In my opinion, there is no way to overcome team laziness. If a team member doesn’t want to do something, then they won’t do it regardless of how hard you work or what incentive you give them. And unfortunately, we can’t simply kick them off the team if you’re in a public school team. If you have the option to choose who will be on your team, go for that. It is more important that you have people who are actually interested and are willing to work rather than choosing your friends. Something that I have observed from teams who choose only their friends is that they end up screwing around 50% of the time having “fun” and then complain that their robot sucks and they’re not winning anything. These teams typically pour all their workload into the one person (typically the captain) who was actually interested in actually building robotics and the rest just screw around saying that they’ve already “contributed” to the team when in reality they put in like one screw and spent the rest of the meeting screwing around with whatever they can find. I’ve done the “lead by example” thing for 2 years now, and never has it worked for me. In fact, it made my team lazier because they were pouring work that they were supposed to do into my hands. It’s so frustrating and it made me super angry and depressed sometimes.
Last year, I wasn’t the captain of my team but I might as well have been. I elected my captain too, thinking he was knowledgeable about VEX, but it turned out that he had no idea what he was doing and was only acting like a super robotics genius because he had 2 older brothers who also did VEX. I was a “programmer,” but that title soon soon expanded to be builder, notebooker, and driver as well. My team literally did nothing no matter how hard I worked and tried to improve our robot. For example, I presented to them a simple gear mechanism. I ask them to replicate it. I check back 30 minutes later after notebooking the mechanism, and they haven’t even begun constructing it and were still in the process of “finding” the parts when really they were messing around, playing computer games, throwing around NBN balls, you name it. So, I was forced to build it myself because it needed to be done and they wouldn’t doing it. Oh, and then a few weeks later before states I stayed up until 1 AM building/programming the entire new robot , and they didn’t even say thanks. They just looked at it and said “wow” and then went back to screwing around. My teammates weren’t jerks though, they just weren’t interested and hence they didn’t really care. And that’s something that no one but themselves can control.
This year was much better, as I was able to choose teammates who were mostly interested. Workload was more evenly distributed, and I was actually able to use their individual talents because instead of screwing around, they actually showed me what they could do because they wanted to have a relevant position on the team and not be ignored. However, despite that, I still received many personal complaints from both parents and team mates alike (although less than last year). Looking past that though, we did really well this season (we won a total of 14 awards in one season and brought back 2 awards from Worlds, that’s the first time anyone in my school and has ever done that, and I commend my team’s efforts. I hoped that what we accomplished this year will spark the interest in robotics at my school, as my school is similar to yours in that there’s not many people actually interested in doing robotics, they just join the club because it “looks good” on their resume (it’s the dark truth).
This isn’t to say that I’ve done everything perfectly as a captain. Maybe it was my incompetence as a captain that led to me experiencing all these issues. Maybe I’m too hard of a captain, which is why my teammates sometimes complain a lot. Maybe I’m too obsessed with perfection, which is why sometimes I only notice all the things that my teammates do wrong and fail to acknowledge the things they did right.
TL;DR, the best advice I can give you is to find teammates who are really interested and are willing to put in their heart and soul into robotics. If you have non-interested teammates, you experience will be like my first one. If you do have interested teammates, you will do well so long as everyone puts in the time and work needed. And one more tip, as captain try to get yourself familiar with all aspects of robotics (notebooking/documentation, building, designing, strategy, etc). That way, should one part of the team need guidance, you can help them. Typically that’s the coaches job, but do it just in case you have a coach who’s not very robotics savvy (like my coach, although he is a great coach in the sense that he knows how to remotivate us in times of despair). And also, if you can, try to encourage your team not to bring their cell phones to the meetings. I’ve had especially bad experiences with teammates being stuck on their phones this year.
Anyways, that’s my 2 cents. Remember, this is coming from someone who has only done robotics in a small public school. Robotics team from an organization/homeschool will more likely have a much different (hopefully better) experience.
Good luck this season!
this is kind of like a semi-rant