TDs: Manage Your Fields Appropriately

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cchiego
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TDs: Manage Your Fields Appropriately

Post by cchiego » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:54 am

Please pay attention to which schools are signing up for your tournaments and make sure that the field is appropriate to their abilities. Be honest with teams beforehand to avoid huge mismatches that drive away newer teams and players.

If a new school or an infrequent attendee wants to come to a tournament that's already got a loaded field and doesn't have a novice division, tell them that there are better opportunities out there. Conversely, if a top team wants to send a team to a tournament that has a weak field of mostly-new teams, strongly discourage them from doing so (especially if it's supposed to be a novice tournament and their "novice" team consists of MSNCT playoff participants). You may still have a few first-time teams that are very strong, but they can quickly graduate out of the novice division then. Also consider the relative strength of your circuit and the other opportunities available to teams; this is where coordinating a schedule with others in the region can help a lot.

Furthermore, if you are hosting a tournament, you should under almost no circumstance be fielding your best players as House teams. Your first priority should be making sure you have more than enough staff in both readers and scorekeepers and then fill in a House team only with your newest players and insofar as you need them to fill in gaps in the schedule. This is especially true for established hosts who already have shelves full of trophies and really don't need another one or two, especially from their own tournament. I know that this might be seen as more "controversial" and in some isolated regions where teams have few competitive opportunities it might make sense to field your best teams, but still: consider the ramifications of this on the broader circuit.
Chris C.
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Skepticism and Animal Feed
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Re: TDs: Manage Your Fields Appropriately

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Thu Nov 01, 2018 10:16 am

Long, long ago, I was the TD of a very hard tournament. A new team, that had never played a tournament before, signed up to play it. I was excited to see them field a team and welcomed them to this tournament. They got absolutely killed, including a loss to a below-average player who was playing solo. I never saw that team again.

That said, I could also imagine a team quitting after being told, in effect, "you're not good enough and we don't want you here". How to do this diplomatically?
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cchiego
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Re: TDs: Manage Your Fields Appropriately

Post by cchiego » Sun Mar 31, 2019 4:55 pm

Bumping this post because based on another thread there is a very odd "they knew what they were getting into" attitude towards new/occasional attendee teams in quizbowl from more experienced teams and players.

For many--perhaps the majority (still!)--of schools with some kind of quiz bowl team, the acronyms ("NAQT DII-SCT" questions), descriptors ("regular-plus difficulty"), and signifiers ("pre-nationals") that the quizbowl community uses have little to no real meaning. I know this from visiting schools and talking to coaches around the country: people think that NAC = NAQT, have no idea what the word "pyramidal" means, and haven't the foggiest idea of who the best teams outside their county might be. They certainly don't check the forums regularly or participate in Discords. This isn't because they're dumb, but rather that they might not even be aware of what's out there and how it can help them and their team (remember the concerns the college quizbowl community had over insularity? they're just as present in many ways at the HS level).

Given this situation, adopting an attitude of claiming it's not your responsibility to inform teams about what they are getting into when they sign up for a tournament doesn't make a lot of sense. Ideally, you should want quizbowl to be played by as many teams and players as possible--it's fun! it's educational! it's an amazing opportunity to learn about all sorts of cool topics that you might never have heard about otherwise! There are all kinds of good reasons to want to encourage more teams to play pyramidal quizbowl. At the very least, from a purely selfish perspective, you should want quizbowl to be played by more teams and more players. It helps fill up more tournament fields (and thus brings more $$ into the community), raises awareness and the prestige of quizbowl, and encourages more tournaments, which gives you more opportunities to play.

I get that there are some new/occasional attendee teams who will simply insist on playing an event for which they are unprepared no matter what and despite your best warnings (sometimes they've been sent by their principal for instance and don't have an actual coach; one way to address this might be to set a deadline of a week in advance for registering since that will give you time to talk to the coordinator). In these cases, you should do everything in your power to try to talk to them in advance about resources for improvement, befriend the coaches/sponsors, and in general try to bring them into the quizbowl community and give them a good experience. You can also advise them of specific alternatives. For instance, this team would have done much better in the tournament's JV division than in the loaded Varsity division; you can send coaches a copy of the level of questions being used as well as stats for the teams in the upper division to compare (this worked with one team who really wanted to be in a nationals division at first). I suspect part of the problem comes from many tournaments now being run by students who will be gone shortly rather than coaches who will stick around for awhile--the incentives and time horizons are different.

Yet you are doing "outreach" whether you like it or not whenever you host a tournament--you are affecting the way other teams and schools in your area view quizbowl. If they show up and face a murderer's row of the best teams in the country on a difficult set, they're likely to not have a favorable view of pyramidal quizbowl and will likely support alternative formats and TV shows. This is why New Jersey still has many more schools playing Jeopardy! and local formats than pyramidal quizbowl and why areas with pyramidal leagues have a hard time bringing league schools out onto the weekend circuit. Of course there are many other factors that affect participation, but one thing that quizbowl schools do have control over is whether or not the classic "new team shows up, gets destroyed, never shows up again or at least not for 4-5 years" pattern will keep getting repeated.

In short: every tournament host has a unique responsibility to quizbowl as a whole of providing the best possible entry point for the many, many schools out there without a quizbowl team or with teams who don't normally attend weekend pyramidal tournaments.
Chris C.
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Re: TDs: Manage Your Fields Appropriately

Post by Atlashill » Sun Mar 31, 2019 8:54 pm

This season, with Missouri streamlining their format to align closer to the national standard, I was able to get four schools in the northeastern part of the state to participate in their first 20/20 tournament. Two of them I had been angling to get in our fields for years. Unfortunately, given all the snow that we were slammed with in January, one of the school's first 20/20 event ended up being a tournament that featured multiple participants from last year's SSNCT. In this instance, I made it a point to visit with their coaches throughout the day, get their observations and provide insight and feedback. Despite a rough start, they ended up with what I'd consider a respectable finish in the consolation rounds.

I followed a similar approach yesterday with a team that had attended their first 20/20 tournament in years. It was a tough go for their morning rounds, but we did chat throughout the day, and I anticipate having them becoming more active in tournaments outside their conference series. The other two teams in the region I had for the first time were at a novice event at the start of the season, and both reported similar positive experiences. I am hopeful this will lead to continue exposure for these teams, potentially waking up their conference rivals as they improve their performance and program. More significantly, this exposure to faster readers, stronger teams and less reliance on math computation should help get our state format fully aligned with 20/20.

My advice to TDs: frequent communication with coaches. If you have a first-time registration, reach out to them directly and start a conversation about what to expect. Even if they end up dropping, keep the conversation going as best you can - you might help them better prepare for your event in the future, or other contests down the road. (I did have a program a few years ago where, within one day of signing up for a tournament with several heavy hitters, they withdrew their registration. During a chat that followed, I encouraged the coach to staff a couple events and try out other events that appeared to be more suited for them. Their program has since been on an upward trajectory, with multiple trophy finishes this year.) I echo Chris in saying that if you take the approach of telling teams "you knew what you were getting into" or "them's the breaks", then you will put off teams from more than just your tournament.
Kyle Hill—Liberty (Mo.) '03—Truman State '07
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