Where to Start

Dormant threads from the high school sections are preserved here.
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Where to Start

Post by DadofTwins »

First a bit of background:

I played high school in Fallbrook, California in 1991. That would make me . . . well . . . old. I played CBI for 5 years in college, mostly by begging friends to come along to Regionals and begging the Student Senate for money. (I got quite good at the begging, but not much better at the playing.)

In 2004, I lost to :kenj: on Show #64.

This year, we started homeschooling my 6-year-olds. We also joined the local home school co-op, the leaders of which were big fans of :kenj: . Long story short, I now find myself coaching what passes for a quiz bowl team -- 13 kids ranging from 4th grade through high school. I have a junior, a sophomore, a "sort-of" freshman, a handful of 8th graders, and some 4th through 6th. I have them one hour a week, all together.

This is all completely new to everybody. We are starting from scratch -- no library, no buzzers, no high-speed internet, no nothing. Our budget comes from recycling soda cans. Seriously.

The good part? No expectations. Nobody else knows what this is "supposed to be" either, other than "fun." And not too terribly expensive, if we can pull that off. I could beg for money, but I'd rather not if it can be avoided.

What I've read on this board has given me a pretty good idea on how to proceed content-wise. But I still have a couple of questions.

1) Buzzers. Are they worth the investment this early on? If so, what should I look for?
2) Reference books. The first day of practice (if you can call it that) was all about writing questions. If I have to choose between books and buzzers, which do you recommend? And which books should I start with?
3) Competition. We're about 45 minutes from Bowling Green, KY, 90 minutes from Nashville, and 2 hours from Louisville. High-level tournaments aren't much of an option at this point. For scrimmages, though, should I look for middle schools, high schools, or something else? And what's the protocol for that sort of arrangement (moderators, questions, buzzers, etc.)?

Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Ben Wiles

Advisor, Logan County Homeschool Co-op Quiz Bowl

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Deviant Insider
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Re: Where to Start

Post by Deviant Insider »

My recommendation would be to buy buzzers, though it's a recommendation that I give without 100% certainty. The best system for teams on a tight budget probably is Anderson.

I hate to be against buying books, but the internet has lots of great information, including a small number of study guides specifically designed for quizbowl and a good number of quizbowl questions. Also, not to be snarky, but public libraries have lots of good books.

Hopefully, somebody from Kentucky will post what tournaments are near you. There are a lot of teams in Kentucky, both at the high school and junior high school levels, so it should not be difficult to find competition. You also should read through the Kentucky thread in the Comparisons Section if you haven't already. Of course, you do want to compete.

At some point, this will cost money. The buzzer system will set you back over $200, and it will cost you roughly $100 to travel to and enter each tournament (depending on how far it is, whether you're buying lunch for the team, how expensive the tournament is, and so forth). It's a heck of a lot cheaper than starting a hockey team, but you may have to make decisions based on how much you are able to spend or make the families chip in.

Welcome. We're always happy to have new people on board.
David Reinstein
PACE VP of Outreach, Head Writer and Editor for Scobol Solo and Masonics (Illinois), TD for New Trier Scobol Solo and New Trier Varsity, Writer for NAQT (2011-2017), IHSSBCA Board Member, IHSSBCA Chair (2004-2014), PACE Member, PACE President (2016-2018), New Trier Coach (1994-2011)

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at your pleasure
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Re: Where to Start

Post by at your pleasure »

