Distance Discounts

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The Stately Rhododendron
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Distance Discounts

Post by The Stately Rhododendron »

Matt Jackson and Chris Chiego's recent threads have got me thinking about the geographic disparities in quizbowl. It is my belief that teams need to do a better job of getting more local teams to come to their tournaments. Besides the obvious outreach reasons, quizbowl on a whole would be much more sustainable if teams didn't have to drive long distances to most tournaments. I don't just mean sustainable in the ecological sense, as waking up early on Saturdays to drive 2+ hours to Richmond, and then driving back during rush hour wasn't emotionally sustainable for me, either. The current purpose of location discounts in quizbowl (-$10 for 150 miles, for example) seems to be to offset gas costs and the hassle of driving long distances, as I don't see that much of a benefit of having teams from far away come to your tournament. This is opposed to the other discounts (staffing, laptop, buzzer), which exist to make tournaments easier to run. In fact, having teams from far away come to tournaments makes tournaments harder to run. I've seen more than once in reality and on the forums, teams leaving tournaments that are running late before they are finished in order to arrive home at a reasonable time. On the other hand, getting local teams to come makes things much easier, on the whole. Besides shorter drives, there's the benefit that teams will usually be able to easily find the tournament, will be able to get more sleep, and will have less incentive to leave early. Also, the closer the teams are, the more likely it is that they can use public transit, which avoids the need for having people/parents/coaches as drivers.

What I want:
  • Discounts for teams that come from nearby (say <20 miles), possibly extra discounts for hyperlocal teams (<5 miles)
    Discounts for public transit use
    Outreach from College teams to nearby High Schools (at least in Yale's case, we could stand to have at least 1 New Haven team come to our tournaments
    "First dibs" given to nearby high schools. In Yale's case, I think it would be fair to have a guaranteed spot for some New Haven team(s), at the expense of some team from New Jersey or where ever.
I don't necessarily want the >150 mile discounts removed.

What I never want to see again:
  • "I can't go to a tournament because we need a car and no one is willing to drive us."
    the drive back from Richmond at 6pm
    a tournament with more teams from >50 miles away than <50
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Re: Distance Discounts

Post by Habitat_Against_Humanity »

The Stately Rhododendron wrote:public transit
"What public transit?"
- most every team out there

I have a feeling that there simply aren't public transit options for a good deal of, if not most teams outside of the largest metro areas in the country.
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Re: Distance Discounts

Post by Panayot Hitov »

I agree somewhat, but this is definitely changing. The MARC just started weekend service last year in MD for example, and could be a great option for, say, a school like Gonzaga going to Johns Hopkins's tournament this year. Northfield might even get a train to the cities in 20 years or so! Besides, there ARE a ton of schools in areas with great public transit where this could be a good recruiting thing (paraphrasing a thing Blake does with driving distance ,"you're only - stops away on the - line").
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Re: Distance Discounts

Post by dwd500 »

2+ hour drives? Let me tell you about the fly-over country.

Our tournament that we hosted last year did a really good job of drawing local teams, most were only 30 or so miles away. Our local teams are, with a couple of rare exceptions, awful. On NAQT IS-142, all 24 teams combined averaged less then 10 PPB on round 1. I'd figure out more rounds, but they make me cry. The team that won? An hour's drive away. (50 miles or so)

For my high school, the closest tournament that we can attend and expect to see decent competition is at Ladue - 45 min. to an hour away. (depending on who's driving - more on that later.) The area that hosts the most often, and has the best competition, is Columbia, and that's just on the low end of 100 miles away. Back when I only coached Middle School, the closest good competition is Tuscumbia, 108 miles and 2 hours away.

It is nothing for us to have to travel that distance. In fact, driving 45 min. to Ladue feels like a damn vacation.

Our district doesn't own a bus. We use a company, and we pay by mile and pay for the driver. A standard, 9am-3pm tournament usually tacks on 4 hours of driving, and the driver earns $28 an hour. I routinely get quotes for $650 for one trip. Before this last year, when I was only working through the middle school, that payment came out of our team account. Now that I coach high school, I'm able to use the athletics budget, but even that has limits.

It'd be great to only have to travel 20 miles to a tournament. But there's a reason NBA teams don't scrimmage against the local YMCA just because they're there.

The only reason we can compete is because we have 1) a district van that we don't even have to pay for gas for. (Just have to reserve it before Wrestling does) and 2) We have parents that come to everything and are willing to let kids ride along. But that van doesn't drive itself (I need a lot of caffeine to start driving at 6 am), nor do our parents have magical gas-creating vehicles. There are costs, real costs for us to compete anywhere, and we're extremely fortunate.

