Quizbowl and Mental Health

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Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby Auroni » Sun Oct 15, 2017 8:53 pm

From numerous private conversations with members of this community*, I have recently come to appreciate that quizbowl is a cauldron of mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Fortunately I have engaged in other dialogues that have indicated to me that this topic is being noticed and discussed. It is extremely difficult, and possibly impossible, to determine the causes behind this alarming prevalence in our activity. However, I think it's useful to critically examine various facets of quizbowl that may negatively interact with anxiety and depression. I am nowhere near an authority on the full range of issues that people may have faced, so I want to begin this conversation by sharing some lessons I have learned throughout my personal involvement (and strongly encourage others to share their experiences and lessons):

Avoid tying your happiness or sense of worth to a quizbowl outcome. For most of the first seven years of my collegiate quizbowl career, I played on a team that dominated my regional circuit, but always struggled to place among the best at the national level. I was tremendously motivated to take my game to the next level, and spend dozens of hours each week reading packets, writing and editing questions, and analyzing the knowledge bases of teams better than mine. But despite the leaps and bounds I felt that I was making, I was always ignored and unrecognized by my peers, and felt frustrated that my own teammates did not seem to understand, and indeed perceived that I was being actively ridiculed for, my drive to make a name for myself. I became more and more obsessed and anguished about this state of affairs, which came to a head in the nationals season in 2012. After seeing my teammates one by one drop out of going to ACF Nationals, following our full team losing a tiebreaker for top bracket entry at ICT (to the UVA team that convincingly won the tournament), I canceled my own flight and very nearly permanently walked away from the game. I know this may be difficult to internalize, given the intensely competitive nature of quizbowl, but it is much healthier to set more modest, inward-directed goals (like, for instance, becoming good at a category you previously never cared about) than to stake your entire reason for living on one or two competitions a year.

Don't engage in quizbowl escapism. To be clear, quizbowl has been an absolutely essential fount of stability in my post-high school life, and has provided me with my most significant relationships and the burst of intellectual interest relevant to my current career path. I had a difficult time adjusting to college and balancing my academics, social life, and free time. I eventually withdrew from my friends and became depressed that I seemed to be barred access to the kind of rosy college life that everyone around me seemed to be enjoying. I could only feel comfortable and not terrible when I was studying for quizbowl and getting better, and eventually, that was all I did. During two quarters of my junior year, I failed classes because I was working full time writing and editing questions for a tournament, resulting in a major personal and professional setbacks. This, too, may be far easier said than done but: don't repeat my mistakes -- be cognizant of warning signs well ahead of time, seek help if you're in a bad mental state, and avoid using quizbowl as a crutch for problems.

Know when to step back. Because of its very nature, quizbowl is extremely easy to get absorbed in. If you do get absorbed, though, it's easy to allow the underlying principles and logic by which the game and surrounding community are built upon to influence your wider life. It is easier still to lose track of the necessary aspects of life that quizbowl does not draw on (such as your professional development). One of the few posts that I have repeatedly thought about since it was made is this one by Matt Bollinger suggesting that everyone should have at least one non-quizbowl outlet for personal and social development and good mental health. This is a post that I could have really used during my undergraduate years, so that I didn't have to realize the same need through torturous personal experience, and I could have cultivated more normal relationships with my teammates rather than seeing them as means to an end. To connect this back to my first point, I took the 2012-13 and 13-14 competition years off and focused more on getting my career bearings. After finding my attitude toward quizbowl sufficiently refreshed, I returned to play for my team in 2014-15. My healthier outlook on the game, combined with some teammates who seemed genuinely interested in cohering as a team and improving, culminated in the highest finishes I've been a part of up till that point in my career. Walking back and focusing on other things is not just good for your health, it may yield competitive benefit too.

Be more aware of how we treat each other. Anyone who has spent a sufficient length of time in the quizbowl social scene realizes that it is uniquely interesting, because we are the perfect combination of intellectually inclined, smart, and witty. But a lot of the humor and banter that takes place requires a bit of mental robustness and agility, because it is often biting and focused upon good-natured ridicule. At the same time, we don't always exude empathy, warmth, and compassion. I've seen several incidents over the years where people were not in the right state of mind when fun was had at their expense, over topics that were deeply personal to them. Please be cognizant that you're interacting with other human beings, and extend apologies when you've misstepped boundaries, and don't be afraid to speak up if you've been hurt.

* = To protect the privacy of the individuals involved, and because I am amalgamating several trends I have seen, I do not mention specific incidents or people throughout this post.
Last edited by Auroni on Mon Oct 16, 2017 12:00 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby Auks Ran Ova » Sun Oct 15, 2017 10:05 pm

I fully endorse this post and will likely have more to say on this subject in the near future.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby alexdz » Sun Oct 15, 2017 10:10 pm

Thank you, Auroni, for opening up this conversation. I, too, have had several conversations with people in the community about mental health. And it's not just the kinds of mental health issues that are triggered/exacerbated by participating in quizbowl, either. I've always liked to think of quizbowl as a refuge for the "nerds" and a place for us to show off our academic skills. As such, quizbowl is home to many people who endured (subtle or blatant) bullying or teasing in school for being "nerdy." We are also a community with many members dealing with discrimination due to race, sexual orientation, gender, and ethnicity. If we sweep all of this under the rug, we won't make any positive change. Let's talk about mental health and support one another in dealing with the ups and downs of life.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby Perturbed Secretary Bird » Mon Oct 16, 2017 1:26 am

Thank you, Auroni, for such a thoughtful start to this discussion. While I have discussed mental health issues with a lot of individuals (I presume I was one of the people you were referring to), I haven't seen wider discussions about it. I'm going to present my experience as one of Auroni's "specific incidents." If you actually read through it, ask yourself how you'd interact with friends or teammates who are going through stuff like this. I'm sure there are more of us out there who are dealing with a lot of mental shit, and we should all think about how we can best support them. I don't have any answers.
Also know that if you've been through or are going through anything like this, I'd be happy to talk to you about it!

tl;dr- depression sucks, balancing it with qb is hard and I still don't know how to do so
cw- self-harm, vague suicidal ideation

The reason I've basically quit much of quizbowl is that it and my depression and anxiety did not get along at all, to say the least. Right now I'm really torn between "I never should have tried for the Chicago A team" and "limits are bs and I should have been able to/can do anything in spite of my mental health." But I did decide to try out for Chicago A (a multi-month long studying process culminating in a tryout). I even had conversations with my (very excellent) therapist that went along the lines of "huh, that sure sounds like a very stressful thing to do that might not fit well with your procrastination and perfectionism." I went ahead and studied through the summer of 2016 anyways, even though at that point I was spending a lot of time wishing I wasn't alive and feeling like a failure at everything. In October of 2016, I made it on to the A team. It was amazing. All my family and former coaches were congratulating me. I was actually happy for a few weeks. Perfectionism does feel really, really good when you succeed at what you do (see Auroni's excellent point about "Avoid tying your happiness or sense of worth to a quizbowl outcome").

