Should I quit quizbowl?

Elaborate on the merits of specific tournaments or have general theoretical discussion here.
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hiawathanpineapple
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Should I quit quizbowl?

Post by hiawathanpineapple » Fri Nov 08, 2019 2:35 am

I’m at a point where I have to really think hard about whether or not I want to keep playing college quizbowl. So I thought I’d voice my worries here. At the very least, there are bound to be a few people who’ve gone through the same things I’m experiencing (or seen others who did). What follows are four reasons I feel I should hang up my spikes (buzzer finger?) and three counter arguments.

Warning: there’s going to be a lot of hyperbole in this post. Hyper-exaggerated self-flagellation is how I cope with my own incompetence. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.

ARGUMENTS FOR

1. It sucks to be useless
I’ve made great strides in sportsmanship since elementary school, but it still sucks to lose. More accurately, it sucks to not contribute to a team effort, win or lose. Actually, at this point, I’m not sure it’s even about helping the team. It’s about the futility of walking away from a tournament, knowing that I just heard over 700 trivia questions and was able to answer about 25.
It’s just plain old not an efficient use of my time. In high school, I was a reasonably competent player, and I got my trivia fix via the aforementioned reasonably competent play at tournaments. Now, in college, on a trivia-per-minute basis, it’s probably a better bet for me to just start watching Jeopardy! religiously like I’m somebody’s grandma. At least there, they always read the whole clue, so you have half a chance of getting it right.

2. College (quizbowl) is only going to get harder
So far, the hardest thing I’ve played is ACF Fall, and I would compare my experience with that difficulty level to trying to withstand a tsunami in a dinghy with three holes in the hull. Okay, maybe just one hole, but you get the point. It’s only going to get harder from here.
Also, I’m a freshman taking easy introductory courses at my school. I’m only going to have more difficult schoolwork and scheduling as the years go on. I’m at peak free time right now, and I might be better served by using said free time to develop an extracurricular that I, you know, can actually see a future in

3. I wouldn't hurt anyone by leaving
I made a throwaway account to make this post, so clearly I care about anonymity. So suffice it to say that, at least on a performance level, I wouldn’t be letting anyone down if I hang up the spikes. Whether my college quiz bowl club has 27 or 26 (numbers pulled out of my ass) members isn’t going to make any difference at tournaments, or in the long-term fate of the program.

4. The solution to all of these problems is “get better” — but that’d ruin the fun
“Oh, boo hoo,” I hear you say, “we all sucked at one point. You’re just not willing to put in the work to get better.” To that I say: you’re absolutely right. Getting better means doing work (study, memorization) that I quite frankly don’t find fun. I am unwilling to do something tedious in order to have fun when there are alternative ways to have fun that don’t require said labor.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST

1. Quitting is for quitters (it’s true because of, and despite, its tautologicality)
I do not want to be seen as a person who just ups and quits things, even when I can (and did) write an essay’s worth of reasons that quitting is the right thing to do.

2. Unknown unknowns
Maybe there’s something about college quizbowl I’m missing. Maybe it gets easier as it goes along. Maybe just being in college will teach me some of the stuff I blank on at tournaments. Maybe everyone just ratcheted up the difficulty to fuck with incoming players and weed out the weak ones. I’ve only been around Organized College Quizbowl for threeish months, so there’s just so much I don’t know. I’d hate to quit without knowing the full picture of what I’m leaving behind.
Honestly, this particular counterargument is most of the rationale for making this post here. You people are the best-equipped to address this point, and if in order to get satisfactory answers I must make my suffering public, then so be it.

3. I still think that quizbowl is fun
As pathetic as this feels to say, quizbowl was my chief source of fun in high school. I know everyone tells you that you don’t have to do the same things in college that you do in high school, but giving up on quizbowl so soon just feels wrong. It’s like I’m a hamster in a cage in one of those experiments where if you press a button, you get food (or cocaine), and it was like that for four whole years.
And then someone just turned it off. Now, I like to think that I’m smarter than the average hamster, but is it crazy to think that I should keep pressing the button? You never know when they’ll put the food/cocaine back in the dispenser! Not pressing the button just feels wrong, you know?

IN SUMMARY

I know I'm submitting this to an audience of people who care passionately about quizbowl, almost certainly moreso than I do. So I'm expecting a good portion of you to tell me to try to stick it out. That’s fine; I wouldn’t have posted this here if all I wanted to hear was that college quizbowl wasn’t for me.
I also don’t want to be too confrontational about this point, but it’s in the interest of quizbowl to make the game accessible to casual players like me. I’m not expecting the whole of quizbowl to change at my whims, but I’d be willing to bet there are other players in my position at almost every school (albeit ones that don’t stay up late writing 1000 words on quitting quizbowl when they could be writing 1000 word papers). And the current difficulty of college quizbowl is going to set a natural limit to how much the game can grow.
Okay, enough rambling.

