Bad moderating

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Tegan
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Bad moderating

Post by Tegan »

As a coach, I have really been dismayed about the level of moderating in recent years. I thought it should be getting better, and perhaps it is, but overall I still think it has a way to go.

In Illinois, it is not unusual for tournaments to not supply moderators until the final few rounds, and for coaches to split duties. Frankly, most coaches do a better job than the "readers" that I have seen. Some coaches, however, need to not to read, especially when there is a much better reader in the room. Most tournaments ask coaches to split the duties, and that, to me, gives bad moderators free reign. We all have weaknesses, some are not good moderators, its no shame.

In two weeks, I am hosting a tournament, and I am thinking of laying down the law: if you know you have poor pronunciation....if you read too slow (20 questions with rebounding bonuses should be done, finito, in under 35 minutes unless every single question is going the duration), then you do not read. I have a few volunteers, who can fill in.

Is this being too harsh? Am I asking for a world of trouble when I break some coaches heart? How is this generally handeled in other states?
Last edited by Tegan on Wed Mar 22, 2006 1:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by mf_2 »

When I played in Alabama, we ALWAYS had volunteers read the matches. I think a few coaches help out with reading but they NEVER read a match in which their own team is participating.
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Post by Matthew D »

Max is right about Alabama and I understand what you are trying to say but at the same time, you might want to be a bit more diplomatic about the whole thing due to the fact that you might really kill your voluteer pool.
Personally, I don't mind helping out but I really am challenged when it comes to pronunciation I can really mess up but I know this and I really only like to read IF it is a last resort...

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Re: Bad moderating

Post by Howard »

Tegan wrote:In two weeks, I am hosting a tournament, and I am thinking of laying down the law: if you know you have poor pronunciation....if you read too slow (20 questions with rebounding bonuses should be done, finito, in under 35 minutes unless every single question is going the duration), then you do not read. I have a few volunteers, who can fill in.

Is this being too harsh? Am I asking for a world of trouble when I break some coaches heart? How is this generally handeled in other states?
This is a bit harsh and, more importantly, a bit unfair. It's my experience that any team who is playing on questions being read by a familiar reader has an advantage. This is why it's important to split the duties. I've had some coaches request I continue reading at halftime rather than switch off. I presume it's because they know I'm doing much better than they would be, but I don't really know.

I think it's important that the coaches have the ability to defer to the other reader in the room at their own discretion. In some close matches, however poor they may be at reading/moderating, it's important for them to do so to keep the result fair.
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Post by Tegan »

Matthew D wrote:you might want to be a bit more diplomatic about the whole thing due to the fact that you might really kill your voluteer pool.
I hear you on that one....Anyone that I recruit I know can handle the job fairly well (no one is asking for perfection, and I understand wholeheartedly there are some really hard words to pronounce), and on top of that, anyone can have a bad day. I would never recruit someone and then say "sorry, you can't hack it, you need to leave. My main problem is with coaches who are taking way too long to read (I can live with the pronunciation, but when one or two folks are a round behind everyone else it really starts becoming a problem).

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Post by Stained Diviner »

This is a tough subject because you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

There is nothing more frustrating than having an incompetent moderator assigned to one of my team's matches. At one match last year at which we had two coaches, I walked out of the room because I couldn't take it any more.

There are many coaches who I hope let me read for the entire match because they just aren't very good at reading. I occasionally warn my team that they are going to have an extra obstacle to deal with in a match. It is unfair if I read the whole match because my team is more comfortable with me, but some people just shouldn't read.

I don't know what the best solution is. You may want to just tell coaches that there is nothing wrong with using a reader in the morning or letting one coach read the whole match if both coaches agree that s/he is a good moderator. You're hosting a Frosh/Soph tournament, so there is nothing wrong with letting your varsity players moderate if they have the personality to do it.
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Post by Matthew D »

Tegan wrote:
Matthew D wrote:you might want to be a bit more diplomatic about the whole thing due to the fact that you might really kill your voluteer pool.
My main problem is with coaches who are taking way too long to read (I can live with the pronunciation, but when one or two folks are a round behind everyone else it really starts becoming a problem).
We never have had that problem.. been a few minutes behind other people but never a full round.. but you are right about if they are getting behind then something needs to be done..

