University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

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University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by theMoMA » Tue Apr 14, 2009 2:44 pm

Announcing: the University of Minnesota's Nationals warmup tournament! This event will take place on Saturday, May 9. It will use HSAPQ's ACF-format 3 set, with powers. For teams that have qualified for nationals, this tournament will be a great chance to get in a few more competitive games before NAQT and PACE nationals. Teams that did not qualify for nationals are welcome to participate, as well.

This tournament will take place in Blegen Hall on the U of M West Bank. Registration will be from 8:15 until 8:45, with games starting at 9:00 after a brief information meeting.

The cost will be $70 per team, with a $5 discount available for buzzers, a $10 discount for providing readers, and a $10 out-of-state discount (once per school).

Please send RSVPs to me at limozeen@gmail.com.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/2 at the U of M

Post by gaurav.kandlikar » Wed Apr 15, 2009 10:31 pm

Eden Prairie will send at least one team.

Also, this is the Saturday before the AP testing weeks... Would this drastically affect the composition of the field?
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/2 at the U of M

Post by theMoMA » Thu Apr 16, 2009 12:12 am

Gautam thought it would be better than during AP week. If it's a huge deal, we can probably push it back to 5/9 if a lot of people want that.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/2 at the U of M

Post by sam.peterson » Thu Apr 16, 2009 11:33 pm

I'm voting for 5/9. Due to prom (as well as a track meet beforehand for me) 5/2 is out for a lot of Chaskans.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/2 at the U of M

Post by theMoMA » Mon Apr 20, 2009 6:51 pm

This tournament is almost certainly going to be rescheduled to the ninth.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by theMoMA » Wed Apr 29, 2009 2:58 pm

First field update:

Mounds Park, 1 team
EPHS, 2 teams
Chaska area, 1 team
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by theMoMA » Tue May 05, 2009 5:24 pm

We have four teams, and this tournament is happening.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Cheynem » Tue May 05, 2009 6:43 pm

FOUR TEAM ACTION--QUADRUPLE ROUND ROBIN FOR THE WIN
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by gaurav.kandlikar » Sat May 09, 2009 6:21 pm

Gautam wants me to note that stats are posted here.

I had fun playing this, though having more teams show up would have made the tournament even better.

Thanks to MN for running this despite the low attendance, and congrats to Chaska and Sam.

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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by master15625 » Sat May 09, 2009 8:16 pm

Wow, good tournament run, despite the few number of teams present. It must have been fun playing the same three teams three times.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Edward Powers » Sun May 10, 2009 3:40 pm

I was just perusing the Quizbowl site and came across this small tournament. Curiosity invited me to view the stats, and, for whatever reason, although I had periodically seen comaparbly majestic statistical performances before, I was stunned by Sam of Chaska's overall performance---130 ppg? This led to a deeper curiosity and perplexity.

Why perplexity? I suppose that my coaching and appearances at tournaments seeing so many good performances has sometimes blinded me to the truly remarkable gifts youngsters like Sam possess, because too often scores like these are just taken for granted, rather than appreciated for the stunning underlying achievements and skills they might truly represent. So---I was perplexed at my own failure to ask such a simple question before---how explain such skill and achievement in one so young?

Which leads to my question---can Sam himself explain this? Is it a function of long hours of dedicated study in addition to what must be tremendous natural talent? Or, is it a function of good coaching and certain skills or tricks learned over the years? Or, is it simply some kind of knack he cannot explain? Or..Or...Or...I suppose I cold conjure many more such questions---but my questions are not idly curious---they are, rather, educational in the deepest sense, I hope, for as a coach I would like to nurture the best in all of my young charges. Further, as a teacher, and I think I speak for many teachers, we also run across youngsters who, for whatever reasons, seem to know or learn very little, and, even worse, sadly often seem not to care. Yet here is a youngster who obviously seems to have an extraordinary range and depth of knowledge upon which to draw and who can conjure this knowledge swiftly, as quizbowl of course requires. But it is the pre-existing range and depth of knowledge that Sam taps into in the first place that most intrigues---how, at such a young age, has he acquired it? Can he explain? And would he be willing to share whatever insights he can shed on these to someone who admires such gifts and wishes to help other youngsters more effciently cultivate their own as well? So, Sam, if you are reading this---or if there are any other youngsters out there reading this who also have had successes like Sam's at one time or another---how do you explain your successes and would you be willing to share your insights?

Thanks---and congratulations, not only to Sam, but to all who struggle to make Sam's efforts, and the efforts of others like Sam, harder to achieve because you compel him and them to continually get better in order to score as they do. In short---congrats to all who love quizbowl competitions and, more important, the underlying educational achievements and excellence such competitions should and hopefully do represent and cultivate.

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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Strongside » Sun May 10, 2009 4:27 pm

I can't speak for Sam, but I have played with and against him, and watched him play.

I don't know exactly how he has gotten to to this level, although I did give him some suggestions once. The main ways to get better at quiz bowl from my experience are:

1. Playing, practicing on questions.

2. Looking over tournaments, and trying to memorize stuff.

3. Talent.

Also, if you want to learn more about Sam, you can read these articles.

http://www.startribune.com/local/west/38786267.html

http://www.mspmag.com/features/features ... 128784.asp

http://www.chanvillager.com/news/school ... rfect-2709
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Sun May 10, 2009 4:46 pm

Edward Powers wrote:stuff
Edward, bring your kids to a tournament in the MD/DC/VA area sometime next year... and you'll see about 4-5 "Sam's" at one competition. It's an awesome sight.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Edward Powers » Sun May 10, 2009 6:15 pm

Brendan---thank you for your contributions. The links on Sam were both interesting and informative---and the steps for improvement that you outline are certainly good, and as a coach I have used these as well as others, as I am sure you can imagine. More interesting to me is the fact that you indicated that you actually played against Sam personally---I assume when he was at least one year younger, since you are in college now, are you not? Anyway---I assume he was quite impressive even then, but my question is---did you ever ask him about his performances, if they were as stellar as I assume they were? Ever share any insights with each other? Based on the links about Sam that you provided, he seems to be quite personable & open, so I assume he also was with you if you ever became friendly. And, most important, as I am sure you are aware, my real concern is at least twofold---that we not take such outstanding performances or performers for granted, and, 2nd, that we try to learn from the best what it is they can share with us, assuming they wish to.

Anyway, thanks for your insights.

And I have not forgotten your post, Coach Chrzanowski---thank you as well for pointing out your experience in DC. I have only read about those tournaments--I have not seen one in person---but I can imagine how wonderful it is to see so many talented youngsters squaring off and more often than not living up to their great reputations. I have seen some of the individual statistics---but you have seen the live performances---which must be impressive indeed, especially when they are facing each other. I know from looking at the stats periodically that there is a young lad up here at Hunter College High School who is in the league of the types of players you must be discussing---a student you are doubtless more familiar with than I am---Guy Tabachink, I believe? I hope I have not misspelled his last name. Anyway---my deeper concern is that we simply marvel at these youngsters and then stop at that---rather than try to learn from them by ASKING them what constructive insights they could share about thier own experiences and abilities. But perhaps you have not simply marveled at their abilities---perhaps you have inquired of them yourself and learned a thing or two from them? If so, I'd love to know what they shared---if you'd be willing.

In the meantime---to all the young Sams out there who have performed at the levels we are discussing---care to join in the converstion? I hope so.

