(Replying to the entire list because this is a great question!)
>We're a rookie team with rookie coaches.
>Do we have to do the missions sequentially or could we do parts of
>each one as we go along?
You don't have to do the missions in any order, or even try all of them.
A theme you'll hear again and again is: if the rules don't require it, you don't have to do it. If the rules don't forbid it, it's OK.
So since the rules don't say, "The missions must be done in this order", you're free to do 'em in any order. Implicit exceptions are things like, "At the end of the round, the robot must be in position x to score y points", which of course tells you that that's the last mission you'll want to try (if you even try it).
Remember to let the kids figure it out! If a rookie team tries only a few missions, they have nothing to be ashamed of. Remember that the missions are ONLY 25% of your score! It's not at all uncommon for a team to do poorly on the table, make State, and then do much better on the table at State because they've (a) had more time to work and (b) seen other strategies that gave them more ideas.
From experience, I can tell you that the usual progression is:
Early September: "OMG, we can't do any of these missions!"
Late September/early October: "OK, we see how to do a few of the missions."
Mid- to late October: "Hmm, we have ideas for a few more missions..."
Early November: <Panic because the tournament is approaching!!!> (and then it all comes together)
If you know to expect this, you're better off.
When I coached, my goals were to:
- provide guidance when asked, including mini-engineering lessons (gearing, building for strength, things like that)
- keep the team focused (with all-girl teams, that was both easier and harder: easier 'cause they weren't trying to punch each other, harder because they were all-too-eager to go off on girlish tangents)
- cheer 'em up and offer hints when they got frustrated
We never treated FLL as deadly serious: that is, we sure worked hard and they learned a lot, but they had tons of fun, and when things got tense, we'd remind them (and they'd remind each other) that their best effort was good enough. We never did all-nighters, or met every day toward tournament time, or anything like that. I guess it worked, they made State every year!
Hope this helps,
Phil Smith III
Virginia State Judge Advisor, 2007, 2008, 2009
Judge Advisor, Northern Virginia Regional tournaments, 2007, 2008
Division 1 Judge Advisor, Virginia State tournament, 2006
Coach, The Capital Girls, Oak Hill (retired)
Team 1900 (2002)
Team 2497 (2003)
Team 2355 (2004)
Team 1945 (2005)
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