My name is Brittany Rose and I am a coaching an FLL team for the first time this year. Although I'm a novice coach, it has been my privilege to volunteer at, and help organize, tournaments for the past 10 years. As we prepare for the release of the challenge later today, I wanted to share a couple of lessons I've learned over the past decade that I hope will help others just starting down this road. The first lesson is important to keep in mind as we start the season. The second will come into play as the season progresses.
First - although I have see it mentioned on this list and it is clearly stated in the coaches handbook, it bears repeating here...the kids must do ALL of the work. In addition to the blatant examples of coaches breaking this rule that others have mentioned on this list over the past few weeks (i.e. coaches programming the team's robot in the practice areas at competitions), each season there seems to be at least one (usually) new coach who is surprised to find out during the course of a discussion online that something their team is doing is not upholding the spirit of the FLL core values. We coaches (and mentors - youth and adult alike) are not to do even a small portion of the programming - this includes fixing or adjusting something for the team at a tournament. We are not to devise a robot game strategy or design the robot for the kids. We are not to provide solutions for the research project...etc...etc. My apologies if this seems obvious and unnecessary to repeat - I just don't want to see any team penalized at a tournament because their team, with only good intent or without realizing the impact of their actions, breaks this fundamental rule and ends up being knocked out of award or championship tournament contention.
Second - as the regional tournaments draw near, each season there are novice coaches who question whether or not they should register for, or participate in, a tournament. This often stems from a feeling that the team is not ready because their robot can only accomplish one or two tasks on the field. Please know if you find yourself in this situation that a) it is completely normal and there are many other coaches and teams in the same boat, b) the tournaments are FUN and the kids gain a lot from their participation, regardless of how their robots perform, and c) keep in mind that the robot game only represents 1/4 of the competition. Believe it or not, there are teams - rookie and experienced alike - who have terrible robot runs at the regionals but still advance to the championship tournament based on the strength of their research projects, robot design, and teamwork/core values. If you find yourself feeling panicked as November approaches, just take a deep breath and know that taking that leap of faith will result in a positive experience for you and the team.
I look forward to the upcoming season with you all!
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