Welcome to Greater Pennsylvania QuizBowl!

Welcome to GPQB! If this is your first time here, you might be interested in “What is Quizbowl?” and “How do I start a Quizbowl team?

Current quizbowl players and coaches might want to check out our resources for “How to Get Better at Quizbowl.”

Looking for a tournament to play? Check out our tournament schedule for the upcoming year.

As always, feel free to comment on any post if you have any questions or feedback; we’re happy to help interested students or teachers with starting a new team at their schools. You can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @paquizbowl or email us at gpquizbowl@gmail.com.

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Nittany Lion Novice V Wrap-Up (10/12/19)

The first tournament of the season in Pennsylvania for the 2019-2020 school year was one of the most exciting in recent memory. Penn State played host to 28 teams from 17 schools all over the state, from the forests of the Allegheny to the farms of Lancaster. Some participants were longtime circuit regulars, but many were attending a pyramidal quizbowl tournament for the first time. While there were a few delays due to moderator error and having to re-do the schedule on a fly, it was still a well run event considering its size. Tournament director Ashish Kumbhardare deserves plaudits for his outreach to new schools and management of the day.

Stats can be found here.

Tournament Runners-Up State College A with their 2nd Place trophy. Photo courtesy Ananya Tadigadapa.

Both the 1st and 3rd place games to end the tournament were decided by 5 points. In the title game, we were treated to another edition of Manheim Township v. State College, as younger players squared off in the latest edition of Pennsylvania’s oldest quizbowl rivalry. Township triumphed on the final question. Led by a balanced attack in which Ian, Jaisal, and Kevin all scored at least 30 points per game (PPG), they were able to win a number of games soundly and finished the day undefeated. State College A, however, was not to be trifled with, and notched the most powers (15-point buzzes) of the day out of any team. In the third place game, State College B bested Wellsboro from North-Central Pennsylvania. An all-girl team led by Raevyn, the tournament’s top scorer, Wellsboro made a big impression with a collective 37/85/30 statline. In what looks to be a rebuilding year for Northeastern Pennsylvania, they might make a lot of noise at tournaments in that region.

The rest of the playoff brackets were filled with a mix of old and new teams. Ithaca from New York and Montgomery from Northeast PA both turned in fine performances to get the season going. Ithaca is coming off a 5th-place finish at nationals last year and looks to have quite a lot of talent for continued domination. Meanwhile, Montgomery is continuing a steady climb in the PA quizbowl world since debuting a season and a half ago. Their 340 PPG augurs well for future success. Meanwhile, a team from Bishop McDevitt outside Harrisburg made a decisive debut, leading the tournament with 22.5 points per bonus (PPB). As bonus conversion is not dependent on opponent, that indicates considerable skill. Boalsburg’s St. Joseph’s Catholic and the Pocono’s Pleasant Valley also excelled as first-time schools. I read for all three of these new teams, who impressed me continually with good early buzzes. All these teams have a bright future in this game. State College C’s Tori, Ithaca B’s Heewon, and Montgomery B’s Owen finished right next to each other for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th highest individual scorers at the tournament.

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Pleasant Valley A was all smiles before round 3.

Impressive performances by new and old schools also headlined the consolation brackets. Ithaca A and Bishop McDevitt B tied to win the first consolation bracketDuBois Central Catholic, in their first weekend tournament, impressed with 15 powers and 17.6 points per bonus, which are tough numbers to get on a first try. Various schools from across Western PA got their first taste of quizbowl as Shamokin Area, Warren Area, Eisenhower, and Tyrone Area all competed; they were joined by debuts from Northwest Area and Midd-West (ironically both from farther east than State College!) That brought the total of New Schools that tried pyramidal quizbowl at once up to ten at Nittany Lion Novice, which is the most in a long time, if not ever. Huntingdon, who first played at NLN I, also joined in on the competition, with two teams going a collective 11-8 in an effort to train up the next SSNCT (small schools nationals) contender.

The SCOP Novice question set was well written and very appropriate for this difficulty. Students had no trouble with these questions and I saw many of them make impressive buzzes. Literature seemed to be toughest, as is often the case for new players. If your school missed out, this set is being played in two weeks at Carnegie Mellon’s tournament.

