Practice, Practice, Practice

Time becomes short with only weeks left until tournament day!  [Since regional tournaments are spread out over several weeks, you’ll notice a vagueness in these state-wide hints when yours will be]

It’s maybe a little early for this topic but I’m making this up as I go (improvisation) and it doesn’t hurt to start thinking about it now. Besides as we get closer to the tournament, I’ll be overloading you with tournament tips to make your experience less stressful and more enjoyable.

At some point a few weeks, rather than a few days, before tournament day I liked to start asking my teams when they were going to start practicing their solution. Like the transition from ideas to building stuff, the transition from building stuff to practicing often requires some prodding. There will be protests that things aren’t ready to go but things are never ready to go.

Set up a practice space at least as big as the minimum performance space for your specific Challenge. Have the team assemble their “stuff” off to one side (the launch area) and do your best timekeeper/announcer impression. If they discover they are missing a prop or other vital item, have them make a note of what’s missing and then keep going. The important thing is to get through the whole solution no matter how long it takes or how many quick stops for notes. The notes now become a final to-do list for the team. Don’t let the team worry about the time for the first few tries.

These early practices will frustrate and annoy you. Suffer. Let them work it out. After a few tries, keep time for them but let them finish and tell them the time. Most teams I’ve had started way over time. After a few more practices, cut them off when time is up just as we will at the tournament. It’s often a shock to them. Time to brainstorm some quick ideas of how to get the solution under time.

Winter Break is coming up for many teams and this is a great time to get stuff done. We used to try and arrange a couple of work days when team members could come by when they could and just get stuff done. No agenda, no ICs, just work. We asked different team parents to bring in lunch and send some snacks.