I did not live up to the standards of the A team. I studied, but definitely not for as many hours a day as my teammates and I definitely didn't make as many flashcards. I knew going in that I had massive procrastination problems and that I would get in really bad mental places if I didn't perform well or failed my superiors. I still now ask myself if I should never have tried out and feel like I should have known better. But I wanted to believe in myself so hard; I wanted to believe that I could do well at an activity I loved no matter what I was going through. But I should have respected JL's desire for a title- I knew what he and the rest of the A team wanted going in, and I was doing a disservice to them every day I got paralyzed by my procrastination or was just flat out lazy and didn't study enough. My whole cycle of not working/feeling bad/not working more because of feeling bad continued through the fall and winter break. After several missed benchmarks on my part over winter break, I knew that the rest of the team was not happy (to say the least) with how I was not doing my share. They re-opened the 4th spot competition, and I was essentially on probation. Even then I didn't back out, even though in retrospect I should have.

Early winter quarter was probably the worst time of this. I was pretty depressed about my life in general as well as the prospect of getting kicked off the A team. I'd also been self-harming for over a year at that point. During this year I cut myself over a lot of stupid little things. I finally realized it was really too much when I cut myself in a bathroom at SCT for not performing well enough in a match. PSA: if you're hurting yourself over quizbowl, that's bad! it's not worth it! I know that my self-harm was a symptom of my depression and was not "because of" quizbowl, but this is a demonstration of how mental illness in qb sucks.

I didn't tell the rest of the A team about anything beyond my procrastination issues because I was afraid I'd get kicked off for it. It was privately confirmed to me, months after I left, that I would have indeed been asked to leave if they had known what I was going through. I am still conflicted about how to feel about this (although anger figured in prominently when I learned that and still does, to a lesser extent). Yes, I shouldn't have been putting myself through that stress and was not working as hard as my teammates due to my procrastination. But also I don't want anyone to be barred from trying because they're depressed. Half of me still wishes I were on the team, and half of me wishes I'd never tried out.

I finally quit after I got a lot more depressed and felt a lot more horrible. The A team (especially Jason Zhou <3 ) treated me with grace and concern given that I was leaving them at such a bad time in the season. I haven't competed much since then because it's painful and anxiety-producing for me to see a lot of the people who I failed or people who I can compare myself to.
There is a whole lot I loved and still love about quizbowl, and I'm trying to figure out how to integrate that into my life in a way that works. I'm also doing much better mentally after continuing to get some quality mental healthcare.

Thank you all, especially Auroni, for giving me a platform to express all this. I don't have a moral. I feel like this post should be an apology, too, but then again I don't. I'm also not trying to blame anyone else for anything- I know this situation sucked all around and would've been better if I'd handled things differently.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby armitage » Mon Oct 16, 2017 2:09 am

I think it can't hurt to keep repeating that people should "Avoid tying your happiness or sense of worth to a quizbowl outcome" - as many times as needed and then some. It's good to devote energy to quiz bowl if it's giving you something positive back, but if it isn't, please take a breather. I for one should have taken that advice more seriously than I did.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby Slightly Less British » Tue Oct 17, 2017 5:56 pm

Thanks so much to Auroni for writing this, and to Athena for sharing her experiences. For those of you who don't know me (which will be just about everyone who isn't British on here), I'm Francis, and I'm in my final year at Oxford. I first tried quizbowl because I wanted to be on University Challenge, and I stayed because I enjoyed being rewarded for all the knowledge I'd picked up in school and which wasn't relevant to my studies.

Without wanting to get into too much detail, I've done pretty much the opposite of all the things Auroni has suggested above, and it's certainly had a detrimental impact on my mental health. I spent far too much of the last two years tying my own sense of self-worth to what team I was playing on and how many PPG I got, with predictably terrible results when I played badly or wasn't selected for things. I didn't talk to anyone in quizbowl about this, because I assumed nobody would listen to some kid who they barely knew, and who didn't know enough stuff to damage the team's chances of success if they just dropped off the map. So I took on more stuff, co-wrote my own side tournament, became society president, organised things, edited things, and dedicated more and more of my life to an activity that made me less and less happy.

I also don't have a moral, or an ending. I don't think quizbowl is good for me, or that I'm good for quizbowl. I plan on completing my current and upcoming commitments to the game, and then walking away from it for good. This isn't about the many wonderful people I've met and become friends with through quizbowl, this is about me trying to cut out of my life an activity that feeds the worst parts of my psyche. Quizbowl didn't cause my depression and assorted other mental health issues, but it didn't help it either, and I wish I'd realised this about eighteen months ago.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby Ike » Wed Oct 18, 2017 2:36 pm

While 2013 Illinois' Nats Run was one of my fondest memories of quizbowl, one of the areas where I could have improved was being more cognizant of the mental health of every member of the Illinois team. I think there were a number of factors for this - I wanted to give ourselves the best chance of winning by studying and pushing, I was feeling depressed / anxious job hunting in winter time, and I had school stuff on top of that. But probably the most important thing was that I hadn't at all once thought about how people fit into the Illinois team. In QB where we are all "social misfits," it's hard for many of us to be naturally aware of other people's feelings on any given day. When you combine that with the pressure cooker of trying to get a title, or even just trying to make second bracket at a tournament, it becomes almost downright impossible. I'll be honest, I was a results-oriented "manager" of the team, but sometimes at the cost of feelings. I think my team naturally didn't want to let me down, but I wasn't particularly good at giving positive, sincere feedback, and I think I could have done better for 2013 Illinois.

