Recruitment and Retention

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cvdwightw
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Recruitment and Retention

Post by cvdwightw »

It's that time of the year where most clubs have finished their recruitment and now everyone's goal is to hold on to as many of those new recruits as possible. We can go through the same tried and tired strategies for getting and keeping players, but I'm thoroughly convinced of two things:

1. It is far more difficult to change the culture of a club than it is to start a new one.
2. All currently self-sustaining clubs, with the possible exception of Chicago, can trace their origin to one or two classes of dedicated recruits.

Sure, there are grad students that make such a transition easier - think Jerry founding the Brown club or what Kevin has the potential to do at Yale this year. But the point remains that the only thing one person, especially a grad student, can do is point the club in the right direction. Without the right group of young minds, all this insistence on playing good tournaments and encouragement to get better and question-writing mentoring and whatnot is all for naught.

Let me rephrase that: recruitment and retention strategies are a bunch of bull. You can't "recruit" or "retain" players. You have to make them think, "I want to be a part of that." And the only way to do that is to have a group in place that it's worth being a part of. The most successful of those groups have always been a driven group of younger players, players that maybe aren't quite at that top level yet but want to climb that mountain together. They take things seriously but not too seriously, they geniunely enjoy being around each other, and their enthusiasm for both the game itself and getting better at the game is infectious.

It seems that every year, several good-to-elite high school players don't bother continuing because it's not worth it to be a part of the group, whether we define that group as "their college club" or "the community of college and open players." This is disturbing, because it means that we are doing something wrong. These are people who don't need to be recruited or retained, they just need to be not driven away, and we can't even do that.

I've lost track of the number of times I've considered quitting, but I know I've been doing it off-and-on since at least ACF Nationals 2006. What keeps me coming back is my love for the game and connection to its players. I love the thrill of the competition, the joy of learning new things, the adrenaline rush that comes from last-minute editing trying to get that packet set just right (or, in recent years, just plain finished). When I go to a tournament, all I'm doing is hanging out with friends, both on my team and on other teams, and trying my darnedest to beat them at the game I love. I still don't find it particularly worthwhile in terms of time and money to fly out to Opens, but I leave open the possibility that I might one day break through that barrier and show up to one. When I consider quitting, it's because I lose track of that; the game just isn't fun anymore, for whatever reason, and I have better ways to spend my time.

I wonder how many people every year are in my position, except they never get the chance to develop that love for the game because anti-quizbowl quizbowlers erect roadblocks to their enjoying quizbowl, or there aren't enough people or enough dedicated people to actually have fun at practice, or better players assuage their fears that "I'm not good enough" with words but speak differently through their actions, or their delicate sensitivities get offended and they go running to another activity where they won't get hurt, or etc.

Every club is going to face a high attrition rate going from recruitment to retention, and if I knew any secrets how to minimize that attrition rate, you'd be sure I'd share. As it stands, I have a proven track record of bad recruitment and worse retention; the UCLA club didn't get really going again until I left and I'm essentially helpless to keep the Irvine club from running itself into the ground. I'm at the point where I've half-seriously considered not showing up to any fall quarter practices just to see if I'm the common denominator in these problems.

Several months ago, Bruce Arthur made the following post:
Bruce Arthur wrote:A big announcement just came up over the Norns mailing list: plans for 2009 to be the year of Eric Mukherjee have been canceled. 2009 is now "the year in which quizbowl falls apart due to cliques".
As joking as it was, I'm not sure there isn't a kernel of truth in there. Like it or not, there is a quizbowl in-crowd. It consists of the group of people who regularly show up to mainstream tournaments and enjoy them. Thus, it shouldn't be hard for anyone to become part of the in-crowd; heck, it shouldn't even be an in-crowd. Yet, somehow, it feels quite difficult to become a member of that in-crowd, to the point where people have to seriously question whether all the effort they're putting in is getting them anywhere.

I hope no one takes this as a poor attempt to solicit pity. Rather, I am posting this because I have my delicate sensitivities stepped on by other forum members and I've shrugged it off; I have doubted my desire to stay a part of the community and come to a conclusion why I should stay. I don't know how many other community members have had similar experiences, though I expect that number is significantly higher than anyone would reasonably think; what I do know is that there are a lot of potential players that have been in my situation and have come to the opposite conclusion, that quizbowl and its players aren't worth the time and effort.

Let us take this opportunity to remember that during the fall, our most important connections are those we make with new teammates and new circuit teams, so that they feel like they are part of this "in-crowd" and are willing to work to stay there. New players especially are impressionable; if they feel like these great players are taking the time to integrate them into the community, they may feel that this community is worth being a part of. If they are ignored or, worse, ridiculed because of quizbowl cliquishness, it will be that much harder to convince them to stay.
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by rylltraka »

Hear, hear, Dwight. Hear, hear.
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by grapesmoker »

A lot of things that Dwight said are correct, but "there shouldn't even be an in crowd" is not one of them. Quizbowl is a social activity; groups will form and stabilize to some extent, so long as their members are part of the game. That's normal and it doesn't mean someone is being excluded from participating fully in the game. Moreover, this nebulous "in crowd," (usually read: ACF cabal) has never stood in the way of getting people to participate but in fact has been the strongest proponent of an increased circuit.
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by cvdwightw »

grapesmoker wrote:A lot of things that Dwight said are correct, but "there shouldn't even be an in crowd" is not one of them. Quizbowl is a social activity; groups will form and stabilize to some extent, so long as their members are part of the game. That's normal and it doesn't mean someone is being excluded from participating fully in the game. Moreover, this nebulous "in crowd," (usually read: ACF cabal) has never stood in the way of getting people to participate but in fact has been the strongest proponent of an increased circuit.
I think you're mistaking what I'm saying. I'm not saying that "there shouldn't be an in-crowd." What I'm saying is that, if I am correct in defining this crowd as the group of people who regularly attend mainstream tournaments (and therefore feel fine reminiscing about tournaments and incidents past with each other), it should not be difficult for one to gain access to this crowd, and this crowd should thus not deserve the label "in-crowd." However, what happens is that quizbowl sometimes tends to become an insular activity; new people that do all the right things may feel like they're missing out on something because they see this group having all the fun and they're not part of it. It's true that the so-called "ACF Cabal" does everything in its power to bring new players and teams to tournaments; however, it's not enough to just get those people there. They have to have a reason to come back the next time, and since most of them are going to go 1-10 or answer 5 tossups the whole day or something like that, a large part of that reason is feeling accepted and wanted by the larger community.
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by grapesmoker »