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Post by fluffy4102 »

Moderators can also lack all common sense...

aka saying that a team negged because they said Dr. Livingstone with a short o...

:shock:

IMO that can be truly irritating

Also irritating when the moderator gives you a neg in NAQT format after the other team negged...
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Post by Ben Dillon »

Here's an entertaining one from the moderator in today's match:

What West Point graduate said during his final speech, "When I cross the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of the corpse, and the corpse, and the corpse"?

My players immediately realized the mistake, but they were trying so hard to suppress their laughter that they dared not even buzz in with a guess because they thought they wouldn't be able to get it out without laughing!

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Post by mlaird »

At two recent tournaments I've had coaches let me read the whole round, because it's usually better for both teams. I honestly don't think that a team is given that much of an edge when their own coach is their moderator. I think it all depends on if the moderator is good or not. For instance, if there were ten Maine South (Egan) v. New Trier (Reinstein) matches, and we measured who got more points with which moderator, I don't think it would be a very big difference. Though perhaps if there was a very poor moderator, and his/her own team was able to make more sense of their blunders, this might be a point. But I'm rambling and making a circular argument. I guess my point is that bad moderators should be taken out behind the shed and whipped.
ReinsteinD wrote:There is nothing more frustrating than having an incompetent moderator assigned to one of my team's matches. At one match last year at which we had two coaches, I walked out of the room because I couldn't take it any more.
I usually ask the other coach if they want to read the first half, so that my team gets the "advantage" for when it counts. But sometimes I just want to push the other coach out of the way when they're reading and pull a Speirs from Band of Brothers: "I'm taking over."

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Post by mrs. dalloway »

Here's a tip that all moderators should adhere to:

Do not refer to tossup 19 (in a 20-question round) as "the penultimate tossup."

Sorry, couldn't resist.
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Post by NotBhan »

mrs. dalloway wrote:Here's a tip that all moderators should adhere to:

Do not refer to tossup 19 (in a 20-question round) as "the penultimate tossup."
Why not?

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Post by AKKOLADE »

NotBhan wrote:
mrs. dalloway wrote:Here's a tip that all moderators should adhere to:

Do not refer to tossup 19 (in a 20-question round) as "the penultimate tossup."
Why not?
This is the poster who spawned the ridiculous grammar argument. Just accept and ignore.
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Post by DrakeRQB »

What's always killed me around N.C. is having high school students serve as moderators. One time last year I finally had to ask the poor kid if I could take over during a match. To expect most HS kids to nail those pronunciations is usually unrealistic.

Then again, I've been at tournaments where the moderators were college kids, and they weren't exactly Alex Trebek either. I guess it's all in how the moderators are prepped beforehand.
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Post by mlaird »

mrs. dalloway wrote:Here's a tip that all moderators should adhere to:

Do not refer to tossup 19 (in a 20-question round) as "the penultimate tossup."
Hey! I do that!
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition wrote:pe·nul·ti·mate
adj.

1. Next to last.
2. Linguistics. Of or relating to the penult of a word: penultimate stress.
And please, Ms. Powers, this hardly makes for a bad moderator. Does it?

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Post by leapfrog314 »

While I find nothing wrong with referring to a tossup as the "penultimate tossup," it did remind me that I dislike moderators who try to do too much more than moderate. I do not want running commentary on the questions. Read the questions and don't do things like say "Who cares about ___?" after a tossup on it is not answered. That's perfectly alright once a match, but some moderators make snide remarks about virtually every tossup, and that really irritates me.

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Post by dtaylor4 »

Sometimes when I read in practice, I use the word penultimate, and when playing, I see no problem with it.

As for bad moderators, I remember when I had to suffer through a moderator who had a really bad New Jersey accent and could barely pronounce probably 1/3 of the key words in a tossup.

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Post by hhssteve »

DrakeRQB wrote:What's always killed me around N.C. is having high school students serve as moderators.
Hey, now, I've read at a few tournaments, granted with JV level questions or ones that I wrote or edited, and was perfectly fine. Once a coach commended me on handling his somewhat unruly team professionally... but yeah, having a bunch of HS readers could get embarassingly bad REALLY fast.

And I empathize with leapfrog about the running commentaries. They make me cringe.

