Lunch in college: Not after round 5, anything but that!

Elaborate on the merits of specific tournaments or have general theoretical discussion here.
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Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN)
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Lunch in college: Not after round 5, anything but that!

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Oct 24, 2016 9:53 am

Title kind of says it all. The Penn Bowl thread is bogged down in a bunch of stuff I don't want to get involved with, because I was glad that they had a tournament for us to play and it wasn't like we were getting out at 10 so some of the complaints seem over the top, but there was one key rookie mistake made that deserves a separate post.

Never, never, never hold lunch after round 5 in college quizbowl, unless that happens to be the moment when your prelims/playoff break falls. This has been a consistent problem since all the way back when I started college in 2008 and I posted it then and am going to post it now because people (not just Penn's folks but lots of people who should know better) haven't learned the lesson. If you have 7 prelim rounds, then you ALWAYS host lunch then, full stop. I don't care if that means lunch doesn't start until 3 (but it won't, this moment always lands between 1 and 2 PM). If you are at a tournament where people are concerned about the fact that things are starting late and you feel like a way to mitigate that will somehow be to let people blow off steam by getting an early lunch break, then you are at the kind of tournament where doing this will ultimately add an hour to your life between the fact that lunch always runs a little late and the thing where they have to then take a huge break 2 games later to reseed you while you mill around feeling like time has stopped not sure what room to go to to find out your playoff seeds. With a pre-planned lunchtime that gives TDs a chance to compile all the standings and have new schedules ready, then you can just tell teams to meet you at a central location, make the new standings announcement, and start the playoffs. This is an easy-to-fix inefficiency.

I have never been to a tournament that pulls off an unnatural round 5 lunch break without it helping turn the rest of the day into hell. Not only does it make you leave the tournament later, it forces you to play many more games in the afternoon in a row than is fun or sane - Penn Bowl was 7 which is light, but I've had this problem happen where there are 9 games in a row. Do you want to play, or read, 9 games without a break ever? The older I get, the more acute a problem this is, because I have found that there is always a moment in the late afternoon when I tank for a couple rounds, and I'm sure I'm not alone.

If you have more than seven rounds of prelims then this is hard to avoid, but even then, err on the side of a later lunch, not an earlier one! You should pick a lunchtime at the beginning of the day and stick to it, rather than foster this culture of mystery lunches that encourage players to beg and plead and harrass your staff wanting to know when lunch is, and reinforcing a your bad impulse to hold it early. Also, when it comes time to have the break for reseeding, you should still have a central location ready for teams to go and sit, with clear instructions given to teams at the beginning of the day. TL,DR: you should have a detailed schedule and stick to it.

People playing tournaments: stop complaining about being hungry early! All this does is encourage impressionable tournament directors to move lunch earlier. Do you really want to get lunch after round five and then spend an extra hour of your life in some smelly quizbowl dungeon, or do you want to have the most energy that you can during the playoffs and then go home early? Do I even need to ask that question? Also, it's nobody's fault but your own if you don't buy a yogurt cup the night before the tournament and make sure you have breakfast.

Tournament directors: stop listening to these people! You do in fact know what they want better than they do and should be confident when you tell people "no, wait until round seven for lunch."

In sum, I can think of few tournament directing practices that are more consistently penny-wise and pound-foolish, and I hope to never have to play a tournament where it happens again.
Charlie Dees, North Kansas City HS '08
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Re: Lunch in college: Not after round 5, anything but that!

Post by Cody » Mon Oct 24, 2016 10:25 am

There are many important aspects to being a tournament director: recruiting enough staff, crafting a good schedule, making sure teams know where they should be and when, etc. Appropriately managing the day's schedule is just as critical, and a big part of that is when you break for lunch.

As a staffer or player, there's nothing more demoralizing for me than to break for lunch after round 5 and then having to come back and do 6+ or 7+ more rounds. It makes the afternoon an ungodly slog.

Often, a lunch break after round 5 is symptomatic of larger problems with the tournament, but it's my firm belief that no lunch break should be before round 6 (if your tournament is supposed to start around 9 AM), no matter what problems your tournament is having.

I will diverge from Charlie slightly on the subject of timing breaks with potential stat crunches. It's nice to line the breaks up, as it does make everything easier. But, I don't think this is as critical because doing stats for any non-national, untimed tournament should not be that hard (or take that long - i.e. more than 10 minutes after the last game ends). There are even workarounds if you're behind on stats (just input the final scores and not individual scores to SQBS, assuming you're not using a PPB wildcard system). And keeping teams in their round 7 (or whatever) game room is a perfectly suitable substitute to meeting in a central place (you just need to make sure that the playoff seeding is available online or printed out, so your moderators don't mess it up).

But everything becomes way more unmanageable when you break for lunch too early. Don't do it.
Cody Voight, VCU ‘14. I wrote lots of science and am an electrical engineer.
VCU Tournament Director ‘13-‘17. HSAPQ President ‘15-16.
Hero of Socialist Quizbowl Labor (NSC ‘14). “esteemed colleague” of Snap Wexley, ca. 2016. Stats Hero (Nats ‘16).
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Re: Lunch in college: Not after round 5, anything but that!

