Selecting Team Members

The following discussion is quoted from the Facebook Group FLL: Share & Learn .

Question from Mic Lowne: I’ve been running teams in schools since food factor and the biggest problem I face each year is selecting the 10 students out of 20-30 that want to be a part of the the team. How do other school based coaches deal with this? Usually I select based on 1st-attitude/willingness to learn, 2nd-attendance, 3rd-skill, 4th-an “application letter”. Thoughts?

Response from Layne Kirk

Realizing this might not apply because we have a school site willing to fund us, but we have as many teams as we have willing coaches (2 per team). When we do recruitment, we make it clear that no student will be turned away, so long as we have enough coaches. And the only way to be guaranteed a spot is to have your parent coach. It’s not perfect - we’ve had some near coaching fails, but it’s a start for us and allows us to accommodate 48 students for next season (in addition to the youth protection screening for FIRST, our coaches are also fingerprinted and background checked locally). I also realize not all communities have participation of parents.

It may take a season or two to build and work out the kinks, but it has worked for us. We, as coordinators, assign the teams, but allow requests to be made. We do our best to accommodate requests without any promises. We hold coaches meetings and equip our coaches to succeed, being readily available to assist them. And we have a total blast doing it! As a side note, we use Google forms for registration. That has worked extremely well for us. My husband and I love the program and are willing to be a resource if you’d like to pick our brains ☺. Good luck!

Response from Celina McGinnis:

We use a variation of the “if you really want your kid to do this, coaching guarantees them a spot”. This year, we are going to try signing up ADULTS first, and supporting them in signing up children.

Response from Roy Nelson:

Have teachers recommend specific kids. Balance your team with leaders, tech skills, research and presentations, and spirit.

Response from Mic Lowne:

Completely agree (with Roy Nelson’s comment above’), it’s like picking a sports team sometimes, finding a team member that you know will fill a role within the team but still work as a team and help others out. In the student’s application letter I ask them to name the role they think they will be best suited for. This year I also asked students to nominate others they think will be well suited to each role. I got some interesting results, specifically who they nominated for leadership roles.

Response from Jean Findley-Williams:

I coach a community based team in Louisiana. Our team currently ranges in age from “almost 9” to 13 years old. This is the first year that we have not had anyone “graduate” from the team due to age. Next season, however, we will have at least 3 members moving on to high school. Two of those members will move on to our local FRC team and return to us as mentors. The third team member has expressed an interest to join our new community based FTC team.

We have very few options for FLL teams currently in our area. This means that we have constantly have parents who are contacting us inquiring how to ensure their child joins. When we do have openings, we hold recruitment camps where our returning team members are able to work directly with possible “candidates.” They develop all kinds of activities that involve not just building and programming a basic bot, but also involve team building challenges and very brief presentations. Returning team members rotate among the “candidate” groups so that they can meet everyone. We have also developed an application which involves students writing a short essay about why they would like to be on the team, what would they like to contribute and what they would like to learn. The team also has a few questions about the FLL Core Values included. At the end of each recruitment camp, returning team members submit a list of who they think would be a good fit to myself and my husband. We also all review the submitted essays together.

As coaches, my husband and I develop an initial list of potential candidates that takes into account team member feedback, our observations and the essays. We then invite those students back for another meeting in which all of our returning team members and mentors (former team members) are present. During that meeting, my husband and I run the team building activities, present different programming and fun presentation challenges.

Following that meeting, our team then votes on who they would like to invite to the team. It can sometimes be a long process, but it works for us. It can sometimes be a leap of faith on our part, but I love the ownership it has instilled. It’s still a work in progress.

Response from Mark Nicolussi:

I coach a school sponsored team, so I try and get the school to select a prioritised list of candidates based on primarily on interest and dedication, and then I invite from the top of the list until the slots are filled. It’s not the greatest system.