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Post by DrakeRQB »

hhssteve wrote:
DrakeRQB wrote:What's always killed me around N.C. is having high school students serve as moderators.
Hey, now, I've read at a few tournaments, granted with JV level questions or ones that I wrote or edited, and was perfectly fine. Once a coach commended me on handling his somewhat unruly team professionally... but yeah, having a bunch of HS readers could get embarassingly bad REALLY fast.

And I empathize with leapfrog about the running commentaries. They make me cringe.
I don't mean to imply that all high school-age readers are bad - I have a couple of kids that I wouldn't hesitate to use in a pinch. But in general, it can get pretty ugly... especially if there aren't pronunciation keys in the packets.
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Post by Summoned Skull »

mrs. dalloway wrote:Here's a tip that all moderators should adhere to:

Do not refer to tossup 19 (in a 20-question round) as "the penultimate tossup."

Sorry, couldn't resist.
Are we allowed to refer to the 18th tossup as the antepenultimate tossup?
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Post by dtaylor4 »

Don't stretch it. That sounds like something :chip: would do.

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Post by hhssteve »

"Penultimate" can be clever; "antepenultimate" is just asinine.

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Post by mrs. dalloway »

I was kidding about the penultimate tossup thing (Mr. Laird is somewhat known for doing that)...although I don't like for moderators (or players, or coaches) to toss out random words or info just to seem smarter. And yeah, running commentary = bad. Although the occasional joke to lighten the mood is usually fine, even welcome.
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Post by dtaylor4 »

when I moderate, I try to lighten the mood with a comment or two. sometimes if no one buzzes in on a tossup, I might tell teams that there's no penalty for educated guesses

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Post by harpersferry »

Bad moderating irritates me just because there are some things that many do that shouldn't happen. Making mistakes is human. Gross and/or repeated misinterpretation of rules or running commentary, or even inconsiderate offhand remarks get extremely annoying. I don't mind a few corrections or comments if they have merit or pertain to the match.
That said, I do understand the fact that some are inexperienced or set in their ways. But the world is not perfect.

I also think that equal time for coaches is a must because the cadence of a moderator makes a huge difference. Familiar moderators, not just coaches, give auditory clues whether or not they are aware of it.

Moderators' quirky habits are amuzing.

"hemisemidemi(insert more prefixes here)penultimate"
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Btw, Colleen didn't start the grammar thing.

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Post by fancynancy »

pasedpawn wrote: Btw, Colleen didn't start the grammar thing.
Yeah, wasn't it Kristin?
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Post by dtaylor4 »


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Post by 'Bago Power »

Well, for the record, there are now "Certified Moderators" for Illinois. Although it only involves passing a written test, it certainly takes some level of dedication to do even that. Those people, atleast, can probably be trusted.
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Post by Matthew D »

Just wondering could you give us some examples of what would be on the test.. question examples
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Post by leapfrog314 »

I believe the Illinois moderator certification test is only about rules. You need 45 or more of the 50 questions correct, but it is open-rulebook. It needs to be renewed every year by taking an updated test.

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Post by Tegan »

leapfrog314 wrote:I believe the Illinois moderator certification test is only about rules. You need 45 or more of the 50 questions correct, but it is open-rulebook. It needs to be renewed every year by taking an updated test.
Leapfrog is right. This is a first step.

Ideally, I would see this as a three tier system:

A. Test Certification: You passed the test, you know the rules
B. Clinic Certification: You attend a clinic and talk about what makes a good moderator.
C. Live Certification: You pass out cards to the coaches you read for, and ask them to rate you. When you accumulate enough or a certain percent of "good" ratings, you become certified at this level.

Just passing a test is not meant to be the "end all, be all" of being a good moderator, but rather a first step....but a necessary first step.

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Post by Bubiyuqn »

Maybe it's just me, but I don't find it as bad that the moderator does not know the rules as it is that the moderators often do not know how to pronounce. Maybe this is more of a hill-folk sort of thing, but down here in Southern Illinois, rule disputes rarely, if ever, come up. The problems I usually run into involve a moderator reading either A) incredibly slowly, often spelling every word that has more than six letters, or B) just plain poorly, pronouncing things terribly.

