Jump to content

Pinewood Derby (whats the most important thing?)

Recommended Posts

Our Pinewood Derby was a few weeks ago. During the committee meeting a week prior we discussed talking to our boys about 'its not about who wins or loses, but coming together as a pack and having fun'. I kept my true opinions to myself. Being an Assistant Den Leader for a short time on only attenting my 3rd committee meeting I didnt feel totally comfortable expressing my feelings.


But my feelings turned into reality. I saw half the boys either crying or really upset. We are stressing having fun. But the boys want to win. The committee can preach 'fun' but I know the each of us secretly wanted each of our own boys to win. BTW.. By son came in 1st in his den. So I am not a disgruntled father.

Link to post
Share on other sites

For me the most important thing is getting the fathers and sons to work on their cars together. Teaching the boys how to plan an execute a project and teaching them some woodworking skills.


Secondary to that is teaching sportsmanship. We have a Den Leader who really dislikes the derby because of the competition aspect. Personally, I think the boys need to learn, sooner or later, how to accept disappointment. Too many of the parents out there try to shield their children from disappointment. Then when faced with it, they break down crying. I talk to my son a lot about how to behave when he wins and when he loses. Some people don't do that.


Can I ask what race format you used? There are some that help the boys get in lots of racing against lots of different racers. That increases their chances of winning or being competitive in a few races.




(This message has been edited by Sylvar)

Link to post
Share on other sites

In my opinion, what you are seeing is a reflection of society. At some point in time, good clean competitive fun has become subjugated to a general win-at-all costs mentality. From the earliest of ages, children are being taught that winning is the goal of any competitive activity. The old phrase "it doesn't matter whether you win or lose but how you played the game" has been supplanted by "winning isn't everything, its the only thing". We are a nation obsessed with winning. Winners get the gold, the money, the chicks, the publicity. That is ingrained in us from constant media exposure and the proliferation of youth sports leagues with children being pressured to choose their sport at ever earlier ages. And parents that are placing far too much emphasis on tangible results (wins) rather than the intangibles of learning, growth, confidence, etc.


No one enjoys losing. But until competition is put into the proper perspective as a game to test your skills against yourself and others, and not with the sole purpose of crowning a victor, then those that do not win will go home feeling like losers.


While your pack may be stressing the 'fun', the boys may be getting an entirely different story at home from a dad whose zeal may be setting expectations for racing glory.


I have heard of packs that just run the derby for fun - scouts run their cars until the wheels fall of with no designated winners. That is always an option, but I would suspect that may be a very difficult format to establish.


We used to run the derby for results, with another fun track set up in another room that the scouts would go to after their 'sanctioned' races. Laughter and enjoyment emanated from that other room. Scouts saddened by not winning in the sanctioned race, usually went home with a smile after seeing their cars in action on the fun track. In those particularly difficult situations, I had my special, secret-weapon car (light weight, bent axles, etc) that would be brought out for challenge races against scouts that were really frustrated. That car had a perfect record (all loses). At a minimum, they could go home boasting that they beat the CM.


(This message has been edited by SemperParatus)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think we may be underestimating how resilient the boys can be. They deal with win/loss situations all day, every day, at school, at the playground, with siblings, in sports, and so on. I doubt that the boys who "melt down" at a PWD similarly melt down in all these other settings where they don't come in first. Then, why does this happen? It isn't the BSA intent to create this drama. It obviously isn't the committee intent, either. I look to the parents, who are likely building this expectation of "we're gonna kick tail", then if they don't, it's a huge disappointment.


You can't control parental behavior at home, so make sure the Pack PWD has as much fun and excitement built in for every boy, no matter how his car does. Concession stand, racing-type decorations (loaned or donated by auto parts stores and car dealers), PA system with music and sound effects, pre-race awards and photos including coupons, gift certificates, frisbees, whatever, for every Scout, drivers licenses, other activities while they're waiting to race, etc. When I put together PWDs, only the Scouts touched their cars once checked in -- they took them to and from the pit, placed them on the track, and retrieved them at the end. It's their car, let them race them.


Of course, you also have to stress fun, teamwork, sportsmanship, along with the competition angle -- not just on race day, but from the first time PWD is mentioned. One nice touch one of our DLs did in a previous council was to hold a car clinic with new families or tool-challenged dads, to help them build competitive cars.