In the meantime I look forward to any insights, from coaches, competitors, organizers, but most especially from the young people at the heart of this thread---those who have had the kind of success Sam and his peers have had, whether they reside in DC, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Illlinois, South Carolina, California, or any other place across this broad land--or even in foregin lands---known for the general excellence of its quizbowl players...

Thanks.

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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Strongside » Sun May 10, 2009 6:39 pm

Sam is three years behind me in school. I never played against him or knew who he was when I was in high school. I don't think he started doing quiz bowl (at least not NAQT) until I was in college, but I could be wrong. I played against him at some college tournaments that allowed high schoolers to play, and at summer practices hosted by someone in the area.

I don't know Sam really well, and haven't talked to him extensively about quiz bowl. He has definitely improved at quiz bowl since he started playing.

The class of 2009 seems to be a pretty strong class in terms of quiz bowl talent, and I know many of them plan to keep playing in college, so that's a good thing.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Kouign Amann » Sun May 10, 2009 7:02 pm

I'm certainly no Sam, or Guy, or Ike, or Henry, or anybody of any consequence whatsoever, but I do hope to be one someday in the future, and here are my thoughts. Make of them what you will:

There are two primary ways I try to improve at quizbowl. First, I go to as many tournaments as I can in order to play against the stars, meet cool people, entrench myself in the community, get a better handle on the canon, listen to and learn bunches of clues in a single day, and, of course, compete. I'm sure most people will back me up when I say I get a huge thrill out of playing quizbowl. It's a rush, and I love it.

The second way I work on improving is by studying my butt off on my own time by, again, learning as many clues as I can and building up my canon sense. I reread every tournament I attend for which the questions are released, and many others besides. Sometimes, when I mention such things to some of my less enlightened friends, they ridicule me. Studying for fun!?!? Loserrrrrr. I don't care. Quizbowl is a game I'm dedicated to, and I know I have to work at it in order to be good. Sounds lonely, sounds a little "Westbrookian," but I like it. It's like (WARNING: DREADED SPORTS ANALOGY FOLLOWING) basketball, my other competitive passion. Just showing up at practice and playing in games is never going to make me a good basketball player. Sure, I can have fun, but in order to be good, I have to be dedicated, and I have to put in my own time. </DSA>

So I guess it's part work, part dedication, and part natural disposition and talent. You have to work, you have to work hard, and you have to want to work. In terms of necessary steps to succeed, it's like a lot of things in life.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Sun May 10, 2009 7:04 pm

ITT inspirational quizbowl stories and motivation...
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Cheynem » Sun May 10, 2009 7:13 pm

How do you get good at quiz bowl? I'll make it short and sweet. Family, religion, friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed at this game. When it's time to study the fifth most important work of Sarah Orne Jewett, you don't want to be driving to a maternity hospital or sitting in some phony-baloney church. Or synagogue.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Terrible Shorts Depot » Sun May 10, 2009 7:29 pm

Spite has made me the player I am today. That and a passion for looking at pretty pictures and hearing pretty words. I guess I like learning things too, or something.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Important Bird Area » Sun May 10, 2009 7:42 pm

Cheynem wrote:How do you get good at quiz bowl? I'll make it short and sweet. Family, religion, friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed at this game. When it's time to study the fifth most important work of Sarah Orne Jewett, you don't want to be driving to a maternity hospital or sitting in some phony-baloney church. Or synagogue.
Mike, I think you got it backwards. The true key to quizbowl success lies in making sure that your family, friends, and co-religionists are studying the fourth, sixth, and seventh-most important Jewett works, so your team can dominate the entire Jewett-related answer space. Don't wait until it's too late: start reading "A White Heron" aloud to the kid on the way home from the hospital. By the time he or she reaches sophomore year, you'll be able to count on at least 20 ppg at Chicago Open...
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by BuzzerZen » Sun May 10, 2009 8:15 pm

bt_green_warbler wrote:Mike, I think you got it backwards. The true key to quizbowl success lies in making sure that your family, friends, and co-religionists are studying the fourth, sixth, and seventh-most important Jewett works, so your team can dominate the entire Jewett-related answer space. Don't wait until it's too late: start reading "A White Heron" aloud to the kid on the way home from the hospital. By the time he or she reaches sophomore year, you'll be able to count on at least 20 ppg at Chicago Open...
Too bad we're probably still many years away from someone playing on an open team with one of their children.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Susan » Sun May 10, 2009 8:46 pm

BuzzerZen wrote:
bt_green_warbler wrote:Mike, I think you got it backwards. The true key to quizbowl success lies in making sure that your family, friends, and co-religionists are studying the fourth, sixth, and seventh-most important Jewett works, so your team can dominate the entire Jewett-related answer space. Don't wait until it's too late: start reading "A White Heron" aloud to the kid on the way home from the hospital. By the time he or she reaches sophomore year, you'll be able to count on at least 20 ppg at Chicago Open...
Too bad we're probably still many years away from someone playing on an open team with one of their children.
Yeah, that's happened already.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Edward Powers » Sun May 10, 2009 10:40 pm

Ah---I can see that the demons of humor have overtaken this thread, which is probably a good thing, indeed, a wondrous thing. We can get tooooooooooo earnest about quizbowl, I know. So---thanks for the humor, and to those who did give more candid answers---for example, Aidan---thanks, and best of luck with your admirable & hopefully joyous efforts at continued improvement---> Maybe this is the geuine and not so secret "secret"...

Now, if I could only understand Coach C's "ITT Inspirational Stories" response...any guidance here Coach?

Meanwhile---apologies to Guy Tabachnick for mispelling your name in an earlier post...

Which reminds me---in a totally tangential inquiry directed at my neighbors in NY for a moment---did I read corrrectly, Hunterites???? Hunter College HS---one of the BEST teams this year in quizbowl--- has withdrawn from HSNCT? Or is this a misprint or oversight in the HSNCT list of attendees? Curious here in your neighboring Garden State...

And getting back on topic before closing---ergo, getting back to Sam and to all the peers of Sam out there---insights would still be welcomed---especially if sent with a significant dose of humor as well---honoring those humorists who have placed my queries in a more playful and, hopefully, more inviting light...

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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by sam.peterson » Sun May 10, 2009 11:52 pm

I'm going to sleep now, but before I do...

1) There are at least five current high school players who are better generalists than I.
2) I can't really tell if your comments are meant to be taken seriously, and if so, about what exactly are you curious? How good qb players became good?
3) If you're genuinely interested in my experience with qb, I'll post some more stuff later...
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Edward Powers » Mon May 11, 2009 1:16 am

Sam---thanks for responding.

To be brief---yes, I was serious and still am. If you read my original post in this thread, you will discern this. But I noticed what appeared to be some fellow posters having a little fun with my inquiry, which I also understood---we CAN get too serious about quizbowl. So I became playful with them, not wanting to get tooooo earnest about these isssues.

Yet the deeper issues, beyond the humor and playfulness, are surely educational in the best sense, so, I am curious---how do you explain the depth & breadth of you knowlege---the precondition of your great quizbowl success--- at such a young age? And, even assuming that your assessment that at least 5 others in all of quizbowl are better generalists than you is in fact a reasonably accurate assessmnet, this still places you in quite exceptional company, and you and the others like you might perhaps have much to teach the rest of us if you care to become more conscious or explicit in sharing exactly how you actually do what you do.