Compare that to someone like Hannibal, who has to take a bus and drive over 100 miles to play in their district competition. (They're the only class 4 school for miles.)

So why don't all of our teams just stick around home and beat up the weaklings in our areas? Competition. Plain and simple. You're incredibly fortunate to have that nearby. We are not.

So for us, we will take all discounts possible. We have roughly 11 sets of buzzers that we can cobble together, and I'll read at EVERY tournament. (I watched my kids for less than 20 games all year, counting PACE, which we drove to from Missouri.) $10 for having a long drive is just a drop in that bucket.

So, for you, yes, maybe extending local discounts is feasible, but the only way our state's circuit grew at all is thanks to people willing to put some time on the road.
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Re: Distance Discounts

Post by bsmith »

The Stately Rhododendron wrote:I don't see that much of a benefit of having teams from far away come to your tournament.
How about variety? Here in Ottawa, it's the same 4 or 5 schools with multiple teams over and over again (not that it's a bad thing that they come, of course). A team from further away offers new opponents for the local circuit and gives an opportunity to benchmark against another city or region. In a lesser-developed circuit like Ontario, having visiting teams get a quizbowl experience helps spread awareness.

Lisgar lets long-distance teams play for free at their events. Having teams from other cities or even other provinces is very appealing to them.
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Re: Distance Discounts

Post by Stained Diviner »

I don't understand this post at all.

1) Local teams don't go to tournaments because they don't want to go. Giving them a discount doesn't change that. The local teams that do want to go to tournaments are the ones who go to tournaments.
2) Generally, discounts are given to any teams that ask for them. Teams rarely ask, because they are willing to pay because that's how tournaments work. Tournaments lose money on teams that get discounts, and teams understand that, so they don't ask for discounts for silly reasons like taking public transportation.
3) Distance discounts are given because it's pretty awesome to have somebody travel a long way to your tournament. It's also done out of respect for a team that is probably paying a lot of money for a hotel and whatever else.

Also, tournaments fill because the teams that want to go to them sign up for them. You can't hold spaces for teams that don't want to play when there are teams that do want to play.
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Re: Distance Discounts

Post by Aaron's Rod »

I'll echo Dennis' sentiments here; Lawrence drives 6 hours to UIUC nearly every year, and the 3/3.5-hour drives to Chicago are our "vacation."

Public transport is great when available, but one issue that affects cash-strapped teams is the per-person cost. I can pile two teams into an 8-person van, and the transportation costs are the exact same as they would be if I went and played a tournament solo. If all 8 of us took public transport, well, that's quite the cost here.

This seems like a really good idea for certain pockets of quizbowl in densely-populated areas. For many, many of us it's not feasible. It seems like you'd just be rewarding people for having larger budgets and public transport, and that seems like the teams that need it the least. We don't go to tournaments in Urbana-Champaign because it sounds like a fun road trip to make on a Friday night (or, often, driving halfway and finishing up at like 5 AM on a Saturday morning).
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Re: Distance Discounts

Post by Santa Claus »

The Stately Rhododendron wrote:waking up early on Saturdays to drive 2+ hours to Richmond, and then driving back during rush hour
Replace Richmond with San Diego, and you've pretty much summed up my entire quiz bowl career. Just about every single weekend for the past four school years, me and a dozen or so people would gather together at 6 AM to make the 2 hour drive to San Diego, play a day of quiz bowl, then return and get dinner at Souplantation/Denny's. More than once I/my brother had to requisition both of our parents to come with us to ensure that every one could complete. Despite all that, we attended almost every tournament hosted in our region and would have attended the others as well if there had been enough interest. Though your sentiments regarding distance traveled may apply to a few select regions in the country, it would be downright laughable to even consider applying them in most places in the country. As David said, sometimes driving from place to place is a part of the quiz bowl experience, for good or for bad; I know that it was for me. Long hours of driving were as much of a fact of playing quiz bowl as the actual competition itself.

In this year I attended something like 20 tournaments, not including the three high school national championships, and of those I attended 13 at least 100 miles from where I live and attend school. Of the remaining 7, one was ACF Fall, hosted by Claremont. One was Oxford Open NA, which was played via Skype. Another two were the first hosted by UCLA since they recovered from their implosion two years ago and subsequent drought of tournaments. One was at North Hollywood, the only other QB school in the LA region, and the remaining two were hosted by us, Arcadia. If they decided to start making our region more granular, we could have fun playing at 1/3 as many tournaments as I did the year before.
The Stately Rhododendron wrote:What I want:
  • many reasonable things
One problem is that the ideas you have revolve around the existence of local circuits that are being neglected. This just isn't the case in most parts of the country, like Southern California or even Northern California, which each operate as a single circuit despite being easily 10x bigger than most other circuits.
The Stately Rhododendron wrote:What I never want to see again:
  • "I can't go to a tournament because we need a car and no one is willing to drive us."
    the drive back from Richmond at 6pm
    a tournament with more teams from >50 miles away than <50
That first thing can happen even when a tournament is being held right next door; sometimes issues come up with transportation, especially in areas where the only options are to bring in parents to drive. That bolded statement though; that would mean the end of the LA circuit for good.
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Re: Distance Discounts

