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MN Program Competition Coaching Question and Answers

This is a MN FLL coach's response to some questions about how to help a team deal with tough competition situations.

Date: Thu, 19 Jan 2006 08:01:00 -0000
From: "steve_dakin" <sdakin@qmate.com>
Subject: Re: Frequently Encountered Situations in Coaching


Fred,

Great question. I'm looking forward to reading a summary of the information you receive from coaches, officials and other involved parents. I don't see any other replies so I'll take a crack at it. Having just completed my fourth year as an FLL coach I can say I've encountered most of the situations in your list. Here's how we dealt with them:

Keeping kids relaxed during the day

Preparation. I've found the better prepared the team is the more relaxed they are. Our kids this year were much more anxious at the regional tournament in December. They qualified for the state and we spent the next month honing our mission routines, while trying to limit the changes to the robot and programs. It paid off. They were more confident at the state tournament and on the outside at least, appeared more relaxed. Avoid last minute changes!!

How do you decide the two kids that run the robot at the table?

We let the kids decide which missions they most wanted to work on. We also made sure that each team member had as equal a role at the table as possible. There was one "ringer" on our team and for the two situations where aiming and robot handling was most critical the team agreed he should be the one to do it.

I have a kid whose parents won't make the effort to get them to the tournament.

We made sure that for each mission there were at least two team members who knew what to do so that if any of the team members could not make it to the tournament, for whatever reason, we'd be covered. The situation you describe seems a bit strange to me - I've never seen a problem with team members not making it to the tournament. I have seen problems with team members not making it to the meetings, but even that has been rare.

Tricks to keep them going through the day without getting bored, or hyper.

We let them go outside and run around periodically. We also work with them between competition rounds to make sure they've got their mission "script" refined as much as possible. We almost always see some small way the execution can be improved. The kids enjoy practicing on the table and getting ready for the next round. This year, for the first time, I saw a few teams playing movies on laptops. While this struck me as not taking full advantage of the time at the tournament, it did keep the kids quiet.

The kids were the victim of a bad call by a referee, or came out on the short end of a judgment call. How do you handle this?

Remind them that it's not just about the points. Also, keep in mind that most refs are just volunteers and we wouldn't be able to have so much fun if they didn't willfully give up an entire day for our benefit. I make sure our designated score verifier thanks the referee after each round. To be honest, I can't recall the last time we had any negative encounter of any kind with a referee. I've seen it with coaches from other teams, though.

The kids were expecting to do well, and didn't. How do you handle this?

Our experience this year could not be more appropriate for this question. We were in third place until the final round when we finally got knocked down to fourth. Trophies were awarded to the top three teams so our team went into the third round determined to get the score that we had achieved countless times in practice and that would put us at the top of the leaderboard. We knew we could do it and up until the final mission everything was going perfectly. Our robot literally came within an inch of achieving our highest possible score but instead got hung up on the flags and we ended up losing 45 points as a result. I will never forget the sight of tears welling up in my son's eyes. That was the hardest moment ever for me as a coach. I reminded them of all that they had achieved and that I could not be more proud of them. It was difficult for everyone but in the end we emerged victorious in our own way.

A school has multiple teams competing. Some advance to state and others don't. What do you tell the kids about interacting with the kids from the other teams?

Our school has been in this situation each of the four years I've been coaching. We always emphasize that the kids must demonstrate the FLL principle of gracious professionalism at all times. I've only seen positive interactions between the kids.

Steve Dakin
Proud coach of the Underwater Robodocs
Hacienda Elementary
San Jose, CA
www.haciendarobotics.com

--- In mnfll@yahoogroups.

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