How do you keep newer players involved?

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How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Longstride » Fri Mar 23, 2012 10:20 pm

With the Seniors on our team graduating, our team is trying to recruit freshmen/sophomores/juniors to join the team. Yet we keep encountering the same problem of having people join, make the trek out to a tournament, become intimidated by the skill level, and then become skeptical of coming to more tournaments. At a recent tournament, myself and a team of freshmen competed and came out in the middle of the pack overall, yet the PPGs on our freshmen were something like 4, 0 and -1. I'm trying to figure out ways in which I can build up newer players' confidence and ability to make them better at Quizbowl. Does anyone have any suggestions? Should we just seek out "smarter" people to join Quizbowl, or just try and wring the hands of our newcomers to attend more tournaments (more exposure?) or perhaps register them as another team to force them to buzz in rather than rely on more experienced players?
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Adm Akbar says It's a Tarp! » Sat Mar 24, 2012 1:56 pm

One of the things I tell young players the most is Quiz Bowl is not school.

That is. No one is grading you, no one is demanding you know 90% of the answers, in order to get an "A" or be a "good" player. Through school, you're brought up believing if you don't know 90% of the material, than you're not smart. Quiz Bowl can't be promoted this way, because that is what I heard the most when trying to recruit new players..."I'm not smart enough."

To counter that. Each round has 20 questions. On a normal a-set, I think it's designed where a team should know the answer to around 16 questions. But keep in mind that is an entire team. Varying in factors like more experienced players and students are simply going to know more, and personal strengths in different subjects, an individual player (especially new players) are going to know fewer than 16. Now when you add in another team, of say comparable strength, then the number of questions an individual is actually able to answer goes down again. Point being, I think it's hard for new players to understand they're not going to know 90% of the questions, but that does not mean:

1. They're not smart enough to play. The design of TU/B quizbowl makes it nearly impossible to know that much of the material, even when we're talking about experienced players who can score 70+ ppg.

2. They in fact do know stuff, and let them see it, by concentrating on picking up the 10-30 ppg on the questions they do know the answer to/can pick up.(Questions that maybe the seniors on the team did not know). Getting better, or not, relies mostly on the individual, but it helps when they understand this is not school. No one is grading them and no one is laughing at them, when they don't know the answer. (If anything, my team laughs at me for major failures in pronouncing names/places from Norse mythology. :lol: )

The biggest tip I can give is, really, you have to be a good listener, more than actually being "smart enough." Anyone can play Quiz Bowl, because everyone knows stuff. You can't answer a question if you do not know what it asks, and normally (at least if the tournament has good questions) it's pretty clear, but you have to listen. You have to listen for that "This author," "This event"..etc
Last edited by Adm Akbar says It's a Tarp! on Sat Mar 24, 2012 4:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Charles Martel » Sat Mar 24, 2012 3:38 pm

Being good in quizbowl and in school are certainly correlated, but there are many exceptions. Many smart students at my school did not have ability to listen and process as quickly as quizbowl requires, and didn't continue with quizbowl. IMO, to be a useful quizbowl player you must either (1) already know a lot in at least one subject, nearly guaranteeing you will be good at that subject in school, (2) have a good memory, to make studying more efficient, or (3) have quite a lot of time to study.

I think the first thing to do in quizbowl is try to reach 90% conversion by the end as an individual, and getting at least 10 points on 90% of the bonuses. If you do not know the answer to a question, you will almost certainly not remember anything said in that question. However, if you know the answer, there is a chance that you will remember a clue and buzz on it next time.

This also helps keep players involved in quizbowl if they are actually able to answer all of the questions. Even if you have someone who starts off as a solid science player, he may get frustrated or bored and leave if he has no reason to pay attention to the other 80% of the questions. But if he, say, studies the NAQT lists that are on quizlet.com, he will able able to convert the literature and art by the end, and will begin paying attention to them and learning.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Coldblueberry » Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:14 am

Being good at Quizbowl has nothing to do with intelligence--it just takes hard work as long as you start out with an average memory. Also, Quizbowl shouldn't be compared to school at all. It's a game...

If the tournament was regular difficulty, take them to novice tournaments. People have recommended that new players start out reading bonuses so that they build up a broad store of knowledge.

