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.