I’ve seen many people claim that FIRST fully switching to a district model would make competitions more fair and give lower ranking teams a better chance at winning. At the same time, I keep seeing people say that FIRST won’t pull its brand from regional partners if they keep running regionals and that FIRST can’t/won’t switch big FRC states like California over to the district model. Why is this this case? I haven’t seen anyone really say why FIRST won’t switch just people saying that they wont.
Probably because nobody has made a convincing enough argument that it would save significant money in those regions. My understanding is that Michigan didn’t switch until this happened.
For one thing, in order for a region to run districts, there needs to be a local Program Delivery Organization to finance and support it. FIRST does not run any districts themselves. Many (most? all? I really don’t know the numbers here) regionals are run using RPC’s that report directly to FIRST through Regional Directors, and have no local PDO overseeing them. Given the difference in structure needed for each type of event (currently), it becomes impossible to mandate districts everywhere.
What’s the difference in structure? I dont see why the FIRST organizations in California couldn’t band together a bit or merge to run districts? I see how it could be a logistical issue but if FIRST threatens to pull the plug on regionals by pulling their branding these organizations would surely be willing to work something out, especially if FIRST gives them “4 years” except explicitly tells them they will lose FIRST’s brand at that time.
Talk to Dave Berggren. They actually are grouped up under an umbrella, but there are OTHER factors that are taking forever to finish resolving.
So I am a big proponent of the switch to districts, if I had it my way Florida would have transitioned a long time ago,
I will say one of the issues facing Florida is venues. Most Florida high schools do not have an indoor space to support the field and pits for a full size district event and those that do would have the two spaces very far away and usually involving a walk in the out doors (which despite being called the Sunshine state we have the fourth highest average rainfall of all states so that is a bad combo).
So we would have to host these events at convention centers, or big college basketball arena’s which is where we already host our regionals. So now you need to get more of these venues with potentially the same amount of funding you currently have.
What is the big advantage of the “district model”?
The obvious one is more plays for less money.
Initially the low cost regional pilot was to demonstrate that the costs of frc events could be lower. See, Michigan had a ton of teams but no more funding to add events.
The original plan was for them to be traditional regionals but done at a lower cost and with fewer teams to get a consistent experience. For reasons that I’ll leave as an exercise to the reader the thought of “we can charge teams less and still hold the events” proved to be an idea that was not desired to be widely adopted. Thus the districtification of Michigan.
As for why it’s not more widespread?
I can assure you the difference between your average regional and your average district are minimal. Yet one costs $4000 to attend and the other $500/$1000.
There is currently this post circulating around where a lot of people are claiming districts would make it easier for lower seeded teams to potentially win regionals or get closer to winning as opposed to the current regional model. Multiple people make points as to why this is the case and if you want to see their logic you can take a look. I won’t copy-paste their reasons here since they are available on that link.
I live up in the PNW region but also volunteer outside of the region and so have my toes in both areas. A few key differences that I haven’t seen called out yet.
- In PNW we own two fields and store them year round. Some pieces of it (field electronics) go back to FIRST each year, and we get year-specific items from FIRST each year that make up ~10-20% of the total road cases brought to an event. But everything else is owned, stored, maintained, distributed by PNW.
- On regionals there are things that FIRST helps run and coordinate (to Jon’s earlier point). District events don’t have a lot of that which increases the burden on local partners.
- PNW had 4 regionals when we went to districts. We went from that in 2013 to 10 district events and a District Championship. So at a minimum it required 2-2.5x as many venues, and in reality most of our regional venues are outside of what is needed for a district event. We host most of our districts in high schools. So before you switch you need to find enough suitable venues (I see this was mentioned while I was drafting this)
- More events means more volunteers. Again, we went from 4 events to 10-11 events each year. So you need a larger group of volunteers.
- In addition to needing more events you need more events in reach of teams. Since teams are virtually required to attend two events, you need to ensure that teams further out that maybe were fine traveling for one event a year can do it for two or three events a year (assuming district champs) before worlds.
- Increased cost scrambling. If you’re going to two regionals you know what the cost for that is up front. If you qualify for District Championship in Week 5 to compete in Week 6 or 7 you have to scramble for money there. And then if you go to Worlds from there you do it all over again. There are some solutions to this and is something some regions do differently, but it is a big change.
- Are there enough teams in a region to support them? They work well in dense regions. What do the handful of teams in Wyoming do if all surrounding states are in districts? This somewhat goes back to the point earlier about increased events and travel for teams.
I don’t intend my list to be exhaustive and there are a lot of positives to districts (teams get more plays, and two events guaranteed so they can iterate between them), but it’s not just something that can easily be done.
Yes. I’m looking at a larger “why haven’t the concepts been adopted” from the historical perspective.
