Improving as a Player Part 2: At the Tournament

So you’ve been studying hard and putting in solid efforts at practices, and you’re ready to go play a quizbowl tournament. How should you approach it? In my time playing I’ve found that generally it’s the amount of work you put in studying and learning clues that make the biggest impact on improvement, but there are some little things you can do at the tournament itself that can help you potentially step up your game that little bit more that you may need. Here are my five tips for improving as a player with regards to what you can do at the tournament.

  1. Bring snacks

One unavoidable fact about quizbowl tournaments is that they are long endeavors. By the end of my first tournament, my teammates and I were totally exhausted, and it definitely affected our performance down the stretch. A great way to avoid that is to bring snacks. You don’t need anything fancy, just something to keep your mind and body energized enough to focus throughout the course of the day. Since that first tournament, my teams have always had a big bag full of different kinds of snacks (Fruit Gushers, Cheez-Its, and granola bars have been common) with us for when we need some refreshment. For a big end-of-the-day match, a little nourishment can go a long way.

  1. Take notes

Bring a notebook with you to every tournament you play. Taking notes at tournaments is not only important in terms of getting a better idea of potential topics to study, but also in terms of keeping yourself engaged throughout the course of a match. It promotes focusing and prevents the day-dreaming that can sometimes happen (or at least I’ve found that it can sometimes happen). And, of course, don’t forget to look back at your notes after the tournament.

  1. Know your opponent

This can be hard, especially early in the season, but once you see a team enough times you get an idea of what they are and are not good at, and you can harness this to your advantage. For example, if you know the team you’re playing against is strong in literature and you have a pretty good idea of the answer on a literature tossup, go ahead and buzz in. If you let it go and they get it, that’s much more likely to make a difference than losing 5 points when they probably would have gotten it soon anyway. Conversely, if you know you’re playing a team that’s weak in literature, you can probably afford to wait a little longer until you’re very sure of the answer. Here, you’d rather wait a little longer and ensure you pick it up rather than throwing your chance at the question away with an early neg. As this season and future seasons roll on, you’ll be able to better use these ideas.

  1. Take your time on bonuses

This is something that teams, especially new teams, sometimes do, and it’s really a shame when it happens. You don’t get any extra points for answering the bonus early, so let the moderator read the whole thing, just to make sure you hear the whole question. Make sure everybody has a chance to voice their opinions on the answer; few things hurt more as a captain than giving a wrong answer and realizing that the right answer was something one of your teammates was trying to say. A good moderator will clearly denote the amount of time you have and ask for your answer when it is up. Use as much of that time as you need to try to come to a consensus among your team. Or if you’re the captain and your team can’t come to a consensus, use your discretion as best as you can. Just try not to rush it.

  1. Have fun

I know this sounds trite, but really the biggest thing you want to make sure of at a tournament is that everyone has fun. Keep things light-hearted, make some jokes between matches, do whatever you have to do. There’s a wide variety of ways to do this, so just remember this idea and do whatever works for you and your team.

Please let me know if you have any feedback or comments about these ideas. I hope these tips can help you and your team perform better at quizbowl tournaments and have a more enjoyable time in doing so!

Ryan Bilger

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