I'll reproduce incident from the book Peopleware that summarizes more of what I think I needed to do more. I give the caveat that it comes from a book about managing software engineers, but since there is no book about managing quizbowl players it will have to do:

I was teaching an in-house design course some years ago, when one of the upper managers buttonholed me to request that I assess some of the people in the course (his project staff). He was particularly curious about one woman. It was obvious he had his doubts about her: "I don't quite see what she adds to a project -- she's not a great developer or tester or much of anything." With a little investigation, I turned up this intriguing fact: During her twelve years at the company, the woman in question had never worked on a project that had been anything other than a huge success. It wasn't obvious what she was adding, but projects always succeeded when she was around. After watching her in class for a week and talking to some of her co-workers, I came to the conclusion that she was a superb catalyst. Teams naturally jelled better when she was there. She helped people communicate with each other and get along. Projects were more fun when she was part of them. When I tried to explain this idea to the manager, I struck out. He just didn't recognize the role of catalyst as essential to a project.


The actionable things to take away from this anecdote for the purposes of this discussion are:
- Having members of the team who facilitate communication and make QB fun are essential to a team's mental health.
- These members will often not be in the spotlight, and maybe QB teams should try to recognize them and publicly thank them more.
- Try not to be like the manager who doesn't recognize the value of people who aren't adding a hard skill (PPG / PPB) to a team.

The more internal things that I would take away are:
- It may not entirely be obvious what value a person brings to QB, but if they've been around long enough they almost certainly have brought something.
- The natural attitude of evaluating people based on some kind of "obvious, front-facing" hard metric (QBSkill / question productivity) is poor at determining what they bring to QB.

On a related note, this is my first post in a while, and I'm not sure if I'll be posting in the future. But I want to discuss setting forum tone and QB mental health. I'll begin by saying that I think of myself as someone who is prone to immense bursts of anger, and that I have made a number of posts on here that I'm not proud of. I am 100% positive they adversely affected my addressee's mental health / anxiety, and given how that everything in QB is "small potatoes," it was wrong of me to do that. If I ever get the balls, I will apologize to each and every one of them personally. I personally promise to do better in future interactions on the forum - I wan to try to do better by treating people with respect and making QB less toxic. On the same note, I think board staff should consider enacting some kind of civility rule -- gone are the days where we need to "not use civility" to drive out CBI or people who do not listen to criticism about their bad formats so that quizbowl can advance. By and large the morphological problems of QB are solved, the only ones left are sociological ones--ie how do we spread our game to more people, not how do we create a fair question format--and I think experimenting with a civility rule on the boards isn't a bad idea at helping making QB less toxic and less a strain on people's mental health.

Addendum:
also don't have a moral, or an ending. I don't think quizbowl is good for me, or that I'm good for quizbowl.


I have no idea who you are, but by having the courage to share this story, I for one think you are good for quizbowl.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby The Atom Strikes! » Wed Oct 18, 2017 6:19 pm

I suspect that quizbowl's culture of self-fashioning gives at least some of its players mental health issues. Unsurprisingly, most players value both general knowledge and a certain sort of genteel culturedness. Having "real knowledge" and aesthetic appreciation of increasingly obscure works of art and literature is a marker of cachet for us, even though realistically, it would be impossible to read more than a small fraction of the canon and still have time for a normal life. When I was a high schooler, I coped with this through a combination of obsessive reading (keeping up with the latest question-writing fads) and pretending; I suspect that many of my peers did the same. Ironically, Shantanu Jha, who many of us aspired to be like, was a fraud and, probably, a pathological liar. We might, as a culture, be healthier if we were all willing to acknowledge how much of what we know comes from packets, frequency lists, Wikipedia, etc.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby ErikC » Thu Oct 19, 2017 10:17 am

To add to a point Auroni made in the OP, I've encountered this idea from psychology about internal vs external sources of satisfaction. If I understand correctly, tying your self esteem and happiness to how society and others see you seems not to really make a lasting improvement on your happiness. But internal sources, like setting a goal to get better at a certain subject or converting more bonus parts by communicating better, reliably improve our happiness.

Because of this, improving at a quizbowl can be very satisfying or very stressful experience depending on where your motivation comes from. I know personally the satisfaction of getting a question you had missed before or with knowledge you made an effort to gain is much better than a tossup on something you've already in different forms already.

The danger of getting to a high level, as many people in this thread have, seems to be that it can be very hard to improve meaningfully, which cuts off our natural sources of satisfaction. I know feeling like you have hit a dead end in a game you love can be very disappointing and lead to apathy or a different negative response.

Keeping quizbowl fresh and expanding the canon is probably the best way of combatting this in players who want to improve of all skill levels, especially if few people have mastered a new category of question and anyone can spend sometime learning about the subject without it feeling pointless against the beastly players of the standard subjects. Some of the first questions I got at a regular difficulty tournament were jazz tossup because I had been listening to the genre in high school. I think geography is the best example of this kind of category that very few experienced players have essentially locked up against new players. However, these subjects don't yield much reward if time is spent improving on them for anyone.

I think advancing the canon and the way we write questions about subjects people don't traditionally study would be a good way of making room for improvement for both new players who might like subjects that quizbowl generally lacks in and experienced players who have hit a wall with the standard subjects. I'll admit I'm speculating, but learning something very new and unfamiliar and converting that into points Ina game is probably a much more rewarding experience than improving your list-fu on German romantic poetry with the same time.

How we treat others in quizbowl is undeniably important, but I think the biggest problem is how each player channels their competitive energy. Playing to win is not the issue; instead, reflect on why you want to win. Ultimately, I think the real reason people play this game is the constant experience of finding out what you do or don't know, not scoring points.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby Car » Thu Oct 19, 2017 10:53 am

I'd like to open by saying that quizbowl is possibly one of the best things that's happened to me since I started university. It has given me a reliable point in the week where I can reliably go and think about something other than my studies. Going to practice and playing tournaments has become a routine that I enjoy. I have made many friends through quizbowl and every year, I'm happy to see new people improving and keeping the game alive in the UK. I can proudly say I built a club of my own, basically from scratch, which is finally beginning to produce some enthusiastic quizzers who may carry on playing when I leave at the end of this year. I have only very rarely done any independent practicing on the side and tend to avoid writing and editing unless necessary, though I moderate a lot, simply because I enjoy being with people who share a common interest with me.