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Oct 24, 2016 10:40 am

Cody wrote:I will diverge from Charlie slightly on the subject of timing breaks with potential stat crunches. It's nice to line the breaks up, as it does make everything easier. But, I don't think this is as critical because doing stats for any non-national, untimed tournament should not be that hard (or take that long - i.e. more than 10 minutes after the last game ends).
I think this depends on the size of the tournament (and of course, how well it's being organized) . 28-team Penn Bowl took a while and is a pretty obvious example of this method being the best, if it were a 14-team tournament I'm sure it wouldn't have been an issue. When we get into even bigger tournaments like a 36-team high school event, it becomes even more dire.
And keeping teams in their round 7 (or whatever) game room is a perfectly suitable substitute to meeting in a central place (you just need to make sure that the playoff seeding is available online or printed out, so your moderators don't mess it up).
It is very rare for me to play a tournament that keeps you in your room where you were informed in the morning meeting or on your schedule that you should stay in your room. At Penn Bowl it was me asking our moderator David Song "should we stay in the room?" after round seven and him deciding that was prudent. Perhaps on its own it's not the end of the world, but it tends to be something that is done because of tournament dysfunction. I also do think that it will save at least a little time if you all meet up again in a central location and everybody hears the new playoff assignments in one go, rather than having to rely on runners going to all rooms.
Charlie Dees, North Kansas City HS '08
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"At one TJ tournament the neg prize was the Hampshire College ultimate frisbee team (nude) calender featuring one Evan Silberman. In retrospect that could have been a disaster." - Harry White

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Re: Lunch in college: Not after round 5, anything but that!

Post by Cheynem » Mon Oct 24, 2016 10:44 am

What's your opinion on tournaments that don't have prelim/playoff breaks but rather just like a round robin or double round robin?
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Re: Lunch in college: Not after round 5, anything but that!

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Oct 24, 2016 10:53 am

Put a lunch break at least at the halfway point.
Charlie Dees, North Kansas City HS '08
"I won't say more because I know some of you parse everything I say." - Jeremy Gibbs

"At one TJ tournament the neg prize was the Hampshire College ultimate frisbee team (nude) calender featuring one Evan Silberman. In retrospect that could have been a disaster." - Harry White

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Re: Lunch in college: Not after round 5, anything but that!

Post by Cody » Mon Oct 24, 2016 11:01 am

Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) wrote:I think this depends on the size of the tournament (and of course, how well it's being organized) . 28-team Penn Bowl took a while and is a pretty obvious example of this method being the best, if it were a 14-team tournament I'm sure it wouldn't have been an issue. When we get into even bigger tournaments like a 36-team high school event, it becomes even more dire.
I agree, coordinating breaks is usually the best method. But if things are very behind, it can be more difficult to make things coordinate, which is why it's always good to have another option (for instance, a 27 team tournament with prelims brackets of 9 instead of 7 would be impossible to coordinate breaks for). Having people stay on top of stats and not coordinating breaks is just another option in case you can't make it work—but you have to have your stats person (or people) stay on top of things.
Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) wrote:It is very rare for me to play a tournament that keeps you in your room where you were informed in the morning meeting or on your schedule that you should stay in your room. At Penn Bowl it was me asking our moderator David Song "should we stay in the room?" after round seven and him deciding that was prudent. Perhaps on its own it's not the end of the world, but it tends to be something that is done because of tournament dysfunction. I also do think that it will save at least a little time if you all meet up again in a central location and everybody hears the new playoff assignments in one go, rather than having to rely on runners going to all rooms.
This is definitely an announcement that should be made either during the opening meeting (preferably), on the schedule (also preferably), or by the round 7 (or whatever) moderator. Depending on what the central location is, I find you can usually save time by keeping people in their round 7 (or whatever) rooms. The key is that you release the staff in each room back to their room, and they announce the seeds in some foolproof manner. This means having all the seeds on the internet, or printed, so that the moderator can pull them up in the room. Do not try to do things like "determine what team is in every room and verbally communicate to each moderator the seeds for the teams in their room", as that would be a recipe for disaster.

Ultimately, either way can be considered a "best practice"—it just depends on the specific constraints for your tournament.
Cheynem wrote:What's your opinion on tournaments that don't have prelim/playoff breaks but rather just like a round robin or double round robin?
Still always after at least round 6. You should pretty much always be able to run 6 rounds such that round 6 ends between 1 and 2 PM (or earlier, in which case you can do more rounds if you like!). And the overarching idea (for me) is that you generally want half or less than half of your rounds to occur after lunch.
Cody Voight, VCU ‘14. I wrote lots of science and am an electrical engineer.
VCU Tournament Director ‘13-‘17. HSAPQ President ‘15-16.
Hero of Socialist Quizbowl Labor (NSC ‘14). “esteemed colleague” of Snap Wexley, ca. 2016. Stats Hero (Nats ‘16).
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Re: Lunch in college: Not after round 5, anything but that!