cvdwightw wrote:I think you're mistaking what I'm saying. I'm not saying that "there shouldn't be an in-crowd." What I'm saying is that, if I am correct in defining this crowd as the group of people who regularly attend mainstream tournaments (and therefore feel fine reminiscing about tournaments and incidents past with each other), it should not be difficult for one to gain access to this crowd, and this crowd should thus not deserve the label "in-crowd." However, what happens is that quizbowl sometimes tends to become an insular activity; new people that do all the right things may feel like they're missing out on something because they see this group having all the fun and they're not part of it. It's true that the so-called "ACF Cabal" does everything in its power to bring new players and teams to tournaments; however, it's not enough to just get those people there. They have to have a reason to come back the next time, and since most of them are going to go 1-10 or answer 5 tossups the whole day or something like that, a large part of that reason is feeling accepted and wanted by the larger community.
Fair enough, but I don't see any specific recommendations here other than "be nice to people and make them feel welcome." Well, we certainly try. You're talking about people who "do all the right things" and yet somehow are not part of that crowd and I just don't know what exactly is being discussed here or what measures should be taken.
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by at your pleasure »

If there's an in-crowd problem, part of it(but not the whole in-crowd problem) is that there's a certain amout of "common knowledge" among people on the circuit that may seem obvious to involved players but less so to newer players. To steal an analogy from my philosophy class, it's a bit like entering a conversation that's been going on for a while. Look at the semiannual MATHCOMP thread in the high school sections. While to a certain extent MATHCOMP threads have become quasi-ceremonial discussions of the place of a category that is dying out in good quizbowl anyways and most members of the "in-crowd" are familar with all the arguments and counterarguments, that may not be obvious to someone who stumbles onto the forums during this discussion. There's a good chance that the thread will leave a bad impression on him. While this is a very specific example, it gives one an idea.
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by tiwonge »

This is something I've been thinking about recently. I'll be leaving Boise State eventually (probably sooner rather than later), and I don't want it to fall apart when I leave. Right now, I'm doing everything, including most of the funding of the program. I've been doing all the logistics and all the contacting other schools. And if I leave in this state, few people will know what to do.

There are a couple of young enthusiastic players this semester. Next semester, I'll probably try to give them as much responsibility as I can so that they can step into the leadership role next year. Some of the older regular players aren't as invested in quiz bowl (or are too invested in other activities) to step in and fill my footsteps. Hopefully by next year, most of the big work in setting everything up will be done and they just have to continue and maintain everything.

I'm not sure what else I can do to keep it going after I leave except to give other people a bigger role. And to try to get it started on the high school level so we get more interested students joining us.
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

Sure, there are cliques in quizbowl. They are most evident in the formal organizations that quizbowl players create. You have the ACF Cabal, the PACE membership, the upper echelons of HSAPQ, the forum administration, etc. People already in these cliques tend to favor people who they like for membership. Some people show up and are high-ranking officers in these groups after just one year of playing/posting. Some have been playing/posting for half a decade and will never be let in to some of these groups. I can understand people being upset when there are all these secret clubs that go around making important decisions (and often talking in public about how they are making important decisions, sometimes even boasting about their power) and they are excluded.

But guess what: this problem is by no means inherent to quizbowl. Cliques are inherent to human nature. I argue that so long as humans are not all the same, it will be possible for a person to rank other people from "like this person the most" to "like this person the least". And when a spot opens up for a new seat on the cabal, guess what, people are going to select people they like. This is how business, academia, politics, and any other form of human activity works.
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Solution: create enough infighting in cliques so that each group has a member who likes at least n nonmembers than he likes at most n members. Let the rumor-spreading begin!
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by aestheteboy »

That common knowledge point that Doug pointed out is definitely there. I still remember Mike Sorice calling me a tool after I argued that correct pronunciation should be required for the correct answer the summer of my freshman year. That wasn't nice. Things like that, though, weren't going to affect whether I continued playing quizbowl in sophomore year at all; if quit, I would have without scary grad students on the board. Whether people stay depends almost entirely upon whether they enjoy this activity. I don't think in-crowds have much to do with it.

With that said, I'd like to make a more general point: if self-preservation is one of our goals, then we quizbowl players should cherish all other quizbowl players, much in the same way that we cherish our children's future.
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by Kevin »

I think this whole discussion of an "in-crowd" is largely irrelevant to the rank-and-file membership of a typical program. I think most college players don't even read this message board or even know it exists. Obviously, most of the players at the top-tier programs are pretty involved in the qb community, post here, write and edit lots of tournaments, etc., and most schools have at least one person checking here for tournament announcements, but the average player at most schools probably doesn't know any sort of in-crowd exists and wouldn't even care. They hear about quiz bowl, they go to practices, play a few tournaments, and if they like it, they stick around, and if not, they don't. Ultimately, for most new players, whether they stick around depends almost entirely on the team they belong to, not upon the behavior of any sort of quiz bowl "in-crowd."
You can't "recruit" or "retain" players. You have to make them think, "I want to be a part of that." And the only way to do that is to have a group in place that it's worth being a part of.
I think that's true, to a large extent; obviously, you have to do some sort of "recruitment" in terms of letting freshmen know you have a team, and possibly getting people who didn't play in high school interested in playing, but retention works exactly like you said. People who get involved in any sort of extracurricular may or may not stick around, and obviously, the more who stay involved with quiz bowl, the better.