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Bishop McDevitt B enjoying the preliminary Rounds.

Every moderator I spoke to about the tournament was refreshed by not only the quality of play but the enthusiasm of the students as well. It’s always a pleasure to see new students enjoying the game, learning something new, and working together through strong stretches and harder stretches alike. We hope to see all of these players again around the circuit very soon!

-Ben

What to Expect at Your First Tournament

With the Pennsylvania season about to kick off for the year, many students will be attending their first Saturday invitational tournament. These tournaments have a similar format, similar rules, and a series of customs, which may not be familiar to new schools or freshmen. While some of the regular procedures at events have been internalized by quizbowl regulars, they bear repeating for the benefit of all. Most of the day will be straightforward, there are always a few questions that get asked by new teams. Hopefully, this post will answer a few of them.

What do we do when we get there?

Simply put, you should report to the control room, check in, and then get ready to play. The tournament director should have let you know where to go at the school or university the tournament is taking place. The check-in process is usually swift. If you haven’t paid already, you’ll give the check to the director or another member of the host school, and the host will ask you for your rosters. Hosts need to know this to keep stats properly, since the top players might win prizes and they’ll be tracking individual as well as team stats for that purpose.

After you check in, you’ll be on your own until the tournament starts. This can be a chance for students to meet like-minded kids from other schools, to read practice questions, or anything else you see fit.

How do tournaments work?

The standard for most Saturday invitationals in quizbowl is a bracket play system. You will be assigned to play a selection of teams based on the number of schools that have registered, and makes sense for a schedule (so, for instance, if 18 teams are playing, you’ll be divided among three brackets of 6; if 24 teams are playing, four of 6; if 32 are playing, 4 of 8; and so on). You will then play all teams in your bracket during the morning. Based on your performance, you will be re-seeded after lunch into playoffs or into consolation rounds with teams that finished with a similar record. This format maximizes the number of competitive games between teams. If you do well, you will likely play in a finals game or in a third place game.

Generally, a high school tournament runs between 8 and 11 rounds, depending on the number of teams, and if the set has shorter or longer questions. Unless you have registered more teams for a tournament then there are brackets (for example, if school X brings 4 teams to an event with three brackets), the tournament organizers will make sure your school doesn’t play itself in the morning rounds, though afternoon matches between teams from the same school are more common.

My tournament doesn’t have these brackets. Why?

If fewer than 12 teams have registered, usually the event will run as a round-robin. In cases when more than 36 teams have registered, some tournaments use a card system, which you can find an explanation of here.

Do I need to stay if we miss the playoffs?

Yes. The consolation rounds are fun, low stakes games, where a lot of the best learning and team-building occurs. Both teams need to be there for the benefit of the students. There’s no benefit to them just sitting there taking a forfeit, which another school will do if someone leaves early.

How do the games work?

Two schools will duke it out for 20 tossup questions. Each tossup, if your team converts it, will net your team a three part bonus. Students confer on bonuses, but they are on their own on tossup questions. Each question moves from harder clues to easier ones. Students may buzz in at any time while the question is being read. If students buzz early in the question, most high school sets will award them a “power” buzz, which is worth more than an ordinary buzz (usually 15 instead of 10). If they interrupt the question with an incorrect answer before it is finished, they will be penalized with a “neg” of -5 points. There’s no penalty for an incorrect guess after the moderator has finished reading the question.

Most moderators will be lenient with new schools or new students learning these rules, especially ones that try to buzz in when a bonus question is being read. As you find your sea legs and move up, however, moderators will enforce these rules.

My student was penalized for “conferring.” What does this mean?

This means that either 1) the student spoke with teammates on one of the tossup questions, or 2) the student answered the question, but another student buzzed in before they did. The buzzers will light up to indicate which student answered first. Conferring is a “neg.” Most students will make this mistake a few times early on. Even the most experienced players have probably done it. So, don’t be hard on yourself if you make this mistake.

What does a coach do during the matches?

Coaches in quizbowl are mostly involved in organization and running practices, but there are a few roles they play on tournament day itself. Firstly, they are in charge of substitutions if teams have more than four players. You can substitute at halftime, before overtime, and in most cases, after a timeout. This can put in players with given specialties if the coach believes a certain kind of question is coming up, based on the distribution. Secondly, coaches can call time outs to rally the troops, give strategic advice, or substitute.