So---to try to keep this brief---you ask what do I really wish to learn?

My Most Elemental Answer: Any insights you could share about how and why you have performed so admirably, and, more important, how did you attain the depth and range of knowledge which enables you to perform so well? In short, was it & is it mostly inexplicable natural talent, a gift largely since birth, or, is there an art and science to it that you can isolate, identify & share? If the latter, it could possibly help coaches like me to enrich the experiences of all of our players, and most especially the youngest ones, since we will have them the longest. Further, perhaps your insights are transferable to the classroom as well, so, indirectly any ideas or principles which you might notice, or perhaps have already noticed, that have clearly helped you along the way might also help other youngsters, both in quizbowl and in the classroom generally, to have richer and more enjoyable learning experiences, which, from a purely quizbowl standpoint,could also lead to even greater and even more exciting quizbowl touirnaments as a natural consequence---the proverbial 'icing on the cake.'

Finally---and I know this is not as brief as I had suggested at the outset, but, I promise, here IS the finale---I ask all of this of you because too often coaches & teachers, with the best of intentions, top be sure, nevertheless get so wrapped up in their respsonsibilites that they sometimes can become uncreative and even forget the simplest of things---to ask their students or players what works for them, what excites them, what inspires them. So---I'm asking you, since you have had such great success---is there anything which, upon reflection that you care to share, perhaps even something you hadn't thought of until now because you had not, perhaps, been asked in this fully explicit and conscious way before to discover if in fact there has been a teachable art to much of what you have done? And I'm sure you've discovered by now, if you've reread the entire original posting and what has followed, I am really directing these questions not simply at you, but at all of your peers across the country as well who have had tremendous success at quizbowl, a success whose pre-condition is and must be a broad and deep body of well earend knowlege. So, perhaps your peers across the nation, past & present, can join in this conversation as well, helping old codgers like myself to help others like yourselves in the future, sharing thereby in the joys and insights that have made you the best of the best

Thanks for your time and patience---and congratulations on your most recent exploits in quizbowl, and, of course, best of luck at nationals.

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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Cheynem » Mon May 11, 2009 7:26 am

Yes, Mr. Burns quotations aside, the best advice I can give you for your students is to cultivate an atmosphere of intellectual curiosity. That is, stress that it's great to learn things, whether it be in a match, at practice, in class, or every day life. Now I'm not as good as Sam and I'm in grad school, but what helps me get buzzes is that I enjoy learning and retaining new information. That doesn't mean it's easy, that's where the memory and the retention skills come through which are harder to really practice or teach. But with a foundational attitude, good things can happen.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by aestheteboy » Mon May 11, 2009 8:24 am

I do not think that extraordinary level of success in quizbowl requires extraordinary natural gift. What it requires more than anything else is the willingness and ability to put in great amount of time into activities that are relevant to knowledge covered in quizbowl. They often are directly related to quizbowl (reading old packets, "studying," practicing, going to tournaments), but they also include things that people do simply because they enjoy it (readings books, going to museums, paying attention in class, etc. . . . and for NAQT, watching ESPN and MTV and reading the Economist).

People who play quizbowl on average are much smarter than the general population so the number I give is not particularly meaningful, but I would say that at least 10-20% of the people who are serious about quizbowl become as good or better than Sam (in other words, I think there are fewer than 50-25 people in each class who are really serious about getting better at quizbowl). To be honest, I think at least half of the people who are truly passionate about quizbowl can become (and has already become or will become) top high school quizbowl players. What you can do as a coach is to always encourage your players and tell them that sheer effort suffices to become good, that all of them have the potential to be the next Sam.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Edward Powers » Mon May 11, 2009 1:23 pm

Thank you Mike and Daichi---I appreciate your insights and the time you took to offer them. I also enjoy the humor behind Daichi's "Law" on posting.

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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by at your pleasure » Mon May 11, 2009 2:46 pm

Too bad we're probably still many years away from someone playing on an open team with one of their children.
Has anyone ever played on a open team with a relative?
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Mon May 11, 2009 2:57 pm

As Susan said upthread,
myamphigory wrote:Yeah, that's happened already.
In addition to the example she's thinking of, my dad played on my team for a round of ECSO.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Gautam » Mon May 11, 2009 9:00 pm

everyday847 wrote:As Susan said upthread,
myamphigory wrote:Yeah, that's happened already.
In addition to the example she's thinking of, my dad played on my team for a round of ECSO.
Some high schooler played with his dad at the 2006 MASQUE (HSNCT mirror.) It wasn't really an "open" tournament in the sense of difficulty, but there weren't really restrictions on who could play...
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Auroni » Mon May 11, 2009 10:18 pm

I'm getting my dad to play on one of the teams at San Diego Open.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by BuzzerZen » Mon May 11, 2009 10:36 pm

I guess I meant more along the lines of some modern-era quizbowler playing with their child some years down the line.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Edward Powers » Wed May 13, 2009 3:12 pm

I guess the discussion of the excellences displayed by Sam and others like him around the nation has died---or has it?

Anyone care to contribute to the discussion concerning the art and/or science of excellence in quizbowl, especially those who have achceived objective levels of success as recognizable by any observer?

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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Gautam » Wed May 13, 2009 4:52 pm

In my view, there are 4 things one must do if he/she wants to get better at this game. They include:
1. Hanging around quizbowlers who are pretty good. Hear what they are talking about, what they are reading, what their hobbies are, etc.
2. Having the motivation to read a bunch of old packets and figure out what quizbowl loves to ask about, what clues come up, etc.
3. Buzzing in on places where you "should know" the answer to a question, even if you really don't know it. This immediately follows from point #2, I think, but once you start looking up many packet, it becomes an easier task.
4. Regularly training neural circuits. Every week(if not daily) keep looking up things you heard about at a tournament but didn't know; or something you read on wikipedia but can't recall what it is, or some book you saw at a book store.

I myself practice only one of those regularly, but I've arrived at those four "requirements" by observing others around me. Also, I feel like those are the bare-minimum requirements, so any added effort will only make players much better. People who perform those four activities diligently (even any three of those four may be enough) are 100% guaranteed to be better players. Even the dumbest person ever will reach to the "elite player" status at some point, even though it may take him/her more time that it would for the smartest person ever. It seems to me that even if you don't write a single question, or read a single book or do science experiments, etc., the above practices are guaranteed to get you there.

Of course, reading books and listening to classical music will only make you much much better. I know that a lot of the top players do read books and stuff, so I'm not saying that everybody's gotten better just by memorizing every clue possible without having any "real knowledge." However, I do believe that there is pretty much no "natural way" of becoming as good as some of the players and that putting in the extra effort is essential to reaching elite-dom.

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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Cheynem » Wed May 13, 2009 5:06 pm

I wrote something similar in another context, but let me paraphrase it here. Here's the steps that have helped me, building off my original post about being intellectually curious.

1. Establish a "lockdown" category. This is actually easier than it sounds. Most quizbowlers have a category they just know because they like it a lot or they are studying it college or whatever. Whether it be science or literature or history, it just comes very naturally to them. That doesn't mean you know everything about it, but let's take me. I love American history. I study it at school, I read it in my free time, etc. Just from not doing anything from my normal routine, I have a strong canon of American history clues that I can (and do) buzz on.

The problem is many quizbowlers master this step and plateau. Let's move on.

