View Full Version : Robotics team drama

10-28-2012, 04:03 PM
Ok, I just need somewhere to vent about this, so i'm creating a thread. I'll post updates. feel free to sympathize, give advice, ignore me, whatever.

I met Shari because she was running a home school video game club. the club met at the library. Orion really liked her son Kai, and the twins who started coming. They were the core group, and also started sometimes playing D&D together. Shari was also coaching Kai in a First Lego League team. We went to see one of the competitions once. Orion seemed glad to see Kai, but not particularly interested in the robotics

Shari had an informational meeting this summer about the FLL leagues, which include a Jr level (ages 6-9), FLL (9-14) and FTC (high school). Orion decided he DID want to try, and Raven wanted to be on a Jr team. My husband agreed to coach the Jr team. Shari was organizing all three teams, but not communicating much very clearly

Now, you have to keep in mind, she's a single mother. She has a 14 yo who she is homeschooling who is supposedly ADD and dyslexic. I think shes' mostly using Keystone. She has 2 girls, 6 and 7. She works full time. she was living with her parents, but they moved in to their own house. The younger girl also has some special needs, apparently due to brain damage which occurred during the birth.

Shari had been coaching the FTC and FLL teams, but her dad apparently took over the FLL. She is also organizing homeschool group pricing for theater shows, trying to organize some sort of charity, and taking her son to some sort of formal dance program (like teaching teens how to do ballroom type dancing and manners and such). She also has organized some big field trips for the teams - to NASA and to a genetics lab.

But . . . she does not seem to be doing much coaching. The kids are not getting anything done, and she seems to just be ignoring them - like she sends out an email with links to software and then gets mad at them when no one has installed it. There are 2 girls on the team who are trying hard to manage the team, there is 1 guy who is in to RC cars and has been working on the robot. I finally got Orion to work on the programming. There is a girl who also has brain damage from birth who I think just hangs out. The twins seem to spend most of their time complaining that they dont want to be there. Shari's son doenst speak or do anything.

The girls have been getting more and more frustrated. About 2 weeks ago, one of the moms sent out an email suggesting the kids should do the first-time teams meet instead of the regular meet. Shari said no. the mom said she didnt want to set them up for failure and Shari said we shouldnt talk about it in front of the kids. The mom said, they arent 5, they are teens, they need to be part of this decision. Then Shari went off about how she tells her kids every day that no one but you can make yourself feel like a failure and that we are definitely going to the regular meet and we all need to work on our "Gracious professionalism."

Well, several of the moms stayed at the next meeting, to help keep the peace, but apparently Shari chose to make them re-watch a video she played at the original meeting . . about gracious professionalism

at the meeting this past friday . . . . well, apparently after the meeting was over, she cursed out the girls and called them names, and then drove off before their parents got there. Not knowing this, i emailed her asking about the space (they were in a really tiny room today, which adds to the stress) and asking if it would be helpful if a parent always stays to help keep the peace. She responded that there shouldnt be any need to keep the peace, because she thinks the biggest trouble-maker wont be coming back, and that probably means also losing 2 other members, but she thinks she should have stuck with the original team (which i guess didnt include them)

now, those three are the only kids showing any initiative AT ALL. they are the only ones doing any work (except i've started making Orion do the programming)

She has also refused to tell anyone what income/expenses their are, and gotten defensive about that.

anyways, one of the dads is going to ask her to let him take over coaching, and the parents want to have a parents-only meeting this week.

i'm a bit worried that Shari is going to refuse to hand over the team management and the team will dissolve (Orion said he'd quit if those three quit . . . despite Kai being his friend, he knows the team wont get anywhere without those three). Of course, the robot parts arent at her house . . .

this is such a crazy mess. Honestly if she refuses to play nice, i'm thinking we should go to the organization and see if we can get control of the team .. . even before it got this bad, my husband said he thought this experience was going to ruin my friendship with her. He might be right.

