Hosting Tournaments

Great Valley Quiz Bowl Tournament V Wrap-Up

This year’s annual slate of quizbowl action in Malvern, PA produced some of the most interesting results of the season. Stats for the AM and PM of both rounds are here, and final combined stats (with some corrections) are available as well.

Open Division


Wilmington Charter A captured the win in the Open Division.

Wilmington Charter A defeated a Manheim Township A that was down by one regular A-teamer in the finals, claiming the school’s first GVQBT title in an exciting 270-255 win. Charter may as well be honorary Pennsylvanians by this point, and the Delaware team put up a string of big wins before the close final. Waley’s 80 PPG led the Open Division in the morning to cut a path to the title for Charter. As for Manheim Township, the “rebuilding” team has once again flouted pre-season expectations and may have solidified their status as favorite for bronze in our end of season poll.

Third place went to similarly storied State College A, another team which continues to gainsay preseason pessimism and remains one of the state’s more solid all-around teams. Lily’s 76 points per game was second for the event. In one of the biggest surprise runs in PA quizbowl history, Downingtown STEM B took 4th, while their A team competed at a different tournament in New Jersey. No one expected such a strong, clutch performance out of relatively new players, and their memorable performance here may be a sign of great things to come in the future.

The rest of the playoff saw some regular Southeast PA high finishers from Henderson, Penn Manor, Friends Select, and Downingtown East. Friends Select in particular put up nice bonus conversion numbers, but unfortunately their final placement was hampered by setting a state record with nine negs in their match against STEM and several other cases of overly aggressive buzzing. Manheim Township B, Hempfield A and Hatboro-Horsham A also made the playoff brackets. It’s very nice to see the Hatters make the higher bracket, and though wins didn’t come yet in the afternoon, I think this squad from Montgomery County has shown steady improvement and nice potential for big success soon.

The consolation rounds featured their share of B teams from the above, plus a range of others. Lancaster Catholic ventured outside their home county and on to higher difficulty questions for the first time, and nice balance of contributing players netted them 4 wins for their efforts. Cedar Crest remained a dependable presence on the circuit, with many contributing scorers as always. Central Bucks East, similarly, continued their string of solid performances, able to hang with most teams and just a few points out of making the playoff brackets while putting up a particularly solid PPB of 16.12. We additionally saw good work from Moravian and Renaissance, who are preparing for SSNCT, and Science Leadership Academy, preparing for the Philadelphia City championships next month. Lakeland made the long drive down from NEPA, but without lead scorer Michael, wins were hard to come by; however, this experience should help fortify the rest of the team for the stretch run of the season and seek a top-10 ranking.

The return of two Chester County schools, Conestoga and West Chester East, to action on pyramidal questions was quite welcome. Though neither had the instant successes of their 2014-15 season that featured some top 5 tournament finishes, they both showed that they could handle the material. With more appearances, both could join the troop of national-caliber Chester County quizbowl teams at HSNCT in the near future.

Novice Division


Radnor High School took home the top prize in Novice at their very first pyramidal quizbowl event.

Radnor, playing in their first non-DelCo Hi-Q tournament, warmed up quickly to quizbowl and after dropping an early prelim match stormed back to win the tournament with an undefeated playoff run that featured a clutch 260-250 win over one of the mighty Manheim teams. Radnor faced a game State College B in the finals but ended SC B’s winning streak with a 305-245 win. Just as Haverford HS did well at GVQBT last year, so did Radnor this year and we hope to see more Delaware County schools at quizbowl events in the future.

Manheim Township D won third place over another new-to-quizbowl team, Conrad Weiser from Berks County. Township D, containing the core of MT’s team for probably the next 4 years, was dominant all day and took 3rd in very convincing fashion. Conrad Weiser though was extremely impressive in their debut, with excellent buzzer speed that made up for a few gaps in their bonus knowledge. We would again love to see more Berks Academic Challenge teams at our tournaments.

