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 9th graders. 

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

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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