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November 2012


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Eric Palmer <[log in to unmask]>
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Eric Palmer <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 18 Nov 2012 09:50:26 -0500
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Great question. This is very personal for me.  I have cried, yelled and
screamed, and ranted in front of my family (never in front of the kids,
other than the crying part),  and swore that I would quit FIRST. But……

I’ve notice that with all volunteer activities for parents that maybe 15%
commit 95% of the time and effort involved. This is a fact of life and is
unfortunate but is not likely to change much.

Each coach has to make his or her own determination about invested time and
return on that investment.

For a little history
- coached FLL first time in 2006 and had 6,7 and 8th graders (my oldest was
a 8th grader)
- coached my youngest again in 2009, 2010 and 2011

I've had the privileged to observe and in some cases work with, team
members from past teams and I do run into many of them and their parents
routinely.  Feedback is uniform and always amazingly positive about the
outcomes. FIRST changes lives for the better.

Most of the team members I have kept up with are outstanding young people,
and many personally thank me, as do their parents, for the experience on
FLL.  I have seen some of these kids grow up to and go to college. Others
are seniors in HS this year and as well last year's team is 7th, 8th
and 9thgraders.

My own assessment (and that of their parents) is these kids are much better
off having been on FLL teams.  I will tell you I and my assistant coaches
worked on core values, teamwork, decision-making, critical thinking and
other related skills a lot.  I count that effort as having a big impact on
the maturity of the kids.

So what does this have to do with parent involvement?  Again, my opinion
only!  Parent involvement matters less than being an aware coach and being
active in molding the kids.  Good parent involvement does make the time
commitment a little less for the coaches.

Honestly if I had know how much work there was in coaching and how
difficult parents can be, I would not have coached my first team. Going in
naive was good for me. When I was done with the season I knew I would stay
involved. I had to wait for my youngest to age up some but I knew.  But
first after each season was over I told my family I was done with coaching.
That lasted about two weeks till I had the sense that my time was little
cost compared to the maturation of the kids.

I've had parents that were perfect, parents that I never saw, and ones in
which I wish I would never see at meetings or anywhere (and had to ask them
to not be so involved). I even had one parent that I only saw at the
regional tournament. He came up afterwards and said matter-of-factly “I
wouldn’t have been so negative if I had known what this was really like and
how good it is for my son?" All I can say about that to myself was “Duh!”

After the first year I did get to where we had frank conversations before
season with each parent. We talked about parent involvement needs,
commitment on the team, and what other activities that each kid was
committed to during season. I used a contract, but that was more about the
commitment of the kids and not the parents and as well was about the team
fee.  I even turned away a few for lack of commitment.  Not sure it
mattered because parent commitment varied anyway.

Some of my difficult kids and parents have resulted in:

- a shy quiet young man, when asked what was the best part of the season "I
found my voice"

- My most difficult first team member: ran into him at a FLL tournament
when he as a senior in HS. He came up and hugged me and said with tears
streaming down his 6’3” frame: "I just wrote an essay on the topic of the
person who has made the most difference in my life and that was about
you'.  He is now in college after having a successful HS career.

 -       My youngest first team members are seniors in HS and are captains
of the FRC high school robotics team and are model young men.

I could go on and list out a lot more.  All of this is worth it.  I haven’t
even mentioned the benefits to my two girls.

And now that I’m done coaching, I am glad it is over because it was a lot
of effort.  But I would not trade it for anything.  And yes I'm still
involved.  I judge and help to organize a FLL tournament. And I have moved
my time commitments to FRC (the big robots) for a HS team and as a
tournament volunteer.  I recruit others to FLL actively and I occasionally
take a new coach under my wings to guide them through the difficult process
of coaching.

So please don't let difficult parents stop you from continuing on with
coaching.  FIRST robotics changes lives in so many ways.  And if you are
done, please keep FIRST going strong. Volunteer and recruit and judge.

Eric Palmer
On Sat, Nov 17, 2012 at 8:49 PM, Lori Hand <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> That is a really good question.  I was lucky to have 2 assistant coaches
> who
> helped a lot. Yet still there is so much planning,coordinating to be done.
> I
> am completely DONE for a while.  Half the parents did not help at all.  I
> am
> not sure they said thank you.
> In my sheet, I requested the parents to volunteer for 1week of meetings.  8
> weeks, 8 meetings I was thinking. Yet half the team's parents did not,
>  even
> with repeated emails , volunteer for anything.  I can not lie, the next
> time
> I pick a team, the amount of help a parent gives will matter, if we I do it
> again.
> One way to know, is to organize a club / or other meetings to get a feel of
> which kids /parents work out the best.  FLL is an all volunteer effort and
> I
> feel that many parents do not help out at all.  Oddly enough, these parents
> are also the ones who complain the most.  So my thought is this -
> make your time a complete "Gift" of time and since your child is in it,
> count it as your time to help your child and live with whatever the parents
>  have to offer.
> Or select a team that includes consideration of how much others can
> contribute and make it a prerequisite with a failure  to do clause.
> At our coop preschool, if you do not coop, its $30 per class.  A fee gets
> involvement fast ,generally speaking.  I KNOW its not about the $, but for
> many that will give you the kids /parents that are serious.  A parent won't
> sign up if they can't help.
> The down side is that a great kid might get left out.
> Coach Robotic Ninjas
> Glen Allen VA
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