My idea of competition before FIRST was finding the biggest player on the other team and try to make them run home crying. I had been bitten, scratched, punched, body slammed, and elbowed multiple times in the name of basketball, but in my sophomore year of high school I quit. I wanted to focus more on my school work and join the school’s robotics team.
My first year of FIRST the game was Breakaway and I was on build team for our kicking mechanism. Throughout the season the veteran members kept mentioning the terms gracious professionalism and coopertition, they tried to explain what they meant but the basketball player in me couldn't grasp the concept of helping the other team and cheering them on.
I finally understood when I walked into my first competition, the Kansas City Regional Competition, and saw teams forming conga lines in-between matches, rushing to give another team a part they needed, and the entire arena cheering. I did not hear one boo throughout the entire competition.
Since that competition I have improved as a person and a member of society as the lessons of gracious professionalism and coopertition have become a part of my everyday life. I am now on my third year of first and my second year of CPRO, Chief Public Relations Officer.
I believe that the true benefit of FIRST isn't in its ability to teach its members how to build robots, but in its ability to instill the lessons of gracious professionalism and coopertition in its members, just like they were instilled in me, lessons that the whole world could stand to learn. By continuing to spread FIRST, the whole world just might.