Both Hempfield B and new to-weekend-quizbowl Pine Grove A were competitive in their playoff matches and featured balanced scoring across the board. West Chester East B, led by Matt’s impressive 80 PPG, and Archbishop Ryan (who beat Radnor in the prelims but couldn’t get going in the playoffs) rounded out the playoff teams.

In the consolation matches, Carver B continued their trend of finishing higher than Carver A, albeit losing in their direct matchup. Rishith (81 PPG) seems like the new star for Wilmington Charter on a short-handed Charter B and Cedar Crest B continued the Cedar Crest tradition of solid, balanced scoring. Church Farm continued their successful debut season on the circuit though their A-team dropped a final close match to Phoenixville A 140-145. Phoenixville appears to have arisen like a certain bird and returned to the circuit after several years of absence; we would also love to see them back at more tournaments in the future.

Additional shout-outs here to Pine Grove’s B and C teams for all picking up a few wins in their first tournament, Hatboro-Horsham B for recovering from the morning with a strong 3-match winning streak to close, and PALCS for pulling a similar three-win close feat as well.


The tournament was slowed at the start by 3 teams simply not showing up without warning. This is unacceptable; if you are going to drop a team, you absolutely must tell the tournament director well before the morning of the tournament. Or better yet, honor your commitment and play with teams of 2 or 3 players instead since missing teams mess up the schedule for all other teams.

Also, there seems to be a crisis among housewritten question sets (that is, those written by other schools rather than a central question-writing company like NAQT) in high school quizbowl. These sets are either trending closer to college sets (as BHSAT, used in the open division here, did), with 7 lines of 10 pt font for all the tossups and 8 lines (2 for the lead-in, 2 for each part) for the bonuses, or towards sloppiness and poor editing. The former sets are well-written, but can really bog a tournament down as the average time per match in the open division hovered around 40 minutes even with a corps of experienced moderators.

The latter sets, often cobbled together by groups of ambitious high school teams seeking to learn more clues for nationals, can be difficult to read and confusing to teams hearing them. The SOLON Novice set definitely suffered from this, with many grammatical errors, confusing wordings, lists rather than descriptions, some outright missing text, a lack of clear giveaways, and questionable difficulty choices (simply because the answerline is easy for instance doesn’t mean all the clues for it should be college+ level clues!). It was overall accessible to new teams, but could have used some additional editing, especially since it had been first used a long time ago.

-Ben and Chris


GPQB Podcast Episode 30- Moderating

Ben and Chris discuss moderating quizbowl matches and some of the tricks of becoming a good moderator. How do you deal with tough to pronounce words? What do you do in case of protests or if you misread something? How much commentary or sociability with players is acceptable? This and more!

The link is here.

GPQB Podcast Episode 25: The Quizbowl Economy

Chris and Ben are joined by Coach Bern McCauley of Great Valley High school for an extended length podcast discussing the economics of quizbowl. Most of the discussion is focused on the high school game, but some of it discusses collegiate quizbowl. Topics covered include: what does an average quizbowl annual budget look like? How does this compare to other activities? Should it cost more or less? How to fundraise? Should quizbowl have more professionalization and charge accordingly?

Click here to listen!

0:00- Costs of regular season events
2:40- Costs of Nationals
5:05- Overall Yearly Expenditures
7:19- Debate: Is this the right amount of money to charge for quizbowl?
11:38- Comparison with other academic extracurriculars; pop quiz on costs!
14:30- Fundraising Ideas and Issues
18:40- The Prospect of Professionalizing Quizbowl
22:40- Does Professionalization have hidden downsides?
25:25- Trust, Relationship Building, and the Long Game for Quizbowl Economics
30:05- Predictions for the Future

Tournament Updates for Spring 2017

A few notable changes have occurred to the regional tournament schedule:

– Manheim Township’s Academic Challenge was forced to move from today (Dec. 17th) to Jan. 28th due to snow and ice.
– Downingtown East’s Jan. 7th tournament is now completely full with a pretty decent waitlist.
– Norwin HS (east of Pitt) has added a tournament in February
– Wallenpaupack (in the Poconos) has added a tournament in late March

This has all definitely improved the geographic coverage of quizbowl tournaments in PA next semester, but there are still a few areas that could use more tournaments. The Pittsburgh area has nothing after mid-February and there’s not much going on in April other than Penn State’s tournament. Also, given that the Wissahickon and Philly City Champs are both going to be smaller tournaments, there’s room for a bigger one in SEPA too in late March or April.