But.

Playing this game, as an engineering student, has opened my mind to a different way of thinking, one that I like much more than the mindset I had when starting university. It's made me realise that I increasingly do not like my field of study. Over three years into an undergraduate degree fully paid for by my parents, in which I have received good grades but have consistently failed to invest free time into activities that would make me more employable, I simply no longer believe that I am capable of a career in engineering.

I have been studying too long to drop out, and to study something else once I graduate would feel like a massive Fuck You to my parents who invested so much into my time in the UK. As I search for work as a motorsport engineer, I have realised that while I still have genuine passion for motorsport, and have consistently good grades, I have never been passionate about engineering, nor do I have anything else to show for it. I have never worked a day in my life, I'm finishing a degree defined solely by this final year and in which my interest is only decreasing. I am not an ambitious guy, nor am I good at selling myself. I live alone in a country which isn't my own and which may or may not kick me out in 18 months' time. I have been suffering from anxiety for two years, and depression for over a year.

Without quizbowl, I would probably have few friends and spend every evening in my room with nothing but the internet and unstarted coursework. The good people at OUQS, including Francis, have made me realise that I'm capable of trying new things and succeeding to various degrees, and for this, I'll forever be grateful.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Thu Oct 19, 2017 10:56 am

I've been hesitant to post this because it kinda cuts against the spirit of the thread, but I want to share how quizbowl helped me - a lot - during a time when I was dealing with poor mental health.

When I was in law school, I was diagnosed with situational depression (now called "Adjustment Disorder" I think), which basically mimics the symptoms of depression but is caused by an external stimulus rather than an internal biochemical issue. In my case, the external stimulus was the fact that I hated law school, but couldn't bring myself to drop out because I couldn't come up with a better alternative. For the first time in my life I didn't like going to school, didn't find a single one of my classes engaging or interesting, and was starring at the possibility of doing this for the rest of my life: yikes.

I did therapy, but it didn't really help me. What helped me, a lot, was quizbowl. I really wasn't a "serious" quizbowl player in college: I attended practice twice a week and attended every tournament I could, sure, but I didn't study outside of that (except by reading books I would have read even if quizbowl wasn't a thing). During law school, I really threw myself into studying. I started learning things nobody on the team knew, not just things that interested me. And I really started writing questions: I was easily one of the most prolific question writers in the country during my three years of law school. Perhaps I was engaging in what Auroni called "quizbowl escapism" - I certainly saw quizbowl as a welcome refuge, full of books that were actually interesting to me (unlike my casebooks) and people and activities I enjoyed. I suppose it helped that I measured my satisfaction with quizbowl based on how much fun I had studying, how much fun I had interacting with other quizbowl players before, after, and during tournaments, and how much fun I had sharing interesting clues with people as a writer. Had I decided to base my happiness on win-loss record, I would have had a far worse time, especially since the existence of the University of Minnesota more or less assured that Harvard would be shut out of any legitimate national titles during my time there.

I'll also put in a plug for writing. You can't really control what happens when you play a tournament. You might study to the best of your ability and then lose because somebody else studied harder, or somebody's pet topic came up as a tossup in a key game. You can 100% control what happens when you write a tournament, however: from the questions to the logistics, it can be your little empire to run. I wrote like a half-dozen side event tournaments during law school and co-edited a bunch of tournaments with my teammates, and those are some of my most lasting and cherished memories of quizbowl.

Googling around, it does seem like "find a hobby you enjoy" is often recommended as a treatment for situational depression.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby Sima Guang Hater » Thu Oct 19, 2017 4:25 pm

This thread is wonderful and needed. In lieu of talking about my own experiences (maybe later), I'd like to offer some responses to things people have said.

Bruce wrote:Googling around, it does seem like "find a hobby you enjoy" is often recommended as a treatment for situational depression.


This is correct. The issue with using quizbowl as such a hobby is that its highly competitive and mentally taxing. Whereas something physically taxing like exercise, hiking, or an intramural sport is a good way to get your mind off whatever mentally challenging daily grind you choose to pursue (and confers health benefits to boot), competitive quizbowl unfortunately doesn't have that property, esp if you fall into any of the traps that Auroni outlined in his first post.

Ike wrote:The actionable things to take away from this anecdote for the purposes of this discussion are:
- Having members of the team who facilitate communication and make QB fun are essential to a team's mental health.
- These members will often not be in the spotlight, and maybe QB teams should try to recognize them and publicly thank them more.
- Try not to be like the manager who doesn't recognize the value of people who aren't adding a hard skill (PPG / PPB) to a team.

The more internal things that I would take away are:
- It may not entirely be obvious what value a person brings to QB, but if they've been around long enough they almost certainly have brought something.
- The natural attitude of evaluating people based on some kind of "obvious, front-facing" hard metric (QBSkill / question productivity) is poor at determining what they bring to QB.


Ike raises an excellent point that a given teammate may have some "value" beyond traditional metrics of quizbowl success or usefulness (I'll maintain that Sarita Jamil was and always will be the fifth member of 2015 Penn A). I'd like to gently push this further, and say that a given quizbowler doesn't have to have "value" at all, however - I think it's more important to see any person who picks up a buzzer as having value to quizbowl, assuming that they don't make the game worse for those around them. We should avoid dividing the collective body of quizbowlers into groups of makers and takers, even implicitly.

Ike wrote:On the same note, I think board staff should consider enacting some kind of civility rule -- gone are the days where we need to "not use civility" to drive out CBI or people who do not listen to criticism about their bad formats so that quizbowl can advance.


I'll come out in support of this too.

When I first joined the board and the community, one of the things that shocked me the most was the outspoken, brash attitude of Matt Weiner, which I saw as just a bit alienating, but necessary at the time. He is/was such a dominant figure that his attitude and approach affected the entire tone of the activity. However, Ike is correct that this kind of confrontational tone is no longer necessary for the vast majority of quizbowl interactions. We should still be calling out teams that put on sub-par tournaments, or deliberately write bad questions, but being civil about it is preferable.

There's kind of a corollary here in that we shouldn't be afraid to talk about toxic people on our teams or in our quizbowl milieu, and confront them about their attitudes.

