SoCal/Greater LA Mentors, Coaches, Team Members, Families, Volunteers, and Friends:

Welcome to League Play for the SoCal/Greater Los Angeles FIRST® Tech Challenge Region.  In order to expand opportunities for play in our growing region, we are following the lead of a dozen other great regions of our size and larger, and are excited to transition to this model.  Both teams and volunteers have found great success in it — and we are glad to have been learning from their experiences.  

Please share the information we are providing below with your students, school officials, fellow mentors, and parents so that we can all start off the season on the same page. During the summer, with your help and feedback, the SoCal Regional Planning Committee will be busy working out the logistics of the switch so that everything goes as smoothly as possible. We appreciate your cooperation and support. We also will have League roles and ways for you and your teams to be involved in this new model, and look forward to communicating across the summer to get this rolling.  

If you have questions or would like to get involved with the SoCal Regional Planning Committee, please email community@socalftc.com.

What is League Play?

We have grown from just a Championship not that many years ago to 10 Qualifying Tournaments, with nearly 1 each weekend day for most of the Dec.-Jan. months.  We have grown to approx. 130 teams, and may end up at 150+ teams this year.  We would need to be cutting back team play below 2 QTs or need to find a way to let teams play more while allowing growth and expansion.

As a more flexible model, about 20% of regions have adopted what’s called League Play in part to be able to grow above 120-130 teams, while creating more opportunities for match play.

See Official FIRST Tech Challenge League Guide at this link.

The idea is that teams will compete locally within 30-45 minutes of their home city — more frequently than just the two QTs that we have been offering — with cumulative competition points that add up over the League Meets. Think of a regular high school sports team that has games/matches every other week — that’s the gist. Teams will compete in sets of 10-16 teams each and will only play teams within their League at first.

All teams from two or three Leagues then compete together in late January or early February in a single  20-35-team InterLeague Tournament (“ILT”)(similar in style and size to a QT).  Alliance Captains will be selected at the ILT based on that day’s 5 match results added their best 10 cumulative match scores (QP and RP) from their League Meets. The top teams from each ILT will advance to the 48-team SoCal/LA Regional Championships, based on the number of teams at each ILT.   

Pros:

  • 4-hour League Meets — Greatly reduces tournament day– no more 7am-7pm!
  • Minimizes travel time for teams
  • More opportunities for robots/teams to compete (20-25 vs. 5-10 matches)
  • One bad Meet performance is great experience versus hopes dashed
  • Robots can be iterated throughout the season and be made better for future competitions
  • Teams within a league have the opportunity to form substantial relationships with each other due to frequency of Meets
  • Reduces space requirements for hosts (1 Field and 10-16 teams)
  • League meet hosts get free use of 2016-2017 Field Elements for entirety of the League Meet Season
  • Lets us run more events with reduced volunteer needs/event (12/Meet vs 60-75/QT)
  • More people will be cross-trained at running events, helping broaden the region’s trained volunteer pool

Cons/Challenges:

  • Shorter initial build time between Kickoff and first competition — teams can’t wait until the end of the season to get started if they are in a League, and need to bring a rolling robot to Match 0 (see below) by early December
  • Tournament days move very quickly with 10-16 teams, with very little to no downtime between matches for repair or rebuilding robots
  • No judging component until Interleague Championship level so opportunities to build skills for judging will have to be addressed in other ways. Also there will be only 1 QT for judging vs. a possible 2 QTs before.
  • This schedule might be more of a challenge for teams in other sports, band, etc.
  • Teams from the same school, district, or group would be competing more with each other than if they could pick QTs where they could compete separately
  • The League will be all volunteering for League Meets, so the group will need to work at being visible and conscious with conflicts of interest.
  • We will need to intentionally work on making the events consistent across Meets.  This was hard with 10 QTs — this will be doubly hard with 10 events across 9 counties every 2 weeks plus  5 ILCs.

Structure

General Structure:

Each League will be made of 10-16 teams, which are located within 30-45 minutes of each other. NOTE: See the updated document on League Zones (areas) based on this year’s team locations at http://www.firsttechsocal.org/info-for-teams-2/socalftc-league-maps/.  Teams compete with each other at Meets approximately every two weeks.  Qualifying and ranking points accumulated from each Meet, with the top 10 pulled by the scoring system. These top 10 individual matches per team from League Meets are automatically carried forward to add to the 5 match scores from the ILT.  Based on the normal official advancement criteria of competition and judged results, the top teams from each ILT  will advance to the LA Regional Championships.  

Teams will compete in only one League.  Teams will stay in the same League for the entire season.

League Graphic

Cost:

All teams compete in League Meets AND compete in their InterLeague Tournament — with a single price for these 5 events.  The cost for 4 League Meets plus an InterLeague Championship will be $300/team for approximately 25 matches (versus 5 at a QT).  Teams will register online starting Sept. 27, and can pay by check, credit card, or PO, with the mentor responsible for following up with payment on the PO from her/his organization.  All payment must be received by Nov. 1.