Also, the "listening and processing" part develops with experience.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Scaled Flowerpiercer » Mon Mar 26, 2012 5:39 pm

A lot of things said here have to do with how to view quizbowl and how to begin to study if one want to take it seriously, but I have found that it can be very hard to get students to take quizbowl seriously and put in any effort to study. Only 1 member of our team besides myself does any quizbowl-specific studying (one member recently decided to try to become an expert on myth, so we might have had some progress there...but still) though we have something like 26 people on the team. Most people seem to just not want to put in too much effort to get better, and even when we play on easy sets (like CMST even) a lot of players don't buzz, even if though know answers ... I doubt there is any tried and true way to do this, but at least in the case of my team, and perhaps in the case of the opening post, what is needed is to instill enthusiasm and a desire to try to improve. If the players decided to study, I would know how to guide them, but most don't.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Great Bustard » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:24 pm

This is more for qb in general, but really, more novice tournaments with somewhat more trash and geography might not be bad. And I think that question length in said tournaments should be tuned down a notch in favor of more questions. 2-2.5 line tossups might not distinguish among the best teams, but for novice tournaments they're preferable, especially in prelim rounds.
Sam raises a good point too in having new players take a relatively small subject (like myth, at least at the non-national hs level) and make it their thing. That breeds a sentiment of feeling like a valuable part of the team. I think it's no accident that the other players on Irvington continue to prefer QU despite exposure to pyramidal. Something approaching a QU subject distribution (say what you want about blenders and general knowledge and the like, but this gives new players a shot), without the wackiness, hoses, etc. could work.
Of course, when I set up NHBB and posted the questions for the first time, all people did here on the forums was basically whine until they became much more pyramidal. Looking back on that first writing attempt, there were indeed many things needing improvement (sometimes they weren't clue dense enough, sometimes the pyramidality was inverted, etc.), but it was a format that had those things been corrected would likely have appealed to newer players a bit more. In any case, I think the varied format of NHBB helps keep new players' attention too.
Finally, if holding a novice tournament is too much to ask, I strongly encourage novice and/or JV divisions at all tournaments with at least enough teams to fill out a JV/Novice bracket. Usually 5-7 is enough for this. I don't really understand the need to have C and D teams get stomped on by the usual suspects, even in the morning rounds. Just some rambling thoughts, but hope some tournament organizers/set writers take these things to heart, because keeping newer players involved is a concern, and one directly related to the health and growth of quizbowl overall. Since I graduated high school in '99, the caliber of play and the opportunities for top teams has improved tremendously. It's high time more attention was paid to the interest of newer teams and players, especially since this need not come at the expense of the teams ranked on Fred's list.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Matt Weiner » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:52 pm

I don't see any reason why we need bad questions in order to attract new players. Sure, regions used to Chip will be scared of the unfamiliar; on the converse, regions where real quizbowl is played exclusively view that as the default and have no interest in NAC. Neither of those cases are "new players" by definition, as the situation is entirely governed by people being attached to what they have been doing thusfar.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Scaled Flowerpiercer » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:16 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:I don't see any reason why we need bad questions in order to attract new players.


I don't see why we need bad questions either, but Dave has legitimate points. While some of the house-written History Bowl questions may have been "bad," the vast majority were both good and pyramidal, but still with a lean that interests new teams. My QU-accustomed team loves History Bowl tournaments, because they find the format to be fun, and they truly do have an aversion to hoses / etc, but the "taint" of having to play a totally new format upsets them at times. I find a lot of tournaments sets available go too far to the various ends of the spectrum: on one end you have the QU trash/common knowledge heavy distribution with many unpyramidal questions, and similar question providers, but then there are a lot of sets, such as the housewrites GSAC and Prison Bowl that my team had gone to tournaments of, that have a lot of lit and social studies and fine arts and anthropology and things that are inaccessible to people who don't study, great for competitive quizbowl, not so great for those C and D teams who are getting <100 ppg and <10 ppb.

I think it is totally reasonable to think that more sets that could be produced with shorter (no one is saying one-liners, but, A-set length) questions with a more "fun friendly" distribution. I suppose A sets cover many of these needs in terms of difficulty, but I think there is a set of new/weak teams that would be attracted by an A-set difficulty set, with the (already low) fine arts distribution, but also trimming a little bit more of the academic fat to add a couple more trash/general academic type questions and putting the questions in a more "fun" format akin to the 4-quarter format to attract people.