I think where you have a point about any sort of "in-crowd" is in terms of the people like you who have been more involved in quiz bowl, the people who lead teams, play a lot of tournaments, write a lot of tournaments, host/TD/volunteer at tournaments, etc. Of course, quiz bowl needs a lot of these kind of people to get by, and if someone who would edit a tournament or two every year, TD a couple of high school and college events on behalf of their team, stay involved after finishing college and/or grad school, etc., is turned off by an "in-crowd," it's not a good thing.
Let us take this opportunity to remember that during the fall, our most important connections are those we make with new teammates and new circuit teams, so that they feel like they are part of this "in-crowd" and are willing to work to stay there.
I think you're right about this as well--obviously, everyone should make an effort to welcome the teams that are new to the circuit and help them get on their feet, but again, I feel like most of the problem of retaining new members depends on a club itself, not the circuit as a whole.
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by Captain Sinico »

I'd like to put forth an alternative idea: leverage natural group dynamics by creating your own clique (or whatever you want to call it) that your team is built around. The existence of a group with norms, expectations, etc. that players feel a part of can be an important element in keeping a team together and making it work. For example, the guys I came up with my freshman year all understood that we were expected to work and "get hardcore" if we were going to hang around the team; eventually, when we were the team, our desire not to let one another down is part of what fueled the work we did.
I also think that Kevin's largely right here. Many players, and a very large fraction of new players (the ones we're talking about, I think) don't give a damn what any college-level outside-their-team group, however defined, thinks about much of anything with respect to quizbowl. The things Dwight discusses upthread are effects usually only possible in a veteran of many years.

MaS

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aestheteboy wrote:I still remember Mike Sorice calling me a tool after I argued that correct pronunciation should be required for the correct answer the summer of my freshman year.
Laffeaux. While I don't remember doing this, you have to admit, that's a pretty toolish argument. Your instance is also far from the first or (unfortunately!) last time I've heard it. Anyway, sorry.
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by ihavenoidea »

Norman the Lunatic wrote:Solution: create enough infighting in cliques so that each group has a member who likes at least n nonmembers than he likes at most n members. Let the rumor-spreading begin!
psst, i heard that andy watkins was dating hannah
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

ihavenoidea wrote:
Norman the Lunatic wrote:Solution: create enough infighting in cliques so that each group has a member who likes at least n nonmembers than he likes at most n members. Let the rumor-spreading begin!
psst, i heard that andy watkins was dating hannah
was?

oh I see
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by Cheynem »

For the sake of historical accuracy, I found the thread about pronunciation which Daichi is talking about:

viewtopic.php?f=20&t=2900&p=36757#p36757

Sorice doesn't post in the thread. Unless this happened at a different time, perhaps you might be thinking of Leo calling you a Nazi.
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

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Dick the Butcher: The first thing we do, let's kill all the IRC.
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Dick the Butcher: ...
Jack Cade: ...
Dick the Butcher: ...
Jack Cade: Hey look boys kissing!
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by canaanbananarama »

One thing I think this can be attributed to, Dwight, is our status as West Coasters. For my first three years of college (in which I only played one and a half year), I was perfectly content living in a wonderful bubble outside of this wacky East Coast circuit that I only knew through a forum I never read. We had Jerry, Seth, Steve Kaplan, people who comically injured limbs while performing sex acts in showers, a manufactured UCLA-USC rivalry, Willie Chen. In all facets of goodness and badness, our circuit was a happy place. We're a clique, you know that, Dwight? Because cliques have in-jokes, and we have plenty. Look at our lexicon. Salpi Vartavarian, Martin Kohan, "I'm the Captain, You Don't Get to Answer Because I'm the Captain" guy from USC, Jon Pennington, Gaius Stern, Slappy Plappy. We have a rich history and we're rather insulated from the rest of the world. The breaking of these barriers happened when other people left off for college on the East Coast. Jerry, Seth, and I were all out of towners. I'll describe that experience:

HOW I CAME TO BE PART OF THE IN-CROWD: I joined the IRC in my senior year. I became a relatively active member, even though, at first it was difficult, considering my reputation was that of a cheater. I made friends because of my sense of humor, and have come to be acknowledged in the community for this. I think people are relatively over the DII scandal (which mind you, Dwight was a legit freshman on that team, the onus falls on me and Matthew Sherman) and have viewed me positively for my other contributions to the circuit. However, one problem in breaching the Westside/Eastside quizbowl divide is that you, Dwight, have to make the effort. I'll say it's unfortunate, but people in quizbowl are naturally not the most sociable people and you're not going to get immediate dinner invitations just by showing up to ACF Nats. You've somewhat had the good fortune of having me as a plant in the East Coast circuit, because I'm extremely loyal to my former teammates at UCLA and have invited you to dinners and parties and tried to get the UCI team involved in the mainstream circuit. I don't know if this has helped any, but I've tried. You mention slights to you personally that you did not explicitly state in this thread. Please e-mail me with these slights and we can talk in private about this. One thing that I have been happy to do and have done in the past is defended you and Ray Luo as persons (more Ray sometimes, because of his various packet writing criticisms) and while you have never used me as such, I could have been a valuable resource to get you into whatever in-crowd you wanted to be in. But you've never asked, at every tournament, where you guys attend, I've spent time with UCI and in some cases have avoided these cliques to do so. At Gaddis, Brendan, Ray (Anderson, who I think is a great guy as well), and I all went out for tapas, while the in crowd, well, played Gaddis. I will try to offer you as much as possible help in getting into some sort of clique, but you need to be the one who develops relationships with these people that gets you into these cliques. Now, note the following:

HOW I FELL OUT OF THE IN-CROWD:
Inappropriate behavior. The emergence of quizbowlers in their early twenties or in high school dominating the IRC with their talk that elitist old me deemed unfunny. I've become passé, a relic from a distant era. Many of my friends have moved on too. At most quizbowl tournaments, I dislike maybe half of the people I go to, which is a bad sign. My quizbowl worldview has become so topsy turvy that I personally lauded Chris Ray in private for his accomplishments and have no problem stating that I believe him to be a good influence on the circuit. As more players who are close to me retire or start to get uninvolved, I naturally have tended more towards not being involved in the circuit. I get more out of a dinner with Bruce Arthur than I do playing a tournament at which he is on one team and he is on another. And I suck. Look at that tournament Jerry ran. Who was below the Kohan line? To take a page from Leo, this guy. Quizbowl's no fun when you've gone from winning illegitimate national championships to not playing tournaments and being terrible. So, yeah, I'm done. And sleepily nostalgic about my West Coast days and days when Ryan Westbrooks and Chris Frankels and Eric Kwartlers grazed peacefully in the IRC. Quizbowl, for some people, is only fun for so long. You weren't there, Dwight, but I essentially quit the team my freshman year. I staffed SCT as a freelancer, and had obliged myself to staffing (which turned into playing) ICT and playing on the CBI team (which I stocked with actual non-quizbowl friends), but I quit because I was bored. Because Matthew Sherman at that time wasn't enough of a friend, I couldn't personally connect with any members of my team, and I'm a big baby who needs to hang out with members of my team. So, I dropped out of quizbowl and did the routine of being a college freshman who hangs out with his dormmates, watches Matthew Perry movies at 5 in the morning, and doesn't talk about lesser known works of Sibelius all the time. Quizbowl can be boring, even for people who are good at it. I returned to the team the next year, but even then, it was a half-assed return. You might have noticed that I played a lot of tournaments for Berkeley that year. My friends were there, and I perpetually forced upon you interclub dinners and activities. Bonding with this other team became my reason to stay and not quit, again, quizbowl. My senior year we were re-stocked with Ray Luo, Jay, etc. And I'll say that that team was one of the funnest teams in quizbowl history, and if you disagree, let our lexicon stand testament to that: http://quizbowl.bol.ucla.edu/lexicon/oldlexicon.html.

So, e-mail me. You've always had a resource in me, and I've tried to be friendly to you, dude, but so many times my inquiries as to how things are going are met with one-word replies. My actions should speak for themselves when I say I want the West Coast circuit integrated with the East Coast. It's not too late to become a member of the in-crowd, but part of this has to come from you, man. You want Andrew Hart to be your quizbowl pal, you've got to wine and dine him, dude. You know stories, and I'm sure there are some I haven't told. Again, if you'd just we willing to have long conversations with me about your delicate sensitivies, I really think I could help. I've helped a lot of people with sensitive issues in the community, and positive results have come of them often. I may be in Tunisia, but I still have a limited amount of respect from a limited group of people and have tried and can continue trying to commend them unto you.

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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by Cheynem »

There are a lot of interesting things in this thread. My own experience, for those who might not know, is that I did not play collegiate quizbowl for six years (four as an undergrad, two in a MA program). I played diligently in high school (1998-2002), but that was a time when the circuit was really nothing like it is now. I played NAC once, HSNCT twice, NSC once, and Panasonic once (I met Dwight, Pat Freeburn, Jason Loy, and was at least in the same tournament as Charles). I was rather ignorant of anything involving collegiate quizbowl (although I apparently registered an account here in 2004, presumably to discuss my ex high school team). On a whim, upon enrolling in Minnesota, I looked up information about their quizbowl team and decided to get involved.

As a newcomer with no involvement in the circuit prior to this year (barring the actually rather important fact of having experience playing the game at a reasonably high level at some point), it was fairly easy to get "established" in the circuit, I thought (by established, I mean people know whom I am, not that I am a member of any "in crowds," which I don't think is true). It was easy because I think on the whole, most people in quizbowl are really pretty nice and I certainly felt welcomed by everyone I met at my first few tournaments. I also had the advantage of getting in at an established program with people very, very immersed in the circuit. But anyway, I think if someone is truly dedicated and interested, they can establish themselves without too much of a problem (as for joining the in-crowd, I don't know about that).

Last year at Minnesota, we actually did not have a very good retention rate. This could not really be attributed to the circuit because almost none of the people who left attended any tournaments (or if they did, they were tournaments we hosted or were close by). Part of it I think was our fault, something we're trying to correct with practices now (reading appropriate difficulty sets, making sure people from our A team closely work with new recruits). Part of it was people discovering an activity just wasn't for them. Part of it was people getting caught up in typical first year college craziness. I think if people have a supportive home team environment, then the outside "circuit" won't matter too much.
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by Strongside »

I thought Charles Meigs' post was very interesting and insightful.

I could probably write a few paragraphs on this issue, but for now I want to focus on one thing. I believe the most important thing to getting new recruits to stay is to make sure they don't get discouraged. Quiz bowl can be intimidating if you're new, and are around people that are really good. Even if someone is really smart and has a good memory, they are unlikely to be very good right away when they begin playing. It takes quite a bit of time and effort to learn a and memorize a bunch of stuff, and become a competent player.

If you are trying to recruit and retain people, and want them to stay, you should do what you can to encourage them, and do what you can to avoid discouraging them. As for the best way to do that, I am not sure. There are several things in my life that I have done and haven't succeeded at first, where instead of quitting, I attempted to avoid being discouraged, persisted and improved at them. Quiz bowl is one of them. I wasn't very good at quiz bowl when I started playing as a freshman, and I wasn't even ranked among the top 40-50 player my freshman year of college.
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by at your pleasure »

How much "year-round" recruiting do people do? I realize this is a sample size of one, but Whitman's current young core is of players who joined around the middle of last year and I could definitely see ways that it might be easier to retain players who start then.
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by canaanbananarama »

Well, to focus more on recruitment and retention, these are my ideas.