Post by 1.82 » Mon Oct 24, 2016 11:42 am

This is a good thread. If your tournament absolutely can't get through seven rounds before lunch, you're taking too long. Obviously if you want to get through 13 rounds (which should be the expectation for a non-novice collegiate tournament) and then potentially play a final, you need to be able to finish seven before lunch or else it won't happen.

One corollary to this that should be mentioned is that determining the time of lunch is a surprisingly complex task for a TD. Yesterday Chris Chiego put up a page on qbwiki about common tournament directing mistakes, and this was one of the things he mentioned. Tournament directors: don't wait until lunchtime to think about when teams should get back from lunch! Proper communication is important here so that every team knows when to get back before the start of their last game before lunch, and determining a proper time requires a good understanding of both the length that lunch should be and the length that rounds should be taking. One thing that I think isn't communicated enough to TDs is the importance of timing rounds to know how long they're taking.
Cody wrote:There are even workarounds if you're behind on stats (just input the final scores and not individual scores to SQBS, assuming you're not using a PPB wildcard system).
This is an important lesson, because this is a commonplace situation that I've never seen anyone talk about. Knowing how and when to do triage is critical.
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Re: Lunch in college: Not after round 5, anything but that!

Post by cchiego » Mon Oct 24, 2016 12:25 pm

Just plan on lunch to be during rebracketing and communicate this to teams in advance so that they can stock up on food/snacks beforehand if need be. I always recommend snacks for quizbowl tournaments anyways after seeing the dramatic effect eating an apple had on Eric's playing ability a few years ago.

All of these problems are exacerbated for larger tournaments where tiny delays compound and add up to affect the whole tournament, especially as different brackets finish at different times. If you have a large tournament with a lot of scoresheets and fairly extensive rebracketing, then it really needs to take place during lunch (though you can change the specific estimate of how long it will take the round before lunch). This is also a problem if you're understaffed and don't have a dedicated statskeeper who knows what he/she is doing.

One other issue is how ballooning question length (especially on bonuses) can impact a tournament's length. I'm a pretty experienced reader and was speed-reading the entire time in the playoffs at Penn Bowl, but rarely managed to get sub-35 minute rounds except for when UMD A was playing (thank you Jordan, particularly for being willing to interrupt on bonus parts and save me from reading 3-line clues). When you have to budget 40 minutes a round for the median quizbowl reader, it gets much harder to stay on target through and after lunch. Question writers/editors, please try to limit your TUs to 8 lines and your bonuses to 8 total lines (not counting answers) of text.
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Re: Lunch in college: Not after round 5, anything but that!

Post by Cody » Mon Oct 24, 2016 1:06 pm

cchiego wrote:All of these problems are exacerbated for larger tournaments where tiny delays compound and add up to affect the whole tournament, especially as different brackets finish at different times. If you have a large tournament with a lot of scoresheets and fairly extensive rebracketing, then it really needs to take place during lunch (though you can change the specific estimate of how long it will take the round before lunch). This is also a problem if you're understaffed and don't have a dedicated statskeeper who knows what he/she is doing.
This is another important thing to discuss: your tournament runs at the rate of your slowest room, and no faster. Bad things happen when brackets finish at wildly different times: it becomes very hard to coordinate breaks & restart times between brackets, and question security becomes an issue if brackets get a round apart.

The best way is to distribute games across all your rooms, assuming your rooms are sufficiently close together. This can be as simple as rotating brackets horizontally across the schedule each round (in round 1: bracket A in rooms 1-3, bracket B in rooms 4-6, bracket C in rooms 7-9, bracket D in rooms 10-12; in round 2: bracket D in rooms 1-3, bracket A in rooms 4-6, bracket B in rooms 7-9, bracket C in rooms 10-12; etc.). This has the advantage that you can put your moderators wherever you like so that you don't have them switch rooms for playoffs. This requires you to not take the easy route and have one schedule with a round-robin and a separate list of rooms for each bracket. You can see this in the schedule for a tournament I ran last year (just follow one team through the day; each set of 3 rooms would normally be assigned to one bracket).

The other "good" option is to seed your moderators and distribute them through the prelim brackets, such that every bracket has both good and not-as-good moderators. The disadvantage is that this only somewhat lines up bracket finish times—a delay in one bracket due to, say, a buzzer system needing replacing will not propagate through your tournament, so bracket finish times can still be quite different (delays propagating through the brackets is a GOOD thing). And you'll likely have to switch around staff for playoffs, which is not ideal.
Cody Voight, VCU ‘14. I wrote lots of science and am an electrical engineer.
VCU Tournament Director ‘13-‘17. HSAPQ President ‘15-16.
Hero of Socialist Quizbowl Labor (NSC ‘14). “esteemed colleague” of Snap Wexley, ca. 2016. Stats Hero (Nats ‘16).
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Re: Lunch in college: Not after round 5, anything but that!

Post by naturalistic phallacy » Wed Nov 23, 2016 1:14 am

Breaks should be scheduled to maximize tournament efficiency. Bring snacks, yo.
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