Lightning Strikes Twice

Teamwork State Champs! Nick with the 2010 team in March.

Teamwork State Champs! Nick with the 2010 team in March.

I have been on this earth for nearly twenty thousand days. Included in those days are some that, because of their life-altering consequences, I remember to the smallest detail. Lightning strikes out of the blue sometimes and changes my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

What I think makes me a little special and different is the fact that I have had two memorably transcendent days through my work. Both occurred because of CCBS and our involvement with FIRST Lego League.

FIRST Lego League (FLL) is an international robotics competition between teams of middle-school students in which judging is based on four criteria: Teamwork, Presentation of a Science Project, Engineering and Robot Performance. FFL inventor Dean Kamen wants to “inspire young peoples’ interest and participation in science and technology” by bringing a hint of athletic fervor to a competition with a guiding ethos of “Gracious Professionalism.” 

When asked if I wanted to coach a team I agreed without hesitation. I didn’t know then that lightning was about to strike.      

Part of the Coach’s Promise for FIRST Lego League is:  “The children do the work.”  That was pretty easy for me to observe that first year, and ever since. I’ve always felt that I best empower my students by giving them an opportunity to try something new. Then I step back as far as is safe and let them do it their way. Over the years I have hybridized the FLL Coach’s Promise, my own coaching philosophy and the CCBS’s mission. My teams are coached to aim for two objectives: “have fun” and “Show up as Warriors who represent themselves, their families and our school with Gracious Professionalism.”

In February of 2006, after a long day of competition at the South Carolina Convention Center in Columbia, my name was called as the Outstanding Coach of the Tournament. I didn’t even know there was such a thing, and in front of 80 teams, their coaches, parents and the judges I had won it! I obviously did some things right that season and day, but I’ll leave it to others to explain why, out of eighty coaches, I deserved such an honor. Lightning had struck me and I’ve never been the same since. 

Lightning struck again last March at the South Carolina State FLL Tournament when our team was called as the State Champion in Teamwork.  Those eight guys had demonstrated outstanding teamwork all day in a chaotic environment with infinite distractions and challenges. I was still stunned to the point of tears when their efforts were so publicly recognized.They had used the concepts, tools and techniques we staff and parents work so hard to help them learn, and the result of their own hard work, to gain the championship trophy, made of Legos of course.

In January I will head to the regional FLL competition with the 2011 team. Just like the last five teams, they will be empowered and given opportunities to succeed with my support instead of my intervention. As a result, they will come together as a team, do the best that they can do with all of the tools they have been given and walk away with an experience full of value.

 And, who knows, lightning may even strike again…

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posted by Shaler Black Cooper in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments (6)