RECRUITMENT:
1.) When I recruit for quizbowl, I try to emphasize less on what quizbowl actually is. Yes, I'll bring up Jeopardy, or lame Chip Beall-like competitions, because it's in the average person's field of knowledge. You're not lying to them. They'll figure out what quizbowl is once they show up to practice. You're giving a pitch. And in your pitch, you will either lose or gain interest within a matter of seconds. Start talking about advanced quizbowl theory, you're probably done. This is basic marketing, in a way. So, we have to figure out our target group. And in my opinion, our target group is relatively smart students (we're not recruiting morons, and I'm not suggesting it) who are looking for clubs to improve themselves as people. For me, I look at these things as being key things to bring up in pitching quizbowl to people.

A.) Enhancement of general knowledge. While many in the quizbowl community are socially inept, one thing I would like to say is that all of the knowledge you as quizbowlers have acquired could make you excellent conversationalists. Obviously, for some people, timing and appropriateness need to be learned. But quizbowl, for me, has made me good at the very, very important art of intellectual conversations. Quizbowl introduces us to all topics, whether they interest us or not, and I can give the perception of being an educated person on almost every subject. I may be a horrible music player in quizbowl, but most people in dinner conversations aren't that educated in music and can be impressed by your possibly shallow knowledge of music. Ever gone up to an Estonian, struck up a conversation with them, and spent a couple minutes talking about Arvo Part? In this case, Europeans are generally led to believe that Americans are ignorant buffoons, so there's a little bit of jaw dropping. I've talked to a lot of Kyrgyz people, for example (not saying this is common, but I'm telling you where I'm coming from) and asked the simple question, "Are you from Bishkek?" Watch the reaction on their faces. They'll probably respond with "Oh, my God, I thought nobody knew about my country." You've just made a friend, congratulations. And that's what life is functionally about. Making friends, networking, these are all things that every freshman wants to better themselves at. Quizbowl makes you much better at networking. Tell your recruits that practice is a fun way to enhance what they're taking and meet people with great knowledge about specific interests that up until that point they may be highly ignorant of. Let's be arrogant for a second, here. We as quizbowlers are by the definition of most people, experts on every subject. Quizbowl isn't going to make me a nuclear physicist, but it can make me look like one.

B.) Money. Every person is in some way motivated by this. Again, many among our number find Jeopardy to be unchallenging and a number of other things. To the average intelligent college student, this is not the case. They may watch it and ENJOY it. But think about quizbowl in this way. How much money has been won on TV game shows by quizbowlers? Millions. At UCLA, we would put on our posters lists of our members and their winnings on game shows. We had several. Matthew Sherman won $32,000 on WWTBAM. Clifford Galiher won College Jeopardy. Patrick Friel appeared on Jeopardy and lost to an eventual five-time champion. Steve Kaplan won two games on the show. Eok Ngo appeared on Jeopardy. I may be forgetting a couple members, but out of a club that in its history has had possibly a total of 40 members over several years, that is an outstanding, unbelievable amount of monetary success. In the West Coast circuit, we have Jason Luna, million dollar winner on 1 vs. 100. Jeff Hoppes, who lost a dogged fight to Ken Jennings. Nick Meyer appeared on the show. And you all in your hearts know that you could go on that show and dominate; sure, some of you might get picked off by categories on "gardening" and "sports" that don't come up on quizbowl, but I've watched Jeopardy some hundreds of times. And I've noticed this: there has never been a single classical music question I can't answer. Literature, almost the same, except for the high trash lit distribution. And I'm a history/geography player. I'm already untouchable on those categories. And many of you are better at this than I am. There are no fabulous prizes on quizbowl, but if you averaged the sum of money won on quizbowl shows by college quizbowlers to the number of actual college quizbowlers, we've probably at least won $5,000. Not bad, right? I'd join a club that gave me a good chance to earn money on a TV game show.

C.) Travel. I have been to the following states on my UCLA and Maryland club budget's dime: AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, UT, VA, WA, WV, and WI. Quick math (?) suggests that's a total of 38 states. Now, that's probably a record, since I almost always take the train or bus to tournaments and stop and dilly-dally because Nationals were often on our Spring Break, but 2 Nationals trips a year, and depending on your region, trips to various interesting destinations, well, that's pretty cool. And fudge a little bit with the advertising. Advertise sexy locations: Chicago, New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles. You don't know where ICT will end up, right? Could be LA again? Your team might get enough in the budget to go to Cardinal Classic, so tack on San Francisco. Free trips! Being on UCLA's team was a great way to hang out with my friends from Berkeley. For people on the East Coast say at UMD, it might be very appealing for them to join a club that gives them the opportunity to for little or no money meet up with friends at other East Coast/Mid-Atlantic schools.

D.) Social factors. When you're recruiting, look like you're having a good time, even if nobody's near you're recruiting table. Pick two people from your club who are good friends and put them at the table. Put me and Jonathan Magin at a table discussing baseball or Argentina or literature and we'll be laughing and guffawing and having a swell old time. People pay attention to shit like that. If it looks like your club has camaraderie, people will want to be a part of your club. If it's just two guys dressed like schmucks awkwardly talking to each other, I'm not going to your table. Sorry, dudes.

E.) Boasting. Many freshmen who go to your school are probably disappointed that they didn't get into Harvard and Brown or Stanford or wherever. They resent this. They want some chance to get revenge on this. They may also feel some sort of animosity towards rival schools. At UCLA, I would tell people, "Our team is better than Harvard, we beat Stanford all the time, Cornell, come on, are you joking? USC? We never lose to them." It's not just arrogance; students want the chance to be able to compete somehow against these prestigious universities and go tell their professors or peers, well, we clocked Harvard this weekend. Obviously if your school isn't that good at quizbowl, you shouldn't act like this, but you're still better than, Yale, right? (just kidding, Kevin Koai)

You can figure out other stuff, like having candy, and prizes. Having buzzer systems is a good thing. People like toys. People like gimmicks. You may think this is stupid, but it works.

