Gracious Professionalism is a term coined by Dr. Woodie Flowers, a co-founder of FIRST, which emphasizes the importance of respecting other people and the community, while continuing to encourage high-quality work and sportsmanship. This concept is one of the unique and defining features of FIRST that helps to bring all teams together as competitors, team mates and individuals.
Coopertition, a blend of the words “cooperation” and “competition,” means respecting others, even during fierce competition. It means you should help others out, even as you continue to compete. Coopertition is based on the theory that FIRST teams should help each other out, even though they are competing with each other. The 2012 FRC competition really emphasized this point, as it included a “coopertition bridge”. This bridge encouraged both the red and blue alliance to work together and balance on the center bridge on the field, as both teams would be awarded an equal number of coopertition points, helping to raise a team’s standings despite their wins and losses.
During a FIRST competition, competitors fiercely compete against each other, but they also treat each other with respect and kindness. Neither treats the other as a loser and instead upholds a “win-win” attitude. In the pits during competitions, all teams help each other out with spare parts and tools as well as building and coding the robot. It is not a rare occurrence to see many different tools and materials in teams’ pits that belong to their neighboring teams in the pits. All teams, rookie or veteran, follow the motto, “no robot left behind” during inspections and practices in order to ensure a fair chance of competition to all teams, making sure that each team has the right parts on their robot in order to pass inspection and participate in the competition.
Outside of competitions
Outside of a competition, Gracious Professionalism means acting in society by treating others with integrity, sensitivity, and respect. For example, team 3574, the High Teckers, offered to drive our team’s tools and extra parts to the 2013 FRC Championships all the way from Seattle, Washington to St. Louis, Missouri — an offer made completely out of the goodness of their hearts. Gracious Professionalism is an important life skill that FIRST hopes all robotics members are touched by and can carry with them throughout their lives.
The FIRST spirit encourages doing high-quality, well-informed work in a manner that leaves everyone feeling valued. Gracious professionalism seems to be a good descriptor for part of the ethos of FIRST. It is part of what makes FIRST different and wonderful. Gracious professionalism can and should mean different things to each of us. It is possible, however, to outline some of its meanings:
- Gracious attitudes and behaviors are “win-win.”
- Gracious folks respect others and let that respect show in their actions.
- Gracious professionals make a valued contribution in a manner pleasing to others and to themselves as they possess special knowledge and are trusted by society to use that knowledge responsibly.
In the long run, gracious professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you have acted with integrity and sensitivity. That’s good stuff!
– Dr. Woodie Flowers