Quizbowl Road Trips

Eric Huff was the long-time quizbowl coach of Dorman High School in South Carolina, during which time he planned and led more than two hundred quizbowl road trips, including one that may (or may not) have inadvertently crossed an international border.  He is now the director of Qwiz Quizbowl Camps (www.qwizbowl.com)

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Is there anything better than a quizbowl roadtrip? Forgetting about school for a couple of days and hitting the road in search of fun, adventure, and that elusive “sick buzz”? Sure there’s a tournament you’re headed to, but let’s be honest, the real fun is in the journey.  Years later, students probably won’t remember the score of that final match, but they will definitely remember the fun they had laughing with at those stupid inside jokes that can only come from a weekend packed in a car for hours with your friends.

So what makes a quizbowl road trip great?  It takes a conscious effort to prioritize creating unique experiences and opportunities for team bonding.  If done right, the quizbowl road trip will make your team better by strengthening the relationships among teammates which in turn will provide social motivation for students to become more invested in the program.  But maybe that’s overthinking it. Ultimately, if you make a point to have fun, it’ll all work out, and you’ll have a great quizbowl road trip.

So let’s get to it.  As the late great Tom Petty said, “there’s something good waiting down this road”.  He probably wasn’t talking about tossups, but who knows?

TAKE DETOURS

Sure, time is limited and there are tossups to be powered, but do yourself a favor and make it a point to get off the Interstate every now and again.  Whether that’s taking the scenic route or taking a team photo at a cheesy roadside attraction, you’ll be glad that you did. Not only will the view be a little nicer, but you’ll have a chance to interact with locals in a way that you wouldn’t have otherwise.  It’s a well-established fact that people are more interesting the farther you get from the Interstate. And these are the interactions that you’ll be talking about long after you’re back home.

EAT LOCAL

A simple rule: if you can get it in your town, avoid it on the road.  You can eat Subway anytime; why stop there on a road trip? Traveling is about adventure and new experiences, and there’s no better way to way to do that then with your food choices.  So next time try the local sandwich shop. Every town has one, and it’s almost certainly better than Subway.

Can’t find a local sandwich shop?  Make your quizbowl road trip your opportunity to try regional chains that you might not have at home.  Eat at Zaxby’s or Waffle House in the south, or Culver’s in the midwest, or Whataburger in Texas, or Shake Shack in the northeast.

Or if you really want have an experience, eat something truly local.  Have a horseshoe if you find yourself in central Illinois.  Eat pimento cheese when you’re in the south.  Enjoy a juicy lucy in Minnesota.  Bite into a beef on weck or a plate of chicken riggies in western New York.

What’s great about quizbowlers is that they are bright, open-minded, and intellectually curious.  So when you’re on a quizbowl road trip, don’t be afraid to encourage your team to step outside their culinary comfort zone and try something different.    

PLAY MUSIC

Music is a key element of a successful road trip.  Now, I’m not going to tell you what to put in your road trip playlist.  Rather, I want to encourage you to use music as an opportunity to build team camaraderie.  

Too often, teams get in the car (or van, or bus), and everyone puts on headphones and disappears into their own world.  Instead, why not use music as an opportunity to bond as a team?

Here’s a suggestion: over the course of the trip, everyone gets to choose two songs to play.  The idea is to pick one song that others might not know but you’re really into and one song that EVERYBODY knows and can’t help but sing along to.  This gives everyone a chance to hear a song they really like, learn a little bit about their teammates, and spark a team karaoke session. Not bad! Who knows, maybe you can teach your team a thing or two about how music was back in the good ole days.

Quizbowl is a team game, and consistently good programs are adept at building team camaraderie.  By taking a solitary activity (listening to music) and transforming it into a communal activity, you are building a team bond that will contribute to the team’s success.

HAVE FUN

It’s easy to do nothing more on a quizbowl road trip than travel, compete, and go home.  Drives are long, tournaments are long, and weekends are short. The best quizbowl road trips, however, include some other activity that is in no way quizbowl related.  Whether its a trip to the zoo, a museum, mini golf, bowling, a scavenger hunt, game night, or a quick game of touch football at a highway rest stop, do SOMETHING. These experiences are vital in building that team chemistry that’s necessary for a winning culture.

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I was a high school quizbowl coach for a number of years, and in that time we were blessed with a fair amount of success.  We worked really hard and won a lot of games. Some I remember vividly, but over time, the specifics of a lot of those games have faded.  Years later, it’s hard to remember which games we won and which games we lost – which questions we answered and which questions we didn’t.  

What sticks with me, though, are the experiences we had on those trips.  Whether you’re a coach or a player, it’ll probably be the same for you. So make the most of your quizbowl road trips.  Create memories for your team that will last a lifetime.

We thank Eric for taking his time to write this guest post!

-The Staff

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