How long is each match?

About 25 to 30 minutes.

How long is each tournament?

Almost all tournaments in Pennsylvania are done by 4-4:30pm. If you make the finals, add a half hour for the extra round.

Where can I find stats and results for the event?

Stats are posted at https://hsquizbowl.org/db/. In Pennsylvania, we do our best to enforce the standard of making sure stats are available by the Monday after the event at the latest. Your tournament director will likely e-mail you a link to them as well.

-Ben

 

9/28/19 PA Team Mini-Wrapup

This past Saturday, teams from five Pennsylvania schools ventured beyond our borders to kick off their 2019-20 quizbowl seasons. As we kick off what looks to be perhaps the most wide-open chase for the #1 spot in GPQB history, parity continues to abound among the state’s top teams.

Four PA schools attended the 27th iteration of the Princeton High School Academic Tournament at Princeton University. Pennsylvania connections abounded at this tournament, which was directed by Bermudian Springs alum Jack Edmondson and used Manheim Township/CMU alum Andrew Nadig’s new stats program Yellowfruit. Stats can be found here.

Manheim Township A finished highest amongst the PA squads, claiming 5th place with a 355-250 win over Robert Harp A. The team also dealt tournament champions Hunter A their only loss of the day and picked up a close-as-can-be 340-335 victory over Henderson A. Will Steger has picked up where he left off as one of the top players in the state, while sophomore Aizaaz Faiz seems to have put in some work over the summer as well. Not many teams in Pennsylvania can boast of a strong one-two punch with solid third and fourth scorers, and with Ellie Taliani and Sanya Nair each averaging a tossup per game, Manheim Township may have discovered their latest path to success.

Henderson A and Penn Manor each reached the playoff brackets and finished with a 6-4 record. Henderson went unbeaten through the prelims and secured one victory in the playoffs, over Wilton A. Vijay Anne led the way for them again with 59.50 PPG, and Vikram Chodapaneedi emerged a bit in his own right with 32.50 PPG. Losses to the perennial NJ and NY powerhouses don’t need to be too deeply read into at this point in the season, but the loss to Manheim Township shows that it won’t be a stroll in the park for the preseason #1 in PA.

As for Penn Manor, they once again lived and died by Connor Mayers’ play, and they experienced all the variance that comes with being basically a one-man team. Connor can pop off, as in his 9/4/2 line in a win over Kellenberg A, or negstorm out of any chance at a victory, exemplified by a 3/2/7 performance in a loss to High Tech A. Unless someone else finally emerges as a second scoring option, this is probably what Penn Manor will be for the foreseeable future.

Moravian Academy‘s two teams each secured some victories in the consolation brackets. The A team, led by the 46.50 PPG of Alex Adams, defeated Henderson B (3-7) but lost to Manheim Township B (6-4). MT B ended the day strong with a streak of four straight victories, including a 210-205 squeaker over Tenafly B. All Pennsylvania teams won at least 3 games on the day, giving everyone a good base on which to build moving forward!

Meanwhile, a rebuilding Allderdice squad ventured to Ohio for the Miami Valley School Fall Kickoff. The team’s stats can be found here. Led by Truman Jury, the sole returning member of last year’s A team, Allderdice reached the playoff rounds, where they notched a victory over Solon B to finish with a record of 5-5. 20.77 PPB on an IS set is not bad at all for a new lineup in their first tournament of the year, and some concerted studying could see them spring up the rankings as well.

Overall, it was a solid start to the season for our adventurous PA squads! The in-state calendar will begin in just over a week at Penn State’s Nittany Lion Novice tournament on 10/12!

-Ryan

On Quizbowl’s Value Beyond the Curriculum

It’s no secret that quizbowl vastly increases your knowledge. I still can’t quite capture its essence in a short pitch—it’s not quite Jeopardy! or some test of rote memorization, but more of a celebration of intellectual curiosity packaged as a fun extracurricular. In my four years as a high school quizbowl competitor, I learned so much about literature, history, science, and literally every other academic area imaginable, all while meeting some of my best friends in the community.