Athena wrote:I still now ask myself if I should never have tried out and feel like I should have known better. But I wanted to believe in myself so hard; I wanted to believe that I could do well at an activity I loved no matter what I was going through. But I should have respected JL's desire for a title- I knew what he and the rest of the A team wanted going in, and I was doing a disservice to them every day I got paralyzed by my procrastination or was just flat out lazy and didn't study enough.


Both this anecdote and Auroni's anecdote about his teammates not performing up to expectation seem to at least partly be driven by a breakdown in communication and empathy. In Athena's case, there never should have been a set of expectations in place where she felt dissuaded from telling the other A teamers about her mental health - had one of my teammates approached me with this, I'd have certainly told them to ease back and discussed a more reasonable division of labor (and having played with Athena she'd have been an excellent 3rd/4th on a winning team even without a studying scheme). In Auroni's case (see Chris' over-the-top-but-informative FZed post) there seemed to be a mismatch in goals between teammates, which can be quite dangerous for everyone involved.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby Cheynem » Thu Oct 19, 2017 5:14 pm

Like Bruce, quizbowl was generally the outlet for my mental health problems. I actually differ from Bruce in that I think writing has resulted in more of my anxieties over the years (perhaps because I wasn't that good as a player). There is nothing more depressing than putting in months of your life on a product, only for someone to assess your work as "average" or "pretty standard" or harp about you chose a bad answerline. Obviously, I've done this, you've done this, we've all been there. But I would ask that in tournament discussions we remember that people worked on this and as long as they were putting forth a good faith effort, they deserve respect. (This is not saying everyone should get a pass for everything and we can't ever be critical, but just that we respect each other in doing so)
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby Bloodwych » Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:30 am

My time playing was at several times influenced by various existential stressors (I recall, at one point in the distant past, writing ACF Fall questions from a hospital bed) that made the idea of escapism eminently attractive. In the end, however, the things I ended up valuing and found most important had nothing to do with winning or being the best player and everything to do with the quizbowl adventures themselves and who I interacted with along the way: good friends and teammates, people I care about a great deal, and Naveed.

Reflecting a bit on it now, if there's anything worth carrying with you either as you enter school or your professional life, it's that you should always take care of yourself foremost. You'll never be at your best when you're not feeling you.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby ErikC » Fri Oct 20, 2017 11:31 am

Perhaps a new subforum with very explicit rules could be made so anyone who wishes to could share their experiences and ask for help could do so in an welcoming environment. Once the first people start talking about an issue like mental health that has so much stigma attached to it, I think others will be comfortable in speaking up as we have seen in this thread. No one should feel alone and unable to talk about this.

If possible, maybe the new subforum would be anonymous? I think that might help people ask for the support they need without worrying about the stigma society has around mental health issues. I know that in high school sharing my thoughts online without fear of judgement me through some bad times.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby Perturbed Secretary Bird » Fri Oct 20, 2017 1:17 pm

ErikC wrote:Perhaps a new subforum with very explicit rules could be made so anyone who wishes to could share their experiences and ask for help could do so in an welcoming environment......
If possible, maybe the new subforum would be anonymous? I think that might help people ask for the support they need without worrying about the stigma society has around mental health issues. I know that in high school sharing my thoughts online without fear of judgement me through some bad times.


I do really like the idea of this and agree that people should be talking to each other more. I personally would be wary about anonymous stuff because I get freaked out (rightfully so, imo) if people express suicidal ideation and I don't have a way to immediately help or reach them. If such a forum existed where people could post non-anonymously I would prominently link it to anonymous hotlines or internet chat lines, though. I just don't know if a quizbowl forum run by non-professionals is the right place to provide anonymous support. That being said I'm still always happy to talk to people on facebook about stuff like this!
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby The King's Flight to the Scots » Fri Oct 20, 2017 6:54 pm

Like Athena, I'm also apprehensive at the idea of a forum dedicated to mental health issues. Removing the stigma is good, but often, in those kinds of forums, it seems like people reinforce one another's feelings of hopelessness and skewed perceptions. This is especially true if there aren't moderators constantly on call to affirm people's worth and push back against their negative cycles.

I tend to agree with Athena that if you're struggling, it's better to reach out over Facebook, even though it may feel difficult to do so. I'd also add that when I was having trouble, what helped me a lot in quizbowl was hanging out with my teammates in person, especially outside the immediate context of practice and tournaments. So, if you're well, do pay attention to the people in your clubs and reach out (non-invasively) if they show signs of depression.

One last thing: after talking to a couple people, I'm a little concerned that in the post I made a while back, I gave the impression that quizbowl is uniquely hazardous for your mental health. I don't think it necessarily is or needs to be, and the problems people have discussed here are unfortunately common in academic contexts. I think solidarity and an atmosphere of encouragement would go a long way towards protecting people from the downsides of an activity that really should be fun.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby 15.366 » Sun Oct 22, 2017 1:33 am

Over the weekend, I heard about this thread from other people in private communication, and especially about Ike's post. Ike, I'm afraid I have to tell you that though I don't want to think poorly of you, the actionable items that you tried to offer made several crucial errors:

Ike wrote:I'll reproduce incident from the book Peopleware that summarizes more of what I think I needed to do more. I give the caveat that it comes from a book about managing software engineers, but since there is no book about managing quizbowl players it will have to do:

I was teaching an in-house design course some years ago, when one of the upper managers buttonholed me to request that I assess some of the people in the course (his project staff). He was particularly curious about one woman. It was obvious he had his doubts about her: "I don't quite see what she adds to a project -- she's not a great developer or tester or much of anything." With a little investigation, I turned up this intriguing fact: During her twelve years at the company, the woman in question had never worked on a project that had been anything other than a huge success. It wasn't obvious what she was adding, but projects always succeeded when she was around. After watching her in class for a week and talking to some of her co-workers, I came to the conclusion that she was a superb catalyst. Teams naturally jelled better when she was there. She helped people communicate with each other and get along. Projects were more fun when she was part of them. When I tried to explain this idea to the manager, I struck out. He just didn't recognize the role of catalyst as essential to a project.


The actionable things to take away from this anecdote for the purposes of this discussion are:
- Having members of the team who facilitate communication and make QB fun are essential to a team's mental health.
- These members will often not be in the spotlight, and maybe QB teams should try to recognize them and publicly thank them more.
- Try not to be like the manager who doesn't recognize the value of people who aren't adding a hard skill (PPG / PPB) to a team.

