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
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
- 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
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.
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.