These questions might be bad for differentiating top teams, but I think that it would be a fine idea to make such sets available and to have more tournaments which distinguish between upper and lower divisions which would allow the worse teams to have fun and the good teams to have good competition.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Matt Weiner » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:19 pm

I'm not saying anything about last year's NHBB regionals in particular, since I haven't even seen those questions and don't know how long they were, what sort of clues they used, or anything else about them. I'm just saying that "a good two-line tossup" is an oxymoron, and that, empirically, the notion that tabula rasa teams will prefer bad questions to good ones is not true in my experience.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Scaled Flowerpiercer » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:26 pm

I find often the subject matter can be more prohibitive than the question format to new teams, tossups of any length about asian lit or fine arts are scarier than the longest tossup on George Washington or Skyrim or Cellular Respiration.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Dr. Loki Skylizard, Thoracic Surgeon » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:42 pm

SrgtDonow wrote:I find often the subject matter can be more prohibitive than the question format to new teams, tossups of any length about asian lit or fine arts are scarier than the longest tossup on George Washington or Skyrim or Cellular Respiration.

Well, a good novice set would limit questions on things like Murakami or, I don't know, de Kooning to the appropriate level* for that difficulty. Of course, writing questions on those subjects would be the problem that needs addressed, rather than moving away from pyramidal questions.

I'll also note that HSAPQ has offered four quarter sets in the past, until dropping them due to a lack of interest. They're doing the 8/8/8 thing next year; of course, it was postponed this year due to lack of interest. So, I can't buy into the "people are thrown off by the format, and format only" argument.

*The appropriate level is pretty much zero.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby a bird » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:49 pm

I agree that certain common quizbowl topics probably seem very arcane to many younger/newer high school players. I just think that the NAQT IS-A set, as it exists now, is approachable enough. With plenty of trash and geography, and easy bonus parts that are often very well know, for example nationalities of famous authors, it seems like A sets are fine for introductory tournaments.

I really have no experience with people used to QU format, though. So I don't really know about the idea using it with good questions to attract teams.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Matt Weiner » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:59 pm

Yeah, appropriate difficulty and letting people know what the expectations of a competent team are go a long way, much further than shortening questions beyond the thresshold of acceptability or adding any given category.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Great Bustard » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:17 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:I'm not saying anything about last year's NHBB regionals in particular, since I haven't even seen those questions and don't know how long they were, what sort of clues they used, or anything else about them. I'm just saying that "a good two-line tossup" is an oxymoron, and that, empirically, the notion that tabula rasa teams will prefer bad questions to good ones is not true in my experience.


Right, except there are large swaths of quizbowlia that are not tabula rasa, but rather play QU/other formats. It's been my #1 point all along that QB needs more outreach to new teams (see: http://www.historybowl.com/nationals-teams/ for our results of this - and we likely have teams from Guam and Japan on the way...) but for all sorts of places, a bridge from QU/other similar formats to even A Set format would be a great thing to have and would ultimately bring more teams up. When good quizbowl and bad quizbowl meet, good quizbowl almost always (thanks to better organization, and all the advantages pyramidality offers) wins out in the end, but too often the problem is that there's no meeting point. Thus including 2 line tossups in that at some level wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing or a threat to good quizbowl. The best teams in the country already have more than enough sets to compete on, and as teams get better, they will in the vast majority of cases gravitate to these.
Btw, Sam, Alec Johnsson wrote a bunch of 1.5-2 line tossups in a game where I took on everyone on White Plains and Ardsley combined at the end of Omar last year. I, for one, had a great time playing this, and enjoyed the novel experience of playing on short questions that were still pyramidal (they had about 6 facts on average) with good answer choices. Then again, I was always comparably very quick on the buzzer among people with comparable knowledge bases when I played in the 1990's.
Meanwhile, last year's NHBB C set (which wasn't a separate set, but rather had shorter questions, including 2 liners in the first quarter) was absolutely a perfect fit in places like Montana, where there were very few buzzer races, except on the giveaways, which wouldn't have been any different if the questions were any longer, since for many answer choices, it was difficult to have anything easier. Keep in mind that as far as differentiation (the real point of pyramidality) goes, if you have shorter questions, you can also have more questions, and with more questions, even if they are short, the better teams will have more of a chance to win out. The vast majority of all buzzer races are in fact won by the team with deeper knowledge anyway, since they're likely sitting on the answer in advance.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Dr. Loki Skylizard, Thoracic Surgeon » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:55 pm

nationalhistorybeeandbowl wrote:
Matt Weiner wrote:I'm not saying anything about last year's NHBB regionals in particular, since I haven't even seen those questions and don't know how long they were, what sort of clues they used, or anything else about them. I'm just saying that "a good two-line tossup" is an oxymoron, and that, empirically, the notion that tabula rasa teams will prefer bad questions to good ones is not true in my experience.