2. Stuff from class. This sounds like a no-brainer, but I'm always a little befuddled when people say during a game (including myself!) "Hmm, I just read that in class and I don't remember the name of it." Ack! That should be free points! That stuff you learn in class more likely than not will come up in a match. I'm not even talking about your own subject. I don't study literature but having spent six+ years in college and four years in high school, I've read a reasonable amount of literature for various humanities classes. And I've also found that if I retain what I read about a book, I can beat better literature players to it on a tossup sometimes if they're just going by stock clues or summaries.

3. Stuff from everyday life. It's important to remember things because you like learning in all situations, even in non-academia situations. I helped 30 a bonus part on mythology recently because the myth story happened to be similar to this Marvel Comics story I was reading. I've gotten quite a bit of tossups/bonuses based on movie reviews or films I've seen. Even at ICT this year I got a tossup based on checking sports standings. I'm not saying study these things deliberately, but just retain them.

4. Stuff from old packets/tournaments/stuff you played. The latter is kind of key. Even when you're getting smacked around by Chicago A or whoever and you just want to crawl into a corner and cry, it's important to pay attention to the kinds of clues that are being buzzed on. And remember them! I don't usually take notes during a match, but I always take notes when I neg on something because I want to remember why I confused something for another. Earlier in the year, I negged on the Trent Affair and the Ashanti war. At Nationals, I answered tossups on both of these things, primarily because I had negged on them and had remembered doing that.

5. Write stuff. Okay, in high school, you don't do this as much as in college. That doesn't mean it's a bad idea. Even if it's just for practice. I've barely written anything and already I can say I've answered a good chunk of questions based on stuff I've written.

All of this takes a little bit of dedication, some mental acuity, and above all intellectual curiosity.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by at your pleasure » Wed May 13, 2009 7:24 pm

I'm not a spectaular player by any strech of the imagination, but I will add one thing to Mike's post:
Build off of what you know. To a certain extent, this is related to having a lockdown category(or subcategory), but you should use that category to expand your knowledge base into other categories. For instance, a person with an interest in paintings could use that to expand into parts of RMP since many artworks that person might study have a religious or mythical subject.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by sam.peterson » Wed May 13, 2009 10:34 pm

So, this monster of a post includes an essay on quizbowl that I put together for the Common App. I'd like preface it by saying that I don't currently hold all of the same views on quizbowl that I did at the time I wrote this (read: if something doesn't accurately reflect the circuit or the philosophy of good quizbowl, I don't need to know about it -- I wrote this when my awareness of the game was not so great). That said, I think that this gets at what Mr. Powers is interested in; namely, the process of improving at qb and how that plays out for different successful players.

Some thoughts in response to Mr. Powers' questions/comments:
-You mention the youth of high school players a lot, but I don't think that age significantly impacts one's ability to succeed at qb.
-Memory is, in my opinion, what we mean when we discuss "talent" in quizbowl. I've noticed that I'm able to retain new clues and recall them in games at a higher rate than most of my competitors. Aside from this, everything comes down to work.
-By work, I mean learning clues. Reading packets is essentially the only form of studying that I do for quizbowl now. I have used lists at times, but never consistently. When I read a packet I look up interesting, novel things on Wikipedia.
-I began playing quizbowl at a fairly "tabula rasa"-ish level. As a sophomore, I knew at most 20% of the answer lines in an A-series set. That number would probably still be below 1/3 today if I didn't devote ample time to reading packets on my own. The formula is simple, exposure yourself to as much stuff as you can and retain as much of it as you can. There is no upper bound on how much you can learn, but people do exhibit varying levels of efficiency.
-All of this "work" presupposes some sort of motivation. Daichi touched on this, and I endorse what he said.

Anyways, this narrative hopefully addresses what you're curious about, Mr. Powers. At the very least it should make it pretty easy to write a meta tossup on Sam Peterson (note: I still have yet to learn character names from Soyinka works).

PROMPT: Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you. (250 words minimum)

No experience has made more of a profound intellectual impact on me than playing quizbowl. The first question I ever got was on Ben Franklin. Heart pounding, I pressed the buzzer. Everyone’s eyes were on me. I gave my answer. Mr. L nodded in approval and I breathed a sigh of relief. A warm feeling of accomplishment came over me. I had recognized a line about proposing the Albany Plan – an event I had recently learned about in APUSH. By the end of the practice, I was hooked.

I was successful in a team activity called Knowledge Bowl throughout middle school and it was natural that I would try out quizbowl once I was at the high school. What was not natural was that I would make the top team as a sophomore at a school that was a perennial contender for state titles. But, after wholeheartedly jumping into the upperclassmen-dominated practices and managing to get some good buzzes, I was in.

Immediately I began to crave the rewarding feeling brought on by nailing a question on The Hunchback of Notre Dame because I had read it the previous summer. Facts gleaned from history lectures continued to earn me points and I began to become even more inquisitive than usual in class. Luckily, Mrs. Hanson took it in stride. “Where did the Central Pacific and Union Pacific lines finally meet?” “It won’t come up on the exam, but it’s Promontory, Utah.” I began making mental notes about hundreds of details like this and it started to pay off. Because quizbowl questions begin with difficult clues and become progressively easier, it’s never simply enough to know an author’s most famous book or the definition of a mathematical concept. Rather, good players must seek out more detailed knowledge and remember harder clues. Thus, I can never know enough about Kurt Vonnegut. Sure, I’ve read Slaughterhouse-Five, but I can always learn some characters from Cat’s Cradle, or better yet, read it.

I also began paying greater attention in classes that I wasn’t passionate about, such as Accelerated Biology. For whatever reason, I liked hearing about mitochondria that much more after I had been rewarded ten points for identifying them in the previous evening’s practice. Maybe I’ll get the next mitochondria tossup earlier if I remember these things about cristae and maternal inheritance. Better listen to Mr. Ress.… Quizbowl gave me a reason to focus on such things, and my mind was eager to master the curricula of each of my classes.

And so, by the end of my sophomore year I had progressed from being the lowest scoring Chaska A player to the individual scoring leader of the group, thanks to a wealth of US history knowledge from intensely absorbing myself in that discipline and some literature, science, and humanities knowledge picked up by reading old packets of questions on my own. At NAQT Nationals, I led us to a middle-of-the-road finish and was satisfied with being the 135th individual out of nearly 800. I had made great leaps as a player since beginning, but most importantly, the desire for learning ever-more clues and information had been planted within me.

Next came the summer of quizbowl. Feeling pretty confident about my level of play, I started attending weekly practices with other dedicated college and high school players. Andrew, the host, is a Chaska alum and current player for U of Minnesota-TC. Amongst these luminaries, I was lucky to get a tossup every half hour. These practices only strengthened my resolve to improve and I began writing my own questions to share at them. After dedicating my morning to running, I’d grab a bagel, hop onto the computer, and read some packets. Thanks to my memory and passion for what I was reading, I quickly learned most of the people, events, works, et cetera quizzed at the high school level. Soon, I was garnering more points at Andrew’s practices and developing confidence amongst Minnesota’s best-of-the-best. Wednesday morning runs were often arduous (quizbowl practice lasted past midnight on many occasions) but the benefits of practicing with other fanatics were huge.

