Finding Staffers for High School Tournaments

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Finding Staffers for High School Tournaments

Post by rxailagan »

Is there some sort of database of former quizbowl players? I'm not sure how it is in other areas, but what I find hardest about running tournaments is finding enough staffers. I really hate having a lot of interest in a tournament but being unable to expand my field just because I can't find experienced people to staff. And then sometimes I'm at a conflict of interest because someone with no quizbowl experience will offer to staff but I'm concerned about their reading ability and possibly slowing down a tournament, so the best I can do is assign them to scorekeeping. Just wondering if others have this problem and how they deal with it. I've been coordinating at Michigan for a couple years so I've been able to gather a general contact list, but it really isn't that large.
Roxanne Ilagan

Grosse Pointe North '12
University of Michigan '16
Wayne State University '18
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Provisional Member, ACF

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Everything in the Whole Wide World
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Re: Finding Staffers for High School Tournaments

Post by Everything in the Whole Wide World »

Best I know, there is no national database of staffers. I've had the same problem in Pennsylvania. I know a number of the tournaments in our area have had lengthy waitlists at points due to lack of staff. Best I've been able to do is keep a list of known quizbowlers and quizbowl alums in state (a lot of people will read tournaments even if they're no longer involved in the game in any way), which has gotten me a few staff here and there. Keep track of the alums of your college program; inevitably many will stay in the area and would be happy to help. I generally find if you're unsure about offered high school help, have them scorekeep in the morning and then give them a go at reading in the consolation brackets if you can afford to, this way you can assess their skill without harming the tournament too much and presumably can switch them out without too much issue if they are not hacking it. Lastly: make sure these things get passed down in institutional memory! Give incoming officers your internal staff lists and point them towards who you've used before.
Ben Herman
Henderson High School (2007-2011) [West Chester, PA]
University of Delaware (2011-2015)
Penn State University (2015-Present)
Co-Founder and Contributor, Greater Pennsylvania Quizbowl Resource

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Re: Finding Staffers for High School Tournaments

Post by cchiego »

Part of this is a good thing; quizbowl has recognized that you need experienced, capable readers to make a tournament run well and you can't just throw in a random coach/parent/roommate if you want to finish a round in under 35 minutes. While it may be harder to get readers now, the readers we do get are of much, much higher quality on the whole and usually capable of running rooms by themselves effectively. That's a marked change from what I saw back in the mid-2000s so this is a net good for an attending team's experience, though not so much from the harried TD's perspective.

Quizbowl does have a considerable alumni network now that ought to be tapped more often, but when it happens it's often in inconsistent ways that can turn people off from wanting to volunteer their time to read in the future.

A reader who's not actively involved in a given quizbowl club might have this experience staffing a tournament: You show up early on a weekend morning (wearing carefully outlined professional attire that better fit) after paying for your own gas/train/bus fare, have to pay for your own breakfast, sit in a staff room (often ignored) while other people chat, get told to go set up a buzzer on your own and then read alone, sit at lunch eating cheap pizza as other people you don't know chat with each other, then after reading even more you're given a half-hearted thanks and told you can go.

It's not a fun-sounding experience unless you're "plugged in" to the quizbowl social groups and even then it's mildly absurd that a volunteer reader who probably earned the club $120~ by reading gets nothing of that. That might work if the reader is well-off and big-hearted, but I doubt it would for most people. There's also still a weird disconnect between college circuits and HS circuits in many places too so that there's a completely different set of readers for college-hosted vs. high school-hosted tournaments.

One solution might be in economic terms: we have excess demand from many teams, so why not increase the cost of attendance to help ensure good readers? $90 registration fees would allow hosts to actually pay moderators a decent stipend (like Illinois apparently does) to account for travel, provide decent breakfasts and lunches, and potentially attract better readers. This seems a bit like what the national championships do to assure teams that there will be high-quality readers by flying those readers out from all over the country--the price is high, but the benefits are worth it. This might be worth trying at the local level in some additional areas.

I think a more effective, if more difficult to implement, strategy would be to ensure that more people are socialized into the quizbowl circuit. Alumni from one team might not be willing to join your club, but might be happy to read if it means they get to see their old coach and teammates and have a good time. A retired coach might enjoy coming back to read if treated respectfully and asked about his/her experiences with the circuit in the past. Offer to go get dinner with people afterwards (especially these "peripheral" people who just showed up rather than your good friends on the team) and in general focus on making the tournament a good experience for not just the teams, but the moderators as well.
Chris C.
UGA '09, UCSD '12, UPenn '19
Greater Pennsylvania QuizBowl

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Re: Finding Staffers for High School Tournaments

Post by Kevin »

I've found that college teams are one of the best sources of readers. Many college quiz bowl players have been willing to read at the high school and middle school tournaments I've hosted.

I also agree that quiz bowl alums are a good source of readers. If you coach at a high school, perhaps some of its graduates are in college nearby. Or maybe they've graduated college and work nearby.

I'd also like to suggest that family members, with training, can be good and reliable moderators. I've been fortunate enough to have my parents read at most of the tournaments I've directed, so they have quite a bit of experience by now. If you direct a lot of tournaments, you may want to see if a spouse/sibling/parent/etc. is willing to read for your tournaments.

Finally, has anyone had success with asking/requiring schools to bring readers? I know NHBB has this policy, and many tournaments offer discounts for bringing staffers. I've offered discounts in the past and have never gotten any takers.
Kevin Marshall
Coach, Mount Carmel Academy, New Orleans, LA (2014-present)
Coach, Chapelle HS, Metairie, LA (2011-2014)
player and/or secretary and/or captain, Tulane Quiz Bowl (2007-2009)

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