There’s all manner of benefits to the district model but also I think the more valuable thing is the concept that regionals can cost way less.
Thanks for the in depth answer. This makes a lot more sense!
Are you talking about costing less from the teams perspective or the district/regional’s host? I assume you mean host. In that case, I see your point especially with the help of @Kpchem’s in depth post. Thanks!
The last time I went to a WOW “are we going to get Districts?” meeting (a few years ago), the key issues were:
- districts are sort of a franchise model; a local organization needs to exist to fundraise and hold the events, and they are financially responsible for the cost of the events (and no organization had signed on for that)
- more events require a higher number of volunteers, both at the events (because not every volunteer can spare 2 more weekends), and to coordinate them; some volunteers need specific skills that take time to learn
- more events require more equipment
- the team density in a given area needs to be high enough to make it worthwhile, which is true for only some of the WOW region
- PA wasn’t sure whether they wanted to let their western teams join WOW, or try to have everyone in the state under a single umbrella
If everywhere goes districts, FRC will be almost impossible to spread internationally, and generally abroad, high schools don’t always even have gyms, let alone gyms big enough to host FRC events. It’s hard to even find indoor stadiums big enough for FRC events outside of the really wealthy western countries. I mean, it’s not completely impossible, Israel did it, but also, Israel is about the same size as the New York Metropolitan Area, with half as many people (So quite significantly dense)
Sometimes people ask me if Turkey will do that, I know that we prefer to keep having teams from other countries join us (btw, we’ve never had a North American team join us, we’re waiting to see some of you guys!) The cultural exchange adds a lot of value to the event. It makes it extremely difficult for me, to make everything accessible in two languages (English, Turkish), but it’s worth it for the experience value it adds to the event IMO. Non Turkish teams generally would not be able to compete in a district system, the travel would be too expensive, and even the Turkish teams it would be hard 2/3 ish of our teams are in İstanbul, for them it would be easy, because any arrangement of events would likely favor them, because İstanbul has more viable venues, and teams, but for teams from other cities (the other 1/3) where there’s 6 teams in one city, 2 in that city, 3 in the other, 11 in another - they may have to travel a ton to go to two events, and while, sure some of my teams can afford entire international trips to the US or China, etc. the average team cannot, and even traveling outside of their own city-state is difficult. So even if I could find enough venues, and volunteers (which I might be able to do) it may be a hardship on 1/3+ of the teams, and there are a lot of really cool things we would lose in “closing our borders”. That in my opinion, are not worth losing.
Edit: One of my favorite moments from the events each year, is the holding pattern time we have between Day 1 matches ending, and closing ceremonies, the mentors are gathering on the side of the field, and we usually play Erik Dali / Ankaranin Baglari, the Turkish mentors drag the foreign mentors into the middle of the dance circle, everyone is smiling, having a good time, not necessarily able to communicate verbally in the same language, but it’s just really fun, sharing our culture with others, we learn about them when we visit their pits, teams bring things from their countries to share with our teams, etc.
Imho the big obstacle is finding the people to make it happen. Lots more work, responsibility and liability. And lots more people.
If you want to see it happen, you need to be involved in making it happen.
I have nothing to add to the conversation about districts, but I love the idea of coming to Turkey for a competition! It might take some planning and saving… but it would be so amazing for my kids.
File this in a “should have thought about this before!”
This also describes a Regional Planning Committee. I was on one of those before moving to Michigan, fourteen years ago.
I think of FiM as the prototype Super-Regional Planning Committee. Their event (Michigan State Championship), while large (160 teams in recent years), cannot accommodate all the teams in their geographic area; instead, they hold a series (six weeks, 25 competitions) of qualifying events at which teams try to make the cut to compete at the big event. Look back to 2009, it was seven qualifying events, with 132 teams competing to earn a spot at the 64 team state championship. Compare that to 2008 Great Lakes Regional (63 teams) and it doesn’t look like an enormous difference at the final step. The main benefit, as has been pointed out many times, was and remains more playing time for less cost. FiM needs sponsorship to cover those costs, just as the three Regional Planning Committees that it replaced needed sponsorship. The district system makes FAR better use of the sponsor’s funds.
Out of curiosity, what is stopping mn from switching to a district model?
Not Jon but I will take a swing. Minnesota has 200+ teams and runs five Regionals. See FUM site.
That’s more teams and events than Michigan had in 2009 when FiM was formed and the district model was created. However, the two areas are different in some important ways. I think FUM will eventually go to a district model, when their team growth and sponsorship demands create the need for it. Right now the regional model seems to be serving them well. The double Regionals they run in Duluth and Minneapolis help with costs.
@Jon_Stratis Jon, please weigh in here.
Because teams want it and FIRST hates teams.