As a sophomore in college now, I’ve had some time to reflect on what else I got from my high school quizbowl experience. Besides training my ability to answer questions about the Steinbeck novels I’ve read, my involvement in high school quizbowl also played such an integral role in my personal development. I may have had a somewhat unconventional time playing while also leading a student-driven club, doing outreach in an area with a stubborn local format, and directing tournaments as a sixteen-year-old, but I’m convinced all of these experiences taught me just as much as the thousands of questions I heard. The variety of opportunities I pursued to get involved in quizbowl brought out my confidence as a leader and effective communicator. 

When I first became captain of my team as a junior, I took over tasks like organizing practice activities and planning our attendance at nearby tournaments. To do so, I had to build good relationships with not only my dozen teammates, but also tournament directors, coaches, and players at other schools. I frequently posted about upcoming playing and staffing opportunities in my team’s private Facebook group and sent a lot of emails; in fact, I ended up making a separate “quizbowl” folder in my inbox to separate my communications for tournament registrations and discussions with coaches and other local quizbowl figures. Planning practices and staying connected with the community are some common responsibilities for most quizbowl club officers, and speaking from my own personal experience, these tasks inevitably lead to stronger leadership and communication skills.

I directed my first tournament in January 2017 of my junior year. High school tournaments are usually directed by coaches or college students, and while there are always a couple other high school student-directed tournaments around the country, it was still a pretty daunting project for an inexperienced event planner that ended up being incredibly rewarding.

Reaching out to experienced tournament directors and coaches for advice connected me with a network of mentors who supported my growth in the Pennsylvania quizbowl community, while the business of promoting my event on social media, the quizbowl forums, and through incessant emails to nearby schools got me interested in my current major (marketing). Through trial and error, I learned to write more professional-sounding posts, emails, and other documents. Several instances of miscommunication taught me to pay close attention to details and writing for different audiences, and the unpredictable snowy weather made sure I understood the importance of contingency plans. I originally intended for the tournament to raise some funds for our team while giving other schools another chance to compete, but it ended up teaching me just as much through experience as some of business and communications courses I’ve taken in college.

Why am I sharing all this? That’s a good question. I’ve been out of high school for over a year now, and I recognize that my own experience was unusually privileged in that I had the resources necessary to get my team to more tournaments and the proper circumstances to direct an entire event. I know not every student is going to be the captain of their team, and I’m definitely not advocating for students to suddenly ditch their coaches and irresponsibly undertake the task of hosting a tournament. But as I was sitting in a professional development class this week, I found myself thinking about how many skills I gained from getting involved in quizbowl back in high school. It doesn’t have to be club leadership or tournament directing; playing on a team developed my conflict resolution skills and ability to work with others under pressure. Volunteering to read questions in practice or at a tournament made me feel more confident speaking in front of an audience and being in charge of a room. Even just being at a tournament and chatting with new people between rounds was a form of networking. The list goes on, but I’m certain that we learn so much more from quizbowl beyond the question clues we remember.

As we get further into the new school year, I urge everyone to continue playing, volunteering, connecting with others in the community, and getting involved in whatever way that works for you; hopefully the game teaches you as much as it’s taught me.

-Jackie

GPQB Pre-Season Poll, 2019-2020

It’s that time of year again—back to school, pumpkin spice, the inexplicable Christmas sales the day after Labor Day. That means another quizbowl season is upon us. Whether you are a long time reader and gearing up to follow the season along as a veteran or a first time player, we hope you are excited for some studying, fun facts, and high-gear Pennsylvania quizbowl matches. As always, it’s time for the AP style pre-season poll as well. Fourteen ballots were cast. Without further ado:

  1. Henderson (137 points, 11 first place votes)
  2. Friends Select (112 points, 2 first place)
  3. Penn Manor (107 points, 1 first place)
  4. State College (106 points)
  5. Great Valley A (82 points)
  6. Manheim Township (75 points)
  7. Winchester Thurston (48 points)
  8. Trinity (35 points)
  9. Great Valley B (31 points)
  10. Allderdice (27 points)

Also receiving votes were Hempfield (9) and Unionville (1)

Best wishes for all teams during the upcoming season!