I also believe that PWD is only one event in an overall quality Pack program that should include raingutter regatta, space derby, and cubmobile. If PWD is good, doing all these things is better.



Link to post
Share on other sites

The kids reflect the values of the adults they are surrounded by.


I've coached "non-competitive" YMCA basketball and watched the kids keep count in their heads. But, as long as the coaches didn't make a big deal about it, they were okay. I remember coaching a 4-5 year old team and we came up against this team coached by a guy that looked like Sinbad. He yelled at them like Bobby Knight. He did everything but cuss and throw a chair! His team looked like a mini-Duke team. Every time he yelled, our guys would all stop and stare out him. That would usually leave an open layup for his guys.


My point is... kids will be competive. But, how they react to that is largely in the hands of the parents and leaders. When I was CM, I always encouraged my den leaders, who knew the parents much better, to help keep an eye on this and keep things from getting out of hand.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I spent a bit of time between our pack meeting last night and now pondering this question.


We ended up with a situation where a boy didn't bring his car to the weigh in at the Pack meeting. Why isn't important. What bothers me is the CM was firm in not allowing the boy to have his car measured some other day so he could be included in the races. Keep in mind that our weigh in date is 10 days before race date, so there isn't any time crunch that would preclude anyone from being able to measure another car before race day.


Now I understand the need to follow the rules, but unwavering adherance to a deadline that results in the exclusion of a boy seems a bit extreme. It's not like he cheated.


But what's most important? Participation or strict adherance to all the rules?



Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

First of jammer3598, what format did your pack race with? Elimination? This type of format will for sure cause teary eyes. We usually run all cars, all lanes with the ranking based on fastest average time on all the lanes. This kept the boys interested all the way until the end. Now, there were a lot of explanations that preceded the race during pack meetings. This format seems to satisfy alot of the more vocal dads who do not think a particular lane is fair for example. Last year, our laser gate broke which resulted in us running double elimination method. There were teary eyes and upset cubs. We vowed not to do that again. Another thing that we did differently for the last 5 years is to have a workshop to pass on the knowledge of how to get the cars competitive and to make sure that the cars at least finish the race. Nothing breaks a boy's heart more than seeing his car slows down to a crawl and stops in the middle of the track because it doesn't weigh enough. We also allow them to add or delete weights at check-in as usual.


NewCubDad ... the derby is for the boys. Participation is more important; however, that does not mean that we should bend the rules that are being applied across the board. For example, one of our cub (actually a dad) wanted to check his car in late (we check our cars in 10 days before the race) because his father was too busy with baseball season to have time to finish a car. We allowed it but we made sure that he understood that his car will only compete in the opened class races and not his rank. They understood and agreed to the agreement. There were no hard feelings.


For our pack, we clearly defined the rules and clearly explain it to the parents and the boys. We will make exceptions to special cases and the derby committee rules on the exceptions. We usually allow late check-ins (all the way up to one hour before race), but the cars will be run in the opened class. We found out one year that bending the rule for one boy caused a ripple effect and that caused teary eyes. Rules are there to make it fair, but rules can be interpreted and explained so that a boy's participation can be realized.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

I am always perplexed whenever there is an "event" and society is compelled to categorize it as either competitive or non-competitive, as if they are mutually exclusive terms. There is no reason why an activity has to be one or the other as learning (cognitive and affective domains), to include conduct, can be very enjoyable and satisfying, particularly when theory and hypotheses are realized in actuality (design).


In my five years experience, to include Den Leader and on the committee that determines the rules (1 of 5 years), the most grievous situations occurred not with the Dad's, but with the official "leaders" involved with the execution of the race. With the exception of the last two years, which I will explain/recommend below, inevitably what causes the most chaos and confusion/problems is with those "leaders" that are either not qualified to conduct the race and/or have not taken the time to realize the importance of conducting the race, e.g. make sure all cars race the same amount of times in the same lanes (remove the track as a variable) and make sure the pairings are done correctly (everyone races enough people and/or you don't restrict the number of people that can advance in a den, since you could have the fastest three cars in the same den). In addition, make sure you have a computer and not use the human eye as "the judge"; the human eye can not differentiate to one thousandths of a second. No matter how much people want to focus on Dad and the Scout making the car, this is all superceded/irrelevant if the race execution is flawed. The district should have training to consider all of these issues/variables and ensure people are qualified to properly conduct the race.

