Your scouts hate scouting and your data is bad: Here's why

I can’t agree more with “start with your goals.”

If your goals involve being competitive, you’ll want to scout to come up with match winning strategy.

If your goals involve continuous improvement, you’ll want to scout yourself to hold your team accountable.

It could very well be that the goals are “pass inspection and participate in every match” and those are great goals - but they don’t require scouting.

If you can’t tie scouting to some common goal, then it’s going to be hard to get buy-in.

Conveniently, on field success is a near universal goal…

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Thanks so much. I will work toward getting them working now.

I am not scouting lead this year. That’s ok the team has grown and I have have plenty on my plate as Strategy Lead. The Scouting Lead coming in was initially leaning heavily towards and app coming from that side of things and we has another programming lead also wanting to do an app the whole thinking was app or bust . Until we spoke.

They both asked me what to track since I was the scouting lead for the past 5 seasons, also as Strategy Lead what info would I and my student leads need? To cut long story short. The app is now on the back burner until they go though this entire season using our existing paper/excel /highlighter method.

They both understood fully the value of that type of data collection we look for, and determined any existing scouting apps were simply not adequate for what we track. They do want to evaluate if a custom app can help in some areas, and if it does it will be customized to what we already track. I thought for sure the team would do an app, once again the app is not in the cards after explaining what we track and why and the reasons behind it. Seems to happen every year.

Perhaps one year we will have an app that can track in a way we track things, one that does not over track data stuff and lets a scout watch the game. If that day comes we will release it to the community. I welcome any new tool that does better.

I had a couple of questions/comments regarding your “how to make scouting amazing and awesome” section:

  1. I love the rule of having everyone scout because this forces all students to pay attention to the matches and helps them understand robot or strategy decisions later on.
  2. Regarding “Scouts create strategy dumps for matches” and “Scouts are directly involved in the pick-list process” how do you deal with an overly large amount of people trying to voice their opinion in these processes?

For strategy dumps: someone (usually me) simply screenshots the preview sheet in our workbook that shows the stats for all six teams. Might throw a little basic-tier analysis (basically, whether we’re favored or there’s a dangerously high stat for an opponent) and that’s it.

For pick lists: We generally just hash it out until we have a solution, or if it isn’t that important we’ll stuff it on the side and leave some spaces for later. We tend to have a quantitative value for each robot though, so that makes for a tiebreaker.

Our process for both of things is similar. For strategy dumps, we quickly record a couple specific stats for each of the six teams along with a predicted score and some analysis down on a paper. For pick lists we go through our data and decide what things are going to be the most important/contested and determine a list from there. However, for both of these things we generally involve a small group of people.

Katie’s initial post said have the scouts involved in both of these processes to see how their work is used. My question was more focused at how you could involve more people without complicating things too much. In my experience too many people can be cause things to take far longer than with a small group.

For quals, ain’t nobody got time for that. Someone could chime in on the GroupMe if they really wanted, but we have stuff to do.

For pick lists, we simply open it up. Folks can stick around and weigh in, or they can hang out in their rooms. Since nearly everyone not on drive team or safety captain scouts, they can see it if they want. Some are fine to hit the sack early, others want to hash it all out. We haven’t had a problem.

Strategy/Data Dumps are a hard one to involve more people. My suggestion: Rotate through scouts who will compile the info and then run it to the pits. That scout can then work with the strategist on the next match/go to the talks with the other teams. This idea is purely based off one strategist of mine sending her buddy to be the gopher and the outcome was this system but with only one person.

Pick-list meetings: The most important thing when you have a large group, imo, is rules and plan. Explain what the plan is and the expectations before you start.

Some of my “rules:”

  • In the event the team can’t come to a consensus on something, the head scout/head strat get final say. If they can’t agree, then I step in.
  • Being a distraction. Distractions are un-invited from the meeting.

As has been mentioned elsewhere, I like to break out into small groups that will sort some subset of teams and then combine lists. It gives students ownership in a meaningful way and by the end everyone can feel like they contributed to the list. Some people think this is excessive, but it has worked well for me.

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You know what would make this easier, an easy to use, universal scouting app that can be used every year by every team. It should manage all of your data and make it easy to navigate. I would easily pay $20 a month for a service like this.

We generally have a whole-scouting team meeting (either at someone’s house or at a hotel room if away), consisting of like 20 people, Friday night. At the start, everyone fills out a form with their favorite robots. Then, we have a big discussion, everyone can talk (although it’s predominately the more senior members), and we use data from our scouting interface as well.

That would be very vanilla outcome, especially when teams scout all sorts of metrics. Blue alliance has the average alliance stats based on partners foes you have (schedules) yet does not pick alliances does it?

I suggest everyone highlight the elimination makeup rankings and color code them . You will see winning alliance makeup comes from all over. No app will predict it. Teams sharing an app that is paid is unlikely at best.

For qualification pre-match strategy, myself or the student lead would post in the event-specific slack channel if any of the super scouts had any info on the 5 other teams in our upcoming match. Sometimes we would have specific questions like “doesn’t look like team XYZ hasn’t played defense yet, do you think they’d be solid at it?” or “why did team XYZ only score 3 in match 47?” We would then look at the stats of all teams in the match, come with up a strategy and then share our thoughts to the drive coach via slack DMs.