Entering junior year, it dawned on me that I was no longer pretty good relative to my teammates – I was pretty good relative to everyone in the state. While rival players made preseason predictions on an online forum, I hung back, waiting to prove myself in actual competition. I don’t think anyone has ever been more excited to lead a team to a third place finish as I was at the first tournament of that season – we’d only once finished in the top five the previous year. I continued to amass more and more knowledge, asking friends for a plot summary whenever I noticed them with a book that could be quizzed, continuing my quest for mastery of historical knowledge in my new favorite class, AP Euro, and always keeping an eye on the news while in reception rooms, perhaps scanning Time on the side. It became difficult to leave a bookstore in less than an hour and I once used my phone to photograph each major work in an art museum so that I could review what I had seen on the ride home. After a few more tournaments it was apparent that Eden Prairie, led by Michael, the only player who could take me head to head, and Chaska, back near the top once again, were the dominant forces in the state. With four extremely knowledgeable players, EP was nearly impossible to beat. Though they always bettered us, we sometimes came close. I became friends with the guys on their top team and looked forward to engaging them in conversation at tournaments as much as I looked forward to actually playing. These guys were like me! They cared about the things I cared about, possessed a similar desire for learning. Midway through conversation with Michael one Saturday, I realized that I had to study at an institution where impromptu conversations about things like Mary Shelley’s writing style were common among students.

After the second tournament of that season, Colin from EP posted on the quizbowl forum that “Sam Peterson is the future of quizbowl in Minnesota.” A nervous chill came over me in my living room – had I really successfully transformed myself into a great quizbowl player, one of two names people mentioned when discussing individual prowess in Minnesota? At events, people knew who I was. An opposing coach I’d never met told me to “Take it easy on these guys, okay Sam?” It was weird. “Are you Sam Peterson?” “Yeah, who are you?” “I’m Robin from EP B.” “Oh, how you guys doing today?” At this point I remembered James, the St. Anthony player who had brought my jaw to the floor while he answered questions a few words in on things I’d never heard of during a game in my sophomore year. Looking at stats, I realized my knowledge had probably become as deep as his was. Only one year into my metamorphosis, I had gone from being a promising sophomore to being someone on James’ level.

The final great quizbowl experience of junior year came at NAQT Nationals in Chicago. Often perplexed by the obscurity of the questions during last year’s tournament, I was now in control, buzzing with confidence, well-versed in the quizbowl canon. I missed my goal of being a top ten individual by one question but I had captained Chaska to its first ever playoff appearance and we had defeated some great teams along the way. Though I wasn’t among the top ten, I had succeeded in catapulting myself from a respectable top fifth performance to being in a select group of players at the top of a pack of almost 1000 players at nationals. A year ago I was happy to make the A team at my own high school; now I was 11th in the nation. While many of my peers have been at this level throughout high school, thanks to an abundance of knowledge acquired through their entire lives, I had only recently begun to see the world the way a great quizbowler does, understanding that every situation is a chance to gain knowledge.

Looking back at my quizbowl odyssey thus far, it’s startling to note how quizbowl has influenced my decisions and perspectives. It led me to areas I would have previously left uncharted; for instance, I took a mythology class on the assumption that it would teach me some good clues and answers for quizbowl. What I didn’t know was that I would end up loving the subject itself. Now, a desire to learn more about myth has taken root within me and I plan to study it beyond high school. Quizbowl has made me appreciate certain events in my past even more; now that I know how important Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise are in the art world, I am thankful for having seen them a few summers ago. I’ve also gained an understanding of the world around me and the many allusions to culturally significant things it contains. For instance, a few weeks after playing a team from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School at Nationals, I was reading a book on black literature and learned that Dunbar was a poet whose line “I know why the caged bird sings” became the title of Maya Angelou’s famous work. I’ve also come to pay more attention to global news, such as Mugabe’s behavior in Zimbabwe and the tension in Kenya. In short, I’m much more aware as a person and have given attention to significant events and people that I would never have followed otherwise. The same is true for books – I recently read Camus’ The Stranger because it’s often quizzed. Now, it’s one of my favorite works (I wish the same could be said for Waiting for Godot – that one was a bit of a struggle). One morning at school, after finishing a state-mandated test, I glimpsed a copy of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya on the shelf behind me. It took a while to get into, but once the conflict progressed I began to appreciate the absurdity of what was happening due to my recent frustration with the similarly absurd test.

Thanks to quizbowl, I feel confident striking up conversations on topics ranging from Renaissance art to 19th century Russian literature to the evolution of West Coast rap music. Quizbowl has kept me engaged in class when I otherwise might have been content to learn enough to get an A. I now treasure the details of any informative lecture, film, tour, or article. Quizbowl has awakened me to the rich variety of valuable culture and learning that surrounds me. Last summer at the Minnesota State Fair I asked a man selling Hindu figurines for the story behind Ganesha’s elephant head. Hesitant to believe his explanation, I was surprised when Wikipedia confirmed that it was indeed punishment from Shiva for preventing him from entering his wife’s house while she bathed. Without quizbowl, this jewel would have remained unknown to me.

Luckily, the process is never over. I once mentioned to Andrew how I’m always surprised by what I’m unfamiliar with. “Dude, I read about Wole Soyinka for the first time a few days ago,” I told him. “Ha-ha, yeah, that’s weird when new stuff seems obvious after you pick it up. I mean, by now you probably could describe the plot of The Lion and the Jewel and buzz off of some minor characters, right?”

Not quite. But I want to get there. And soon, I will have that down. First, though, I’ve got to get through Crime and Punishment. It’s due back at the library in a few days…
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by master15625 » Wed May 13, 2009 10:51 pm

Wow Sam, that is, a great essay, very thoughtful and detailing.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by sam.peterson » Wed May 13, 2009 11:14 pm

Thanks, Neil.

I think it's also worth noting that qb becomes more fun as you become able to buzz in on more things. This is a nice perk of being a generalist. It also sets up, in my opinion, an almost addictive cycle wherein once you've reached a certain level of proficiency and have recognized the rewards of learning lots of clues, you can't help but learn more.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Edward Powers » Thu May 14, 2009 2:04 am

It seems that good conversation, about quizbowl specifically and its deeper educational benefits more generally, is alive and well in this forum. The most recent responses given by Gautam, Mike, Doug and Sam, as well as earlier ones by other players with generous and insightful spirits, certainly demonstrates the vitality of this converse beyond any possibility of doubt. But it does even more than this---it reveals that despite the inherent and inescapably competitive nature of quizbowl, there is a larger and friendlier spirit as well---a willingness and abilty to help others who share the same passions for excellence. Stated differently, the competitiveness generated by match play often leads to friendships before and after the play---a truly wonderful reason to play quizbowl and endorse its deeper and ancillary educational consequences, like sportsmanship and cameraderie.

Still, it is late, so I am not able to say more right now, other than to express my sincerest gratitude & thanks to all who have contributed to this thread so far---it has certainly been of great benefit to me, and I intend to download it and give copies of it to my current and future players. In addition, I would like to elaborate further at a later date, and cite specifically the wonderful things I think I have learned from each contributer which I think can and will make me a better coach, for each has made some excellent and precise suggestions worthy of comment. And, of course, such help should make the quizbowl experience even more joyous for all of my young players, so I thank you in advance for all of them. But I would be remiss if I did not make a brief comment now on Sam's contribution in particular, and I am sure everyone reading this thread will understand why I am singling him out briefly here---not as a slight to the excellent contributions of the other interlocutors, but as a special if all too brief recognition of his exceptionally detailed & extraordinarily comprehensive, candid and generous addition to this important conversation we all have shared.

