The wise man from Hammond Indiana once said:
“You don’t need to win every match, just the last one that gets played.”
I’ve always thought this was wonderful advice for aspiring FRC coaches...
As everyone (who reads this blog) probably knows by now - on Saturday April 21, 2018 under the hot lights of Houston’s Minute Maid Park the Robowranglers of Greenville High School won our third World Championship title in front of 30,000 cheering spectators.
It. Was. Fantastic.
Err… I meant to say: “Adequate” - the team performed “adequately”.
There are so many stories to tell from the experience. Lessons learned, friends made, exciting moments shared, jokes made, and memes created. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to capture all of it.
Right now, I’m writing this on a plane flying to Louisville, KY for the VEX Robotics World Championship (VEX Worlds!) In consideration for those of us doing another 7 days of robots, the boss says the Robowrangler recap meeting won’t be until late next week (or is it the week after that? I already forgot what she told us…)
The FULL Championship-Recap-Blog-Rambling-Stravaganza won’t happen until after all that is done. I want to get the perspective of our students, and share their favorite moments and memories. If you want to know what it was like inside the #AllBlackandBlueEverything Alliance - stay tuned.
However, I do want to share something. You see, I have the privilege (and burden) of delivering the Robowrangler “pep-talks” when we do our all-team huddles. I’d like to share two of these here.
(Thankfully) there are no recording devices when I give these talks. So, without any actual record: the following was distilled from my prepared notes, and from my very flawed memory. I can guarantee that this post will come out more eloquently than my ramblings were in person. Here we go…
Pre-Championship Huddle: Goals & Rollercoasters
I’d like to start by asking all of us to reflect on: WHY?
Why do we do this? Why have we put in so much effort over the past 4 months?
What are we trying to achieve?
What are our goals?
Whenever we talk about goals, you know by now we’ll end up needing to clarify... who’s goals we’re talking about. There are different goals for different people. There are different goals for every point of view: the goals in the trenches vs big picture goals from 30,000 feet. The goals in the moment, vs. the goals for over the long run.
What about the goals for the our robot? What are the goals for our sport?
This is the easy one. This is the one we’ve talked about most in past years, and a little less so this year. The goal for the engineering challenge: is to Win a World Championship.
But it doesn’t stop there…
What about the goals for our team? The goals the team has for each of you? The goals the team says we should set for ourselves? We defined these last year, and very quickly realized that these are much more important goals. We’ve talked about them before. We talk about them every time we compete, and every time the message is the same.
Our first goal should always be to “Have Fun”…
If we’re not having fun, why are we doing this? I want to enjoy this experience. I want YOU to enjoy this experience. The Robowranglers as an entity… want you to have fun.
Now I’m not saying you should be having fun every minute of every day you’re involved with the team. That’s silly. There are moments where we are decidedly NOT having fun. On the aggregate - I hope you are enjoying this experience. I hope you will look back on your time on the team fondly, and think favorably of even the NOT-fun moments.
Sometimes, the experience of being a Robowrangler just sucks… but, honestly, that is expected, and that is fine. If this entire experience was sunshine and roses all the time, it would probably not be doing it’s job… but we’ll get to that in a bit.
When things get hard - look to your teammates. Find solace in the fact that we’re all in this together. Try to enjoy the hard moments, just like you would the good moments. “Okay, what the heck do you mean by that?” I’ll give you an example. One of my fondest memories from this season comes from when Final 2 ended in Denver, but before they put the score up. The drive-team was standing there in the box, just the four of us, in a little circle. We were all dumbstruck. Then the jokes started. A few “well that sucks” type comments… a little gallows humor… (some things I won’t share with the team) and the rough moment became a fun moment.
Have fun out there. Find fun. Turn rough moments into fun moments. The easiest way to do that, is with the support of your teammates. Look to them, and be there when they look to you.
Our second goal should be to “Make Friends”…
When I talk about that, I don’t mean: “Go do the YMCA, and trade buttons.” You should ABSOLUTELY do that, but that is only one part of what this is about.
We are here to make friends through earned respect and shared experiences. There are thousands of students and mentors at this competition, all of whom have just
We are ambassadors for our team, our school, sponsors, city, for everyone who has ever worn a 148 shirt... but also for our very values. The way we represent ourselves reflects on what people think about the Robowrangler way of doing things. Represent yourselves well, earn respect from those around you, and find incredible friendships in the process. Some of my closest, life-long friendships were forged in this way.