I have heard rumblings out of Adams County about a potential tournament at Gettysburg College, but nothing definitive yet.

Still room for a couple of additional tournaments if schools wanted to host them–remember that it’s totally fine to run a smaller, locally-focused one of say 12-16 teams too. Let us know if you’re interested in hosting and we’re glad to help!

PHSAT XXIV @ Princeton Brief Wrap-Up and Thoughts

Princeton University’s PHSAT XXIV took place last weekend on Sept. 24th with 36 teams (mostly from NJ) in attendance. Full stats are here.

The PA teams had a hard time generally, with Lehigh Valley A the only PA team to end with a winning record. As usual, Alex Schmidt put up a stellar individual performance with 120 PPG, but the combined power of High Tech A and defending national champions Hunter A kept LVA from making the top 4. It was good to see Alex with more teammates though including an LVA B team that played in the JV division. But despite the gaudy 24.48 PPB, it’s clear that LVA A will need some more people to step up to help Alex steal some TUs from the top teams.

The mysterious “Exton” HS finished in the middle of the bottom part of the varsity division with a solid 18.68 PPG (this is on an IS set). Henderson A finished at the bottom of a loaded varsity bracket and Henderson B finished in the middle of the pack in the JV bracket.

Wilmington Charter is back too, but considerably depleted after last year. Their A team put up a fight in all their games except for a nearly 500 point loss to Hunter A (it’s pretty devastating when the defending national champs retain most of their scoring) and their B team finished strong as well. It’s good to see them back on the circuit though after a lot of changes in their offseason.

One interesting development was the emergence of Princeton High School playing their first-ever all-subject quizbowl tournament. Princeton A made the top brackets with a balanced scoring attack and the rest of their teams were competitive in the JV division. Given that Princeton is just an hour and fifteen minutes by train from Philadelphia, I’d hope to see them at more Philly-area tournaments.

The tournament ran considerably slower and with more bumps that you might think for the 24th edition of a tournament. Most of the issues could have been addressed with a bit more planning in advance, so here are just a few pieces of advice for potential future tournament hosts:

  • If you have a complicated building space, make it easier to navigate for teams. Provide maps of the building with the game rooms marked. Get moderators to help lead teams to rooms. Put up little posters with directions to rooms. These may seem small, but they’re really helpful for teams and reduce the time it takes for teams to change rooms. They also help avoid situations where a team is standing outside the wrong room for 20 minutes.
  • If competent moderators from other schools come to help you, make use of them! Quizbowl depends on others volunteering their time to come help you (reimbursing for travel is the minimum that you need to do), so make outside moderators feel appreciated and thank them for coming out. This also means making it a good moderating experience by being clear about where to go and when instead of having people frantically rushing in and out of rooms trying to figure out where to go. Furthermore, if you do want to keep some people “in reserve,” you need to make sure to monitor other moderators and see if any are falling behind so that you can replace them with your reserve. Having a bunch of competent moderators do menial work or just sit around while less-than-competent moderators read is not a good situation.
  • Limit rebracketings and make sure they take place over natural breaks (like lunch) as much as possible. If you do have to rebracket, you need to be crystal-clear on your criteria for rebracketing and have that ready to go as soon as the stats are up.
  • If you’re planning on printing out new schedules for rebracketing, have a printer lined up and ready to go on-site with you. For years I’ve lugged my Brother printer to tournaments and it makes everything so much easier when you have it there rather than trying to rely on a far-away printer or possibly wonky wifi.
  • Google Sheets are a terrible idea for keeping score. They are slow to load on wifi connections, do not signal when a round is “done” for the scorekeepers, and in general are a pain to navigate and use. Use neg5 if you want to do scorekeeping electronically. I personally prefer paper scoresheets still.