Sam---your essay captured exactly what I was hoping for when I inquired in the first place about your exceptional successes several days ago. Your response certainly detailed a litany of specific and concrete steps which every coach or player reading this thread could surely learn from and implement, and if done with appropriate dedication and determination, no doubt tremendous improvements would be seen for all so doing within reasonable amounts of time.

But beyond this your response captured the deeper spirit of the truly motivated player and young scholar who understands, sooner of later, the deeper wonders and beauties of the things you were perhaps intitially only learning just to gain some quick points in a qb competition. In short, you demonstrated with virtually every word you uttered how deeply cultured & cultivated your mind has become, how broadly curious and confident and adventuous your spirit now is, and how candidly you reveal an openness to life and a sensitivity to its deeper nuances that only comes when one is truly animated by the spirit of wonder and engagement that Aristotle identified as the true source of all genuine learning, understanding & wisdom.

I could and would love to say more, for the intriguing intellectual odyssey you have essayed here deserves such an extensive response and commentary, but it is late, so I will simply say this for now: Everyone reading this thread, and everyone who loves quizbowl and all it represents at its best, certainly owes you a debt of gratitude for the sharing and the candor you have enriched us with here, and it is my guess that I speak for everyone who has read your most recent post with any degree of sensitivity. You are a credit to your family, your teammates, your school, your larger community of Minnesota, and, of course, the quizbowl community linked by the very site we are sharing now. So, thank you for your wonderful largesse, and again, best of luck at nationals---I will certainly be rooting for you from the sidelines here in NJ, and for all the other youngsters who have posted here as well. And, at a future date soon, I will try to isolate more specifically some of the ideas you mentioned which I think will be invaluable, not just for me as a coach, but for any other coach or player fortunate enough to have read your essay. And, before closing, I am sure you will not mind if I also add a call to all of your peers---care to share as Sam has and thus add to an already rich and instructive converation? I am sure all reading and enjoying this thread hope that you will add your voices to the chorus, and thus enrich us all in the process, as Sam has already so graciously done.

Good night!

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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Kouign Amann » Thu May 14, 2009 7:12 pm

sam.peterson wrote: I think it's also worth noting that qb becomes more fun as you become able to buzz in on more things. This is a nice perk of being a generalist. It also sets up, in my opinion, an almost addictive cycle wherein once you've reached a certain level of proficiency and have recognized the rewards of learning lots of clues, you can't help but learn more.
I attest to the 100% truthfulness of this statement.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Thu May 14, 2009 7:40 pm

I definitely agree, Aidan. We like to specialize on categories here at CR, and that has helped us immensely as a team i think, but definitely during practice i always hate it when i'm reading questions and people who hate science/math don't even bother listening once they hear something like polypeptides or sinusoidal whatever in the question... and people who hate RMP don't even bother listening once they hear Yggdrasil or Nebuchadnezzar... and even people who hate sports don't even bother listening once they hear "this team" at any point... i always hate that because you never know when you might retain that knowledge. As a player in high school i always would strive to be as general as i could, but admittedly didn't put nearly enough effort into it... part of me wishes (a large part of me, during practices) that i could still be playing now to fix my and my team's apathy from years ago. One of my favorite parts of reading questions to the kids is remembering the information for later and knowing that i've gained more knowledge from it... instead of just reading through a question just to read it.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Kouign Amann » Thu May 14, 2009 7:49 pm

Yeah, even specialists should always pay attention to every category, because you never know when something may come up. And, it's a sort of safety net if people on a team full of specialists have at least some generalist skills; if something slips past a teammate, you need to be able to pick it up.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by master15625 » Thu May 14, 2009 7:54 pm

I also think that, though it is cliched, it is important to realize that winning is not everything. If we lose any game, we should take this as a learning experience and realize that we can only get better through practicing.

This had happened to us last year. We lost many games last year when we thought that we didn't need to prepare, which had caused us to realize that we needed to improve. We did prepare more and we have improved, which is good for us. The best part is, there is always more to come, and I am thankful that I have next year, as I know that I can improve.

I also agree with the fact that you need to become good in many subjects. I am aspiring to do that, but unfortunately, math is my only dominant subject in QuizBowl, and that doesn't even come up a lot in QuizBowl anymore.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Gautam » Fri May 15, 2009 10:30 am

Caesar Rodney HS wrote:people who hate RMP don't even bother listening once they hear Yggdrasil or Nebuchadnezzar....
Tell them that they are missing out on the 1/1 Alexander-Nebuchadnezzar sub-distribution in literature that has been the highlight of high-profile tournaments! And all those math-comp tossups involving Nebuchadnezzar which require players to calculate in the sexagesimal system are all being unloved by your players!

I will say that it's pretty easy to be a good generalist in HS, thought it may not be as easy as it previously was. Specializing isn't a bad idea, but it's also good to explore other subjects as well.
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by cvdwightw » Fri May 15, 2009 5:38 pm

I'd love to split the non-tournament-related portions of this into Theory or PACE Presents Special Discussions, and eventually into the Best of the Best.
gkandlikar wrote:I will say that it's pretty easy to be a good generalist in HS, thought it may not be as easy as it previously was.
I was a year behind Mike in school (we played each other at 2002 HSNCT, I believe, with my team narrowly coming out on top), and we were both generalists of the transitional era of high school quizbowl (I define the "transitional era" as from around 1998, when "modern high school quizbowl" in its most primitive form showed up, to 2005, the year that really started the explosion in NAQT HSNCT field size and gave us the Thomas Jefferson team that defines what it means to be good at quizbowl). It was certainly easier to become a generalist in those days - the canon was much smaller, there were fewer teams and fewer good teams, etc. The past four or five years have seen a dramatic explosion in both the number of teams playing good quizbowl and the quality of those teams. I believe that both the NAQT HSNCT and the PACE NSC (the other major national tournament, which Hunter is going to instead) have either equaled or exceeded their previous records for field size this year. High schoolers from across the nation are not only meeting each other at tournaments and on the forums, but also getting together to write entire tournaments and networking with/playing against college players. The demand for quizbowl, and in particular high-quality quizbowl, is greater than ever.

In addition, there are places like the Stanford Packet Archive and Chris Carter's Quizbowl Packets Archive that are devoted to the dissemination of packets. HSAPQ, a startup company providing pyramidal high school quizbowl questions, makes its questions available for free download within months after their last tournament use. Nowadays, it is easy to get old questions, and with the number of competent writers in both the college and high school ranks, it is easier than ever to get quality questions for free. Mike and I did not necessarily have these advantages - my team, for instance, practiced on old NAQT packets when we had some we hadn't heard in a while and on Trivial Pursuit cards and Patrick's Press books when we didn't. In short, although it is not as easy as it once was to become a good generalist, it is easier than ever for players who have the interest to get really, really good.