Btw, Sam, Alec Johnsson wrote a bunch of 1.5-2 line tossups in a game where I took on everyone on White Plains and Ardsley combined at the end of Omar last year. I, for one, had a great time playing this, and enjoyed the novel experience of playing on short questions that were still pyramidal (they had about 6 facts on average) with good answer choices. Then again, I was always comparably very quick on the buzzer among people with comparable knowledge bases when I played in the 1990's.

Right, but I don't think you're exactly the target market of high school quiz bowl sets currently.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby The Predictable Consequences » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:58 pm

nationalhistorybeeandbowl wrote:Btw, Sam, Alec Johnsson wrote a bunch of 1.5-2 line tossups in a game where I took on everyone on White Plains and Ardsley combined at the end of Omar last year. I, for one, had a great time playing this, and enjoyed the novel experience of playing on short questions that were still pyramidal (they had about 6 facts on average) with good answer choices. Then again, I was always comparably very quick on the buzzer among people with comparable knowledge bases when I played in the 1990's.


Having played this packet, I found it much better than QU, but still rather unfulfilling. At that length, almost no matter how many pyramidal facts you can put in, it's still basically a speed check and doesn't gradate knowledge well. While I do like the idea of novice questions that can appeal to teams that have played QU/Questions Galore/Avery Enterprises, I think those need to be more of at least a 3-4 line variety rather than speed checks.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Mar 26, 2012 9:55 pm

A-sets do the job as well as you can ask for and there's no reason to use anything less than those for any tournament ever.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Matt Weiner » Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:01 pm

nationalhistorybeeandbowl wrote: Thus including 2 line tossups in that at some level wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing or a threat to good quizbowl.


I don't understand how running something that is by definition bad quizbowl is not "a bad thing" or not "a threat to good quizbowl."

HSAPQ will, for the third year in a row, provide questions for this year's Colonia tournament. It is in the precise NAC format, but using our questions, including tossups of no more than five lines in a 12-point font. These are, objectively, not "long questions" and have been proven accessible (by being used for VHSL teams of all levels). If people want to adjust from playing Chip to playing something of value, this would be a perfect set to look at. It will be posted at the end of the year as usual.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Great Bustard » Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:36 am

Here's a better question: why isn't this tournament posted online? When is it? Or did somehow escape me?
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Smuttynose Island » Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:41 am

nationalhistorybeeandbowl wrote:Here's a better question: why isn't this tournament posted online? When is it? Or did somehow escape me?


As Matt said the four quarter format that HSAPQ produces for VHSL Districts, Regionals and States is posted every year. It can be found here: http://www.hsapq.com/questions/17/
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby dtaylor4 » Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:45 am

Smuttynose Island wrote:
nationalhistorybeeandbowl wrote:Here's a better question: why isn't this tournament posted online? When is it? Or did somehow escape me?


As Matt said the four quarter format that HSAPQ produces for VHSL Districts, Regionals and States is posted every year. It can be found here: http://www.hsapq.com/questions/17/


I think he's referring to the tournament itself, not the packets.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Matt Weiner » Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:45 am

I think he means the announcement for the Colonia event itself. I can't speak for the TDs of it, and I don't even know if they use the message boards at all. You can e-mail them at rockytjo1@comcast.net.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby dyetman89 » Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:45 am

Coldblueberry wrote:Being good at Quizbowl has nothing to do with intelligence--it just takes hard work as long as you start out with an average memory.


Statements such as this (or some variation) always seem to crop up when this topic is periodically resurrected. Now, at first blush I'm not even sure how we'd go about falsifying this; so long as we want for a working definition of "intelligence," we're both blowing smoke. But let's take Paul Stoetzer's study of the correlation between MEAP scores and what he somewhat nebulously labels "quiz bowl success": viewtopic.php?f=20&t=1608&p=21786#p21786

SPOILER ALERT: turns out that good Michigan qbers make mincemeat of the statewide standardized test. Alas, I'm not aware of any other comparable study, but there's a wealth of anecdotal evidence suggesting that "quizbowl ability," whatever it is, and however amenable to drilling and preparation it might be, is hardly uncorrelated with success at other activities traditionally associated with "the intellect." If you're fortunate enough to indulge in a spring or summer break with zero demands on your time (recommended, btw), spend a few hours googling the names of great highschool and collegiate quizbowlers of the past and present - start with, say, the Panasonic all-stars. The record of academic and professional achievement is astounding - my cursory overview suggests that they've pursued doctorates at approximately a gazillion times base-rate expectations. When investigating recent highschool standouts by similar methods (and gazing hungrily at Rob Carson's meta-knowledge crown), I encountered a cavalcade of National Merit [what have you]s, AP Scholars, valedictorians, and apple-polishers of every description.