For example, at our regionals last year, there was a moderator who did not know how to pronounce cosecant. I kid you not. He stumbled over it for awhile so that it ended up something like "What is the co... co... cos... cosn... cosnt of (angle)" We had no idea whether he said cosine or cosecant. We guessed cosine, and we were wrong. The other team got it right, assuming that if he didn't say cosine, he must've said cosecant. He refused to hear any protest.

Fortunately, Carbondale is hosting the regional this year, so it shouldn't be a problem, but who knows where the regional will be next year.

Just in case anyone was wondering how backwards things were down here.

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Post by Matthew D »

Some of that comes from NOT seeing the words in print and but have heard them before.. I have this problem myself. Also, reading outloud is a skill that we don't use as much as we once did. I like the clinic idea myself, I know I would be right there at anything that would help me to become better.
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Post by David Riley »

Justin--southern Illinois doesn't have the market cornered on bad moderators. From the archives:

We once played a match at a tournament with a very inexperienced moderator. When she pronounced "matrices" as "mattresses', both team howled. She got very defensive--I called a time out and told my team, ok, but she's prob a volunteer so cut her a little slack. Five or six quesitons laer we had a question with factorials, and she said "5!" as 5 with great emotion (because of the excalamation point) instead of "5 factorial". This time, both teams totally lost it and she left the room in a huff. A fre minutes later, the tournament director came to finish the match. When he asked what the problem was, the othe coach and I said we knew volunteers were necessary, but if they can't pronounce then they shouldn't read IN A SEMIFINAL MATCH!!!!

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Post by First Chairman »

Yeah, pronouncing words is important.

I will state that I recall back in the days of my college playing and moderating how much I actually prepared myself outside of tournaments to be really good at pronouncing words on the fly. Moderators really should be cued into news stories (radio or television) and pay attention to how other so-called professionals pronounce words. I also socialized with many international students who gave me insight into the phonetic differences were in their languages or proper pronunciations of terms they should know. Ideally, every moderator should have 10 minutes to oversee a packet and talk to the rest of the moderators about how they all will pronounce certain proper names. But since that almost never happens, having exercised one's mind to different cultures and styles helps a lot.

Not to mention writing tons of questions in my day.
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Post by Stained Diviner »

Here is an answer to Matthew D's question above. These things are covered under Illinois rules. If anybody wants to comment on them, I ask that you not make any comments about the correctness or lack thereof of a particular answer because I think these are from the current test. Please don't even say things like 'I sure hope Answer X is correct'.

During a match, you announce that the next toss-up will be in American Literature. Before you begin the actual question, Team A calls for a time-out. The correct action is:
A. Assuming that Team A has a time-out remaining, grant the time-out.
B. Do not allow the time-out. You may decide to ignore the call or to explain that a time-out cannot be called once the category has been announced.
C. Ask Team B if they will allow the time-out to be taken now.

As soon as team introductions are over, some of the players on Team A immediately start writing down notes to themselves. The correct action is:
A. Take away these notes and warn the team against such behavior.
B. Take away these notes and do not allow Team A to answer the first toss-up.
C. Ask Team A how much time they need to write down their notes and wait until they are ready.
D. Ignore the behavior and begin the match.

A toss-up question asks for the name of a city, and the answer is given in the packet as MILWAUKEE(, Wisconsin), which means that the answer does not have to include Wisconsin. Team A buzzes in, is recognized, and gives the answer ‘Milwaukee’. You mistakenly ask them for more information, and they state ‘Milwaukee, Connecticut’. You rule the answer wrong, and Team B proceeds to give the answer Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The coach of Team A protests immediately, and you recognize your mistake. The correct remedy is:
A. Because Team B gave a better answer, rule that their answer is correct.
B. Because of the confusion, read a replacement question.
C. Because the question is over, it is too late to change anything.
D. An admission of error would lessen your authority. Do not allow the protest.
E. Rule that Team A was correct. Adjust the scores accordingly and handle the bonus accordingly.

Please remember: these are actual questions on the test, so comments here should avoid specifics. I feel free to put them here because it is an untimed, open book test and because I am not commenting on them at all.
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Post by Matthew D »

Dr Chuck,
I like you suggestions. I guess the time I been listenin to NPR does help.

