Today we metaphorically sit down with Missy Doll, GPQB’s coach of the year, for a discussion of coaching. Missy has been co-coach of the Manheim Township program since 2009, overseeing their transition to pyramidal quizbowl. She has also helped reform the Lancaster- Lebanon quizbowl league to using exclusively good NAQT questions instead of house written speed checks, bringing excellent quality product to hundreds of students in the Lancaster area.
1) How did you first get involved with coaching Quizbowl?
Six years ago, the coach of our quiz bowl team wanted to step down. He wanted to train his replacement, so he asked Chris Manning and I to do it. We both said no at first, but we decided to do it together. We were co-assistant coaches for a year before taking over the team. Manheim Township has had a quiz bowl team since at least the late ‘80’s. Last year the father of one of our players also played for Manheim Township when he was in high school.
2) Manheim Township has an extraordinary record of constant contention within the Lancaster Lebanon League (4 of the last 6 titles). How do you work to stay one step ahead of the other teams in your area?
We practice a lot. We have practice twice a week, and we compete in as many tournaments as we can. When students miss practices, they write questions instead. They are still doing something to improve as a quiz bowl player during that time. This year alone, we have had 19 different competitions. While the questions are different, you will learn something at one tournament that helps you answer a question at another. We also have amazing students that spend the time studying on their own. Our team is whatever our students put into it.
3) Township consistently has one of the largest squads in the Philadelphia area, bringing D and E teams to tons of invitationals. How do you recruit?
Actually, you have to try-out to be a member of Manheim Township Quiz Bowl. There’s a limit to the number of students that we can manage. We’re limited to the number of students that can fit in our school vans to attend competitions, and that is our only means of transportation. We are even driving two vans to Chicago for HSNCT again this year.
We hold try-outs on the first Friday of the school year, and we rely on our students to help advertise. So far, they have done a great job bringing in their friends that are also good quiz bowl players. If you make it fun, students will come. With that being said, I don’t support having try-outs if you can avoid it. It adds a constraint to the team, but our district requires an activity fee for quiz bowl. Everyone that competes on our team has paid $120 to the school to be eligible to play.
4) Manheim Township has always had several solid players sharing points at one time as opposed to the “superman” model of team. Do you think this has helped you over the seasons?
You can study one topic in depth, but you can’t cover every subject as well. I highly recommend that strategy for new teams. Even when we have had one player that overshadows the others, the team would still be a top bracket team without that one person. That takes the pressure off that individual. If they have a bad game, others will step-up.
I try to emphasize that individual awards don’t matter though. A team will be much stronger with four balanced, equally scoring players then with one dominant player. Individually scoring awards don’t reward that. I personally wish individual scoring awards didn’t exist, but they are a staple of quiz bowl tournaments.
5) What’s the greatest challenge facing you as a coach in today’s game? Greatest reward?
The greatest challenge right now is funding. When I started coaching, we received enough money to fund every tournament we wanted to attend. If I put it in the budget, I got it. Today, I am paying for a lot of things out of my own pocket. I have purchased 2 ½ buzzer systems myself. We are constantly fundraising to be able to pay for everything that we do.
The greatest reward is getting to work with this great group of students. You won’t find a better group then quiz bowlers.
6) What’s the most memorable match your Manheim Township teams have been involved in?
Our most memorable matches have been on our local tv show, Brain Busters. The show caters to close matches because the question distribution varies, and the questions include a lot of buzzer races. You never know what will happen.
At this point, I think the most memorable match would be last year’s finale. We were behind by 75 points, but our team didn’t give up. At the end of the round, Jake buzzed in with the answer of “A Streetcar Named Desire”. Their reaction was priceless. The next day we drove to Chicago for HSNCT, so that was a much more enjoyable van ride!
We were at a rest stop in the middle of Ohio when someone came up to Matthew and congratulated him on the win the night before. It was a nice way to end our season.
Thanks to Missy for taking time to answer our questions!