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It's Drew
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Re: Should I quit quizbowl?

Post by It's Drew » Tue Nov 26, 2019 2:57 am

Hi! I've been here, and it's really unfortunate nobody answered this yet.

First, yes, I agree with basically all your points. It sucks to play a game and not have any impact on its outcome, and, unfortunately, the nature of quiz bowl can make it really easy to link "I'm not good at this" to "I'm not smart." I don't think it's any sort of weakness for you to be considering quitting. But, like you said, you still enjoy quiz bowl, and you still feel connected to that. I felt the exact same way, and I stuck with it.

You get better. That's not a command; it's basically a guarantee. No qualifiers like "if you study hard" or "if you go to enough tournaments." All you need to do is go to quiz bowl practices and listen to questions. It's virtually guaranteed that you'll hear something in practice that you didn't know and that piques your interest; remember that fact, and it'll almost certainly come up again.

That said, taking time to study doesn't hurt. You don't have to go at it hard and try to juggle an intensive studying regime with your actual collegiate studies; you can be as casual as you like about it. Every minute spent Googling, or reading, or Wikipedia deep-diving is a minute you're spending to acquire new knowledge and (ideally, for your purposes) eventually convert it into points per game.

I also think quiz bowl is a really social activity. I severely doubt your claim that the team wouldn't miss you if you left, if you've been showing up to practice for a couple weeks. Even a quiet, awkward presence is felt, along with its absence.

(Also, nobody said you have to pick between quiz bowl and Jeopardy! You can probably do both as long as you're conscientious about your classwork.)

From here on, I'm going to talk about something that you may not find very constructive, and something that may be unique to me: no matter what happens, quiz bowl is just fun. Straight up. People who saw me play at UIUC's Side Event Weekend last summer know that I pretty much literally sat down for every event that I could for two whole days, and got my ass handed to me by some of the best players in the game on some of the hardest questions I'd ever played. I had a great time! That's what's so beautiful about quiz bowl. You can get trashed all day, but as long as you play, you'll have something to be proud of.

Maybe that's some kind of symptom of insanity. I remember someone asking what sorts of events we liked, since we seemed to play whatever was available. But that's sort of the way I feel about it, because I love the game so much; getting stomped is so much better than never playing. I understand if you don't share that sentiment, but I think it's something to consider.

I hope you haven't already quit in the time it took for this response to come. Division 2 Sectionals comes up early February; hopefully when those come around, you'll be back at the buzzer and ready to take them on!
It's Drew (Benner)
Avon High School 2013-17
Former Avon Quiz Bowl President
Purdue University 2017-21
Purdue Quiz Bowl Vice President and Weird Outreach Guy

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Re: Should I quit quizbowl?

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Nov 26, 2019 10:30 am

I remember being in your shoes when I was a college freshman all the way back in 2004. In those days UChicago practices were about 3 hours long, and on many nights I wouldn't get a tossup until 2 hours had passed. Part of it is that I was in a room with 3 Hall of Fame level players (Andrew Yaphe, Subash, and Seth Teitler) plus all the other merely very good players UChicago always has around. Part of it was also that I had not heard of a lot of the clues and answers. I recall looking at all these players and thinking "I am never going to be as good as they are - why should I bother?"

I shared my concerns with the closest thing I had to a quizbowl mentor - a sophomore named Tim - and he advised me to listen to the song "Let's Go" by Trick Daddy ft. Twista every morning and let it "set the tone for my day". This was a big radio hit at the time, and so I bought it for 99 cents on iTunes, loaded it onto my first generation iPod Shuffle, and did as he said. Soon enough, I was getting tossups at practice all the time, and putting up respectable stats for a freshman at tournaments, even hard ones.

As much as I love mid-2000's hip-hop, I do not think that Trick Daddy was the cause of this improvement. Rather, by going to every single practice and attending every single tournament I could, I was exposing myself to clues. There were definitely lumps along the way. There were practices where I got nothing right. At my second-ever college tournament, 2004 Illinois Open, I put up less than 10 PPB. As a freshman I attended one of the hardest tournaments ever written (the Manu Ginobili Open) and literally finished last in PPG. Not last on my team, but last for the entire tournament. By about January or February of 2005, I was measurably better as a player and having much more fun at both tournaments and at practice. At 2005 SCT, I was even briefly in first place for PPG among D2 players. I didn't finish in first, but it was cool to see my name at the top of the stats (in those days, they printed out the stats every few rounds and posted them up on the wall for players to see between rounds). And I wasn't even studying or working hard at this point. I wasn't doing any research for quizbowl purposes, I wasn't writing any questions, I wasn't printing out packets and circling the first clue I knew, I wasn't doing flashcards. I was just listening to clues. I would encourage you to stick with quizbowl for at least another few months to see if something similar happens to you.