RETENTION:
One of the fundamental problems of practice is how to properly introduce it. Freshmen are naturally insecure people. I recommend you take thirty minutes out of practice to introduce the members of your club, talk about your interests, and more importantly, talk about their interests. "Oh, you're thinking about doing biochem? That's cool, that comes up a lot in quizbowl actually." "You're an English major? What authors do you like?" "Oh, Melville, Hemingway." "Yeah, I like them too...have you ever read...?" Be really enthusiastic. If you're not an enthusiastic person, find somebody on your team and give him/her this job. Again, point out how quizbowl will provide solid ground for their already existing knowledge and build on it. Maybe tell an interesting story related to the students' interests that you learned through quizbowl. Be engaging. They want to think that you all are a friendly bunch of people who have a common interest in knowledge and that practice is basically this. I personally don't recommend immediately starting out with a shpiel on the rules of quizbowl. It's boring for us, the dinosaurs, and if you lead off with that, it's boring for them. They have a general idea what quizbowl might be, and build on that slowly through conversation. Tell them that their interests (if they're legitimately academic or within the quizbowl trash distribution) come up frequently in quizbowl. Again, you want to present yourself as a group of people interested in knowledge for its own sake, because this is something most smart people can identify with. Tell them (using an example from me) how just by showing up to practice and tournaments (I honestly don't study, so this is true) how you've learned about art, music, literature, and how much quizbowl has opened up your world for you. This appeals to people. Everybody's had a conversation where they were out of the loop due to ignorance, and quizbowl IS one of the best paths to make these situations as negligible as possible. "When I was in high school and my friends talked about art, I just was really quiet and it was awkward, but now, quizbowl has exposed me to all this cool stuff and I'm totally into constructivist art and I can talk art with you for hours." True story time: "I was on a train once from PACE to HSNCT and I saw two cute foreign girls, and I just sat down at a table, and the Swedish girl left, leaving me talking with a stunning Russian blond masters student. She was absolutely impressed that I could talk about the works of Aksyonov, the paintings of Repin, contrasts of philosophical movements (she was a philosophy major) in 19th century Russia, and we really connected and became very close." This could happen to you, and they might like to know that it could happen to them. Because not even Russians know who Aksyonov is. Match point, 40-love, you and you just hit a 140-mph serve down the line, people.

Have social events in the first couple of weeks. Make them at interesting places. Ethnic restaurants are fun. Parties are fun. Team trip to an art gallery, if you have an art enthusiast? A picnic? Why the hell not? Like I said, earlier, I, an HSNCT All-Star and arguably the best prospect out of my high school class (who saw Ryan Westbrook coming?), quit my team as a freshman because I found it to be socially a waste of my time. Perhaps this is unique to me, having this social motivation, but nobody from the team hung out with each other, got dinner together, and I'd ask team members to go hang out, and I felt embarrassed because I felt like I was forcing them to do something they completely wanted not to do. So, I retreated into my circle of friends, continued building knowledge (because that's just what I do) and happily avoided quizbowl. I heavy-handedly put two HS teammates of mine on my CBI team just so I could have a good time, and was obliged to staff ICT because it was at our school. I may have played some tournaments for Berkeley, because I found that team to be more friendly (my best friend from HS was on it), and that was about it. The record will show that during that time period I attended more practices at Berkeley (350 miles away from me) than at UCLA (a 10 minute walk from my dorm). So, the worst you can do is try? I'll analyze myself right now. Almost of all my current closest friends (Brendan Shapiro, Jonathan, Evan Nagler, Andrew Hart, Bruce Arthur) are quizbowl players. I have a handful of people who are not, and that isn't for lack of non-quizbowl friends. I mean, we can connect with each other on a level that we cannot connect with most people on. I have a lot of non-quizbowl friends because I'm a very enthusiastic and amiable person, but I must admit that in a lot of these so-called "friendships," the other person brings almost nothing to the table. Example: I have a roommate from Aurora, Illinois, who graduated from a respectable university, is a smart guy, and here in Tunisia, a lot of people ask him "What is Chicago like?" Are they asking the appropriate person? No, because he's from Aurora, and doesn't have fascinating interests, and hardly knows Chicago in the way I do. Look at yourselves and ask you, if you're capable of making close friends, where they come from, and I think you might come to the same conclusion I do. It's fun to tell any number of people about Turkmenbashy, and I do it often and with pizzazz, but in some ways the explanation of the fundamental question "Turkmenistan exists?" gets boring. If they stick in it, new recruits are going to be among those valuable souls who share in our deep knowledge of almost everything and will be absolutely valuable in our lives as friends. But it's a process. And you have to get them invested in that process. I've done a lot of bragging throughout this entire post, but to me, this is why I played quizbowl. Quizbowl was an essential part of the development of the person that I am, and I'm personally quite satisfied with the person that I've become, the skills I've developed, etc. Without quizbowl, I just wouldn't be as interesting. Because you all have turned me on to so many things that I now love and appreciate and can discuss with others. I wouldn't love Kalmykia as much as I do if it weren't for Matt Weiner. I wouldn't know who and be able to tell others who Box Brown is without Jonathan Magin. We are an invaluable resource, and we need to realize this, and be able to sell our clubs and organizations with this in mind. By imparting any sort of knowledge to anybody, you are making that person better.

Now, I should turn to how to turn people away. You know who your crazy and weird people are in your club. Keep them away from the freshmen at first. Let the most socially capable people handle recruiting. I'm going to give an example of one club and I apologize for doing this to those members of this club that are my friends, but I believe there are valuable lessons to be learned. For my own personal interest, I have maintained fake accounts on the Harvard College Bowl listserv, occasionally to post something as a practical joke, and to find out what's going in that club, because as I mentioned, I consider numerous people to be my friends on that team. However, I would like to reference one post I found that I am going to illustrate as how to destroy retention:

"Since I did manage to screw up announcing practice once last week, I'll go overboard:

Practice in THIRTY MINUTES, people. Get to see:
1) Me on one and a half hours of sleep with two problem sets left to finish by Friday afternoon
2) That's the only show you've got! But don't worry, because today is IRELAND WEEK. Notably:

1) If you're listening to an organic chemistry tossup, and you hear "Ireland," buzz and say "Claisen." If prompted, say "Claisen condensation." The issue with people who have memorable names making modifications to a reaction is that you don't forget them. Other example: the "Corey-Fuchs" reaction, pronounced just the way it should be, that is, "Corey is way too old to Fuchs."
2) Read up on such great figures in Irish myth as Cu Roi, a shapeshifter king who cunningly put his soul in an apple in a fish's stomach!
3) Just across the water is the Welsh king Math ap Mathonwy, who had to put his feet in a virgin's lap at all times unless he was fighting a war!
4) Beckett.
5) Joyce.
6) Catholicism.
7) Ever since I learned that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, by the law of conservation of snakes that i just made up (a consequence of the "no hair theorem," i.e. that there are no snakes radiating off the surface of the earth, he must have driven snakes into everywhere else.

