Gracious professionalism is a term coined by Dr. Woodie Flowers, a FIRST Distinguished Advisor. Gracious professionalism is a way of acting that emphasizes strong competition and good sportsmanship. Gracious professionalism means helping opponents when they need it. Gracious professionalism is a healthy moderation of kindness and competitiveness.

It represents a large part of FIRST’s values and the behavior of participants themselves. Many, if not all speakers at FIRST events remind the teams to display gracious professionalism towards each other. Not that they need reminders, either. All the teams display very large amounts of team spirit, a desire to win, and a willingness to help anyone at all times. FIRST is one of the few places where you can find people with those traits in such large proportions.

Gracious professionalism is important to learn from a young age for several reasons. First, it develops students into the kinds of people who are willing to work towards what they want without feeling entitlement. This is a very important quality to have because with gracious professionalism students are willing to try their best to win, and at the same time display good sportsmanship in the case of loss. FIRST develops the competitors into well rounded individuals with a good STEM background.

These lessons learned early in life will help the students later in life when they move on to college, and eventually their careers. Whether it is a willingness to put in the work to get that “A” or promotion, the ability to fight for it is necessary. What’s more than that, however, is the ability to accept failure gracefully and success humbly. Gracious professionalism is about displaying kindness and good sportsmanship in the face of both winning and losing. It is a lesson useful in competition at every level, from the playing field to the big promotion.