The more internal things that I would take away are:
- It may not entirely be obvious what value a person brings to QB, but if they've been around long enough they almost certainly have brought something.
- The natural attitude of evaluating people based on some kind of "obvious, front-facing" hard metric (QBSkill / question productivity) is poor at determining what they bring to QB.


Now I have heard from people who are currently not scoring that high on PPB/PPG, and for whom this post had the opposite effect of discouraging them from participating more in the life of the quiz bowl team, communicating with other players and making QB fun.

Ike, when people are having a hard time realizing their own desires, you don't override what THEY want by offering them a `consolation prize' of being NPCs in the A team's game.

And that is exactly how your post was coming across. Especially in the gender dynamic that I am surprised you were unaware of, as the very fact that your example from software management had a woman facilitator protagonist praised for her soft skills added to the very common stereotype that `men have hard skills, women have soft skills' and `men are creators and actors, women are facilitators/muses/etc.' And the vast majority of A teams across the country are still all male.

People come in to the quiz bowl team with their baggage and their ambitions. Sure, some of them may have ambitions of facilitating others' success. Others may take actions that result in facilitating their A team's success, but actually have other goals in their own mind, and making assumptions about what they wanted when they acted that way is actually extremely insulting, especially when they are struggling.

(If you need a concrete example --- those who know the UChicago team on Facebook may know that I've taken many photographs of the team over the last two years, some of them even elegant and/or amusing. I don't actually do it to help the morale of the A team. I do it because I enjoy creating photographs. I'll thank you for never assuming otherwise.)

The personality types that tend to be good at quiz bowl also tend to be the personality types that vehemently dislike another person assuming he knows their mind better than they do. And may not realize this about each other; I certainly hadn't when I've made such assumptions in the past.

Instead, when someone is struggling with getting the PPG scores, you ask them what they actually want. Praising them for performance, even valuable performance, that feeds into previous stereotypes other people have made about them and does not match their desired version of themselves does not help. It conveys, even if unintentionally, that you are not actually seeing them as a human being and a quiz bowl player who can improve, but as an NPC in your game.

And that sure as heck doesn't help anyone's mental health.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby SpanishSpy » Sun Oct 22, 2017 3:41 am

Well, I don't know what advice I could give that hasn't already been said, but I can give my own story as a cautionary tale.

I was subject to over a decade of psychological and emotional abuse. One of my few ways of coping was reading large amounts of history and geography, and later Sporcle in those subjects, to distract me from the daily humiliation and fear.

When I really started doing Quizbowl in the past two years (played It's Academic and some VHSL stuff in high school but that was the extent of it) I found myself getting truly furious with myself for getting things wrong. Some of you may have seen my yanking at my own hair and having a small tantrum of a few seconds at the SCT at UVA earlier this year, or literally ripping out my own hair at the Roanoke Classic upon negging. Quizbowl allows me to be good at something, away from the misery of the rest of my life, and screwing up even that feels beyond awful.

Basically I echo what has been previously said: don't tie up your own self-worth with Quizbowl.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby Ike » Sun Oct 22, 2017 5:02 am

I chose to quote that particular example because Illinois 2013 faced a similar situation, wherein this "facilitator" teammate is a cis-hetero male. Many of the roles he played for our team may have been "stereotypically effeminate" but I certainly didn't think so (perhaps because Illinois 2013 was by and large all male), and found the example that I quoted to describe this person's overall contributions quite well. I wasn't fully cognizant about the way it would come off, but I think my point and really every point in this thread should be equally applied to male or female. If anyone is discouraged from playing QB because of my post, I apologize.

Instead, when someone is struggling with getting the PPG scores, you ask them what they actually want. Praising them for performance, even valuable performance, that feeds into previous stereotypes other people have made about them and does not match their desired version of themselves does not help. It conveys, even if unintentionally, that you are not actually seeing them as a human being and a quiz bowl player who can improve, but as an NPC in your game.


Leaving aside the gender issue, I think this is the crux of the issue of the thread right? Eric pointed out that a lot of issues arise from teammates having misaligned expectations. And even if these expectations weren't misaligned, fulfilling these expectations cannot be done so easily -- otherwise I don't think this thread would exist. I think hearing people out is a great start -- but I'll be honest, when it comes time to "gear up" for the battlefield, QB teams will by and large make decisions in an attempt to bring home the trophies. To take Athena's example as a starting point -- if the A team "management" heard her out, what should "management" have done differently? Should "management" have decided to relax the competitive requirements of Chicago A for the sake of mental health? Maybe, but as far as I can tell, no one has come out and suggested that explicitly -- everyone says they're not sure what the moral of their story is. (I also think that expecting teams to be "noncompetitive" for the sake of mental health is a bad idea for a multitude of reasons.) In fact, it is plausible that "management" would have still dropped Athena* from the team anyway and found another fourth. And where do we go from there?

Also, I think the suggestion that my interactions with A-Team and non-A team members of Illinois 2013 was to treat any of them as an NPC is very uncharitable. All members of Illinois who participated in Nationals in 2013 spent hundreds of hours doing non-QB things together that year. I am 100% confident that if he read this thread, he would be bewildered by the analogy. Yes I could have listened to him more and considered his contributions to the team better and not default to disappointment when expectations were not met creating undue mental distress (that's the entire point of my post). No, I didn't consider him as an NPC without feelings, and I really doubt that even the most competitive members of QB teams look on their team members that way.

I guess I want to add that I think this thread is naturally going to have a "from below" perspective. In case it wasn't made clear, I really do think I messed up some of the interactions with Illinois 2013. I am thankful that many of my teammates from then could put up with me. I encourage others who have a "from above" perspective about their self-confidence to think deeply about this thread, I know if I ever was going to lead another nationally competitive team again, I would do things slightly differently!

*Sorry to talk about you as if you're not here Athena!
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby 15.366 » Sun Oct 22, 2017 11:49 am

Ike wrote:Also, I think the suggestion that my interactions with A-Team and non-A team members of Illinois 2013 was to treat any of them as an NPC is very uncharitable. All members of Illinois who participated in Nationals in 2013 spent hundreds of hours doing non-QB things together that year. I am 100% confident that if he read this thread, he would be bewildered by the analogy. Yes I could have listened to him more and considered his contributions to the team better and not default to disappointment when expectations were not met creating undue mental distress (that's the entire point of my post). No, I didn't consider him as an NPC without feelings, and I really doubt that even the most competitive members of QB teams look on their team members that way.