Furthermore, Justin, if were a $10,000 betting man, I'd wager that the percentage of seniors on the Torrey Pines qb team who achieve some level of National Merit recognition is higher than the percentage of the school as a whole achieving such recognition; I'd further wager that the mean number of AP tests taken by Torry Pines qbers by the date of graduation is higher than the mean number taken by the Torrey Pines student body. Obviously there are plenty of variables here, and plenty of ambiguities (not the least of which is our admittedly ambiguous definition of "intelligence," which we all could dicker over for decades), but the anecdotal correlations strike me as too great to ignore.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:15 am

Yeah, the sentiment that anybody can get good at quizbowl is a nice one, but honestly, it's pretty hard to be a great quizbowl player without being smart. Plenty of smart people are bad at quizbowl, of course. I think this sentiment arises because quizbowl has a natural bias towards attracting smart people anyway - you really aren't going to find many stupid people who are interested in a game that revolves around learning things in the first place. Not everyone who does quizbowl is going to be a genius, but a lot of them are going to be at least pretty sharp naturally. Seriously, think of the dumbest person you know who does quizbowl, and then think of the dumbest kids you grew up with - it's a pretty huge divergence unless something is really unusual. Sorry to burst your bubbles, but at least it means you're all a lot smarter than you think.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby 40 characters in search of a username » Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:02 am

Fortitudo Bologna wrote:counterpoint: I do not understand how to correctly make a post
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby tuscumbiaqb » Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:46 pm

As usual, some good ideas have been (re-)presented here, such as the proliferation of novice divisions at tournaments and having newer players make a small area of the distribution "their own". The latter is basically what I have done with newer players on my team, and some that struggled to answer anything at the beginning of the year are now regularly answering at least half the tossups in said categories (at least against non-powerhouse teams). I think this is a great way to integrate newer players into the game, and somewhat paradoxically, this works far better (at least in my experience) on sets with HSAPQ/GSAC-like distributions. Sets with tons of trash and general knowledge at the expense of fine arts, literature, etc. negate the work that players have put in on these topics and quite frankly, make the game very frustrating for them.

I fail to see the need to accommodate players who refuse to put in any work to get better. This push seems to go against the point of the game, which is to learn more about culturally and scientifically significant things. Coaches simply need to help their players bite off small chunks of the distribution and gradually build competence that way instead of increasing already too-high trash/GK levels in sets (especially in NAQT).

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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Charles Martel » Wed Mar 28, 2012 1:46 am

My opinion is that anyone can get good at quizbowl, but if you don't have enough basic skill and knowledge, it's not worth the effort it would take.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Auroni » Wed Mar 28, 2012 1:54 am

dyetman89 wrote:
Coldblueberry wrote:Being good at Quizbowl has nothing to do with intelligence--it just takes hard work as long as you start out with an average memory.


Statements such as this (or some variation) always seem to crop up when this topic is periodically resurrected. Now, at first blush I'm not even sure how we'd go about falsifying this; so long as we want for a working definition of "intelligence," we're both blowing smoke. But let's take Paul Stoetzer's study of the correlation between MEAP scores and what he somewhat nebulously labels "quiz bowl success": viewtopic.php?f=20&t=1608&p=21786#p21786

SPOILER ALERT: turns out that good Michigan qbers make mincemeat of the statewide standardized test. Alas, I'm not aware of any other comparable study, but there's a wealth of anecdotal evidence suggesting that "quizbowl ability," whatever it is, and however amenable to drilling and preparation it might be, is hardly uncorrelated with success at other activities traditionally associated with "the intellect." If you're fortunate enough to indulge in a spring or summer break with zero demands on your time (recommended, btw), spend a few hours googling the names of great highschool and collegiate quizbowlers of the past and present - start with, say, the Panasonic all-stars. The record of academic and professional achievement is astounding - my cursory overview suggests that they've pursued doctorates at approximately a gazillion times base-rate expectations. When investigating recent highschool standouts by similar methods (and gazing hungrily at Rob Carson's meta-knowledge crown), I encountered a cavalcade of National Merit [what have you]s, AP Scholars, valedictorians, and apple-polishers of every description.