Reinstein, thanks for the examples...
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Post by harpersferry »

I liked the tiered idea, and I agree that it will take time to implement. Obviously, a written test cannot judge pronunciation, style, personality, etc. that all go into being a great moderator. I am not sure if anyone on these boards is familiar with the USCF (United States Chess Federation) system of certification for Tournament Directors (who also serve as judges during tournaments). It too is a tiered system, and only certain level judges are allowed at various levels of competition. Each higher level takes a more rigorous test as well as experience directing larger tournaments. Of course, this system has been in place for many years, and many judges have already been certified. Therefore, the problem of having to start it up doesn't exist. I just wanted to concur on the benefits of such a system.

Note: For more details regarding the chess certification system go to http://www.uschess.org/tds/new05tdcerti ... nrules.pdf

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Post by Tegan »

pasedpawn wrote:I liked the tiered idea, and I agree that it will take time to implement. Obviously, a written test cannot judge pronunciation, style, personality, etc. that all go into being a great moderator.
I could not agree with you more. I think we started with a "rules test" because it was easier, and because it parallels what many athletic officials go through to become certified: the rules test is tier one, followed by the meeting, and then the workshop where they get rated by other officials. I would also like to see a "coaches" or "coach-player" official rating system go into place.

You need to be careful with the "coaches" rating system. Some can never be pleased, and some faun over everyone. Some very inexperienced moderators are furious when a moderator "reads too darn fast", or can't be browbeaten too easily....so that a good moderator gets a bad review.

In the next year or two, I am hoping that the IHSA will adopt a "certified only" system for the state finals....and if we get a critical mass accross the state....then hopefully at the Sectional level.

I am ill convinced we will ever get enough to require it at the regional level, but we can hope!

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Post by NoahMinkCHS »

Certification sounds like a promising, interesting idea, especially for your state tournaments. But, that said, most tournaments will never have the ability to have anything more than volunteers like parents and teachers who are just being nice and wouldn't bother with certification. And some of these people will pronounce "5!" as "FIVE!"

The thing about that is, packet writers can help. It's hard sometimes, as a player or coach, to remember that just because you hear about this stuff everyday, your readers may not have talked about factorials (or foreign places or people) in decades, if ever. Cut 'em some slack -- put pronunciation guides for anything questionable.

For example, (I hope) I'd never let someone read a packet that had "5!" in it. It's confusing, as 99% of the time, ! does mean emphasis. If you're reading quickly, even if you're a math guru, your reflex might take over and cause you to make that mistake. While that was a hilarious story, and I'm glad I got to hear it, there's no excuse for the writer or editor or TD not replacing that symbolism with "five factorial".

Other stuff, like "cosecant", may not be as obviously confusing. Even so, it's not a household word for most people. Can't hurt to add (koh-SEE-kent) to help out your helpers. There will always be some morons, and some stubborn people who ignore or mis-read pronunciation guides; but most volunteers probably sincerely want to do well. Let's make it easy for them to do so.

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Post by Tegan »

NoahMinkCHS wrote: The thing about that is, packet writers can help. <sic> Cut 'em some slack -- put pronunciation guides for anything questionable.
All true for sure, but sometimes these hosts bring in volunteers where all the pronunciation guides in the world wouldn't help. I know these people are trying to be nice, but it would be better for the coaches to split the duty. I've been in matches where both coaches spend as much time telling hte moderator what to do and correcting pronunciation as they do actually playing.

My favorite words in the world are when a TD starts the day by saying "I don't have enough moderators". I am pretty quick to volunteer to be in a room where there is none.
If you're reading quickly, even if you're a math guru, your reflex might take over and cause you to make that mistake.
:neutral:

msuter
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Post by msuter »

I fully agree with Noah that if you err as a question writer/editor/TD, you should err on the side of caution rather than assuming that anyone reading should know what 5! or something similar means, especially for high school tournaments. Math questions should always be written in word form as well as the mathematical formula.

As has already been mentioned, most readers for high school tournaments are volunteers and read once or twice a year. I have always told my readers that I will risk offending them by adding too many phonetic pronunciations rather than not enough--they are free to ignore the ones they don't need. I've never had any of my readers complain in fifteen years of writing tournament questions for ACT I and II.