Post by The Stately Rhododendron »

To reply:
As I stated, I'm not against removing long distance discounts.
K. Wang stated that "long hours of driving were as much of a fact of playing quiz bowl as the actual competition itself." I do not think that's a healthy state for quizbowl to be in. Now, SoCal being planned the way it is, it may be necessary to do this, cf. Missing Persons. The fact remains that there are places that could stand to have a more local focus for their tournaments and that it's better for people to not drive 4+ hours every Saturday.
Alex: I guess if you're going long distances, then driving 8 people in a van would be cheaper. But for many, many forms of public transit, it would be cheaper to use than driving, provided the tournament is close. Besides, if it does cost more, all the more reason for a discount!
David: I'm aware of flyover country, I'm typing this in Albany, NH after all! This is all where feasible.
Other David: Don't be so sure that if you tell a coach of a team reluctant to come to tournaments that "It's close and there's a special discount for you!/you don't need to drive!", the coach wouldn't think better of the idea.

No one's addressed my idea of reserving spots for local teams. I'd like to hear what people think of it.
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Re: Distance Discounts

Post by cchiego »

Isaac wrote:No one's addressed my idea of reserving spots for local teams. I'd like to hear what people think of it.
Just reserving spots won't by itself induce local schools to decide to attend, as Reinstein pointed out above. If there aren't already academic teams of some kind at the local schools, you'll probably be dependent on some kindhearted teacher taking a personal risk to round up students and gamble that this new activity will be worth a valuable day off. Even if there is AcDec or some TV team, they may still not be able to get the cost covered, depending on the school and the district, since this is a new experience for them. Or they may just have always played in a bad quizbowl league and are skeptical of anything new, especially something that costs $$.

You have to let new teams (local or far away) like this play for free or a pittance if you want to shift the cost-benefit equation for those teams to get them into good quizbowl. The goal, of course, is to build up real teams that will keep coming back to your tournaments in the future and benefit quizbowl as a whole, but the idea of making the barriers to entry as low as possible financially hasn't taken off around much of quizbowl because few TDs (and question writers who usually won't waive mirror fees for new teams) seem to be willing to take a relatively small short-term hit in the hopes of growing the circuit long term.

Even if you get new local teams interested, you want to make sure they have a good time at the tournament so this doesn't just become a one-off thing. The last thing you want is a 24-team tournament with 22 teams in the Morlan Top 200 beating up on the 2 local teams that you generously reserved space for until they leave at lunch after being destroyed by 400 points each round. Make sure to focus on getting them to easier tournaments or bigger tournaments where they'll have lots of other less-experienced teams around .

It is often true that new teams (who are often "local" non-circuit teams) tend to wait too late to sign up for tournaments. This is why local teams ought to be the focus of long-term collaborations, not just occasional tournament invites. There are plenty of opportunities for partnering with those schools to help coach them, help them host (or have them help you host), etc. that teams should be exploring beyond having them come to tournaments (though that's a fine start).
Isaac wrote:public transit
I have only seen one high school team use public transit to get all the way to the tournament site in all my years of quizbowl and they had to wake up at some ungodly early hour to go maybe 10 miles using the San Diego bus system, arriving at the tournament site exhausted and stressed from multiple transfers at their first-ever pyramidal tournament (where they proceeded to lose every game). I would not recommend that experience to anyone else. Even in Philadelphia, the public transit system doesn't run early enough to many areas to get teams to tournaments in time and you still often have to coordinate a pick-up at a train station, which is again a logistical pain.
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Re: Distance Discounts

Post by Monstruos de Bolsillo »

The problem with public transit is that most quizbowl tournaments are on Saturdays. Many rail lines do not operate on weekends, or if they do, service is sparse. Bus frequencies are usually reduced, as are other forms, like subway and light rail. Also, quizbowl tournaments start relatively early, so coordinating mass transit use can be difficult, as service is infrequent. Another problem would be location. If the host is in the suburbs, you would need to find reverse peak service, which is not always an option. I love using public transit, but unfortunately, it usually doesn't work out for us to go quizbowl tournaments. We have looked into it on a couple of occasions, and only once did we actually use it, when we used SEPTA commuter rail to get to QuAC at UPenn.
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