I really wonder if she'll still come to the Jr team at our house . . . she hasnt paid yet. She was only supposed to have 1 girl on the team but she wont stop her younger one from hanging out and trying to participate - even tho she mostly only interrupts everyone.

i hate people sometimes . . . .

Stella M
10-28-2012, 04:57 PM
This is the kind of thing that drives me batty. And why, unless it's a regular class ie not homeschooler run, I just organize things myself.

She sounds like she has too much on her plate and isn't faci g up to it. Hope it works out somehow. Snorting on the gracious professionalism.

10-28-2012, 05:18 PM
Yeah, the 'gracious professionalism' is part of the philosophy of FIRST Lego League . . . but somehow I dont think cussing out kids and leaving them unattended counts as gracious professionalism, either.

I wasnt really planning on doing this, but now that we've started, i see value in it. I like the kids . . . well, esp the three she wants to get rid of lol

Stella M
10-28-2012, 06:05 PM
Can you do a spin off group with the 3 good kids ?

10-28-2012, 07:07 PM
That is so insane. Why are people like that?

10-28-2012, 07:47 PM
the problem is the robot parts are really expensive. Shari had a grant from a company and also collected payment from all the parents. Buying the robot and the software liscences would be a big expense. As i mentioned, the robot is not at Shari's house - its at the house of the boy who likes RC vehicles. But unless we get control of the team, i think she would be legally entitled to keep the robot and parts.

I was starting to realize that shes' obviously been in 2 failed marriage .. . 1 can be a mistake but 2 is a pattern. and the fact that her mom moved out, too . . . makes me think she's a difficult person. she also said, to her girls, the other day when I was dropping Orion off at a meeting at her house "come on, behave. You know what I'm like when all these people arent here." Which is rather disconcerting.

i think she's spread too thing and totally stressed out and a difficult person to start with. but its a shame.

10-29-2012, 11:09 PM
So the email went out to all the parents other than the coach, asking if they would be willing to meet during the regular team meeting time, at a nearby library, with the adults in the bigger room talking for 30 minutes w the team in the smaller room, and then the team could use the bigger room when we were done (uh huh)

The mom who usually hosts (in a meeting room in the building where her husband has a shop, but its a shared meeting room) emailed me off list right away to ask what was going on, this didnt seem fair to the coach, and there seemed to be some conversation going on that she wasnt aware of

I'd mentioned it to the twins mom when i'd emailed her about martial arts class, but she was planning on dropping off the twins friday (and their sister) and hoping someone else would take them to the dance event afterwards so she could pick them up much later .. . so she isnt planning on attending this big meeting.

Then someone suggested we have it tomorrow instead, during the afternoon meeting the kids scheduled, but the coach cant usually make that meeting - remember, she works full time.

I'm really starting to feel dread about this whole thing. I think its bothering me more than the storm. sigh.

10-30-2012, 05:49 PM
Wah! Total craziness!

I would be tempted to volunteer, volunteer, volunteer until I, too, am hip-deep in it and flailing. Don't follow my example!

Rather, think about what the reasonable outcomes could be - what would be an acceptable (to you) go-forward plan, and also at what point do you pull the plug, even though you like her/the program and already paid in. When I go in with those ideas formed I am better able to distance myself from the crazy talk.

Maybe just venting her will keep you all sane? I hope so! That whole, "You know what I'm like when all these people arent here." comment is creepy.

10-30-2012, 06:11 PM
Did the meeting happen? This whole thing seems destined to explode in an even worse way. :(

10-30-2012, 07:16 PM
Honestly, I would leave the club. There are so many more things you could be doing with your time. Or find another established group you can join. As a last resort, I would take the kids and start my own group. My dd's girl scout leaders did that. All we parents had a number of issues with the former leader. These two ladies started their own troop and we followed along. It was so much better.

10-30-2012, 07:38 PM
Well, its too late to start a new team this year - apparently there is a max number of teams and its already reached, and the competition is in 5 weeks, and many of the parents cant afford to start over with dues.

