Gracious professionalism is a term that we in the X-Cats and in FIRST really like to throw around when we try to describe the spirit and purpose behind what we do. Teams are encouraged to always act in a graciously professional manner, and each year the team found to best exhibit this quality is awarded The Chairman's Award, FIRST's highest honor. As X-Cats, gracious professionalism is a very dear and important concept, as we are the only team in history that has ever won the Chairmans Award twice. There are standards and expectations we should strive to meet after all. When I first started this assignment, I was very confident that explaining gracious professionalism would be a simple task. After all, as an X-Cat, aren't we constantly reminded to act in a graciously professional way? Isn't gracious professionalism the driving force behind what we do here? But what is gracious professionalism really? As much as we strive for it, can it really be defined? And if the goal is unclear, how do we achieve it?
I've heard a lot of different answers from people, both X-Cats and non-X-Cats about the nature of gracious professionalism: Teamwork | Respect | Sportsmanship
All close, but merely fragments of a much bigger picture. Looking back into our history, and really our actions as recently as the 2014 Ruckus, it all kind of came together for me.
We have never, to date, refused an offer for an alliance in competition, even when it resulted in winning becoming a blurry prospect. At this past Ruckus, we lent our prototype robot to a team whose robot, for whatever reason, was no longer functioning. We can debate how much of a favor it really was, but we did it and expected nothing more than at least all of its parts back. At FLR last year, for all the drama he received, Jack made the graciously professional choice when he put the teamwork of our alliance as a whole above our initial choice. Our Spirit Leaders never stop cheering, even in the bleakest moments. And when by some stroke of chance we've been eliminated from competition, they get right back up there and lead use to cheer for our friends.
In Atlanta last year, the scouts gave up most of their time to help Team 1511 Rolling Thunder with their scouting. By the end of the weekend, it wasn't about gaining access to their scouting information anymore; it was no longer just an alliance of convenience, but a friendship, a bond that rose above a silly robotics competition.
Are you starting to see a pattern folks?
Gracious professionalism isn't really something that can be taught or explained through mere words. Rather, gracious professionalism is those experiences we have as a team. It's those small things we do to make sure everyone on every team has a good time. Paraphrasing Dean Kamen a bit, it's not about the silly little robots, no matter how good they can kick a soccer ball. Gracious professionalism is proving that even in a fiercely competitive event, in the end its how we treat each other, how we help each other to grow and learn that's important.