Note that that's SEVEN Ireland facts, good enough for a week! And I gave them to you all in a day! And if you can distill the actual quizbowl keywords out of that crap, then you'll actually have IMPROVED YOUR SKILLS.

Hm, I've probably overstayed my welcome."

Of course, this post was written by Andy Watkins, who, in my opinion alone, is in the unfortunate position of being president of Harvard's club. I am only a member of Harvard's listserv, so I do not know what is going on on other listservs. The date on this post is September 25, 2008, so it is relatively close to Harvard's recruiting period.
Problem 1: Look at this post. I mean, look at it. Do I need to say anything? If I were a Harvard freshman, I'm not joining this club. You might as well post: "We're all going to watch hard-core gay armpit fetish pornography tonight at practice...there will be snacks!" The first part is needlessly egotistical; do you, Andy Watkins, really think that you are a show that anybody wants to watch?
Problem 2: The attempt at humor in this piece is made by somebody who is not blessed, at least from this evidence, with the gift of being remotely funny. Making puns on the "Corey-Fuchs" reaction is no more advanced than people Chancellor of the Exchequer in my AP Euro class about the Fugger family.
Problem 3: Not all people who attend quizbowl practice appreciate inappropriate language. Yes, get over it, but:

How you should write a practice e-mail:
Be direct, tell people what time practice is, the location, food items that will be provided if so. If you might go out for a movie after practice, great. It enhances your reputation as a social club (and movies are a great activity for the socially challenged, because it's 2 hours of just sitting there: just like your Friday night, Charlie Dees, except no hand movement). This is really easy. You may think you're a cut-up and a brilliant writer, but even I, who have been described as such, know well enough that my sense of humor does not appeal to everyone and that it's a sense of humor that some people have to come to appreciate. Don't put in inside jokes; it makes people feel excluded. Just announce the time and place, and if you have an interesting activity planned ("I have this really great David Lynch short film to show"), fine, do that too. Maybe try to get food with your team before/after. "We're meeting at Panda Express at 6:15, in case anyone wants to join." Because everybody eats food, why not together.

Anyways, I hope this advice has been helpful. I apologize for any problems I have caused with the Harvard club (I send the e-mails to my spam now, so I don't know if the situation has improved), but I think that there are certain things which the club listserv should not be used for and this post is indicative of all of them. Also, it's just bad quizbowl.

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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by canaanbananarama »

Let me appreciate very much that my use of the word s-n-i-g-g-e-r-e-d, a perfectly acceptable English word, was censored by this board.
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Eh, I'm convinced that that email did absolutely zero to affect how many people we retained. Your principles are right; that's in no way an effective way to retain people. I just can say with a fair degree of certainty that it wasn't too poorly targeted. The people who were going to drop away already had, with at most one exception.

Thankfully, my first month as president featured my worst organic chemistry puns. My humor is far more sophisticated now. Also, i no longer read like a parody of myself (which is what I thought that email was until I looked through my email archive and revisited some darker days).
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by aestheteboy »

Cheynem wrote:For the sake of historical accuracy, I found the thread about pronunciation which Daichi is talking about:

viewtopic.php?f=20&t=2900&p=36757#p36757

Sorice doesn't post in the thread. Unless this happened at a different time, perhaps you might be thinking of Leo calling you a Nazi.
Nah, I was thinking of Mr. Kwartler calling me a huge tool. I'm not sure why I made that mix-up, but these were the days when the only quizbowl players I knew were people on my team and Chris Ray. Sorry Sorice!
Last edited by aestheteboy on Thu Sep 24, 2009 9:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by millionwaves »

canaanbananarama wrote:Let me appreciate very much that my use of the word s-n-i-g-g-e-r-e-d, a perfectly acceptable English word, was censored by this board.
Sorry!
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by millionwaves »

millionwaves wrote:
canaanbananarama wrote:Let me appreciate very much that my use of the word s-n-i-g-g-e-r-e-d, a perfectly acceptable English word, was censored by this board.
Sorry!
Also, everything that you said in your post was, in my experience, really good advice.
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by canaanbananarama »

Norman the Lunatic wrote:Eh, I'm convinced that that email did absolutely zero to affect how many people we retained. Your principles are right; that's in no way an effective way to retain people. I just can say with a fair degree of certainty that it wasn't too poorly targeted. The people who were going to drop away already had, with at most one exception.

Thankfully, my first month as president featured my worst organic chemistry puns. My humor is far more sophisticated now. Also, i no longer read like a parody of myself (which is what I thought that email was until I looked through my email archive and revisited some darker days).
This is and don't use this word in any e-mails to listserv an idiotic response. You're convinced? Your e-mail listserv has dozens of people on it, any single one of whom could have bothered to read that e-mail.

Harvard freshman on the fence about college bowl: "Well, maybe I'll attend a practice when I have a little bit more time. Hey, new e-mail from the club president. Whoa, this guy is crazy and not in a good way. And he's the president, so everybody in the club must be sort of like him. Blech. Forget this club."