Always good to see new teams. Anyhow, here's what I would suggest. Bear in mind that most of this applies to HS and some MS teams.
1. Get practice questions. NAQT sells practice sets, but you can find loads of good sets from older tournaments at quizbowlpackets.com.I don't really know about elementary/middle school sets, but JV/novice HS sets will work well for MS students.In the unlikely event that you go through all the HS sets out there, start using collge novice sets. These will be especially helpful for HS students, since there is a fair amount of overlap between HS varsity and college novice questions.
2. Try to get a buzzer set. While you can certainly run practices as "Slap Bowl", it's a good idea to be used to buzzing in. In addtion, many tournaments give a small discount for bringing buzzers.Whitman uses Zeecraft, but I'm not certain wether they are still sold. I have also heard things about building your own buzzer set, but I have no idea if this is practical or even safe. Given your budget, though, that should wait since buzzers are pretty expensive.
3. Study materials- I would put study material over buzzers. The NAQT and Carleton lists are good for getting an idea of what comes up. The following thread should give you some ideas for study material: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=6928. I would agree with Reinstien though-don't worry so much about building up a library, since you can do a lot of studying on the internet.
4. GO TO TOURNAMENTS. The vast majority of circuit quizbowl is played at saturday tournaments and the best way to get better at playing(besides learning stuff) is going to tournaments and playing. Don't worry about all the teams being super good; at many touraments they will range from national contenders to freshmen. There are also some good novice and JV only tournaments out there.
Douglas Graebner, Walt Whitman HS 10, Uchicago 14
"... imagination acts upon man as really as does gravitation, and may kill him as certainly as a dose of prussic acid."-Sir James Frazer,The Golden Bough


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Re: Where to Start

Post by Captain Sinico »

There are several home-school co-ops that regularly compete at HSNCT and various other tournaments, so your team is not without precedent. Obviously, though, your experience with your local tournaments may vary. I wish you luck.

Mike Sorice
Coach, Centennial High School of Champaign, IL (2014-) & Team Illinois (2016-2018)
Alumnus, Illinois ABT (2000-2002; 2003-2009) & Fenwick Scholastic Bowl (1999-2000)

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Re: Where to Start

Post by cvdwightw »

It seems like your biggest problem is your budget. With that in mind, I would do the following:

1. Buzzers
I would direct you to this thread. It's advice for new college teams that are starting up with entirely out-of-pocket costs, but I'd assume the advice is equally good for new teams of all levels with the same situation.

I can't emphasize enough that a relatively active high school team will recoup any investment in a sturdy, inexpensive buzzer within 2 to 3 years through discounts on tournament fees for bringing the buzzer.

2. Reference Materials
It sounds to me that the limiting factors here are budget (again) and internet access. The best materials for studying for quizbowl are old quizbowl questions. The easiest way to get these questions is probably to download questions from quizbowlpackets.com and print them out. I don't know how slow your Internet is, but most of the files should be Word documents no more than 100 kB.

At the middle school level, there aren't a lot of good practice questions out there currently. The best situation might be to contact some current or former middle school coaches and see if they have any old practice questions that they could either e-mail you a copy of or let you borrow.

At both levels, but especially at the middle school level, where good questions are hard to find, you may also want to contact the directors of some tournaments announced on this board and ask if you can obtain a copy of the set after the tournament (some will let you have it for free; some will ask for a small fee no more than $20 or direct you to where/when you can purchase the network; only a few will say no).

Also, I will say that the thread linked to a couple of posts ago is much more appropriate for the collegiate player or advanced high school player than the average middle school or high school player. I would not send your students off on independent study missions using the suggested links in that thread until they've played enough questions and tournaments to know what things regularly come up at their level and what's important to know about them, and are dedicated enough to start learning things outside of "what comes up."

3. Competition
The most fun part of quizbowl is competing against other teams; probably over 99% of quizbowlers will tell you that. Right now, you probably want to compete against teams of the same level. If there's a middle school or high school tournament you can get to that doesn't cost too much (or your team's parents are willing to split the cost), take some of your players.

For scrimmages, same thing. Your middle school and younger players should probably be playing against their grade-matched peers, and your high schoolers should be playing against other high schools. Questions in those scrimmages should be agreed to by both coaches, and should typically be questions previously used at a difficulty-appropriate tournament that have not been seen by either team. Generally, the most logical thing to do would be to have both coaches act as staff; one coach moderates, one coach scorekeeps, and both resolve any protests and give advice to players of both teams. Obviously you want your kids to win the scrimmage, but scrimmages are just glorified joint practices, and there shouldn't be anything wrong with giving some advice to the opposing team or asking the opposing coach for a few pointers.