-The Staff

The Voters in this Poll were Ryan Bilger, Jakobi Deslouches, Ben Herman, Antonio Jimenez, Ashish Kumbhardare, Sebastien La Duca, Nick Luca, Andrew Nadig, Colton Sanden, Alex Sankaran, Steven Silverman, Jack Sugrue, Adam Swift, and Will Yaeger

 

Starting a New College Quizbowl Team: A Start-Up Plan

With the start of the 2019-2020 quizbowl competition season, a large number of recent high school graduates and former high school players will be headed to college. In PA, there are currently active quizbowl teams at only a handful of colleges in the state: CMU, Pitt, Penn State, Gettysburg, Swarthmore, and Penn (West Chester is also partially active). All of these college teams are key to the high school quizbowl circuit as most of them host high school tournaments throughout the year, provide a pool of moderators for other tournaments, and strengthen connections to additional high school teams around the state.

Yet there are many other colleges in Pennsylvania (and around the country) that lack active college quizbowl teams. We thus present a brief guide to starting a new college quizbowl team for any interested students (NAQT also has a NAQT-centric guide to starting a college team as well that might be useful):

[Note: If anyone at a college in Pennsylvania without a quizbowl team is reading this, there are Collegiate Novice Tournaments scheduled for September 21st at Carnegie Mellon University and October 26th at Swarthmore College. Contact the hosts for more info; we’re all happy to help new teams get started.]

  1. Get a group of interested students.
    To start an official student organization, most colleges require that you have a certain number of interested individuals to register. Even if you want to try college quizbowl informally first before starting an official team, you’ll likely need to find other players. Here are some ways to recruit them:a. Check the entering Freshman contact lists on NAQT’s website as a start, but also use word-of-mouth and intra-college Facebook groups (or things like your school’s subreddit) to identify individuals who might be interested in playing quizbowl at your school. Be sure to use local equivalents for “quizbowl” like “Academic Challenge” or “Scholars Bowl” or whatever else it might be called in your area.

    b. Get on some listservs. Most colleges have student activity listservs that announce various activities and events that you can use, but you should also consider Honors College/Program listservs and even departmental listservs if you can get them.

    c. Post fliers around campus advertising quizbowl. It helps to have clear contact information on the flier (set up a Gmail address for your team if you don’t want to use your own) and advertise for a specific event like an “interest meeting” with a specific date and time if possible. See if you can schedule and advertise a couple of these initial practices/interest meetings early on so that you can maximize the amount of interest for new players.

    d. Ask local high school coaches about their alumni who might have ended up at your college. This could be a good way to not only make contacts within the local HS quizbowl community but also to identify some potential players who might be overlooked.

  2. Get Plugged-In to the College Quizbowl Community. 
    a. Find the contact info for nearby college teams either by searching online or contacting NAQT. You should introduce yourself to other teams in the area and find out generally when and where the tournaments for the upcoming season will be held so that you can start planning out a schedule of tournaments and so that you will be included on future emails. These other teams can also serve as valuable sources of advice and guidance (as well as friendship!), so don’t hesitate to ask if you have questions about how things work.b. Venture onto the quizbowl forums and Discord. There’s tons of information and many examples of past new teams and players asking for advice on these.

    c. Read up on the resources online. There are plenty of instructional resources to help teams get better; you should share these with the other members of your team and perhaps even read through them together.

