Monday, November 9, 2009

Parents and Other Spectators on Competition Day

In general, parents/siblings/spectators are free to be in the pit area, the practice table area and the competition area - true for all the tournaments that we've attended. For the competition tables, all observers must sit in stands or auditorium seats and cannot get up close to the tables but usually there are cameras covering the action and video is projected up on large screens while an emcee calls the play-by-play. That helps everyone see the close-up action.

(above) You can't miss the Inventioneers in the
DWC competition area auditorium seats!

(above) One set of competition tables
at the DWC tournament

About the judging sessions, we recommend that coaches decide on how to handle the issue of including the parents. Some tournaments allow spectators in judging - our experience is that is mostly with research judging. There are positives and negatives to this - on the positive side, the parents get to see the presentation and hear what the discussion with the judges is like first hand. That's a great way to see the results of all the time their child has put in. On the other side, it can be an added distraction for the team (kids may look to their parent for approval or smiles which can be misinterpreted by the judges as "coaching"). Sometimes the space is too small for everyone (parents and coaches) and fewer people is better. Then you have to choose which parents can or cannot sit in on the spot which can be tricky.

So we think you should decide how you want to handle parents in judging sessions ahead of time. Also, email the person in charge of the your tournament to see how they are handling 'spectators' in judging sessions - if they are not allowing it, then you can let the parents know. Technical judging is usually limited to coaches but can vary depending on space available. In our experience, in teamwork judging, sometimes even the coaches are not allowed in. Even when coaches can go into teamwork, our coaches usually decide to sit out that session and we tell them about it afterward! Remember, everyone who attends the judging sessions - including coaches - must not communicate with the team at all and should keep a neutral face so that the judges will know that the team did the work themselves. Oh, also, you can usually videotape the sessions and that way parents can see what happened later.

There is so much excitement and action in the competition area all day that there is plenty for parents to see there! You will know the scheduled times for your team's judging sessions and you can let parents know when you'll be using practice tables (if you think your team will want to take a couple of robot warm up runs before the table rounds**) and when your team will be in the pit. That way, the parents will know when to check in with the team for the "public" part of the day. Also, you can plan to have lunch together in the cafeteria/designated eating area.

**Sign up on the sign-up sheet in the practice area as soon as you get your schedule when you arrive at the tournament. Try to figure out right away when you have time for a practice run.

Hope that helps. Let us know if it does and if you have any other questions. We are getting ready to post a tournament day checklist of what to bring on our TeamMatch Forum. That might help you, too.