Mentoring and Coaching Training Summary 

Aug 12, 2021

This post is a summary of the official FIRST Mentoring and Coach Training available on the FIRST inspires website. It is highly recommended to go through the training individually. It contains many details not covered here and is built interactively. The training covers roles of mentors, responsibilities, and expectations. And where to find resources. The training covers all leagues from the three FLL up to the FIRST Robotics Competition. Most principles outlined apply to all leagues and only a subset to the specific selected in the beginning.

Mentoring Basics

Mentoring is outlined as focusing on guiding and teaching. We want to teach specific skills and guide the teams. Mentors help structure the time, plan the whole season and individual meetings. Also, we want to create safe spaces and managing personalities and emotions. Some mentors do everything; others do only specific things.  There is a semantic distinction between Coach (lead the team regularly) and Mentor (help with particular areas and may not help in the entire season).

Gracious Professionalism

Gracious Professionalism is one of the core philosophies of FIRST. It’s a way of doing things to encourage high-quality work while emphasizing the value of others and respecting individuals and the greater community. The goal is to compete like crazy but treat each other with respect and kindness in the process. That includes no chest thumbing and treating others like losers. It is all about respecting the opponents. With that, we all learn to add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of acting with integrity and sensitivity.

Coopertition

FIRST uses the term Coopertition to merge Competition with Cooperation. It is not about winning at all costs. Teams should help and cooperate, even when they compete. We want to display unqualified kindness and respect in the face of competition. Not only respectful to competitors but the complete process and all stakeholders. Compete always but assist and enable when you can. In summary- work together, support each other and celebrate success.

Core Values

FIRST emphasizes its 6 core values and encourages teams and coaches to live and implement those values:

Some examples how core values can be put in practice could be : 

Youth Protection Program (YPP)

The Youth Protection Program is an essential factor in the complete process. Make sure you provide policy and guidelines to keep everybody safe. Background screening for coaches is a must and goes through the required training. Develop ways to report concerns. Such as Medical Incident Form or non-medical concern (bullying, harassment, boundaries). There is are reporting feature at FIRST, and you should take advantage of the offering, even if you are unsure. You are obligated to report any concerns as a coach. And, of course, any immediate danger report to local authorities. Take this very seriously.

Team Meetings

Make sure you schedule meetings and consider after-school environments and interruptions. Consider snack breaks, pickup, and drop-off times. Set expectations in advance to make it easier for everyone. There are suggested time frames and activities in the FIRST portal. You can access all of it via Thinkscape. As of early August, the 2021/2022 material is unavailable, but a previous year and a general getting started material is available. 

Learn thru Failure

What if we can’t get everything done? Reality is often messier than the plan. Learn through failure. Failure is one crucial if not an essential part of the process. Expect that not everything goes perfectly. Learn how to reflect and learn from failures. The attitude and ability of Mentor to help kids thru struggle are essential. Create a positive STEM experience. The single goal is not to win the championship but to gain experience in the process.

Mentor and Coach Roles

There are two roles in the FLL basic Explore and Challenge leagues - Coach and Subject Matter Experts. In higher tiers, there are many more mentor roles, including finance, marketing, project management. The team coach facilitate meetings help the team to orchestrate work, assist team in following challenge instructions and guidelines, takes over admin responsibilities, and support the learning process while allowing team members to make critical decisions through the building and poster development process. The subject matter expert provides the team with specific knowledge and support the team on an as-needed basis rather than throughout the season

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