Furthermore, Justin, if were a $10,000 betting man, I'd wager that the percentage of seniors on the Torrey Pines qb team who achieve some level of National Merit recognition is higher than the percentage of the school as a whole achieving such recognition; I'd further wager that the mean number of AP tests taken by Torry Pines qbers by the date of graduation is higher than the mean number taken by the Torrey Pines student body. Obviously there are plenty of variables here, and plenty of ambiguities (not the least of which is our admittedly ambiguous definition of "intelligence," which we all could dicker over for decades), but the anecdotal correlations strike me as too great to ignore.


While I don't know about saying quizbowl success is independent of "intelligence," I would argue that it's independent of academic success. Lots of people who get into quizbowl as an extracurricular in high school are the same people who end up in the top 10% of their high school graduating class, for sure. However, the game tests different skill sets from the classroom (being able to work analytical math or science problems and being able to write proper essays being two easy to think of examples of the latter), so getting into the actual improvement stage of the game doesn't require one to be a straight A, or even a good student.

Let me use myself as an example. I've never been a straight A student and I have failed classes before. While I was a decent student in high school when I first got into the game, I didn't do terribly well in many of my college courses at UCSD at around the same time that I was improving by a lot. Now I'm not the most successful quizbowl player, but I have gotten better at the game, and it didn't require me to be a good student in order to do so.

I guess the bottom line of this post is that people who are likely to get into quizbowl in the first place are those that are strong students otherwise, but continued quizbowl success is independent of continued academic success.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:38 am

Even if we assume that quizbowl is a g-loaded activity that requires a certain level of innate intelligence (and I don't agree that it is), academic success is no sure indication of innate intelligence. There are many quizbowlers who have accomplished great things outside of quizbowl: there are also many good quizbowlers whose academic and professional lives are a complete wreck, even if they would likely murder any IQ test they took.

People who are recruiting "smart kids" for quizbowl aren't likely to administer IQ tests: they are likely to look for high GPAs or honors classes or some other thing that is at best a proxy for intelligence. The proverb of "you don't have to be smart to be good at quizbowl" is useful as practical advice because of this.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Cheynem » Wed Mar 28, 2012 11:37 am

I think it's definitely true that "you don't have to be successful in school/academia to be good in quizbowl" (aside from the fact that if you REALLY aren't successful in school, you will have less opportunity to play quizbowl). Over the years I've met a number of people who were not dramatically successful in school who were very good quizbowl players.

However, Charlie is right in that you really can't be good in quizbowl without being "smart" because the game is dependent on it--it's about memory and understanding and retaining things. This would be like saying you can be good in a sport without possessing athletic talent--maybe on some bizarre random level, yes, but the whole activity is built around requiring those skills.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Joshua Rutsky » Wed Apr 04, 2012 12:43 pm

To get back to the earlier thread of the question, how to keep newer players involved- this is a topic that should be on the minds of any coach that is trying to build a program. Quizbowl can be very intimidating to new players, particularly when you are dealing with the very strong personalities that often make up quiz bowl's best groups. People who are more confident about their knowledge base and more willing to be aggressive are going to tend to dominate practices, and those same people are often going to be the ones whose "I can't believe you didn't know that" or "that was a completely stupid buzz" reactions, ones that are understood and traded with close teammates at the varsity level as friends, will be totally demoralizing for novices. My players at the upper levels know that they are supposed to be mentors for their younger teammates, and they are expected to try to be encouraging. It really makes a difference to a ninth or tenth grader when the senior who has been to nationals and won a state title comes up to them after practice and says "good work today--keep studying and you'll really get that stuff down."

Yes, there's a fair number of players who are going to bull through regardless of what you do, and those you don't need to worry about. I'm assuming that this question is really more about the borderline players--the ones who show interest or potential, but who are wavering on whether they are good enough or if they want to make the commitment. Getting them to stay, I believe, is about selling them on two things. First, they need to believe that quizbowl is fun. If it isn't fun, why do it? There are plenty of other extracurricular options that are going to be far more appealing to colleges, more immediate-gratification oriented, or less demanding. Second, they need to be given a chance to feel like they are part of something special, not just a potential source of points for the coach. They need to be given a chance to grow into the game as it is played at high levels.

To help accomplish this, I do a couple of things. First, our Varsity and JV practice separately at least once per week. I used to have three practices a week -- one for JV, one for Varsity, and one for both groups together. I can no longer do that, but we make sure that the younger players spend most of their first year of practice playing rounds against other JV-level players. The advantage a 10th grader has on a 9th grader is enough to push them to improve in most cases without making every round a 450-40 beatdown. The younger players develop team relationships and learn where they need to fill in holes, which I think is more important in the JV years than developing speed against a varsity team. Every now and then, the best of the JV get to play a couple rounds against the varsity, and that gives them something to look forward to--a chance to show off and maybe scare the next group by giving them a challenge. The JV kids all want to make that top group that gets to "play up", so they work a little harder to be selected, but no one feels like they aren't part of the JV.

