kicking. When it comes down to it, it’s ultimately a matter of human resources; if a team has the drive and the ability, everything else will follow, in one way or another.

Yep, this seems to be the most common case I’ve heard of too. Looking over my notes from last year’s PNW registration, we lost 10 teams (Bear in mind that this was after the first year of districts).

Of those 10, one merged with another school, another started a different STEM program in place of FRC, at least two confirmed that they were losing their coach/head mentor, several others stated that districts were difficult for them logistically. If I recall, none of the 10 who dropped for the 2015 season were due strictly to financial difficulties.

Emphasis mine.

Just curious; did they explain what the logistical difficulties were in the district system that made them have to disband?

For some teams, districts are not the way to go. Part of the premise is that you’re close to at least one of your events–that isn’t always the case. For teams that would consider their “home” district as an overnight stay, you get an immediate logistical problem, potentially compounded by an administration problem.

Logistical problem: You have to house X students for 2 nights, a fair drive from home. Twice. This takes money.
Administration problem: See “logistical problem”, apply school travel rules.

If the teams were already single-event teams, this could easily be enough to overstretch them. If they’re overstretched like that, something’s got to give–probably the team.

I personally know one team that folded, and why. When one teacher is running the entire team with minimal support from the school, eventually the team shuts down. (By “shuts down”, I mean that it transitioned to FTC/VRC/FLL, all three as I recall. The teacher in question got more help eventually, though those three programs are a bit easier to handle.)

Not only is travel a prohibiting factor for some Eastern Washington teams, but missing the extra days of school required for 2-3+ events, instead of 1 was an issue.

I known that down here in Oregon, going into 2016 we have two teams that are folding due to the financial burden that is placed on them (so I here). These were teams that had not made it to DCMP so I have a hunch (this part is speculation ) that the new registration prices made it so they could not participate.

The voting thus far points to loss of mentor/teacher and funding issues as leading causes.

I didn’t see lack of student motivation or parental engagement on the poll. Mentors/teachers sometimes struggle with burn-out, especially when students lose interest and parents don’t support the effort to keep students committed to the program.

Mentors might leave a team suddenly due to change in jobs or life-events (getting married, having children). Teams should develop a succession plan for loss of mentors for those circumstances. however, it’s tough for a mentor to step into a team where morale and motivation is low. This is an area where strong student leadership and commitment can help sustain teams when a mentor or teacher leaves.

For our Team 359, we have endured losing our main mentors and lead coordinator during our early years. We nearly almost folded as a result. Two of us are the remaining founders of the team and had to learn to readjust our roles in the program, while searching for more volunteers and support.
Those that have done FIRST heavily and successfully with the right mix of mentors, understand what it takes, which makes it even tougher to replace anyone. The best and most common examples of setting up contingency plans that I have personally seen involves former students becoming mentors.

As for having a life changing experience having children, that cannot be stressed enough!! There are days I tell myself its time to give it up…