One more caveat: it is of course not necessary to be good at quizbowl to enjoy it. I was arguably never "good" at quizbowl until I got to grad school, and yet I had a blast playing quizbowl in college. The other players, both on my team and on other teams, were fun to hang out with, and it was really fun to travel the country and see places like New Orleans, San Francisco, Ypsilanti, and other exotic locales I got to visit for quizbowl. Every quizbowl team needs people who can read at tournaments, run the stats room, etc. so even if you decide that playing quizbowl is not for you there are other ways to participate.
Bruce
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Re: Should I quit quizbowl?

Post by ValenciaQBowl » Tue Nov 26, 2019 12:48 pm

I think the third of your "Arguments Against" makes the most compelling point in your post: if you enjoy quiz bowl--that is, if you enjoy going to practice, being around teammates, and going on trips--then there's little reason not to continue with it, at least for the near term.

I coach at Valencia College, a community college in Orlando, and our team/program is very competitive both within the team and at tournaments against teams from our level. So I always have 3-6 players who are motivated (or who can be motivated!) to study and get better. But we also usually have at least 8-10 players, often more, on the team, and those other 5-7 have varying levels of commitment to the game itself. But the one thing that keeps them around is that they just like the people they're around and enjoy the game enough to keep coming back.

I've had players who would answer three or four toss-ups over the course of the academic year--meaning 7+ tournaments--who still came to practice regularly and obviously enjoyed the experience of being on the team. And I think that's great. Not everybody has to be hardcore, especially at a program with over 20 players (or even over eight, I reckon).

In any case, I hope you base your decision on what you're getting from being on your team, not on concerns over an obligation to live up to some expectation of how much work you have to put in.
Chris Borglum
Valencia College Grand Poobah

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Re: Should I quit quizbowl?

Post by EricChang5 » Tue Nov 26, 2019 6:00 pm

I definitely agree with the points made above already! College quizbowl is a jump, and it can definitely be very intimidating. But the same can be said about high school quizbowl. I know it's a totally different game at this level, but it's the same idea. I remember thinking that I was a pretty solid player my freshmen year in college after playing ACF Fall only to be thumped at NAQT SCTs. I was already very committed to other organizations (I was in the marching band and was rushing a fraternity) and wanted to put a lot of my focus in school. I knew the work required to get "good" at quizbowl, and I wasn't sure if that was what I wanted to put in again in college. However, I found that there are lots of reasons to stay other than just playing the game.

It seems like you definitely still enjoy and care about quizbowl, which is really commendable! Even if you are disappointed with your performances, things will get better. I've seen many old players at VT who I know never studied outside of practice but became stronger players because they just stayed involved. You can definitely remain a casual player and improve. Obviously, studying will help you, but it's not the be-all-end-all. When I was the president of the VT team, I would send our players short study guides or a few questions outside of practice (things that require maybe 15 min of reading) since I know how busy everyone is. Outside of our A-team, I didn't expect the same dedication and was honestly just really happy to see people continue to show up to practice. I can't speak for your team, but I know that if someone left the VT team when I was in charge, I definitely took notice and wanted to see if they would come back. You might not think that your absence is hurting the team, which may be true, but I always liked to have everyone, even the bad players, stick around.

If you enjoy it, then stick around! I certainly went through phases when I didn't, and I spend time away from it. But eventually, I still had a motivation to play and to improve. I know winning makes life more fun, but find ways to enjoy quizbowl outside of just the results. For a while, the VT team wasn't that special, but I really enjoyed being on the team. Hanging out with those guys, getting dinner together after practices, going to local schools to staff tournaments, it was a lot of fun and worthwhile. Even if we never had a chance to beat UVA or Duke, we always had a good time! I've seen a lot of solid players go to VT, but never commit to quizbowl in the same way as the top collegiate players do and that's ok! At the end of the day, college is about getting a degree, but also about having fun and making meaningful friendships. I think quizbowl has helped me not only in being "smarter" but also growing as a person in college. Hope this helps!
Eric Chang
Christiansburg High School '15
Virginia Tech '19

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Re: Should I quit quizbowl?