How to Invite Teams to Quizbowl Tournaments

Summer is here, but it’s time to start planning next year’s tournaments! Here’s a guide to getting in touch with teams when you’re hosting a tournament: 

One of the most basic questions that teams face when they host a quizbowl tournament is how to get in touch with other schools to invite them to said tournament. While posting a tournament announcement on the HSQB forums and getting your tournament on the GPQB regional schedule are good starting points, you need to invite teams directly as well.

In a few areas of the country, paper invitations mailed to schools are still the standard method of communicating about tournaments. Based on the results of randomly-assigned contact methods that I tried last year, however, in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey email seems to be by far more effective than snail mail in getting a response. So how do you write a good email invitation to a quizbowl tournament?

Personalize Your Invitations. Ideally, the invitation email should be personalized. This helps get past spam filters and immediate deletions; people are just more likely to read an email actually addressed to them than a generic “Dear Coaches” or “To all quizbowl coaches” mass BCC email. Yes, this takes a bit more work, but not that much and the higher response rate that it generates is well worth the effort.

Keep It Short! You want your email to be short and to the point rather than a mass of text. Avoid as much quizbowl jargon and acronyms as possible (remember Strunk and White) and use links judiciously to provide an opportunity for interested recipients to look up more information on their own. Your initial goal is to get a response if people are interested in the general idea of the tournament, at which point you can then provide more information. Educators get dozens of pieces of email every day; you want your invitation to be easily read and understood by your recipient.

Consider Your Audience. A principal at a school that has never played quizbowl before is a very different audience from a quizbowl coach of a team that regularly plays many pyramidal tournaments. There are also some coaches at schools who play local non-pyramidal tournaments and may never have had direct contact with the broader quizbowl circuit before. Figure out which type of school you’re emailing for each and generate a general template for each type that you can then personalize. For instance, if the school calls their team a “Knowledge Bowl” or “Academic Challenge” team, be sure to use that language in the email.

How to Find Contact Information. To get email addresses, I always recommend using school websites. While some websites are more functional than others, you can usually find a list of activities/extracurriculars with sponsors as well as a faculty directory to match up the name of the sponsor with an email. If you can’t find a current team or sponsor, you can try emailing the director of student activities (if the school has one), the vice-principal or dean in charge of student activities (if they have one listed), or just the principal or head of school. NAQT also has a listing of some coaches and contacts for teams that you can search within, although they might not be current since sponsors often vary from year to year. You might also ask other tournament hosts in your area very, very nicely for their contact lists from previous years.

Quizbowl Tournament Invitation Email Templates

Below, I’ve provided some examples of tournament invitation emails that got solid results in the past. “Solid results” doesn’t mean that all of them got responses; I’d say my overall response rate has been about 20%, but that’s still fairly high, so don’t be discouraged if you only get a few replies to your invites initially.  You should feel free to modify these templates as you see fit with local traditions, such as different local terms for quizbowl like “Academic Challenge,” “Knowledge Bowl,” “Brain Bowl,” etc.

Invitation to a school without a quizbowl team:

Dear ___[Contact Person; use “Dr.” or “Principal” as needed]____,

The __[Your Team’s Name]______ Quizbowl Team would like to invite ___[Invitee]__  to compete at our ___[Tournament Name]_____, a quizbowl tournament to be held at __[location]__ on _[date]__.

Quizbowl is a team-based academic knowledge competition that’s a bit like a team version of Jeopardy! with more academically rigorous questions. The topics asked about encompass the whole of the high school curriculum from literature, history, and science to fine arts, the social sciences, and mythology. To get an idea of what quizbowl questions are like, see a brief explanation here and some sample packets of questions here.

The tournament should last from approximately ______ to _______ with a break for lunch; more logistical details will be sent closer to the tournament for teams who register. A list of teams registered and other logistical details will be updated ______[link to your tournament on the HSQB forums]______.

