Selecting Team Members

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?

Jessica Guastella

It’s hard! I have so many kids try out and we limit it to the ten member team. The team has tried having alternates in the past but it doesn’t work out for us.

I create a research document based on the topic for the challenge. We have an interest meeting where I hand out the documents and run some core values games/exercises. The children who are still interested after hearing about the work involved return with their research 1 week later and must present. I tell them at the interest meeting that while we will build and program a robot everyone is responsible for working on the project research and development as well. The other coach and myself evaluate and narrow it down until we have our 10 member team.

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.

Response from Faith Knudsen Bongiorno

We are doing application process for next season for four teams across grades 4th-8th. It will include resume, q/a on ap to be answered, teacher recommendation, and interview.

Response from Eden Cook

That’s an awesome idea for an interview process. We’re the only FLL in our STEM Club. We use a demerit system, so if we have a problem child, we cut them. I fill spots based on recommendations from our Jr team coach as her kids reach FLL age.

Response from Annelle Ertelt King

We started Rock City Robots in our living room with our kids and a couple of friends in 2008. Now, we have five teams running simultaneously from Jr FLL and FLL to FTC. We also did FRC for three years. As the interest grew, parents began taking over the coaching of one level so I could start the next one. We do charge an annual participation fee each year, and parents must help with fundraising. Email me at and I will send you our JR FLL, FLL, or FTC team member handbook, if you are interested.

Some meet in public library meeting areas, others at a local maker space, and one at the coach home. They pick the meeting time, place, and frequency. We interview prospective team members, requiring them to research the announced challenge theme and present their idea for a solution at the interview. It kind of makes it clear that this isn’t about just LEGO!

Response from Jennifer Husson Seitz

Is there any possibility that your school administration would allow parents to help coach teams or that you might be able to get more teachers involved coaching teams where you can provide guidance/mentorship to the coaches? One of the biggest ways of expanding the opportunity is to provide support for first-year coaches. As many of us know, that first year is overwhelming. But if somebody knew they would have assistance/guidance to navigate it, they may be more willing to take on the challenge. That doesn’t answer your selection question, but may resolve some of the “10 kids Max” challenge. However, after trying to manage kids that truly have zero interest, there really should be some selection criteria to determine their commitment level. Sorry I can’t help with that.

Response from Stephanie Ping Stoccardo

My son is on a school team and we paid $150 for the year. If they happen to make it to worlds I’m sure there would be fun raising or something that boy that we need to be done to get them there

Response from Jennifer Langston Saylor

I do try-outs, but I have found that some parents want their children to participate when the kids have no real interest which causes commitment issues. This year I had the students and parents sign contracts where a mandatory $500 fundraising fee would be due at the time of our first competition. Each student also had a $75 commitment fee which was due September 15.

Response from Ryan Evans

I decided to only run 2 teams this year but was talked into running 3. Thankfully I had a second ‘coach’ come on board this year, but that still had problems. Also, all of my kids pay. It’s an extra curricular extension activity, so they all pitch in $30 each to cover cost of registration and the mats.

My selection process will change next year, as my well hand picked teams only worked with reasonable success this year. Only one truly excelled and one virtually imploded. I’ve decided to run them as one collective for a little while longer and then see who makes the team after a few weeks. Consistent effort and interest will be crucial for continued involvement.

I had 60+ kids apply for the 30 spots, but I would gladly have swapped 3 or 4 of them out after about a month of laziness and silliness.

Response from Jason Baber

Enlist the help of the parents. Tell them that they will have to come be involved in running the team and fundraising.

Response from Korey Atterberry

Not entirely what you’re asking, but a friend of mine just takes the first ten applicants. I accepted applications for a time period then did a lottery. If I were to hand pick students though, I’d prioritize teamwork skills very highly.

Response from Nancy King Philbeck

Teamwork and the ability to not “melt-down” during a disagreement is huge. Also, you need variety. Not everyone on my team likes to program, and that’s a good thing. I have students who prefer to build, some who are very programming focused, and others who like to find and organize our ideas/videos. Some will eagerly spend hours perfecting a small part of the program while others would rather spend hours cutting, gluing, and finishing our posters. You also need both leaders and followers. When we have to add team members I send home a lengthy letter explaining what FLL is and the time commitment/important dates involved. Once many students finds out it’s not just building legos they are not interested. Parents have to sign the tryout info letter. Next, the student completes a basic application, AT School. This keeps mom and dad from doing it for them. I get teacher recommendations that focus on teamwork, responsibility, dependability, emotional maturitiy, and academics all are scored 1-10. I don’t care if the student is academically advanced, but I do need students who can read and comprehend on grade level when selecting 4th graders So that question is just “significantly below grad level, on grade level, above grade level. If I have a lot of applicants I bring them in for 15 minutes one morning and have them do a difficult core value activity to see if anyone cries, yells, melts, etc. my team members then score the video and application (names are removed) and adds the score to that of the teacher rubric.

Response from Cathleen Beke I do a mandatory teamwork tryout and run things like the marshmallow challenge, riddles,helium-filled stick, tablecloth flipping to see how kids react to stress, working with different groups. I have them line up by height, then by birthday without speaking. Keep mixing it up.

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Sample Application 1 Google Form by Catherine Sarisky</a>

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Sample Application 2 PDF Download by Faith Bongiorno</a>

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Sample Teacher Recommendation Image by Nancy King Philbeck</a>

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