Gracious Professionalism is a term coined by Dr. Woodie Flowers, a co-founder of FIRST, and 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 more than just competitors, but also as team mates and individuals.
Coopertition, a blend of the words “cooperation” and “competition,” means respecting others, even during fierce competition. It means to continue to help others out, even as you continue to compete. Coopertition is based upon the theory that FIRST teams should help each other out, even though they compete with each other. The 2012 FRC competition included a “coopertition bridge,” which encouraged both the red and blue alliance to work together and balance on the center bridge of the field. If successful, both teams were awarded an equal number of coopertition points, which also helped to raise a team’s standings despite their wins and losses—another advantage to coopertition.
During a FIRST competition, gracious professionals fiercely compete against each other, but they 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. For instance, in the 2012 Seattle Olympic Regional, our team lent team 3405, the Eaglebots from Turkey, two wheeled carts as they did not have their own robot cart to use. 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.
Outside of competitions
Outside of a competition, Gracious Professionalism means acting in society by treating others with integrity, sensitivity, and respect. For example, last year team 3574, the High Teckers, offered to drive our team’s tools and extra parts to the FRC Championships all the way from Seattle, Washington to St. Louis, Missouri—an offer 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