banner I have been a Lego League coach since 2007. This year, I wanted to document the season to give rookie coaches a resource to help them through to competition. The process can be intense, but it can also be a lot of fun for you and your team.

I hope to cover enough through my posts, but if I leave anything out, please feel free to leave a comment, or contact me.


Author: fllCoach | Files under

I’ve been a Lego League coach since 2007. My first year was a disaster as coach and I vowed never to coach again. Somehow, I was coaxed into coaching the next year, but as an assistant. Having had a successful year, I coached my own team again in 2009. The team came in 3rd out of 160 teams in the State of Minnesota.

I wrote about the history of my coaching in my first post.

As I was coaching that last team, I formulated some information that I know would have helped me in my rookie year. This year I have another rookie team made up of three team members from last year and five new recruits. As we progress through the season, I plan to document some of the information that helped me so you can build a successful Lego League team. If you live in Minnesota, though, you’re not allowed to use any of my tips against me.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I hope to include all the information you need, but I’m sure I’ll miss something. So please ask!

11 responses. Wanna say something?

  1. Doug
    Oct 13, 2010 at 22:44:40

    Thank you for publishing your advice. I am co-coaching a rookie team and with only a few weeks left before our first practice tournament, we haven’t even completed one mission yet. We have 9 very talented kids, but are struggling to coach them. I’m beginning to feel like you must have felt in 2007 and am trying to do anything to help the team succeed. Finding advice from seasoned coaches is a blessing. Thanks.

  2. fllCoach
    Oct 19, 2010 at 11:04:16

    That first year is always a struggle. Just get a good foundation for them (and you) to build on in the future.

  3. shan
    Dec 16, 2010 at 18:13:57

    Hi. We are just starting a team at my son’s scholl. The kids competed for the first time this year at regionals and states and just loved it. We only had 1 robot among the 7 kids (the $400 kit they sell for competitions through FIRST)

    I think to build a club, based on what I saw a better ratio would be two to three kids to a robot as they learn to prgram and build. (If there wasn’t an opportunity for the hands on, the kids’ attention really strayed and the fooling around started) The school will let us use the computer lab so we could have quite a few robots going at once

    The problem is the expense. Can we purchase the $200 kits available at the store instead of the more expensive one we purchased this time? What are the licensing issues? other drawbacks?

    I am coaching this team alone & don’t work much with computers. Any assistance in figuring this out would be greatly appreciated!

  4. fllCoach
    Dec 21, 2010 at 13:45:38

    I’m sorry for the late reply.

    My team was 6 kids to one robot. It’s doable. You just have to schedule the time. If you have the resources to have a ratio of 3:1 or 2:1, that would certainly be better.

    You are allowed to use the commercial Mindstorm kits for the competition. Just pay attention to the rules that come from FIRST on which sensors are or are not allowed. There’s really no difference between the commercial and educational kits except for a few sensor differences. Aside from sensors, you’re allowed to use any piece made by LEGO.

    Good luck with your club.

  5. Katie
    Sep 5, 2012 at 00:54:49

    Hi. Thanks for sharing your insights. I’m coaching a rookie team (in California!) and have no experience with Legos or robotics, aside from marveling at my son’s creations. Can you provide more detail about the differnce between commercial and educational Mindstorms? Do you need to buy sensors to replace the sensors in commercial units? We’re all struggling, and the price difference really makes a difference for our team but I don’t want to jeopardize the kids’ chances if I make the wrong decision.
    Many thanks!

  6. fllCoach
    Sep 5, 2012 at 13:12:58

    Hi, Katie,

    The difference is just in the LEGO pieces. The brick (robot brain), motors, and sensors are the same in both kits. You can use either one to build your robot for competition. You may, however, need to buy additional sensors if your commercial kit doesn’t come with enough. Even with the educational kit, we bought extra light sensors. This year it looks like color sensors could come in handy so you may need one of those as well.

    Let me know if there is anything else I can help with, or if there are any additional topics you would like me to cover.


  7. Danielle Lalehzar
    Sep 16, 2012 at 19:07:55

    Thank you so much for your website. I am one of two moms coaching 8 11 year old boys who all know each other. We are waiting for the kits to arrive ( ordered yesterday). We have had our first meeting to discuss rules and work as team on the Team name. We are both very excited yet nervous about this adventure as neither of us are engineers in any way. What would you suggest we do in the next two meetings with our kids while waiting for the kit? Focus on the Project? ANy suggestions of where to concentrate first would be greatly appreciated.

  8. fllCoach
    Sep 17, 2012 at 11:32:27


    A few other things that can be done before you get your kit are:

    • o Work on a t-shirt design
    • o Do the Programming a Parent exercise
    • o Build the base robot (although, the mat may change your design)
    • o Start on the research (as you suggest)
  9. Pat N.
    Oct 22, 2012 at 21:12:34

    I’m a rookie coach with a young rookie team of four 4th graders and three 6th graders. We just started working on the challenge after weeks of building and training exercises. We signed up for a tournament scheduled for December 1st, but am concerned that it’s just not possible for us to do the research project and do even one challenge with only five weeks to go. I’m considering bailing on the tournament. Should we stop working on the challenge and try to work on the research project or vice-versa? Is there a point in going if we can’t finish (let alone start) one or the other?

  10. fllCoach
    Oct 25, 2012 at 07:41:12

    Hi, Pat,

    I think there is absolutely a point to go on. The first year is always the hardest, figuring out how to juggle all the different tasks that you need to do before the tournament. If nothing else, this year will be a great lesson to teach the kids how to budget their time for next year.

    If it were me, I would spend a few meetings putting together something rudimentary for the research project. The kids learn a lot about research, how to put together a presentation, and how to present to an audience. I didn’t get why a research project was involved in a technical program, but after seeing the kids grow over the years, I now understand that it teaches valuable life lessons.

    As for the robot missions, many teams go to tournaments having only accomplished one or two missions. The kids have already gotten a lot out of the building and training exercises you’ve taught them. Having them finish even one or two missions will give them a sense of accomplishment. You’ll be surprised how excited they will get competing with even those few missions.

    Lastly, the tournament is not something that should be missed. The environment is intense, stressful, and a bit terrifying. But your kids will have a ton of fun. If nothing else, just being there as a team will give them a sense of belonging, which some kids never get.

    Don’t give up. I know things seem hopeless today, but you’ll be surprised how pieces fall in place even a week before the tournament. The basis you’ve given them will come together at the last minute and surprise all of you.

    Let me know how it goes.

  11. fllcoach2
    Dec 9, 2012 at 19:11:10

    For buying robots – ask around if any parents work for an engineering company that might sponsor paying for a robot for the team. Both big and small companies do this for outreach and publicity. We found out after the fact that one child’s employer would have paid for the robot kit and even the team’s qualifier registration fee! I know posting late this season – hoping this idea will help someone next year.

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