Our third goal should be to “Chase Excellence”…
This one is somewhat amorphous. It’s not a checkbox: “Chase Excellence… yep, we did a lot of that. DONE.” I don't care what the results are, as long as we're trying our best to do something great. We need to be pushing. We need to work as hard as we can, in pursuit of something exceptional. It doesn't matter if we achieve that, because the journey itself can be exceptional and inspiring.
What are the goals of the program?
Why does this team exist? What is the "Mission" of the Robowranglers? Does our team exist in pursuit of Wallpaper & Jewelry (Blue Banners + Gold Medals? NO!
The Robowranglers, and the mentors, are here because we want YOU to grow. We are here to facilitate your journey. We want you to learn some some very hard lessons, and we want you to take those lessons and do something exceptional with them. We're preparing you to leave your mark on the world.
So the cliche thing to say right now would be something like:
<MOVIE TRAILER VOICE> "It all comes down to this... everything we've done has been leading up to this moment... this is the culmination of all our work...tomorrow we get to see what this season has been all about... soon we will throw ourselves into the arena... blah blah blah."
I've said things like that in past years, but I'm starting to realize it's not true. That kind of stuff runs counter to everything we talk about.
Your growth is what's important, and while I know you're all going to do some growing this weekend... this is just a single step in a much larger journey.
It doesn't "all come down to this" because the lessons you've learned are going to carry forward well beyond the end of this tournament.
This weekend is a celebration of our journey so far. We're here to showcase the incredible work we've done as we celebrate the work of those around us. Revel in the moment.
The season has been a rollercoaster. We've been putting 110% effort into this sport for 4 months now. It is exhausting, and fulfilling at the same time. We've had incredible emotional highs, and emotional lows. Our efforts have yielded incredible success, and wonderful, spectacular failures...
On Saturday... at some point, one way or another, the rollercoaster is going to come to a stop. The season will be over. It will be jarring. Take it from me: it's going to be a shock. If we win... if we lose... if we're happy with the way things end... if we're unhappy with the way things end... we're gonna feel it.
I've been on both sides of this. I've won a World Championship with this team... and been an emotional wreck. I've lost in the quarter-finals... and been an emotional wreck.
I want to tell you right now: It is OKAY to feel it. You don't need to be ashamed if the shock at the end of the road affects you. It's normal. It happens to lots of people, though everyone shows it differently. I will probably cry at some point on Saturday - I usually do. Even though this is "just robots" after putting so much work into this, and being so emotionally invested in the team and all of you - the end is going to shock me.
What I will remind you... is that the way our season ends will not define us. But we CAN be defined by the way we react to it. One thing I'm very proud of... even though it's a bit of bittersweet back-handed compliment... is that I've been told several times: "The Robowranglers are among the best losers in FRC."
Thanks... I think.
When our season ends let's end it with grace and professionalism. From start to finish let's focus on the real goals: Have Fun. Make Friends. Chase Excellence.
I promise that if everyone stays focussed on that, we will win our share.
Post-Champs "Hotel Lobby" Huddle: The Message Never Changes
So... Congratulations. I think we can all agree that was adequate. I'm incredibly proud of the team, and of course - I'm over the moon. I don't think this stupid grin is going to go away for a few days.
But... we need to remind ourselves now more than ever why we're here. Every meeting, every time, regardless of the outcome... the message doesn't change.
Did we have fun?
Did we make friends?
Did we chase excellence?
Those are the things that really matter. Those are the goals which define our team. The Championship is a celebration of our season. Our win here today is a wonderful tribute to the blood, sweat, and tears we put in over the last 4 months... but it was just one step in a much larger journey.
Bask in it. Enjoy it. Celebrate your teammates, our alliance partners, our worthy opponents, the joy of our success. But remember the journey. Remember the failures along the way. Remember the lessons you've learned and prepare yourself to carry them forward, wherever "forward" takes you.
Bask in the win, but try your hardest to remember the win was not the "it all comes down to this" that the sportscasters would have you believe...
I am unbelievably proud of all of you. Not for how things went today, but for how they went yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. I'm proud of you for how you've grown.
I'm proud of you for persevering with enthusiasm though failure, after failure, after failure...
The message hasn't changed. That is what matters.
Congratulations. Congratulations. Congratulations... and Thank you. I'm more proud of you than you can ever know.