  3. Get Official.
    Now that you have a group of interested people and have an idea of what tournaments you might want to attend, you should make sure you’re an official student organization at your school. This will bring a host of benefits, including funding, but also making it easier for other interested players to find your group and for being legally able to reserve rooms and other things on campus. The major hoops to becoming an official organization vary across colleges, but they’re usually some form of:
    a) Show up to required meetings for organizations;
    b) Complete any required online workshops;
    c) write a constitution or other organizing document.
    *Keep in mind that some schools may have very narrow date windows in which you must register as a student organization each year; look up these dates and plan accordingly.*
    Some schools may also require that you have a faculty or full-time staff member as an advisor. Some schools will provide this advisor for you while others will require you to find this person yourself. This is where asking around for any faculty who enjoy trivia, appeared on Jeopardy!, played quizbowl themselves in college, etc. would be quite useful. It may take some time to find a person like this, but if you do get a dedicated advisor that can be very helpful in ensuring the long-term survival of your team and in dealing with the college or university administration.
  4. Get Practicing.
    Every quizbowl team in the country is based around weekly practices, sometimes one but often two times a week. You need to secure a location that you can reliably use for practices (which is why it helps to be an official student organization) and ideally a buzzer set to use to practice with. Here’s a good overview of the available types of buzzer systems; it’s worth getting one as soon as you can. Your school may have a buzzer set (or two) lying around somewhere, so ask the student activities people and keep an eye out for them on campus. Make sure that practices are efficient (don’t waste time not doing quizbowl things at them) and regular (be sure to update the advertisements of when you practice on Facebook, listservs, fliers, etc.). You want to make sure people who are interested in quizbowl know where to go to find the team. You also want to make sure that new people who wander in to a practice feel like your team is both organized and open to new people.
  5. Get Funding.
    Some schools will require you to have existed for a year to get some types of funds. Others may give you one-time appropriations of funds on a case-by-case basis. It differs at every school, so check your own rules. One thing that you can do though is check for multiple sources beyond just your school’s Student Activities fund. There may also be Honors Colleges/Programs willing to sponsor a team as well as specific funds from administrators like the Provost for special events. Ask around and keep looking–you never know what you might find.
  6. Get to Tournaments.
    One mistake that new teams often make is thinking that they need to keep practicing before going to events. Since a lot of improvement at quizbowl comes through more experience on the buzzer, competing against other teams, and listening to questions, by not going to tournaments you actually make it harder to improve. Just go! Find a nearby tournament of appropriate difficulty, come in with low expectations, and enjoy the event. Quizbowl roadtrips can be a blast by themselves, especially in college.As far as appropriate difficulty goes, you can usually get an idea of how difficult a given tournament might be by reading through past iterations of that tournament or looking at posts about that tournament on the forums. In general, the tournaments most accessible and appropriate for new collegiate teams are NAQT Collegiate Novice, ACF Fall, NAQT DII SCT, and the Spring Novice tournament (that goes by various names each year). Other tournaments–even those labeled “regular-difficulty”–may be quite challenging for new teams, so plan accordingly.
  7. Get Ready for the Future.
    Be constantly thinking about what your team will look like next year. You will (hopefully!) graduate within a few years, so make sure that you are seeking out new players to join the team and keep it going every semester. You also want to make sure that people have experience expanding their leadership skills, not only in playing but also in the basic logistics of running a team. One potential practice is to basically assign everyone who wants an officer position an officer position suited to their interests.

Setting Your Team’s Goals for the Upcoming Quizbowl Season

One of the best–and somewhat daunting–things about quizbowl is that there’s always more learning to be done. There will always be a new clue to look up, a new subject to try to master, a new name to add to your study lists. Finding ways to motivate yourself and your team to keep learning these new things–particularly at times like now in the middle of summer–can be crucial to determining how the next quizbowl season will go.

A good way to get your team on the same page for the upcoming year is to decide on what your goals will be as a team. Individual improvement is great, but quizbowl is a team competition. Working as a group to encourage each other will be a much more enjoyable, if not more effective, experience than solitary studying. 

What sorts of goals might a team set going into a new year? Here are a few ideas (and a few things to steer away from):

Beating a Rival Team
There is no better feeling in quizbowl than triumphing over a rival team. Such a rival could be a local geographic rival, a sports conference rival, or a team from further away that your team found annoying at a previous tournament. Either way, identifying a rival and using them as a friendly source of motivation and yardstick for improvement is a time-tested and effective way of motivating quizbowl players to improve.

Reaching Specific Points-Per-Bonus (PPB) levels
This is an easy-to-measure metric that you can track in practice and at tournaments. It’s also somewhat independent of the strength of the other teams in your area, so it can be a good way to chart your progress even if it isn’t necessarily leading to more wins immediately. Keep in mind, of course, that the target PPB will likely vary by question set, so set a reasonable goal and work to increase it over the course of the year. 

Being the Best Team in your City/County/Region of the State
This is fairly self-explanatory, but is always an effective way to market your team to your administration and/or potential outside sponsors. If you don’t already have a tournament in your area to crown the best county/city/part of the state, then consider starting one. Even if it’s just a few teams competing, it can be a great way to get one’s community involved and a goal that you can set.