I am sure that the Illinois 2013 team would not consider you to think so. They have the hundreds of hours interacting with you, plus another four years of presumably working with you and watching you to add context to your words.

The issue is that this post was trying to address two different audiences at the same, whether you realize it or not -- apologizing to your teammates for whatever flaws there had been in 2013, and giving advice or perspectives to other players outside that team. And alas, I was here to tell you that it did not work for both of these audiences; those that had context for you would have realized what you meant, but I have direct words from people who know you less well who did not. I very much appreciate your clarifications and correction to this.

Instead, when someone is struggling with getting the PPG scores, you ask them what they actually want. Praising them for performance, even valuable performance, that feeds into previous stereotypes other people have made about them and does not match their desired version of themselves does not help. It conveys, even if unintentionally, that you are not actually seeing them as a human being and a quiz bowl player who can improve, but as an NPC in your game.


Leaving aside the gender issue, I think this is the crux of the issue of the thread right? Eric pointed out that a lot of issues arise from teammates having misaligned expectations. And even if these expectations weren't misaligned, fulfilling these expectations cannot be done so easily -- otherwise I don't think this thread would exist. I think hearing people out is a great start -- but I'll be honest, when it comes time to "gear up" for the battlefield, QB teams will by and large make decisions in an attempt to bring home the trophies. To take Athena's example as a starting point -- if the A team "management" heard her out, what should "management" have done differently? Should "management" have decided to relax the competitive requirements of Chicago A for the sake of mental health? Maybe, but as far as I can tell, no one has come out and suggested that explicitly -- everyone says they're not sure what the moral of their story is. (I also think that expecting teams to be "noncompetitive" for the sake of mental health is a bad idea for a multitude of reasons.) In fact, it is plausible that "management" would have still dropped Athena* from the team anyway and found another fourth. And where do we go from there?


There indeed can only be four people on a team, and any A team would want the four people that would maximize scores and increase the chance of trophies, which would mean that many players would not be on the A team. And they would understand this; generally, we're intelligent people in quiz bowl and we can count.

However, the solution space to the problem here, as I see it, is not a binary between letting anyone on the team who wants to really badly, no matter what that does to the team's score; and having a competitive team and a lot of unhappy and mentally unhealthy people both on the team and to the side of it.

Wanting to be on the A team or to win a title while not having the knowledge and ability (and nerves, and endurance) to do so at this time is a very difficult and perhaps intractable problem. But it's not the team management's responsibility to solve that problem for everyone, and it can't be. And generally (and that was a lesson I had to learn) when people are facing difficult problems, what would make them less unhappy is not solving the problem for them. Or pointing out that there's another problem they did solve, like facilitation, which sounds like the White Queen to Alice: 'Consider what a great girl you are. Consider what a long way you've come to-day. Consider what o'clock it is. Consider anything, only don't cry!' If they've tied their mental health to that problem, despite all the advice not to, that is not going to help.

What might make them less unhappy is showing them that though they cannot solve that problem, their desire to solve it is valued, and they have hope, that they still have years to improve (or heck, in my case, over a decade; I have lived long enough to have seen that no one can predict how long or convoluted a quiz bowl career can be). That they are listened to. Sometimes being safely listened to is in fact enough.

Sometimes it isn't. But that's not an excuse not to do it.

Edited 'cause I can't type.
Last edited by 15.366 on Sun Oct 22, 2017 2:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby Auroni » Sun Oct 22, 2017 12:29 pm

Just wanted to pop back in with a quick reminder: the way quizbowl and its community are set up necessarily means that a lot of peoples' mental health stressors involve other people (as we've seen in this thread). If you're the suffering person, nobody (especially the direct source of the stress) has the ability to deny that they're causing you duress, so nobody should try. I've noticed that we have a difficult time stepping out of our own minds to consider outside perspectives, so I wanted to emphasize this point. Also bear in mind that it works both ways too, so critically examine if you've ever been (even subconsciously) the stressor for someone else.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby Naomi » Sun Oct 22, 2017 1:42 pm

First, a disclaimer: for now, I'm still a little on the fringes of the quizbowl community. I joined the UChicago team in the spring, and this is my first post on the forums. A lot of you probably don't know who I am. But I wanted to share my own experience with quizbowl and mental health. Unlike many of the people in this thread, I do not associate my self-worth with quizbowl performance. In fact, I suck at quizbowl, and I'm not (for now) strongly invested in being good at it. Any buzzes I get come from classes and leisure reading, not from studying. But joining quizbowl has been a really positive experience for me; the handful of tournaments I've attended and staffed have all been really fun, and I've enjoyed the interaction I've had with the community at large. I want quizbowl to be a welcoming place both for people whose anxiety is exacerbated by the competition, and for people like me, who play quizbowl more casually, as a way to escape the stressful monotony of school while meeting smart, interesting people. Quizbowl has been a big boost for me mental-health-wise, and I hope that there is a place in the community for me and, well, everyone else who wants to be part of it.

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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby canaanbananarama » Sun Oct 22, 2017 3:43 pm

At the start of playing university, my team and I were made pariahs for playing the Division II ICT twice, which I think that most of us believed was, if anybody's fault, NAQT's. I only ended up playing college quizbowl for a total of 4 years (3 under, 1 grad), and I probably spent too much of my time in the last two trying to redeem UCLA's name and then promote Maryland. I also sort of got it into my head, especially at Maryland, that quizbowl could progress to some sort of social utopia by throwing parties and strongly encouraging socializing. In my late teens/early twenties, I sincerely believed, I think, that quizbowlers were in a unique place and unique moment in history to have the most knowledge and the most breadth and/or depth of anybody in human history (because of technology, for example). I mentioned this yesterday to a friend, that I thought former quizbowlers would be, nowadays, racing up the ladders of academia/other things. It would probably not be to Bruce's liking personally, but he would make a much more qualified ambassador to the Vatican than Calista fricking Gingrich.