You don't know the individual reactions of any single person to any mass e-mail you send, so your logic is retarded. You should treat your listserv with the knowledge that any single person could read your e-mail, and their decision to come to practice once to check it out might be motivated by that. If you want to set up a special listserv to handle inside jokes, that's great. Actually, an inside joke or two, when actually funny is not a bad thing to show up as a mass e-mail. It would show you have a sense of humor. And I'm pretty sure that the group of humanity excluding Andy Watkins would be turned off by that e-mail. Saying that everybody who would have joined has joined and everybody who wouldn't won't is one functional problem in quizbowl recruitment. Recruitment is not this big thing that happens in September and suddenly ends on September 30. One idea for clubs who didn't do so well at the recruiting fair: set up a table in a prominent location on campus, bring out your buzzer systems, and be a scene. People might laugh, but some people might be like, hey this is cool, let me check this out. Oh, seems fun, I'll be less busy in November, I'll drop by. You aren't a college football team. Recruiting never ends. Random people drop by. And if they do, welcome them. Players like Seth Teitler and Jerry Vinokurov are testament to how somebody with limited quizbowl skills at the start can become the legends they are today. And your team's future Seth Teitler may not have bothered to show up to the recruiting fair. I mean, you can make the recruiting process as active as you want it to be, and it certainly doesn't have to be limited the massive student fair. I remember attending the recruiting fair in DeNeve Plaza at UCLA and walking around for five minutes and being like "Cambodian-American Club," "Filipinos for Zurvan" "Persian Pride," "Ethiopians for a Better Yesterday," shit, there's no club here I can even join, let alone enjoy, and I walked away. And if I hadn't seen the quizbowl table in the skimming I did, I would have missed it.

Don't have the attitude that everybody has made up their minds about quizbowl by date X. It's a hard club to sell, and it takes time and encouragement. Some people will drop after practice 1, that's their prerogative. But they might come back. Who knows, right? And quizbowl needs people. Even if a person is not talented, they can get into administrative roles, PR roles, various other things. And it's up to your team to encourage them as much as is possible to come back for that next practice.

An addendum: I've noticed in my roles on quizbowl team a certain type of person. They show up to practices regularly, they'll get a single buzz in the whole of a six-month period. We don't necessarily know why they keep coming back, so try to find out. Encourage them into the administrative roles that I know a lot of quizbowlers hate. Hang out with them. Unless they're super creepy weird and a nuisance to the club, they might just be nice, pleasant, smart people who like hanging out with you all because at times, you can be a cool bunch. So, be nice to these people. They're there because they like you, and that's cool, right? We could all use more friends.

Addendum #2: Another major selling point for quizbowl is that it is an academic club which is student-run and relaxed. Yeah, people will contribute to packets eventually, but they don't need to know this immediately, because their skills at the start will be pretty limited and they should get the opportunity to go a tournament or two before the meeting "This is How We Write Packets." For new people in quizbowl, it might be refreshing to know that this is a club where you can come and go as you please, where no studying is required, it's just a club where you gain knowledge. Let the work come later. If a person has attended four or five practices and seems like he/she's enjoying the club, he/she will be much more receptive to the fact that as a quizbowl club, you do have to do some work, as we know. But emphasize how relaxed it is. There are no coaches. Remember that you may have students (don't say this to them directly) who are in other academic clubs (Debate Team, Mock Trial, Model UN), which are much, much less casual than our team. I remember one girl from the Maryland team who liked our club because we didn't have a dress code (females on the Maryland mock trial team are required to dress in a comely fashion so as to be more persuasive). Quizbowl is a come-as-you-are activity, and there are very limited other options for people who seek an academic club that is not so strict and formal.
[Edit-dropped an e on response]
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

I'm not speaking in general; you're of course right that before I sent that email, I couldn't have predicted its effects. I'm more saying that in hindsight, I don't think that this email (which I'd never defend as a model of recruitment strategy) had much of an effect either way. In any event, at the Harvard-Brown game tonight (we won! As drunk people around me were shouting, "shit is Brown." Take that, Jerry!) I won back a freshman who had drifted away. Boo-yah.

That certain type of person you bring up is a good observation, actually. They're the core of being able to perpetuate a team, since they imply that the team has a good culture (whereas good players come back because, welp, you're good and you like to win stuff), and I'm really glad that Harvard's been able to attract some every year.
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Cheynem
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Joined: Tue May 11, 2004 11:19 am
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by Cheynem »

Yeah, I'll point out that when I first got involved with quizbowl, I saw it as just something fun to do maybe once a week. I wasn't planning on going to any tournaments. As time went on, I grew to like it more, went to EFT on a whim, liked it, and went to more. But a harder push at the beginning may have scared me off...who knows for sure, though?
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger

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cchiego
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Re: Recruitment and Retention

Post by cchiego »

Charles said a lot of good things in his posts, so I'll try to keep my own suggestions short and simple:
1. Advertise. Putting up fliers around campus is cheap, easy, and effective. Be sure to include date, time, and location as well as club email. See if you can get on any listservs as well.
2. Respond to email inquiries quickly and with adequate, not excessive, information.
3. Be friendly. Seriously, this is the most basic and most useful step. Say hello to new people when they walk in and ask them about themselves. Make them feel like part of the group immediately.
4. Explain jargon/in-jokes/etc. immediately. Don't use them too much, but if you do use them let the new people in on the jokes. It shows that you have a history and makes them feel included.
5. Practice on manageable questions, but don't fall into the Trash temptation. Really, IS sets are not bad for this, esp. for ppl who have never played quizbowl before. Hold off playing the (good) veterans at the first practice. The last thing you want to do is play two packets of Trash for "fun" and give people the wrong idea of what quizbowl's about, so don't do that either.
6. Put on an organized appearance. You don't have to be overly formal, but perhaps a handout with basic info, websites, tournaments you'll likely attend, etc. would be nice and make sure that there's someone "in charge" to lead the first few practices. Make sure that buzzers and questions show up too so you don't just sit around talking. Also make sure you have someone competent and sociable manning the booth at student activity fairs.
Chris C.
UGA '09, UCSD '12, UPenn '19
Greater Pennsylvania QuizBowl
http://gpqb.wordpress.com

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