One goal that a lot of teams set–but which also might be tricky to translate into improvement–is making the playoffs or finishing at a certain rank at the national championships. The problem with this approach is that nationals finishes are fickle; there’s a lot of randomness depending on who you get matched up against. The last thing you want to do is finish the season not having achieved your goal due to, say, a top team getting upset in the first round of they playoffs and showing up to ruin your playoff run or getting subject to the few unbalanced matchups in the card or seeding system. Another potential goal of reaching a certain winning percentage for your team’s record for the year can lead to less-than-ideal incentives; you don’t want to make a habit of, say, attending tournaments with lots of less experienced teams simply to claim more wins. 

There are also plenty of ways that your team can contribute to quizbowl and the general quest for competitive academic knowledge outside of competing. Running a tournament well, getting your neighboring schools involved in quizbowl, and simply representing your school well with notable good sportsmanship and friendliness can all be excellent goals by which to measure a successful quizbowl season. 

-Chris 

A Defense of Regionalism in High School Quizbowl

Recently, on the hsqb forums, in a post titled “Does Every Quizbowl Organization Need its Own Blog?,” the topic of integrating all of the various places where quizbowl is written about online, from press and blog posts from major national organizations at the college and high school level, to regional sites such as our own, into one place or one feed, was proposed. I weighed in as a skeptic of this in regard to regional organizations/websites such as GPQB. This got me thinking about trying to articulate exactly why high school quizbowl needs regionalism. I can think of four major reasons, and I think each speaks to some aspect of the challenges high school quizbowl faces with outreach and expansion, both here in Pennsylvania and in other places like it.

The Need for Localized Coverage 

To expand quizbowl, teams need to know what is out there in terms of the vast resources, which centralization of writing and activity might, theoretically, make easier. However, on that large a scale, inevitably there would be an emphasis on things with maximum appeal to a uniform, nationalized quizbowl audience. That means lots of studying tips and lots of “how do I adjust to X situation,” written on terms for insiders already familiar with the game. In such a market, there is little to no room for coverage of local stories and local concerns. You may or may not have noticed, but our company line at GPQB is to mention every team appearing at every tournament in Pennsylvania, even if just as a shout out, throughout the year as we do our wrap ups. Teams like to be noticed, and like to feel welcome. This takes time and energy, and trying to add these local touches would be washed out in a situation like a unified site. Only top teams nationally would get any sort of individual coverage. Having correspondents and articles attached to local circuits will allow teams to know where to go to see how they’re doing, and to view the compliments that come with that. It serves no purpose for teams that are more casual to wade through muddles of coverage irrelevant to them to check on their own accomplishments.

Making Meaningful Rankings

There’s been an epidemic of rankings and statistical ranking formulas in the world of quizbowl recently- best player at X, best players in Y, etc. This originates, in part, from 20 years of the internet and increased social media activity by people in and around quizbowl, leading to elite high school programs all knowing each other and interacting with another regularly. That has lots of positives; but one area it doesn’t is catching local circuits accurately when teams, particularly new or rising teams, are not integrated into those channels. Teams players are unfamiliar with will inevitably reduced to statistics, and to put it simply, quizbowl statistics are highly meaningless at a macro scale and undeveloped. Trying to compare teams from drastically different circuits with different field strengths, opportunities to play, and in a few cases even rules have led to considerably inaccurate placements of teams’ abilities, like this pre-national statistical ranking placing Henderson, the #2 team in Pennsylvania by year’s end, at 147th nationally (before they finished t12th).

This is where local sites come in. Our Pennsylvania panelists look closely at our teams and are able to do more than simply compare points per bonus and arbitrary power adjustments. Most of us actively staff PA events and can eye test the teams: how do they handle pressure? Do they communicate on bonuses? Even those of us that have moved away follow the tournaments regularly and can consider things like head to head record. This allows for much better polls, and gives a lot of teams recognition they otherwise would not. We should acknowledge that there is still a large east-west divide in Pennsylvania, as both teams and staffers don’t always get the chance to cross the Susquehanna regularly. The advent of Penn State’s Keystone State Invitational this season went a long way towards fixing that, and hopefully as more teams in central PA join the circuit, there will be ever-more common links.