We had a team meeting with everyone but Shari - we've been having build team meetings on Tuesday, and the meeting announcement went out to everyone including Shari, but she cant make tuesday afternoons.

it was 2 hours of intense discussion . . .by the end, they agreed not to just confront her with a takeover proposal, but at least 2 parents will be in the regular friday meeting, and they will try to get the robot back so they can work on it, and then we'll see how that goes and go on from there. The parents were pretty mad, but i felt like they were focusing on the wrong things . .. we need to focus on how to get the robot running, imo, but they were more concerned (at first) about fundraising and maximizing points at the competition. they even nominated me at one point to be the person to confront her. argggh

its hard to give up because the kids all want to work together, they just need a little more direction, and we need to keep the coach from being rude to the kids. but it does seem more and more clear that she is doing something very shady with the money.

10-30-2012, 09:15 PM
That's just icky. I'm sorry, Cara. :( I hope you're able to get the materials and help the kids have some success despite all the craziness.

10-30-2012, 09:17 PM
me too. i'm emotionally exhausted after that, and it was a short night, too. i wish i was in bed an hour ago .. .but if i go to bed before 11, i wake up in the middle of the night.

my write up above was rather incoherent. anyways, we'll see how it goes.

10-31-2012, 10:19 AM
Ugh..our FLL Robotics team is having problems as well...and similarly, my husband is coaching the Jr. team for my daughter, and my son is on the FLL team. This is our second year on this team, and we have had a WEEKLY problem with communication and the 'coach'. This will be our last year. I'm beginning to wonder if the problem is really with the program itself. For one thing, I think the expectation that a group of 10-12 yr olds should be able to magically do all this work on their own is impractical - and thats an ideology that the USFirst FLL program promotes and encourages among the coaches - who, it seems to me, tend not to have very good leadership skills. We spent all of last year watching the whole team spend every meeting spinning their wheels, and then parents swooped in the last few weeks and did all the work. It was ridiculous.
This year, the parents tried meeting to get more involved and have a better plan, and our coach did not really support this so that fell apart. He continues to communicate with individuals privately so that some people feel like they know whats going on and some people are clueless, and on and on. On top of that, he wants families to raise money for the team, but does not have a bank account set up, nor does he seem to think this is important. Last year he claims to have spent over 1000 out of pocket - which is still a mystery to me because the team rents two robots for $30 a year each from the Girl Scout counsel here. Anyway, until he has some transparency with the money thing we will not be attempting to raise any substantial amounts.

Ugh..anyway, its a mess. This will be our last FLL year.

10-31-2012, 10:21 AM
By the way, most of the info that the coaches get can be found on this website - I don't know if this is helpful or not, but they have updates and whatnot on here. The 'Parent's Corner' is useless - don't bother. Go for the coaches stuff.

Welcome to FIRST LEGO League | USFIRST.org (http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/fll)

10-31-2012, 10:23 AM
Yeah, i feel like the organization is not clear on what they expect from coaches - I think they emphasizes letting the kids do it themselves to keep the coach from just building it for them, but it makes no sense that the coach shouldnt be teaching them skills. just rediculous. I heard from one of the team moms that this is also her third year of bad experience . . . its pretty sad imo

10-31-2012, 10:33 PM
hubby helped me realize that probably the best outcome would be the group folding. that helped me relax some . . . i dont have to panic or feel like a failure, i can just chill out and ride the ride.

11-01-2012, 05:03 AM
Don't have anything useful to add just sorry you're going through all this.

