On Scouting: Friday Night Blues

Being a low seed with a poorly working robot on Friday night is an unfortunate situation- but you’re not out. There are a few steps you can take to increase your shots of getting picked, and possibly winning the event.

The first thing to understand is when you’re in danger of not getting picked- you can’t be picky about who picks you. “Beggars can’t be choosers”. Getting picked by the 6th seed in the second round is better than not getting picked at all. Explore every possible alternative.

The second thing to understand is that you are still in this competition. Even if you’re the last seed, even if your robot only moved twice all of day 1, you can still get selected and still win the event.

There are a few concrete steps you can take to improve your ability to get selected.

  1. Be good at something. Often the robots with a poor first day either tried to do everything and failed, or never considered exactly what they’d be doing in their matches. You have to get good (or at least mediocre) at something. Maybe this means ditching your failing scoring mechanisms and playing defense. Maybe that means slowing down and getting a single cycle done rather than failing at 2 or 3. Whatever you can find that your robot is capable of doing, do that.
  2. Find out what potential captains want. Sometimes the top seeds don’t want another scoring machine on their alliance. Maybe they want a robot with a good drive system to play defense. Maybe they want to be able to counteract a certain threat they may encounter in eliminations. Maybe they want a robot with 15 extra pounds to spare so they can attach something to that robot. Figure out what the top seeds want and change to fit their needs. Show off the capabilities they want to see. It doesn’t matter if you can score 20 points in a match if all the alliance captains want is a robot to play defense. The reverse is also true.
  3. Find out where you stand. Make your own picklist with the top 24ish teams on it. Where do you stand on that list? What makes you objectively move up and down that list?
  4. Show that you’re easy to work with. If you have a match with any teams that might be either a captain or a first pick on Saturday morning, be amenable to their suggestions and action plans. Alliance captains sometimes just want someone they know they can work with rather than the best possible pick. Sometimes that gut feeling is a tiebreaker on a picklist, especially if a drive team has input in picklisting for that team.

Low seeds still need picklists. As stated above, they let you know where you stand, and in the awkward situation where you are selected first round, you can contribute to making a smarter second round pick. Picklisting also makes you aware of what top seeds are looking for, and where you really stand. Sometimes it might seem like you’re doing terrible, but you’re actually middle of the pack at an event, and sometimes the reverse is true.

And sometimes you won’t get picked no matter what you do. At that point you have to get your chin up, count your blessings, and look forward. Maybe you have another competition to look forward to. Maybe the eliminations at your event are going to be exciting to watch. Maybe you’re in the running for some sort of award (Rookie All-Star?).

Everyone makes mistakes, everyone has regrets. Even the best teams in the world make mistakes and don’t achieve their goals. Don’t freak out. Learn from your mistakes and strive to get better. Sometimes that’s the best you can do.

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