I also tried to have a sense of humor that bordered often on cruelty and spite-although there were times that spite was spoken of with fondness. But it has led to me seeking apologies from certain people that I slandered. And even though it could be chalked up to youthful mischief, I see it in a much more severe light, but I think I have expressed apologies through other means. I made a break with quizbowl and haven't played in nearly a decade, and generally speaking I have tended to go to the opposite ends of the earth because these places are places I feel more comfortable in. I'm pretty sure a pub quiz in Accra in which my team of an American and two bored Ivorian prostitutes in which we are getting throttled by the Afrikaners who run this nonsense and their South African pop culture, well, that's the polar opposite of North American quizbowl.

In the last decade or so, the places in which I have lived have all taken turns toward autocracy or anarchy or kleptocracy, but it was pretty hard to watch the 2016 political campaign and not view it as an assault on intelligence and see things that remind me (Putin!) of recent Turkish politics or such. And living abroad, I had been out of the US for long enough of a time that practically my only contacts in the US were quizbowlers (my former high school teammates, specifically). Personally, the campaign was exasperating-being into history and geography, I'm aware that most people in all countries, including this one, including the UK, etc. are rather ignorant, but the fact that make-up fantasy bull shite seem(ed/s) to be chic made me feel foreign and isolated here. Maybe one of the things I lack in Orange County (CA) and in other parts of the US is something of an expat community that's a mixture of foreigners and well-educated locals.

Quizbowl was one of the few things that made me feel in any way optimistic about mankind. I'm a pessimist - I believe bad things are afoot and that the future isn't bright. My personal issues with trauma and mental health have to do with Syria and Yemen being on fire, Ukraine, Turkey, etc.; not quizbowl. But it was nice to meet people who were interested in reading books for the sake of being well-read; history books for being able to place events/facts in context; maps for the fact that even though memorization thereof may no longer be useful, there is a certain beauty in them. Most people didn't seem craven about it, although I guess there were Shantanus or Andy Watkinses.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby Jeremy Gibbs Paradox » Sun Oct 22, 2017 11:40 pm

I couldn't get out of bed. There was nothing physically wrong with me. I just couldn't get out of bed. I'm sure I peed but I don't know. And I did this for two days during SLU Law's fall break in 2004. That's the first time it occurred to me that maybe I was depressed.

I grew up in a medical family, so you'd think I'd be secure to fall back on real support. You clearly didn't know the hot mess I was then. I was terrified of first being out to them and second being less than the golden child I was supposed to be. Yeah my life was rough but so was everyone else's in their first year of law school. Why was I special?

1) I wasn't. 2) I was still depressed. I was sad my grandpa died. I was sad his wife went into full dementia almost immediately after. I was exhausted from how I blew through debate and qb in spring of 04. I was terrified Hep C was gonna kill my dad.

So I stayed in bed.

I saw a doctor but he just wanted to pump me with pills. Papa Johns made a lot off me because that's all I could order and barely leave my bed. I once laid in bed and debated "well what if I just swallow that bottle?" Honestly, I don't know what snapped me back to life. It might have been the day I thought maybe end it. Just swallow all those pills that weren't doing squat for me otherwise.

And I thought of my mom. And my dad. And I knew three lives would be over then.

What I've slowly understood over time is, there's bad days. And you are entitled to take mental health days. But we all have value and we are all someone's someone. There's no cure for this, but there's a way to maybe manage (probably less disastrously than my method). I think it's roughly analogous to my dad's diabetes. I'm not gonna lie and say it gets better. Maybe it gets manageable. I'm aware of too many people in the qb community who ended it all. We have to do better by each other. The suicides have to stop. The love has to start. And it starts with us.
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby nsb2 » Thu Oct 26, 2017 12:46 am

Thank you to Auroni for creating this thread and for everyone else who's responded. I had a similar recent experience to some posters and wanted to offer some advice on this front.

At the Stanford mirror of Penn Bowl, just a few days ago, I got very frustrated that we (Berkeley C) lost to our B team and Stanford A twice. After the tournament, I felt rather emotionally disturbed, so I decided to take a break from quizbowl until I started enjoying it again (which, thankfully, only took a few days.) Here are a few suggestions for people who might be in a similar situation:

1. Recognize the limitations of your team. Because our A team's lit player couldn't make it to the tournament, the A team drafted a replacement from our C team. As a result, we became shorthanded on lit as well as RMPSS. Rather than getting frustrated, a better course of action for me personally should have been to have fun and do my best at the tournament. I would recommend that anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation do the same.

2. Take your mind off the pressure of quizbowl tournaments and think about the other things that make you happy in life. For me, this included composing and listening to classical music, doing research in astrophysics, and playing a few video games, but it's different for everyone.

3. When you do decide to get back into quizbowl, do things within quizbowl that you enjoy, and the rest will fall into place. I have a lot of fun writing questions, especially with the excitement of finding new information in one's own tossup or bonus, and it's really helped me get back into hardcore studying as well. Whether it's staffing, attending a tournament for fun, or playing easy Protobowl questions, there are plenty of fun quizbowl activities that don't require the same intensity as studying or playing tournaments.

Hope this helps!
Pranav Sivakumar
Barrington Station MS '13, Barrington High School --> IMSA '17
UC Berkeley '21
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Re: Quizbowl and Mental Health

Postby Antrobus63 » Sun Oct 29, 2017 11:50 am

Great thread. While I love many things about QB, it has not been salutary for me because, like many QB people, I tend to obsess over things that are, in the grand scheme, unimportant. Luckily, my son does not care all that much about his QB fortunes so it's been a good thing for him. My second kid is different, very competitive, and seems to like QB for his own reasons. But for both kids, it taps their love of learning, so I'll keep supporting them despite my own issues. Still, if I see any signs that son #2 is becoming too wrapped up in this, my wife will hopefully smack some sense into me. She already thinks, rightly, that I spend way too much time on QB.

Reading your posts, I am a tad concerned that, if Alex goes to a college with an excellent team, QB will prove to be negative rather than a positive. My hope is that the team at whatever college he attends will be a supportive mini-community for similarly geeky young folk, rather than a hyper-competitive cauldron of churning neurosis. Should it become the latter, I will encourage him to leave it... but I probably won't have to, since he would just stop showing up for practice!
Peter Schmidt
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Columbia '84, Yale '88
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