Post by Steeve Ho You Fat » Wed Nov 27, 2019 11:40 pm

Let's do some marginal analysis: if you quit quizbowl, what would you do with your time instead? Do you wish that you were spending more time on school, or hanging out with your friends, and quizbowl is getting in the way? Do you have another interest, hobby, or extracurricular you'd like to pursue more, but don't have time because you're doing quizbowl? Does quizbowl make you so miserable that you'd rather sit on the couch all Saturday than go to a tournament, or all Monday night instead of go to practice? If so, you should probably do that thing instead of quizbowl!

But, it doesn't sound like that's the case. You can play quizbowl and still watch Jeopardy, and you say that quizbowl's still fun for you. If it stops being fun, stop doing it. But if it's fun, it's not stopping you from pursuing more "serious" things or spending time on something else you enjoy more, why quit?
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Re: Should I quit quizbowl?

Post by A Very Long Math Tossup » Thu Nov 28, 2019 7:01 am

Before I start, I'd like to clarify that, although I'm more in the "stick with it" camp, my goal for this reply is not to convince you to keep doing quizbowl. Quizbowl isn't for everyone, and that's okay! I'd simply like to offer my perspective to help clarify some of your arguments.
hiawathanpineapple wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 2:35 am
1. It sucks to be useless
I’ve made great strides in sportsmanship since elementary school, but it still sucks to lose. More accurately, it sucks to not contribute to a team effort, win or lose. Actually, at this point, I’m not sure it’s even about helping the team. It’s about the futility of walking away from a tournament, knowing that I just heard over 700 trivia questions and was able to answer about 25.
It’s just plain old not an efficient use of my time. In high school, I was a reasonably competent player, and I got my trivia fix via the aforementioned reasonably competent play at tournaments. Now, in college, on a trivia-per-minute basis, it’s probably a better bet for me to just start watching Jeopardy! religiously like I’m somebody’s grandma. At least there, they always read the whole clue, so you have half a chance of getting it right.
So, back in high school, an older player on my team told me not to think of quizbowl as trivia, and as trivial (heh) as that change sounds, it definitely had an effect on my development as a quizbowl player. It's not just about answering random questions. Quizbowl, as I see it, is an ongoing dialogue between writers and players. Every question is essentially the same question: "Hey, have you heard about this cool thing? Here are some interesting facts about it! Oh cool, you knew those? Have some points! If not, that's still great, you can go read about it now!"

Decoupling your enjoyment of quizbowl from the rush of a correct buzz isn't easy, but it makes the game much more rewarding. That said, it's a good idea to evaluate specifically why you like the game. If your enjoyment comes entirely from buzzing on things you know instead of discovering new things, it might actually be a good idea to drop (not that the first isn't important, but there should be a balance). There are probably people who disagree with me, and they should weigh in, but in my opinion, this sort of mindset is necessary to get anything out of the college game.
2. College (quizbowl) is only going to get harder
So far, the hardest thing I’ve played is ACF Fall, and I would compare my experience with that difficulty level to trying to withstand a tsunami in a dinghy with three holes in the hull. Okay, maybe just one hole, but you get the point. It’s only going to get harder from here.
I always tell my freshmen that the quizbowl canon seems much larger looking up than looking down. Even if you don't necessarily sit down and make flashcards, actively listening to a bunch of questions will make it a lot easier to built up a knowledge base, and you'll find it weird that there was ever a time when you didn't know something.

Also, the college canon is different than the high school canon. There are definitely things that "every" college student knows after a couple years that come up. Take Edward Said's book Orientalism—most high schoolers have never heard of it, but it's mentioned in virtually every humanities class that touches on non-western art, literature, or history.
Also, I’m a freshman taking easy introductory courses at my school. I’m only going to have more difficult schoolwork and scheduling as the years go on. I’m at peak free time right now, and I might be better served by using said free time to develop an extracurricular that I, you know, can actually see a future in
Eh, free time is free time. It's important to just give yourself some unstructured time to decompress, rather than attempting to perfectly optimize every part of your life like some soulless Apollonian robot. Honestly, quizbowl exposes you to so much cool shit that it's a good use of your time, no matter how little you buzz. What else are you gonna do? Join an improv group? Have you seen how annoying improv kids are?