Appropriate Attention to Audience

Simply put, the average quizbowl team in America doesn’t care about theory or your latest quizbowl cause célèbre. Should there be more world literature? Should there be less pop culture? Is asking about something too easy or to hard? Most teams don’t care. I’m as guilty of worrying about this minutia as anyone. To quote PA quizbowl veteran Andrew Nadig, “most people here [at quizbowl nationals] would play quizbowl in a box, with a fox, in a boat, with a goat.” The majority of quizbowlers don’t necessarily commit that much. Most teams don’t need a big feed to see pontifications coming from collegiate quizbowlers, or what’s happening halfway across America. What they need and want is simple tips to help them improve, perhaps a basic primer or two on the rules, and coverage of their stories and matters of local relevance. Simply put, for your average quizbowl player, one doesn’t *need* the reams of writing going on about quizbowl, and simpler is better. As they become more integrated, they inevitably seek out the more advanced stuff on their own, without prompting. They’re sharp kids. I’ve seen it time and again.

Local vs. National Community Building

Lastly, branding individual circuits as communities is crucial to building camaraderie and common goals. GPQB’s biggest accomplishment, in my opinion, has not been providing resources (though that’s also a proud point for us), but in forging a sense of “Pennsylvania Quizbowl” as a distinct group of people where no sense of it existed before. We support one another, fight together to reform unfair local formats, and have built strong local support to help new teams join the community as well. Part of the reason our tournaments now run on time and our teams are playing more and better quizbowl is because they enjoy being part of “Pennsylvania Quizbowl” and upholding the standards and practices that go along with it. This would inevitably be lost if people’s go-to place was a nationwide catch-all. It should be noted there certainly is a community of top high school players nationally as well, and the barriers to breaking into it are much more opaque to newcomers. Getting noticed at that level also usually means elite play- and elite play should never be a prerequisite for having a major voice at the table.

In sum, Pennsylvania quizbowl as a thriving community is in large part because of its autonomy from wider quizbowl, and the ability to serve local needs, mention and reach out to local teams, make better local rankings, and build a localized sense of solidarity. When I look at other circuits that have a great deal of engagement from a wide variety of schools instead of an elite upper crust, such as Missouri, Ohio, and Alabama, one can see similar websites or organizations at play; in regions where this is not the case, a few elite teams dominate. In this opinion, regionalism and de-centralization are healthy for the high school game.

-Ben 

2019 NASAT Wrap-Up (6/23-24)

Two Pennsylvania teams, each composed of a mix of graduating seniors and returning underclassman talent, represented the state at the 2019 National All-Star Academic Tournament. Coached on-site by Jamie Faeder (Allderdice ’18), these players had a fun experience to close out the 2018-19 quizbowl season!

Pennsylvania Blue, composed of Jakobi Deslouches (Allderdice), Noah Harrigan (Great Valley), Will Yaeger (Hempfield), and Ryan Zhang (Hempfield), made the top playoff bracket by way of a thrilling tiebreaker victory over Missouri A that came down to the final tossup. They also notched wins over Maryland Gold, Oklahoma, and Kentucky. While the team did not score any additional victories in that top playoff bracket, I give them all the credit nonetheless for making it there, as NASAT is a tournament unlike any other at the high school level. Congrats to PA Blue!

Pennsylvania Gold, composed of Austin Davis (Allderdice), Connor Mayers (Penn Manor), Anshu Nunemunthala (Great Valley), and Malaika Paralkar (Downingtown East) defeated Iowa in the preliminary rounds for their sole win on Saturday. However, they ended the tournament strong, with consecutive victories over Oklahoma, Connecticut, and Missouri B. Connor also finished as the 10th top individual scorer in the prelim rounds and 9th after all games. Congrats to him and to PA Gold as well!

With the end of this tournament, our exciting 2018-19 season of quizbowl in Pennsylvania has reached its conclusion. We’ve seen plenty of great players, great matches, and great stories this year, and it looks as though we are poised for another exciting season to come! Have a safe, fun, and knowledge-filled summer, and we hope to see you back for our coverage of the 2019-2020 year!

Ryan