While this provides an avenue for more students to get involved and provide their input, it was pretty hit or miss at getting additional information. It would be nice to have a discussion with each of the scouts to strategies our qualification matches, but that isn’t really feasible with 7 minute turnaround times.

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We meet in our hotel lobby on Friday night typically as well, but we don’t have a full scouting team meeting. We put out the invite to whoever wants to participate, but we don’t want to hear who everyone’s favorite robot is. I am of the opinion that your data should be the primary driver for your pick list. If there are scouts that want to way in on how we are organizing and looking at our data then I would love to hear it, but having 20 people share which robots they like the most is typically just slowing down the meeting.

There is a place for hearing from everyone about what robot designs they think are cool or effective because t his can help drive improvements after each event, but I don’t think this should be involved in the pick list decisions.

I was thinking something more like slack, so it would be team based. The teams could add their own metrics and you could save all of the data incase you wanted to do more than just analyze it for scouting purposes

Still not sure of the value here, scouting is quite organic and can be very time consuming. Doing that and then posting seems like extra work. You look a robots and there are all sorts of designs. Not sure why scouting is any different and should be different.

Maybe its worth a try , not sure how many would sign up.

I really liked this! I was a scout for my first two years, and I understand most of what your saying! My team is small (12 members, even less last year) and we have never had a problem with members feeling unimportant. With such a small team, it is hard to be useless (unless your really trying). The lead scout was always our alliance selector and he was always in the bleachers scouting with the rest of us. I do have to agree though… my rear end hurt SO much after a long day of competitions (comfy chairs… hint hint). We used paper with easy methods of filling information in, the one problem… most of the time, there were only three of us, so two robots each, which was really hard. We had more members who could have helped, but they didn’t really see the value in scouting and didn’t want to sit in the bleachers all day, so they made excuses and left and stuff. I don’t think it was the mentors fault, but the students. They were never demeaning about it, they just really hated it and didn’t think it was important. Sometimes, when the drivers had some time, they would help us. I don’t think we will have that problem this year. Our scouting/strategy mentor had the idea that each scouting student would get a couple teams that they had to me experts on. They had to learn everything there was to know about them, and I think this would be a great idea for larger teams. Our team is so small, that I am not sure how it is going to work, but for a larger team, each student could look after only one team, visit them in the pits, learn all there autonomous and then when it comes to picking, the mentor can ask that student about that team. It shows them how important they are to the team.

There are always students that don’t understand the value of scouting. We try to actively document our decisions and thought processes while we are making pick lists so that we can turn around and show all the students and parents why it is so important that we get good scouting data.

Often times scouting data can be a the reason why you either lose or win a Bo3 or even an entire event. Scouting is mandatory part of attending competitions for all students on our team, with the exception of pit crew and drive team who are usually busy with other work. If the team is going to succeed, good scouting data is needed so every student needs to do their part to help.

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Often times scouting data can be a the reason why you either lose or win a Bo3 or even an entire event

To build onto this, during the playoffs, our team doesn’t even scout points, just strategies and potential weaknesses. If we aren’t going to be able to pick them, why scout their raw performance numbers, knowing an alliance’s strategy could be of significantly higher impact when facing off against them.

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The biggest obstacle that separates a quarter-finals team from a semis and upwards is the data they collect and how they manipulate it in-game. I have been running my teams strategy division for years, mentorless, and I understand the strain it puts on scouts to remain actively engaged in a match. I’d like to put out a few pointers for getting good data.

A schedule - there are more positive responses from scouts if they have a regimented schedule to follow. 10 matches seems to be the magic number for my team, as it gives a big enough break to keep from frying members, and it allows the members to stay engaged.
Multiple scouting leads - I have found having good communication between scouts regarding strategy whilst scouting encourages positive data. To get them motivated, questions I’ve used are similar to “Knowing what you know, who will win this next match and why?” “What are your thoughts on this team?” “What would you want the alliance selector to remember when out there?” Multiple leads who are actively engaged in this way increase morale and the excitement behind scouting, and establish the importance of this task.
Know your place - This may be a bit harsher of a topic, but being aware of when to stop scouting is important. Scouting when you are ranked 40th is not beneficial to anyone (keep in mind what qual match you are on, don’t stop on match 30 or sooner). Overall the top 8 alliances have the say over who is picked. To add more data is always helpful, but be aware where you are.
Pep talks - I pride myself from creating, running, and improving the scouting system my team has in place today. It have proven highly effective, as we have picked some amazing alliances in the past and continue to do so. Pep talks to keep morale keep everyone engaged, such as encouraging them to do their best. An alliance makes or breaks the play-offs for the entire team.
Entertainment - Making good conversation between members is always beneficial. Talking about who you would want on your alliance, how good a team is, how excited you are, all are extremely important.

Strategy can overcome many boundaries and provide a win in even the more dire of situations. Never assume anything is lost due to another team you face, you just might surprise yourself with your own potential.

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