4. Practice (you didn't ask, but I think it's important)
One strategy many players use is to carry a notebook to practice and tournaments. The notebook is used to record answers and clues that the player finds particularly interesting or that the player should have known but forgot. Giving each player a notebook to personalize with interesting facts from practice and tournaments should help each of them define their quizbowl-specific interests and let them chart their growth as players in addition to the aforementioned benefits.

Best of luck getting this thing off the ground!
Dwight Wynne
UC Irvine 2008-2013; UCLA 2004-2007; Capistrano Valley High School 2000-2003

"It's a competition, but it's not a sport. On a scale, if football is a 10, then rowing would be a two. One would be Quiz Bowl." --Matt Birk on rowing, SI On Campus, 10/21/03

"If you were my teammate, I would have tossed your ass out the door so fast you'd be emitting Cerenkov radiation, but I'm not classy like Dwight." --Jerry

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Re: Where to Start

Post by Fucitol »

For Middle school questions and quizbowl reference books, try amazon.com. They have used books really cheap and some Campbell's questions. They may not be that good, but they are cheap and better than nothing.
James L.
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Re: Where to Start

Post by dbarman »

For tournaments, depending on the level your players are at. (I only know high school tournaments)

Vanderbilt has 2 tournaments a year for high school. They have JV division for 10th grade and under. The questions are of pretty good quality and the competition field is big.
Ezell-Harding High School has a fall tournament. The questions are OK and pretty good competition.
Louisville have random NAQT tournaments
Many schools in KY have tournaments (fleming county, hart county, Dunbar's tournament in Lexington, and some near North Hopkinsville) Though some of them may not be very high quality because many of them want to prepare for Governor's Cup.

These are pretty well established tournaments. If you think the players are not ready yet, see if there are a couple of schools around with teams. Scrimmage against them and maybe even starting a league can help get you guys started competing. However, try to go to the good tournaments as soon as possible to get the players exposed to higher quality quizbowl and hopefully motivated. Don't get discouraged if you guys don't do well against teams like Brookwood or Dorman at one of the better tournaments.

Well, good luck!!!
Ping @Dunbar

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Re: Where to Start

Post by Rococo A Go Go »

Welcome to quizbowl. In Kentucky, our main competition is Governor's Cup. A home school can compete in it, but only if you receive recognition as a legitimate educational entity by your local school system. If you can do this, you then would need to pay entry fees, and you could end up having to pay a good bit of money.

So, rather than starting your program in Governor's Cup right off, I'd suggest playing scrimmages and tournaments, and maybe even joining a league. Our area is not the most active in the state for quizbowl, but we do have some good things to offer. Before you do anything, I'd suggest you wait until next year before competing against high schools, because then you will have at least 4 high school age students on your team. The first schools you should contact for competition are Logan County High School and Russellville High School. If you ever want to scrimmage your middle schoolers against somebody (you could even start your handful of 8th graders in middle school level this year for a couple scrimmages) then there are several middle grades competing schools in Logan County as far as I can remember. When you do a scrimmage, try to offer something, whether it be questions (you can order question from a vast variety of sources), buzzers, or officials. If you're willing to travel to a school on their date and you tell them you'll bring a moderator and some questions, you're not going to be turned down by too many teams.

If you ever get a complete High School team together, then I would suggest you go to the Vanderbilt Tournament, and try to scrimmage local schools. Overall, the best way to get a team going is to talk to schools around you, and who knows, someone might be willing to sell you a used buzzer system that works quite well. Competing in an organized league would be hard because you don't have a large amount of kids or lot of money.

Best of luck, and hopefully we'll all see your kids at a tournament one day.
Nick Conder
Louisville, KY

"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."--Eugene V. Debs