Also, you get better at managing your time as college progresses. Aside from one semester where I foolishly decided to take the weed-out classes for two majors at the same time, my free time during my sophmore and junior years wasn't that much smaller than it was in my freshman year.
3. I wouldn't hurt anyone by leaving
I made a throwaway account to make this post, so clearly I care about anonymity. So suffice it to say that, at least on a performance level, I wouldn’t be letting anyone down if I hang up the spikes. Whether my college quiz bowl club has 27 or 26 (numbers pulled out of my ass) members isn’t going to make any difference at tournaments, or in the long-term fate of the program.
Don't sell yourself short here! As someone who runs a club, I definitely miss every single person who stops showing up to practice (unless they're, like, an asshole). People contribute to the social fabric of the team in different ways, and assuming you're not an asshole, you're providing something to your team. It's not just about tournaments—a quizbowl team is a social place too.
4. The solution to all of these problems is “get better” — but that’d ruin the fun
“Oh, boo hoo,” I hear you say, “we all sucked at one point. You’re just not willing to put in the work to get better.” To that I say: you’re absolutely right. Getting better means doing work (study, memorization) that I quite frankly don’t find fun. I am unwilling to do something tedious in order to have fun when there are alternative ways to have fun that don’t require said labor.
As I alluded to previously, you can get better without formally "studying." Showing up to tournaments and practices, writing down things that sound interesting, and googling them has gotten me far more points than carding old tossups (though this admittedly the reason I'm a mediocre generalist at best). Even carding is something I don't do a ton, simply because there's a limit to how much I enjoy it. Until you're at the level where you're making a run for a national title, learning stuff for quizbowl should feel fun. Don't turn it into work when you don't need to.
1. Quitting is for quitters (it’s true because of, and despite, its tautologicality)
I do not want to be seen as a person who just ups and quits things, even when I can (and did) write an essay’s worth of reasons that quitting is the right thing to do.
Look, if this were your only argument against quitting, I'd tell you to quit right away. It's one thing if you've made a formal commitment to a team, but you shouldn't feel pressured to keep showing up to an activity you don't enjoy. This is your free time after all.
2. Unknown unknowns
Maybe there’s something about college quizbowl I’m missing. Maybe it gets easier as it goes along. Maybe just being in college will teach me some of the stuff I blank on at tournaments. Maybe everyone just ratcheted up the difficulty to fuck with incoming players and weed out the weak ones. I’ve only been around Organized College Quizbowl for threeish months, so there’s just so much I don’t know. I’d hate to quit without knowing the full picture of what I’m leaving behind.
Honestly, this particular counterargument is most of the rationale for making this post here. You people are the best-equipped to address this point, and if in order to get satisfactory answers I must make my suffering public, then so be it.
Like I said, the canon looks bigger from the bottom. At a certain point, it becomes easier, especially as you progress in classes. College classes are distinct from high school classes in that they will usually get you early buzzes on hard packets. For example, I once took a sophmore-level survey course in gender studies where the assigned reading included multiple hard parts from this year's Chicago Open. This goes double for classes in your major: once you've completed most of them, you'll probably be competitive against the vast majority of players in your little 1/1 slice of the distribution.
3. I still think that quizbowl is fun
As pathetic as this feels to say, quizbowl was my chief source of fun in high school. I know everyone tells you that you don’t have to do the same things in college that you do in high school, but giving up on quizbowl so soon just feels wrong. It’s like I’m a hamster in a cage in one of those experiments where if you press a button, you get food (or cocaine), and it was like that for four whole years.
And then someone just turned it off. Now, I like to think that I’m smarter than the average hamster, but is it crazy to think that I should keep pressing the button? You never know when they’ll put the food/cocaine back in the dispenser! Not pressing the button just feels wrong, you know?
Ask yourself, honestly, whether you still love the game or you're doing it out of habit. If it's the latter, then ask yourself what it would take to get that love back. If that's the case, I really hope you can—quizbowl is a beautiful thing, and it's great to have more people to share that with.
Matt Mitchell
Colorado '20
Treasure Valley '16
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Re: Should I quit quizbowl?

Post by tiwonge » Sat Nov 30, 2019 8:11 am

As far as that last point goes, if you enjoy quiz bowl, there are multiple roles for you, even if you don't feel that you're a good player and don't enjoy playing. Staffing tournaments can still provide a solid connection to an activity you enjoy, and if your school hosts tournaments (especially college tournaments), I'm sure they'd love to have extra staffers available. You can also help out on the high school circuit. If you've got transportation, you might reach out to a local high school or even middle school and see if they need or want help with coaching. Or if the local school doesn't have a team, see if you can talk to the principal or somebody and get something started.

Even if you are retiring as a player, you might still want to keep coming to your college practices, as a way of staying involved in the circuit and keeping in touch with people who (presumably) are friends. There are still roles on a college club for people who don't play--whether it's offering advice on questions, bringing snacks, doing administrative work so that others don't have to. And it's still fun to sit in on practice and try to answer questions.
Colin McNamara, Boise State University
PACE
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