11-02-2012, 05:16 PM
went to drop Orion off at the meeting today - I knew it was going to be chaos but wasnt sure how bad. I got there first and talked pleasantly to the coach. Then I went outside to call my husband and everyone else arrived but didnt want to go in. Finally they all went in, and i gave Orion my phone, and went to leave. But one of the moms (who i know pretty well) was not sure she could leave because the person who had offered to give her kids a ride afterwards hadnt come. SO i was talking to her when first her twins, and then my son, came running out (it was at the coaches house) because the adults were yelling.

i totally chickened out and just put Orion in the car and left! I wrote the moms who were inside apologizing for leaving and thanking them for standing up to her.

i had had an email from a friend who has coached, telling me we need to get that coach away from our kids, she is not living up to the organizations guidelines.

at this point i'm ok with the team disintegrating it would certainly lower my stress level. Most of the kids will be disappointing though.

11-02-2012, 06:41 PM
Oh my. I might have chickened out too. That's just over the top. Usually when I deal with situations like this, it all stays pretty passive aggressive behind closed doors backstabby.

11-02-2012, 06:50 PM
if she's already been cussing out kids, and writing snide emails, and the moms were all pissed off . .. and several of them quite type A . . . the one dad who had offered to coach got there just as I was leaving, who knows if he was able to calm it down a bit . . . he seemed like an extremely calm guy, and he was offering to take over as coach

11-02-2012, 11:31 PM
ack! good news! apparently they finally made progress! the coach agreed to co-coach and to have a parent always present! Team is moving forward!

Stella M
11-03-2012, 02:35 AM
That's great news!

11-03-2012, 12:24 PM
I hope its good news - it actually woke me up at 5 am, wondering about the future of the team, the best path forward, etc

11-10-2012, 04:04 PM
So, a bit turn for the better! Yesterday one of the girls on the team brought 3 people from another team, 2 of whom are really good friends of hers. This is their third year competing, and they really focused on getting the kids moving. Orion finally got to be center stage, programming for the robot as they were working, on one of the other boy's laptops. this was AT the coach's house, but I didnt see her interact with the kids much at all, and most of the parents stayed the whole time. (I had to leave but stayed about 20 minutes).

This morning I drove Orion over to that boy's house - he's the one who's done the most work on the robot - and they worked for over 3 hours. They have the robot moving wirelessly using bluetooth and a controller, and picking up plastic cups. this is HUGE HUGE progress from last week when the robot would not move and didnt have any way to pick anything up.

they have a scrimmage next saturday . . . and they might actually be somewhat ready. amazing!

The coach will be at the scrimmage, but probably not tomorrow's meeting.

11-11-2012, 05:55 AM
Awesome! It's still unfortunate that woman is holding on so tenaciously to being the "coach", but if the kids who are most involved want to do this again next year, can someone else take on coaching?

11-11-2012, 06:45 AM
That is fabulous. Who cares if the "coach" still wants to think of herself as in charge. As long as the kids are pulling together and getting someplace that's what matters (and they'll learn those valuable life skills of how to work around a sucky manager/boss).

11-11-2012, 10:30 AM
For next year, the issue is that technically, she owns the robot (and has a $1,000 grant from DuPont). So if we want a team next year, we either need to work with her to use her robot and grant, or start over a buy a new robot. There is one dad who offered to be the 'official' coach, but i'm not convinced he's all that much more useful - calmer, but maybe not any better at getting the kids organized and motivated. We'll just have to see what happens.

11-14-2012, 06:18 PM
so the kids have made some real progress, but we're still having issues. A parent is always at the meeting, but this past sunday we had a meeting at 1 girl's house - her dad has offered to co-coach (but the coach still hasnt listed him officially as such) and when he is there, he stays with the kids. He left the room for a few minutes, and while he was gone, the coach told the girl that she is a rude child. uggg.

we realized that we might not be allowed to have a parent on the floor with the kids during the qualifier tournament in december. We started complaining to FIRST, but they went to her 'parent company' listed on her application - which is actually her parents. Of course, they said there is no problem. My current approach is to see if they can just give us an exception to let a parent be on the field during the tourne . . .otherwise, most of the kids wont come.

still spending around 8 hours a week on meetings and driving, plus working with Orion on his programming, and stressing about it . . .