Tournament Day:

  • League Meets are flexible and can be held after school or during weekends. We assume most Leagues will be Saturday or Sunday, but are not limited to those days.  Meets are faster, approx. four hours in total.  Teams arrive, go through normal Robot and Field Inspection, and compete for approx. two hours in 5 qualification matches.
  • League Meets work well due to the collaborative atmosphere and community that forms around teams within a league. Leagues are encouraged to create an identity (awesome League names) that foster supportive relationships throughout the season.
  • Leagues will be volunteer-staffed from the teams within the League.  A League Meet only needs 10-20 volunteers, and Hosts will provide the space (but not have to staff all the volunteers).
    • We ask that each team plan to contribute 1 volunteer to each League Meet, and 2 for its InterLeague Tournament.
    • Volunteers will need to be cleared for Youth Protection, if adults, and will need to be in the FIRST Volunteer Management System
    • Training will take about an hour using the online tools from FIRST and an hour in a webinar per role Nov. 1-10 (est.)
      • Training materials both will be provided by FIRST in a system called Schoology AND with regional training via LAFTC.
      • LAFTC is planning to offer online training webinars in the first two weeks of November (see Tentative 2016-2017 Schedule below) to keep match scoring and meet efficiency as consistent as possible throughout the entire region.
  • Volunteer Roles (note: ALL of these have training)
    • FTA**
    • Head Ref (provided by the Region, not the League)
    • Referees (4 this season)**
    • Field Inspector (can be refs/FTA)
    • Robot Inspector (Can be refs/FTA)**
    • Scorekeeper
    • Lead Queuer
    • Field Manager (can be combined with FTA)
    • Field Reset
    • Emcee/Game Announcer
      • ** Certification of training by online test required
  • Lastly, each League will be managed and coordinated locally by a League Committee.  We ask each team to designate one volunteer (optimally an adult) to be their Committee Representative, and are aiming at 5 core Representatives be the League Coordination Committee, facilitators for League Meets within their region. As noted above, the Committee will manage Volunteers for the meets, which largely will come from the teams in the area.  The Committee also will help coordinate communication between the League teams, so everyone has both up-to-date information on what is going on and so the region can be helpful to both new teams and teams who need assistance.  We will be looking for approximately five mentors from teams that can are willing to serve in this role. If interested, please email volunteer@socalftc.com for more information.

2016-2017 Schedule

  • 2016-2017 FTC Kickoff: September 10, 2016, Monrovia High School
    • Free
    • Workshops!
    • Game reveal and activities
    • Teams interested in helping or having satellite events should contact community@socalftc.com
  • League Meets — set between late November and late January (see schedule)
  • 5 InterLeague Championships (2 leagues of 10-15 put together for a 20-30 team event; all teams putting in volunteers)
    • January 28, February 4, February 5, February 11, and February 12, 2017
    • LA Regional Championship: February 26, 2017 (Sunday), Monrovia High School, Monrovia, CA

*Note: Many regions have opted to have a Meet 0, which serves as a practice event for teams and volunteers to get acquainted with each other and the system before points start to accumulate.   We are adopting the same idea — your robot needed to roll and pass Robot Inspection, and that’s about it, to join in Meet 0.  

FAQs

Which teams will be in my League?

Please see the League Map for the Leagues. We anticipate that teams will continue to register until early December, so Leagues will continue to fill as the pre-season continues   We have approx. 80% retention of teams and approx. 15% net growth each season, so anticipate that up to one-third of teams in each League may be Rookies — so the League member list will expand as the summer and fall continues.  

Do we have to compete on weekends?

No, but we do expect most of the Leagues to choose to meet on Saturdays or Sundays. Leagues may want to have Meets on weekend mornings, afternoons, and evenings or even after school (think high school basketball or football games). As long as the location of the League meet is available and teams are in agreement, we encourage league committees to choose competition times that are most convenient for teams and their families.  However, limiting factors of available space and school vacations may inhibit our ability to be totally flexible to all teams.  

What happens with judging?

There is no judging component during the 4-hour League Meets. For teams competing in League play, judging is at the InterLeague Tournament level.  Leagues may want to develop interview practice sessions and other informal judging elements, which is one of the options of working locally with other teams.  

What if I don’t have a working robot on a League Meet day?

We suggest that you come anyway to connect with the teams and learn from the other robots.  There will not be make-up sessions, but you do get to keep your best 10 plays.

What if I want to be a League Host?  Do I get an advancement to the Regional Championship?  Or if I am an InterLeague Host — do I get to advance?

In the old QT only model, 1 team who hosted a QT advanced to the LA Championship, and had provided 60-75 volunteers and multiple days of setup, cleanup, etc. at their venue.  Here, League Hosts will be providing space but not providing all the volunteers.  InterLeague Tournament hosts also will not be needing to provide all the volunteers, and everyone will have volunteers in the mix versus hosts not being allowed to compete in their own events.  None of these Hosting roles will get an advancement for Hosting.  Only 1 QT host will get 1 team to advance.  As a result, we will have MANY fewer Championship spaces being held by hosts, allowing overall more teams to advance from InterLeague Tournament results.  

If I want to be in a QT, are there other regions I can go to?

Teams can compete in any open region.  Some of our teams go compete in other Regions already.  San Diego went all League last year, where you are assigned a different Meet location every two weeks.  Northern California is a QT region still, and is one option, though a bit of a drive.  Oregon and Washington (longer drives/flights) are Hybrid, but mostly League.   Some of the other Western Regions have only a Championship, and you can contact them directly for schedules and options, which tend to open up later in the season.   Nevada is all of the above (League, QT, AND Championship only), and available later in the season for out-of-region teams.  

Will we continue to be an “Open Region”?

Yes, but teams from outside of our 9 Counties will need to sign up for a League and be offered the opportunity to compete every two weeks — which may be challenging.  

How can my team be more involved in this transition?

We have teams as League Meet Hosts and InterLeague Tournament hosts, and welcome more inquiries.  Others are working with their local Community Colleges or college campuses to help be physical hosts for events, which we appreciate as well.  Please contact us at community@socalftc.com regarding opportunities.