Another solution to this problem is in getting the questions to the readers several days ahead of the tournament so that they have time to practice reading the questions. (I realize this isn't always possible or feasible if coaches of competing teams will be reading) . We also meet with the moderators ahead of time the morning of the tournament to go over the questions, make final corrections, add additional answers that are acceptable, and clarify pronunciations.

The most frustrating tournaments my teams ever participated in were those where readers were given the questions two minutes before the match, read so fast that you couldn't understand them, and read looking down "into the table" rather than projecting their voices to the players.

As a former coach and a current local TD, Va. Scholastic Bowl Valley District commissioner and Group A SB State Tournament Director, I applaud Illinois' efforts to improve their moderator's skills.

AndySaunders
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Post by AndySaunders »

How's this for a bad mod job:

- started out reading too quietly
- after being asked to speak up, moderator overexaggerated request and became very loud and very slow
- openly mocked the player that had made the "speak up" request playing in the game during said game
- refused to give a late-game power even though power had been achieved in time

All in a game that ended up going to overtime between two teams that ended up within a game of each other in the round-robin standings.

NoahMinkCHS
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Post by NoahMinkCHS »

We need a national organization, if only for the purpose of banning this person from quiz bowl for life.

I'm only partially kidding. That's a ridiculous situation, and I hope the TD was notified. That person should not be welcome at any future event.

Tegan
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Post by Tegan »

The Head Official for Illinois went through and included a "rating" component this year for the first time. Each coach at the state finals was asked to rate their moderator on a 1-5 scale on professionalism, speed, clarity, pronunciation, knowledge of the rules, etc. The IHSA assistant director in charge said that he would review the ratings and use them as part of the process in deciding who returns.

It was hardly my finest hour as a moderator, having a pretty serious cold at the time.....maybe I got some low marks. But I am glad this started. The next step is to expand this a bit to the local tournaments in the regular season, and perhaps use them as a tool for getting the best moderators to state.

jrbarry
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Post by jrbarry »

Wow! I have coached this activity since 1978 and I have never seen a match where a coach moderated for his/her own team. I simply would not let my team compete under those circumstances.

Coaches rarely moderate in Georgia though that happens sometimes in our State Tournaments though you cannot read for your own team.

It amazes me what I learn on this site.

I just want moderators who speak clearly and deliberately, are truly impartial, and have some basic understanding of the activity. Pronunciation is less important to me than the aforementioned qualifications.

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quizbowllee
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Post by quizbowllee »

jrbarry wrote:Wow! I have coached this activity since 1978 and I have never seen a match where a coach moderated for his/her own team. I simply would not let my team compete under those circumstances.

Coaches rarely moderate in Georgia though that happens sometimes in our State Tournaments though you cannot read for your own team.

It amazes me what I learn on this site.

I just want moderators who speak clearly and deliberately, are truly impartial, and have some basic understanding of the activity. Pronunciation is less important to me than the aforementioned qualifications.
WOW! I've been coaching since... well... 1998. In that time, I've moderated for my own team literally dozens of times. I've also kept score while the OTHER team's coach was moderating. Unless you think that they're gonna cheat, I don't see the problem with it.
Lee Henry
AP English Teacher
Quiz Bowl Coach
West Point High School
Cullman, AL

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Matthew D
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Post by Matthew D »

Personally, If I have to worry about the other coach trying to cheat me during a match, then I really need to change professions.. I know it happens but I really HOPE that the person that is coaching a team does have some small amount of HONOR...
Matt Dennis
Coach DAR Quizbowl Team

Tegan
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Post by Tegan »

In all the time that I've done this, I've never had a coach try to cheat me while I was in the room. I've had coaches who were ignorant of the rules, or were poor readers, but I've seen that more often with the appointed moderators who more often than not are some nice people who volunteer, but may not have the chops to do this.

The only time I have had coaches cheat my team (and it has only happened twice in four years to my knowledge) is when I chose not to be in the room while I followed another one of my teams. Fortunately, my captain browbeat the other coach into submission, and he changed the call.

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DrakeRQB
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Post by DrakeRQB »

I kept score once while Eric moderated a match between us and Raleigh Charter. If anything, I think he may have been harsher on his team in prompting for more information and things like that. It wasn't a problem.
Alex Drake
Robinson HS
Concord, N.C.

http://www.robinsonquizbowl.com

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