Whenever possible, I take as many teams to events as I can. Yes, this is occasionally expensive, but it is worth it to ask the JV parents to chip in $5 to $10 a player to pay for extra entries so their son or daughter gets to hit a few tourneys each year. There aren't a lot of JV events in our area, so the kids are often playing on a varsity set and putting up very low scores, and frequently, they get crushed by a varsity team from another school, but all it takes is ONE GAME when my ninth graders either beat another school's Varsity or come very close, and they are totally hooked. They see that they CAN compete, and that makes them want to complete. You have to give them a buzzer and let them have the fun that goes with all that practice time, or you're cheating them. I understand the financial issues, and I understand wanting to make kids commit and push themselves to make a team, but that, to me, is more for varsity and out-of-state consideration. I'll let any kid on my team that wants to be there, regardless of talent level, and I'll make sure that kid gets a chance to hold a buzzer at a tourney during the year, because that kid deserves a chance to do it if they come to practice. They won't play Varsity A; they may be JV C. It doesn't matter. They still get to play, and that's what counts. If they like it, and want to move up, they'll work. If they work hard enough, they can fill a role-player spot and make the travel team. If not, they're still welcome at practices, and they are still part of the team. They feel like they are wanted, and that encourages them to work harder.

No, we aren't exactly a powerhouse down here at Hoover. We've had a couple of good years, and are much better this year than we were last year, although I think we're still under the radar for most people. We do, however, have 35 people regularly coming to practice and enjoying themselves. That's a win as far as I'm concerned, because we're spreading quizbowl and getting people to understand that it is actually fun to learn things and to grow as a person academically.

I love this game. I really do. My wife thinks I'm crazy and that I spend too much time coaching kids to go and play with buzzers and worrying about ppb average and who to prep in what areas. I understand why she would think that, but she's wrong. Getting to work with young men and women who really love knowledge and fair competition, who understand honor and respect for one another, and who become a real team working together for a goal is a privilege. If your players know that you feel that way, and that you want them to be there so they experience the joy of being a part of something this great, they'll stay.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Down and out in Quintana Roo » Wed Apr 04, 2012 4:31 pm

Josh, your post is awesome and has lots of great advice, as well as a mature and flexible attitude that coaches need to possess.

But this:
Joshua Rutsky wrote:We do, however, have 35 people regularly coming to practice and enjoying themselves.

Wow, holy crap. CR is a school of 2000 kids and we struggle to get more than 6 students to ever come to practice because of all their other activities. How the heck do you get 35 kids to show up to a practice? We can never split practice up because one room would have 2 kids in it...
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby ProfessorIanDuncan » Wed Apr 04, 2012 5:35 pm

Wow, holy crap. CR is a school of 2000 kids and we struggle to get more than 6 students to ever come to practice because of all their other activities. How the heck do you get 35 kids to show up to a practice? We can never split practice up because one room would have 2 kids in

I can say that in my school up until last year there weren't a lot of kids showing up to practice and we are a "Small School" (as specified by NAQT guidelines) but since our coach started mentioning quizbowl to freshmen in class we now have over 20 players in the team although most do not treat it as a full commitment and only some regularly show up at practice. I guess what i'm saying if it was mentioned by teachers in the beginning of the year as an advertisment there would be more people in the team although they may be less committed.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby David Riley » Thu Apr 05, 2012 12:26 am

Coach Rutsky:

1) I concur. 35? How DO you do it?

2) Re your wife: sounds like we need to start an Alabama chapter of "Spouses who think I spend way too much time with this". We've had one in Illinois for years :grin:
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Joshua Rutsky » Thu Apr 05, 2012 2:39 pm

Honestly, I wish I could take a bunch of credit for this, but I can't. Most of the credit goes to my players for creating an atmosphere where students WANT to be. There are a couple of things I've done, however, over the past few years that have helped build our numbers. Bear in mind that we are about 2400 students total, so we have a big pool to draw on.