Coach Powers, you may notice from the kids that you coach and the kids you compete against that quizbowl is a largely self-selecting activity. That is, the players themselves play because they are intellectually curious; I find it quite rare that people become intellectually curious after starting to play quizbowl. What we all need to acknowledge, whether we are players, coaches, parents, tournament staffers/directors, question writers, etc., is that our goal should be to foster that intellectual curiosity through quizbowl; winning is certainly a goal, sometimes (e.g. for a talented team at a national tournament) the most important goal, but it is never the only goal. I echo the chorus of every quizbowl player who has ever read a packet or gone to a tournament, learned something new, and wanted to study more about that answer/clue. Sadly, there are places where "quizbowl" is seen as a glorified trivia contest, rather than an activity in which players with an appetite for learning demonstrate what they know and pick up things they don't. It is our duty, when involved with high school quizbowl, to reach out to those who do not know better, and to work to change the minds of those who, due to misguided notions of tradition, fairness, and the importance of winning, or due to apathy, prevent quizbowl in their areas from allowing these gifted students to both showcase their talent and further their learning-through-quizbowl.

I'd like to direct you to the What Got You Into Quizbowl? thread that has since been archived. It's amazing how many of us got into the activity by random chance, got hooked, and have never really left.
Dwight Wynne
socalquizbowl.org
UC Irvine 2008-2013; UCLA 2004-2007; Capistrano Valley High School 2000-2003

"It's a competition, but it's not a sport. On a scale, if football is a 10, then rowing would be a two. One would be Quiz Bowl." --Matt Birk on rowing, SI On Campus, 10/21/03

"If you were my teammate, I would have tossed your ass out the door so fast you'd be emitting Cerenkov radiation, but I'm not classy like Dwight." --Jerry

Edward Powers
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Edward Powers » Sun May 17, 2009 9:49 pm

Dwight, your link to What Got You Into Quizbowl was simultaneoulsy funny, poignant and revelatory, and it ultimately supports your claim that quizbowl is self-selecting---although this link also reveals the initial importance of the ties of friendship--- and humorously sometimes even hopes of romance---in the allure of quizbowl, but of course longevity in the activity is surely self-selecting.

But is excellence therein also self-selecting and self-generated? Probably in the rarest of cases it is, but it is my guess that if you wish for your deepest concern to be realized---that all involved with quizbowl use it to foster the intellectual curiosities and longings which beginners bring to the activity, often in inchaote forms, then it would also be quite helpful to learn how to create the atmosphere most essential to that result. Hence, part of my motive for writing to Sam and his peers around the nation is rooted in this desire to identify, understand and isolate those factors and conditions which are responsible for the exceptional performances of players like Sam. It is easy to forget that at one point the current crop of the best of the best were beginners, who often admittedly made the silliest of mistakes now that they look back on their careers---yet something happened which transformed them into students who could perform at the highest levels of competition, in their towns, counties, states and then on the national stage---often within the remarkable span of only a year!

Now, to the extent that such developments are due to natural ability alone, we have little to learn from Sam and his peers---to outsiders they would simply be prodigies. However, the underlying assumptions of my inquiry reject this answer as the sole answer. Surely natural ability is a precondition for success, but it is the other factors that most intrigue, for these are the factors that might be teachable and replicable across the board for ALL players, the factors which we might identify as the foundations of the "artful science" of quizbowl. For if it is true that quizbowl is self-selecting, it is also true that excellence in it is not simply self-generating, self-evident or predetermined.

So, my requests to Sam and his peers were designed to elicit from them their own understandings of the factors most responsible for their growth and continued development. Implicit in my request, I suppose, was also the realization that if it is the duty of all in positions of authority to foster and nurture the intellectual longings at the core of quizbowl's allure, then it would be incumbent upon all those who share that duty and obligation---a premise of yours with which I heartily concur---to learn as clearly as they can the arts of fulfilling such duties and obligations.

But who better to turn to than those who have experienced the greatest of successes in these activities? If such players were willing to reflect on their own quizbowl development and share the results of those introspective journeys, all in the quzibowl community could benefit thereby. And anyone reading this thread would agree, I think, that Sam and his friends have offered this advice, often with a warmth, sensitivity, and generosity that are a pleasure to behold. So, if we only read their words and isolate the constructive lessons they teach, we can discover an entire repertoire for helping all we nurture to better fulfill their intellctual longings and, in the long run, increase exponentially the educational richness of this activity that we all passionately care about and whose deeper educational benefits we all understand and support.

Further, if quizbowl is self-selecting, every coach and every player would also admit that it is also potentially self-limiting if its successes lead to a toxic complacency. All of us have experienced this---the player or team that wins a town or city championship, or even a county or state championship---perhaps even those who have gone further and gained national victories--at some point they begin to rest on their laurels and stop improving. They have, in effect, reached a plateau and then they begin to stagnate. Now resting on one's laurels is not unique to quizbowl---it happens or can happen in every walk of life, but surely we have all seen it. Even the best of players, teams and programs must face this inevitable problem, but it is my guess that they are the one's who face it and solve it best, otherwise they would not remain the best for very long.

Anyway, part of my hope in seeking help from the best of the best was to understand how they met this inevitable and self-limiting, indeed, crippling problem. After all, who might be more tempted to rest on their laurels than the most successful? Once one owns a state championship, perhaps, or all-star recognition on whatever level (for some, it might simply be making the 'A' team), why not settle in, accept the accolades, and rest? The unwritten motto of these types might be 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'---which might be an excellent principle of action ( or is it inaction???) when working with machines or tools, but which can be deadly in the dynamic and vital worlds of both learning and healthy competition. Yet we all know such complacency is one of the self-limiting and toxic demons of the successful. Hence my desire to understand from the best of the best---in short, those who coud be most tempted to complacency--- to see how they handled their successes as they developed while, of course, never allowing their successes to tempt them to limit their curiosity and their desires to improve, to learn and to simply revel in their increasing knowledge and understanding of the larger world we all inhabit. And, anyone who has read this thread with discernment will surely admit that contributors like Sam and others who have already responded at any significant length to my inquires here have all artfully and amicably revealed many ways these issues can be confronted and overcome.

So, Dwight, we are certainly indebted to them, but it is my hope that others still add to this chorus, for it is no doubt also true that others among the best of the best have their own stories to tell, with other worthy arts and techniques to share as well. So, I hope that more will add their stories and give the gift of their generous and friendly insights, as you too have surely done here as well.

Ed Powers
Coach
SJHS Academic Team
Metuchen NJ
Ed Powers
Coach
SJHS Academic Team
Metuchen, NJ

Edward Powers
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Edward Powers » Thu Jun 18, 2009 11:21 am

Now that PACE, NAQT and the academic year are over, people interested in the themes on this thread might just have the leisure time to make fuller contributions to the core topic that emerged from the various interchanges here---how is excellence cultivated in quizbowl players and teams? Any one else care to join this interesting and important discussion on the art & science of great quizbowl before it dies? Anyone previously involved care to elaborate on previous comments, or to use the results at the most recent national tournaments to enrich what they originally stated? I intend to make at least one last posting crystallizing what I think I've learned from this discussion, especially from the outstanding players who made individual contributions here---and then went to nationals and and revealed they knew what they were talking about, all delivering stellar & admirable performances. But before I distill what I think was most instructive from this broad interchange, I was hoping others would join in with their own unique insights. So---simply curious here in Jersey now that the 2008-2009 season is essentially over.
Ed Powers
Coach
SJHS Academic Team
Metuchen, NJ

Edward Powers
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Re: University of Minnesota Nationals Warmup, 5/9 at the U of M

Post by Edward Powers » Sat Jul 04, 2009 3:53 pm

Given the lack of response since my last two commentaries, I guess I will fulfill my promise to distill what I think I have learned from the converse on this thread & then end my participation here as well---unless this commentary triggers natural follow-ups.