Let us know if you think ____[Invited School’s]____ students might be interested in competing. We enjoy seeing new schools experience quizbowl for the first time and we’d be happy to work with a faculty sponsor and/or interested students to help get a quizbowl team started.

-_____[Your Name]______
Tournament Director, ___[Your Tournament]____

One thing that I particularly like about this template is that it can be targeted to a principal or a head of school, but it subtly suggests at the end that the principal should delegate responsibility to a teacher or student. Principals are a good point of contact, but they rarely actually sponsor teams, so you want the principal to forward the email out to the faculty members to increase your pool of potential sponsors. This works even better if the principal directly asks for a volunteer to start a team.

You might even want to make this “help start a team” part of the email more direct, especially at the start of a school year when schools are deciding on extracurriculars for the year. Note that these emails to schools without a quizbowl team are probably the most effective just before or right at the start of a school year; most schools will not start a new club late in the school year, although you can still try to get an existing team to come.

Here’s a sample invitation for a team that has a quizbowl-like team, but only plays in a local league or on a local TV tournament. To get an idea of what they call their team (common variations on quizbowl in PA include Scholastic Scrimmage, Academic Competition, Academic Challenge, Academic Bowl), check out the school’s website first.

Invitation to a school with a team, but not a regular quizbowl attendee:

Dear ___[Contact Name]___,

The ____[Your School’s Club]____ Quizbowl Team would like to invite ___[Invited School]____’s ____[Name of the Format or TV Show]____ team to compete at our ____[Tournament Name]_____, a quizbowl tournament to be held at __[location]___ on ___[date]___.

Quizbowl is similar to _____[Name of the Format or TV Show]___ in testing academic knowledge and using a buzzer-based format, so our tournament would likely be useful preparation for _____[Name of the Format or TV Show]____. You can read more about the style of questions that we will be using at our tournament here. Our tournament will also be a qualifier for ___[insert national championship(s) as needed here; usually every tournament can be a PACE qualifier, but only tournaments on NAQT questions can be direct NAQT qualifiers]______.

The tournament will begin at approximately __[start time]_ and last until about ___[expected end time]___ with a lunch break. All teams will be guaranteed at least __[total number of]___ games, including ___[games in the rebracketed playoffs]___ against opponents of similar ability. For additional logistical details, please see our post ____[link to HSQB forum post]_____.

Let us know if we can answer any questions about our tournament or the world of quizbowl in general. We’d love to see ___[Invited School]____ at our tournament in ____[month]____!

-_____[Your Name]______
Tournament Director, ___[Your Tournament]____

This letter does several things: it makes it clear that you know a bit about their school already by correctly calling their team by the name that they use and are familiar with. It provides more specific logistical details compared to a new-to-quizbowl school (whom you don’t want to overwhelm with too much info in the initial email) to give contacts an idea of what to expect at a weekend pyramidal tournament. It ties into the local format by portraying your tournament as a practice opportunity to improve on that, which is what those coaches tend to initially value the most. And it mentions the wider world of quizbowl by mentioning the national championships (although if your tournament is a novice-only tournament or has a novice-only division, those are usually not national qualifiers, so don’t say that!).

You can also congratulate the school if you found that they won their local tournament or won their last TV match or something similar; it’s a nice gesture that shows you paid attention and again might catch the eye of an otherwise skeptical sponsor.

Invitations to regular quizbowl attendees are a bit easier to write so I won’t provide a template here, but be sure to provide the standard Who/What/When/Where and especially what question set you’re using. Regular attendees are also likely more interested in the format that you’ll be using, the rules for determining final placement, and who will get awards. You can usually save those specifics for a later email closer to the tournament date, but you should remember to send ’em out before the tournament at some point.

Again, these are just templates; feel free to modify them as you might need them for your area. But they seem to have worked in the past for us and hopefully they’ll do the same for you. You can also adapt this to a snail-mail invitation fairly easily. Just include say, a regional tournament schedule or more information about quizbowl on the back of the paper letter as well as your email address. Good luck hosting!