My 3rd son was our first to join a mental sport, not football but robotics. While I was happy for he and his friends to have all the gifts that being part of a sport brings to ones character, I met -more- at my first standing in their midst.
I was instantly overcome by the feeling, vibe or ETHOS in the room. I had never felt or seen anything like it in a competition based group setting. As a disclaimer I will say that I directed youth groups and camps for years and am no stranger to the world of kids, teams and to the “how to compete” discussion.
Instantly while standing in the room of robotics students, I was aware of JOY. calm joy. not zany and chaotic kids vying for attention. CREATIVITY. not wacky emo stuff where kids strive to be different and yet are just like the other dressed in black purple haired kids they hang with. The kids dressed with creative self expression. non-emotionally expressive engineer types did the macarena. they named their own teams: exploding bacon, thunder chickens , chipenguineers, cheesy poofs and the like. INTELLIGENT ACTION. For fun in down minutes they discussed bionary code, speed of light and how they could make garbage into energy. no mention of low thought bodily actions. All this from a room of engineers, left brainers- where technically precise perfection makes a world winning robot. The competitive goal is out held out there- this team is world wide #1 as i write. It was instantly quite refreshing and very attractive.
My next glance at a group always goes to one place: LEVEL OF INCLUSION. Are the people in cliques? are some people left out when they dont want to be? Is anyone being disrespected and put down, or are they pushed positively? Is this a faux, control led situation?, which can be quickly detected.
This is where i become overwhelmed. I couldnt find it. No one left in the corner, no one cliqued out, no one down talking, no one behaving out of unhealthy fear but respect….in fact, they cheer on other teams? say i love you to people, and do chicken dances and penguin dances with such teams. Even the kids who are more of a sideline worker are happy and belong. The number 2 kids give praise to the number ones and the number ones humbly help number 2′s advance. The kids are entrusted to high tech expensive donated time in Motorolas lab. dang.
While I know that there are a number a factors that go into “ETHOS” , I know that there is at least one big catalyst in this, I’m gonna find it. First i talk to a few kids and complement them on how well people are treated “oh, thats GRACIOUS PROFESSIONALISM” and COOPERTION”. next i hear of an award for such behavior, and then I notice a mentor man. He is cleary well known and well loved. I watch him interact with a “random” kid. He has long grey hair in a pony tail. He has THE DEMEANOR: calm, intelligent, safe, empowering and humble. next i find out that the mans name is the same name as the award for gracious professionalism. I found the big catalyst, the one who adds this touch of ethos as he works with the founder of First, also a great man of course. This catalysts’ name is Woody Flowers. intrigued, i googled him and found this:
“Dr. Woodie Flowers, FIRST robotics National Advisor and Pappalardo Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, coined the term “Gracious Professionalism.”
Gracious Professionalism is part of the ethos of FIRST robotics. It’s a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community.
With Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. They avoid treating anyone like losers. No chest thumping tough talk, but no sticky-sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended.
In the long run, Gracious Professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing one has acted with integrity and sensitivity.
>>So, whats my point? to tell you how great i think woody and my kids team is. ? NO.
TO START TO TALK ETHOS in any area of life where MAKING A DIFFERENCE is the goal.
I think that there is serious take away value in places where knowledge, competition and empathy are blended. (rather that either element avoided)
There is more to the simple statement that acting with INTEGRITY and SENSITIVITY adds to society
That fierce competition and mutual gain mutual and not exclusive. (this is a redefining of competition back to what it once was, a humane one)
That Ethos is the wordless soil that produces growth.
That an Ethos of respect is a soil that touches and grows healthy humaness, and eventually eliminate unhealthy behavior.
That through Ethos we teach, communicate, give and love. because there we are introduced to our humaness.
that “where we have not respectful agendaless love, we have nothing”
to ask the question to what extent can what christians call “the gospel” be communicated without words?
to truly look at what it will take to make a real change in our world.
more blogs on group ethos to come…….
and, nice job to the 501c3 FIRST ROBOTICS.