An Interesting Difference in Priorities

As our rookie year came to a close last May, the team continued to meet in order to tie up some loose ends. Our team was always in a state of disorganization; both in supplies and in overall function. During the season, the focus is simply, build, build ,build, and there isn’t time to worry about the smaller things that make the team operate smoothly. But as the summer came nearer, we decided to restructure our methods and take note of all the things we aimed to accomplish over the summer. We came up with pages of tasks that we hoped to finish over the summer, all of which were great ideas, and some that were even semi-practical. Unfortunately, those words of ambition were without merit and few achieved fruition.

Starting in early August, we began meeting more frequently and took another look at what we could achieve in one month’s time. Although a number of different projects began in this time period, one of the most important was how the season was going to be laid out. At the end of last school year, there were rumors that the way qualifiers had always been set up, was going to be changed and that there would be more of them with fewer teams in each. This was not the case (luckily) and the game is to be played as it was last year. Knowing this, our coach, Cheryl, suggested to us that we try to host a qualifier at our school.

Hosting a qualifier is a great thing for all teams. Not only does it give one of the host teams a ticket to the State Competition, but it also allows the team to show off their school and make a small profit doing it. On top of that, it shows the school’s involvement and dedication to their team(s). I was motivated by the idea and my teammates were certainly willing to take part. However, we would need use of the larger of our school gyms for one whole day. Cheryl warned us that this would be a difficult thing to arrange given that the gym is especially busy during the school year due to basketball games. I’ve always known that athletics would always take precedence in the eyes of the school, but I hoped that if we could find a clear day, that we might be able to make it work. After all, we were scheduling five months in advance.

After looking at our school’s activities calendar, we found three feasible Saturdays in January. All of these days were empty and appeared to work perfectly. Our beloved Principal retired last year, and the new principal, although nice and accepting of us, is not acclimated enough to have much of a say when it comes to the gym scheduling. For that reason, our coach and our mentor met with two of our vice principals; Mr. Muench, and Mr. Stecker.
As it turns out, the basketball team has morning practice on all three Saturdays that we had selected. The vice principals also mentioned that we couldn’t use the smaller gym or the band room (2nd and 3rd largest rooms in the school), and suggested that we either try to plan one in November (far too early in the season) or instead go to a local middle school, located a few blocks away.
I feel it’s relevant to mention that Stecker has a son in Lego League (the elementary/middle school version of FTC), and that Muench’s father-in-law, Art, is a well respected FIRST volunteer who has been involved in Lego League since its creation. (I’ve actually been to Art’s house, and it’s quite the sight; filled with Lego parts; NXT and VEX bricks; and assorted Tetrix and Lego motors.) And yet, both of them made the decision that a routine basketball practice was a less flexible event than our qualifier.

Of course the natural response I had was one of frustration. That is not to say that I’m simply mad because I didn’t get my way. Rather what I really hated was that they had given up on us so easily. Had they talked with the coaches and tried to reschedule the basketball practice or even attempted to help us organize it at a plausible date, I would’ve been more appreciative. My coach and mentor are a bit more level headed than myself and chalked up the matter as being unfortunate, but that the Harding Middle School gym would work just as well. Cheryl made the comment that Muench and Stecker have always been known to favor athletics over academics; I had heard this many times myself, but mostly from other students. I guess they just have different priorities.

Admittedly, Harding may be a better venue given that their gym is reportedly less busy (the date has already been set for the 18th). With any luck we may be able to reestablish Harding’s FLL team, which apparently collapsed two years ago after the teachers who had done it in the past decided not to continue on. But for me, it has little to do with functionality. It’s respect that I wish we had more of.

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