There will always be sore losers and sore winners, arrogance and humility. There will always be excuses and those that try to put a car together the night before.

What I have learned and have witnessed is that if the race is conducted properly and you post the rules in advance/when distributing the kit (recommend applying only the minimum requirements, as depicted in the kit, i.e. use BSA approved parts and only be concerned about the length, width, and weight) and then let innovation and ingenuity take over. PACKS only exasperate/complicate the situation when they try to induce rules that can not be enforced such as you can "modify" the wheels to take out the burrs of the wheel mold. How do you regulate the subjective word "modify" and then measure/enfore? You can't due to subjectivity.

Just like in life not all people approach the same activities with the same attitude and aptitude and you shouldn't penalize those who both want to try their best, and, enjoy the situation, by trying to imply and create rules or procedures; wherein, the attempt is trying to equalize the field. Noble and compassionate, but not practical or possible.


Lesson learned: make sure the PACK has the knowledge and the proper means/equipment to conduct the race, and establish the minimum requirements and the scouts can witness first hand that the outcome is directly correlated to the input/effort, attitude and aptitude of those that want to do their best and not succumb to apathy or mediocrity, just like in real-life. For those that cast stones and behave inappropriately regardless of the outcome; the behavior far outlasts any implied grievousness on who really made the car. Practicality in this says that if the scout is making the car totally by themselves, then safety (use of the necessary tools) has been compromised, i.e. making the car is intended to be BOTH a Dad and Scout activity and safety surpasses who "really" made the car. Given that, if the Dad is exclusively making the car in reality, then the only person who does not benefit in the end is the scout, sadly. Peace, pjha

Link to post
Share on other sites

What's the most important?


I think it should be the time the boy and parents spend working on a common project. It is a way to force parents to spend time with their own kid.


Second is to plan and execute a project. Some people just start cutting until it looks like a car. Some build elaborate paper templates. Either way, you shape a car, paint and decorate a car, attach the wheels, adjust the weight and race it. The boy did something instead of watching it on TV.


Third is also about entering your work and comparing it against others on a level playing field. Yes, some parents are more crafty or handy with tools. I held a workshop as a den meeting. I brought my tools. Our Pack holds at least one but often several workshops where tools are provided along with people who know how to use them. Our Pack posts tips and techniques on how to increase speed on the post website. Additionally the Pack posts templates of cars on the website. We try to provide as much information as possible and make it as easy as possible to build a competitive car. We make a dedicated effort to level the field.


Last year we ran on a wooden track with a broken timer. Eyeballs called races and we used double elimination. Lots of unhappy scouts and parents. The Pack made an investment in a new metal track, software, and timer. This year every car ran on every lane. Times were posted on the wall via a projector real time. Everyone was happy. We did not recieve a single complaint.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had two articles on 1/19/2002 that really made me think about the Pinewood derby.


One was written by a grown Cub (Nunzio Lupo) on his Derby experience. His dad had built the car completely, from design to the last coat of lacquer. As he says, "I would venture downstars occasionally to observe his progress and watch him work a little." His cars were consistent winners for appearance and speed. And he didn't feel deprived of the chance to build is own car. He spent much of his childhood feeling ashamed of differences between himself and other boys.


"Yet, for that one magic night a year, my father helped me play that little boys' game and not feel like a loser.


"More than he ever knew, it was a gift. I love him for it."


The other was written by a Dad (Nick Tate) who had struggled with how much to help his Cub. The first year, he did nothing and the wheels kept falling off the car. The second year, he took charge and made a nice car, but felt he had taken over too much. The third, they worked togeher. He concluded:


"We want our kids to show up at the track with a cool-looking car that really moves.


"But we need to resist the temptation to jump in and take over. Being a good derby dad means being a supportive guide and teacher, not a micromanaging boss. It may be the hardest thing for us to do - stand by as our kids make their own decision (and, let's face it, mistakes)."


Reading these, I realized that there isn't one simple answer to what the Pinewood Derby means. For some boys, the competition is good for them to learn about winning and losing. For some, the building is good as an exercise in independence or in working with their parent or even in watching their parent do something for them. Each boy, each family, is different, I suppose.


For myself, I've helped my 3 sons in 8 PDs (so far), some more, some less. I suggested that they build a car that they would enjoy playing with after the derby, to move a little of the focus off that one day. This created more tanks and battering rams than cars, but they seemed to have fun, before and after the race.



Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...