Reflections on Reno, 2016 Edition
It's been over a week and the dust has settled, so now is a good time to write down my thoughts on the 2016 ASC Competition. It also took me a while to write these down because I'm not sure how I was going to state what was on my mind, so screw it, I'm just going to start typing...
Throwing Some Shade:
Okay, so this wasn't our best year. At Sac State, we're used to getting a few more trophies with a few higher placings. When one of our teams was called out as the 3rd place winner in a very contested competition, I turned to a buddy of mine who teaches at another school and said, "damn, they're going to be pissed." My buddy, after giving me a look that clearly read "you've got to be sh&%$ing me!" said "we brought seven teams and they worked hard to get here and they would have killed to get a third place." I'll delve into this later, but at that moment, I felt a little like an ass. Let's face it: when you have 1,300 students, many from the top CM programs in the United States, competing, very few are going to walk away with trophies, let alone first place ones.
Another Sac State team, however, acted like a bunch of babies when they were notified of their 3rd place finish. You know who you are. The tantrum wasn't localized to the team, as one coach looked like someone stole his bike from the schoolyard. Look, I get that no one likes to lose, but it happens. If you want others to respect you when your team wins, you need to respect others when they win. That's how true champions act after defeat. That, and they immediately start figuring how to regain the top spot. Tip your hat to the winner, seethe on the inside, and start getting better for next year. Doing better the following year does a lot to heal the scar tissue of disappointing finished the year prior. Besides, anyone thinking they would go through life undefeated is doing it wrong. No one in the construction industry gets every bid or finishes every project on budget and on time. It's how you learn from defeat that matters more than the loss itself because everyone loses at some point.
Another interesting realization from this year was that most of the teams I spoke to after their presentations admitted that they screwed something up. It happens. When you put six students in a room and ask them to do something that people in industry would find impossible under that same circumstances, mistakes are made. This is another reason to acknowledge the people who beat you in these types of competitions, because they likely screwed up less.
But there was a phenomenon that I experienced for the first time since I've been at Sac State. Judges, people helping judges, and people in the audience, in at least three competitions, pointed out that they have seen the same templates Sac State teams used for multiple years going. One judge pretty bluntly stated "the proposal I read today is the exact same proposal I read the past two years." Ouch. Not only does that show a lack of imagination, it is a gross display of laziness. This is a self-inflicted wound that no Sac State team should tolerate. The ASC Regions we compete in are no joke. Besides the usual competition from much larger schools like Cal Poly, Chico State, University of Washington, etc., we now need to contend with ballsy upstarts like USC (not exactly an upstart, but they're relatively new to Reno), New School of Architecture and Santa Clara. Folks, the only easy day was yesterday and we need to strive for perfection each year, and that target is moving.
Now for a Little Love:
So remember my buddy that thought I was a jerk for thinking we were crazy for being upset by a third place finish? Well, I'll admit I didn't feel that badly for my attitude or the team's. It was a bit of a sorry/not sorry moment. One of the things I love about being associated with Sac State CM is that we are some competitive S.O.B.s. And while I truly believe that it's important to be a gracious winner and loser, I really like that we typically don't take losing lying down. I think that's healthy and I think it's a necessary ingredient to being great. We're not satisfied with results that others would be over the moon for. You know who else is like that? Michael Jordan, Tom Brady (don't hate...), Derek Jeter (seriously, don't hate), and just about every other person that has reached the highest pinnacles of their respective fields.
Another thing I love about Sac State is that we're almost always on the forefront of innovation in CM competitions. Whether it be the use of industry coaches, a draft for selecting teams, getting our teams suites to work out of, using Prezi (ugh...not sure if I like that one), and so forth, we're usually the first ones there, and industry notices. That's why it hurt when people said our style is getting a bit dated. We're better than this, and I hope we return to our innovative ways. For better or worse, industry actually expects innovation from us! It may seem unfair, but judges expect us to be on the cutting edge. You can either whine about that or accept the mantle of being elite. I think I know where you stand and I will be proven correct next year when we get back to our way of competing. You feeling me?
One last thing: the Sac State presentations I saw were all pretty good (I apologize for missing two of them. Also, and completely off topic: Concrete's ability to play through the IT issue was pretty damn masterful). When recruiters asked me about many of the presenters, I embarrassingly said "I don't know who that is." That was because we fielded teams that were made up of a majority of students still in the lower division of the CM program! I am very proud of the returners who came back and served as mentors, particularly the five seniors that needed Reno like they needed a booming hangover. You young'uns may not know it yet, but those seniors coached you in ways your won't realize for a few years. I'm hoping that this year's juniors follow suit, because the next few years of Sac State talent is going to be deep and skilled. Many schools are in the same boat, so those of you thinking next year will be easier, you're not following along. But I think that our talent, along with the drive and competitiveness we typically bring to competitions, are going to be tough to beat in the future.
In closing, let's leave on a positive note:
1) Congrats to Heavy-Civil, Electrical and Concrete on third places in three unbelievably competitive competitions. I talked to people that watched all of the competitions in each of those problems and they said that the competition was absolutely brutal and that Sac State represented the University proudly.
2) Tyler Creason on getting a first place in the Alternate competition. Don't quote me on this, but I think that's the first Alt 1st place since I've been at Sac State.
3) Evan Albright getting MVP in the Electrical Competition. Absolute baller.
I'm proud of all of you that competed and look forward to next year. The 2017 Reno season starts today!
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I teach people who will be building our country's infrastructure.