1) Host a middle school event every year. I make sure I get face time with our middle school feeder school teams every year as host of the state Middle School Championship. It is a lot of extra work, but we make about $1000 on the event after snack and t-shirt sales, and the kids know who I am as a result. I've also invited our MS teams to come to a scrimmage with our JV once a year to give them a feel for what the "big leagues" are like. Those 9th graders are coming in to a brand new, huge school and are looking for places to drop anchor and feel a part of things--I just facilitate that.

2) Ask for help from your peers. At the end of each school year (with about a week to go), I send an e-mail to the faculty asking them to identify for me their "top three" kids in their subject area. I stress that this is not necessarily the three students with the highest grades, but rather the ones who are most actively participatory or the ones who are the "go-to" kids in class when they are teaching a concept and they want to call on a kid who will answer them with more than "I don't know." I'll ask them to look for the diamonds in the rough as well--the kids who they think have a lot of potential, but maybe aren't engaged in that particular class, and need something to hook them.

I usually get back about sixty or seventy responses from our faculty of 200. I take these and put them in a spreadsheet, and if a student's name comes up more than twice, I mark them as a "go and get" kid. Those kids get a personal, signed letter from me over the summer inviting them to come to a summer practice session or to tryouts at the start of the year. I make a point of saying that they were selected by their teachers as being the top candidates, and that I want them to be a part of something special that represents our school and our state at the highest level of integrity and honorable competition. It's hard to resist someone who asks you to join their team -- the kids feel honored and respected to have been chosen, so they're usually willing to give it a try.

3) Be flexible about practice and conflicts. When you have as many kids as we do, you're going to have conflicts. What I tell the kids is that I understand if they have other commitments, and that they can continue to practice when they are available as they can, but that commitment to practice is directly linked to participation on our travel teams. In other words, they have to make a choice at some point. Not necessarily now, but by the time they get close to moving to varsity, they have to decide that they will prioritize QB or other things, and that affects their spot.

Hope these thoughts help.

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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Down and out in Quintana Roo » Thu Apr 05, 2012 3:08 pm

Joshua Rutsky wrote:1) Host a middle school event every year. I make sure I get face time with our middle school feeder school teams every year as host of the state Middle School Championship. It is a lot of extra work, but we make about $1000 on the event after snack and t-shirt sales, and the kids know who I am as a result. I've also invited our MS teams to come to a scrimmage with our JV once a year to give them a feel for what the "big leagues" are like. Those 9th graders are coming in to a brand new, huge school and are looking for places to drop anchor and feel a part of things--I just facilitate that.
Our middle schools refuse to play quizbowl here, no matter what information i give them or what tournaments i tell them about. I even had a student ask a teacher here, who is the wife of the principal of one of our middle schools, to talk to her husband about a team. He had no interest. I do not know what else to do about this.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Charles Martel » Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:58 pm

List of villages in West Virginia wrote:
Joshua Rutsky wrote:1) Host a middle school event every year. I make sure I get face time with our middle school feeder school teams every year as host of the state Middle School Championship. It is a lot of extra work, but we make about $1000 on the event after snack and t-shirt sales, and the kids know who I am as a result. I've also invited our MS teams to come to a scrimmage with our JV once a year to give them a feel for what the "big leagues" are like. Those 9th graders are coming in to a brand new, huge school and are looking for places to drop anchor and feel a part of things--I just facilitate that.
Our middle schools refuse to play quizbowl here, no matter what information i give them or what tournaments i tell them about. I even had a student ask a teacher here, who is the wife of the principal of one of our middle schools, to talk to her husband about a team. He had no interest. I do not know what else to do about this.


One thing you might want to try if you find a lack of interest: Flip the usual order, and have some success before building a foundation. Success tends to get people interested in joining up. Unfortunately, there's a possibility that still no one will be interested, and it's hard to get success unless you hit some lucky players.
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Re: How do you keep newer players involved?

Postby Scaled Flowerpiercer » Fri Apr 06, 2012 4:44 pm

whitesoxfan wrote:
One thing you might want to try if you find a lack of interest: Flip the usual order, and have some success before building a foundation. Success tends to get people interested in joining up. Unfortunately, there's a possibility that still no one will be interested, and it's hard to get success unless you hit some lucky players.


I can concur that success => signing up seems to be fairly accurate. Though the "success" of Irvington's team has been rather small-scale, my freshman year the team was incredibly small and also never won anything, but starting at the end off my sophomore year we started occasionally being among the top few teams of local tournaments and occasionally winning things, and at the same time more students joined the team. However, as has been explained above, at least for us there is not much of a correlation between increasing team size and increase in the number of people who care about the team ... if anything, these two variables seem to have an inverse relationship at times.
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