It’s Not All About Winning

FIRST LEGO League coach, Rich Berger, of the FLL Darth Panthers team, sent a reminder out to FLL teams and volunteers today, in preparation for this weekend’s FLL competition at USF Patel Charter school, being hosted by Darth Panthers.   Rich shared a link to an article by FLL operational partner Camille Schroeder.

Rich wrote, “We must always remember that FLL is not about winning trophies.  It’s about exercising our kids brains and getting them excited about math, science, and technology and not just video games.  “

Change out “FLL” for FTC,  or just FIRST, and the bottom line message is the same:  There are plenty of reasons to celebrate whether or not a team wins a trophy, and it’s up to the adults in the program to set the stage for that celebratory mood throughout practices and events. To adapt a bit of Ms. Schroeder’s adaptation of John Miller’s reflections on youth athletics:

  • FIRST offers vital mental exercise; youth needs to exercise their minds as well as their bodies to stay healthy and strong. –
  • FIRST provides unparalleled opportunities for team building, and, ultimately, relationship building, at the peer level, and with mentors, coaches and other professionals,
  • FIRST should be fun! If students aren’t having fun – something is wrong!
  • FIRST teaches commitment, which isn’t always easy, but offers a deep sense of  personally gratification when things are seen through to the end.
  • FIRST helps create innovative problem solvers.
  • FIRST builds the math, science and technical skills vital to our future and to our children’s.

“Being obsessed with winning,” writes Ms. Schroeder, ” can cast a dark shadow over the very things that are wonderful about the FLL (and FTC and FIRST) journey each team will take.”

Sure, it can sound hackneyed; a lot of kids and an awful lot of adults, want to win in whatever competitive event they’re involved.  And most

Team Duct Tape Celebrates Fun and Friendship after the Championship

Team Duct Tape Celebrating Fun & Friendship, after Losing the 2009 Championship

teams, including Team Duct Tape,  will tell you they’d rather come out of an event with a trophy than without one.  But at the heart and soul of FIRST is the fact that competitions are just a vehicle to showcase the skills, knowledge and experience that students have hopefully acquired in their journey to the event.

If the journey has been a rich, varied and instructional one, awards and public recognition may follow. But sometimes, many times, actually,  they won’t, or at least not to a team’s initial satisfaction.  Other teams’ journeys might be just a little more profound, a little more instructive,  and even just a little more fortunate.

But if the adults in students’ lives can keep their eyes on the ultimate prize – helping youth build character and lifelong academic and social skills that help put the short term disappointment of occasional failure in its proper perspective as just another paving stone on the road to long term success and happiness – then all our students really do come out as winners. And so do we, since these students will be the adults running our world in the future, and healthy perspective now leads to mature and responsible leadership later.

Thanks for a great and very important reminder, Rich! If folks would like to see some of our youngest FIRST students in action, demonstrating and celebrating the core values that make FIRST so much fun, check out the Dec. 12th FLL competition at USF Patel .

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