Of course, implicit in my original inquiry was a rejection of the a priori assumption I myself had made earlier in my career---that the very best players are simply prodigies from whom we can learn very little. And, fortunately, many great players, past and present, responded to my inquiries. And virtually every one of them explicitly underscored hard work and effort as the keys to great success. Of course no one denied the importance of a certain level of talent---doubtless a self-evident truth---but in every case particular qb practices, efforts & learnings were highlighted, and never was resting on one’s natural abilities or supposed genius advocated. In short, all contributed directly or indirectly to the thesis that excellence in quizbowl is, in fact, a kind of ‘artful science’ that is both teachable & learnable.

The first thing to notice, perhaps, among most of the ‘best of the best’ contributors is their passion for the competitive nature of quizbowl---in short, its essential nature as a game was part of its original allure. As Sam Peterson says at one point early on in his extensive post, his heart was pounding as he answered that first question about Ben Franklin, and the delight in being correct had an immediate effect---he was hooked. Variations on this theme abound throughout the thread, even if only briefly noted. This of course is no surprise, but it can be forgotten by coaches who place winning before the joy of competition---an apparent contradiction, I suppose, since the desire to win is a competitive attitude. But when it becomes the be-all & end-all, it can rob the players of the sheer joy Sam spoke of---so, from a coaches point of view, it would seem that making sure the joy of competition is maintained is and must be a fundamental.

But if quizbowl were only about competition and about the ‘game’, it would probably have much less allure for those truly passionate about it. So what else is crucial to it? I think Aidan Mehigan suggested it as well as anyone---it is a culture unto itself, and Aidan wished to immerse himself in it as completely as he could. And, as an aside, a wonderful opportunity apparently came to Aidan apparently as a consequence of his love of this culture. It seems he lived close enough to George Mason to volunteer to help out at PACE. As fortune ( or, better stated for PACE as a whole---MIS-fortune) would have it, one team was doing so poorly at the competition that it apparently just up & left the tournament!!!---forfeiting several games on the morning of the 2nd day. Apparently at this point Aidan and another of his actual highschool teammate was asked to fill in for the last 4 scheduled games of the team that had left. What happened? Aidan helped his “team” win all 4 games, and he, as a Freshman, average 105 points per game---placing him in the top 15 or so at PACE overall!!!---an amazing performance for a Freshman!

So—what is there about this culture of quizbowl that Aidan addressed in his comments on this thread that enabled a Freshman to so wonderfully take advantage of a completely unforeseeable opportunity once it came his way? A rereading of his comments on this thread reveals much---he has heroes like Henry, Sam, Guy, & Ike---and is modest enough to admit he is not currently in their class---but honest enough to admit that he hopes to be so one day—through hard work & dedication. And he admits he enjoys meeting “cool people” at tournaments, learning the canon and finding clues---all evidence that he too enjoys the competitive and gamelike character of quizbowl. But read more deeply and he reveals what might be the real allure for him in this culture---when he says he admits he wants to learn also for the sheer joy of it and gets ridiculed for this by peers at school. So---at the heart of this culture is a haven for youngsters like Aidan---students who love to learn for the sheer love of learning---an attitude echoed on this thread by Daichi and Sam quite explicitly---and in quizbowl, such a love is honored, not ridiculed---hence it’s revelatory cultural allure for Aidan and, I would surmise, the hundreds involved in quizbowl like Aidan in spirit.

Which leads, I think, to the deepest aspects of quizbowl and its true allure for those who have become the best---in the process of just answering questions and gaining points for their teams and prestige for themselves, the best of the best somehow learn what every teacher who loves education hopes all of his students can ultimately learn---the sheer joy of learning. Daichi, after mentioning a bevy of techniques and things that can be done to rise to the top of the quizbowl world---and who would question Daichi on this after learning of his exceptional performances at this year’s national tournaments???---and among this bevy of things, semi-humorously, I think, is advice about watching MTV & ESPN---but in the same sentence, I think, Daichi also comments, quite revealingly, that loving the means of doing well at quizbowl---things like reading or going to museums---is inherent to genuine excellence. And Doug Graebner, in a very brief response to my inquiry, nevertheless speaks in the same spirit as Daichi when he suggested that players should not simply develop a lockdown category but to instead allow that category—let’s say painting perhaps---to lead one to a passion for RMP---since great painters often paint about ideas or themes from the worlds of religion, myth and philosophy. But reflect on the larger significance of this---Doug, however brief his comment, underscores, perhaps, the deepest spirit essential for outstanding success in quizbowl---a passion to follow learning wherever it leads, and surely RMP will lead beyond most high-school curricula and encourage, thereby, both greater breadth & depth of learning.

So here, in this thread, we get to see youngsters who excel in a game---admittedly a very intellectual game at its heart---discuss their discoveries of their deeper love of learning as a consequence of their desires to compete in quizbowl. Sam perhaps said this as eloquently as any of our contributors, when he admitted this kind of discovery when discussing his new found friends at Chaska’s biggest rival at the time---Eden Prairie High School----and he suddenly knew that he had to be around people in college who were like his EP rivals---people who could spontaneously discuss the writing style of a Mary Shelley, perhaps. So Sam reinforces the comments of Aidan---that quizbowl is a culture, and, as with all healthy cultures, it nurtures that which is best in the human spirit---& in the cases of all discussed so far---Sam & Aidan & Doug and Daichi---their natural and intrinsic curiosities about the world in which they live were also enriched---inchoate curiosities perhaps in the beginning of their quizbowl careers, but ones they now recognize as central to their passions and to their own achievements. And who could fail to see in Sam’s more extended commentary how broad & deep these lessons have become for him? His discussion of his expanded consciousness about the world around him is, quite simply, both beautiful & eloquent, and I have no doubt that if Daichi or Doug or Aidan wrote a response of similar length to Sam’s, we would most likely discover a comparable eloquence and understanding of their own intrinsic intellectual passions, all of which have been nurtured to some extent by their involvement in quizbowl, probably because quizbowl as a whole provides a natural outlet for their curiosity and because it provides a social and cultural context where they can meet peers who share common passions.

So, in sum, it seems that coaches who wish to nurture excellence in quizbowl need to cultivate and remain loyal to the following: FIRST, the competitive joys it brings; SECOND, the underlying culture it helps to create; THIRD, the intrinsic curiosity and love of learning that are at the heart of its intellectual allure, and FOURTH, the possibilities for friendships it creates. If a coach does this, the odds are he will create a sub-culture within his own school which will attract the those most naturally attracted to quizbowl---the curious, the competitive, the lovers of learning, and those who can appreciate these gifts in others. Of course, not all students will have thesetraits in equal measure when they first try-out for the team---but that will be the task of the coach---to craft these players into a wholesome while encouraging & training each individual as each seems to need.

And on this note I will end---except to distill, without further comment, one final and intriguing idea that might have the ability to trigger tremendous improvement in quizbowl. I speak of Sam’s comment that the one true natural ability or talent in quizbowl is MEMORY. If so---and I think he is correct here---then the question for coaches and serious players is this: What steps, if any, can be taken to significantly improve memory, so that one’s body of learning can be retrieved ASAP---as success in quizbowl requires? And, does that branch of psychology known a “Cognitive Science” provide insights for great improvement here? An intriguing set of questions to close with, perhaps? I hope so. FINI.
Ed Powers
Coach
SJHS Academic Team
Metuchen, NJ

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