Hosting Tournaments

An Introduction to Quizbowl Statistics

Note from the Editors: This is a guest post from circuit alumnus Nick Luca, Henderson ’16. Nick has vast experience working stats, and we thank him for his time writing up this overview for stats newcomers.

Introduction

Despite being behind the scenes most of the time, the statistician is an extremely important role in order to run a successful quizbowl event. Without statisticians, the logistics of the tournament day can be seriously delayed, especially when you are re-seeding teams into playoff and consolation brackets. You may also have unhappy teams if stats are not posted in a timely fashion after the tournament concludes. Doing stats for a quizbowl tournament can be daunting at first, with a 24 team 10 round tournament requiring at least 120 unique games entered. However, stats can be easy if you follow a set-out procedure.

Some quick background on myself: I have been playing quizbowl for 5 years for both West Chester Henderson and most recently Virginia Tech. I have been a statistician at multiple national tournaments as well as various large tournaments in the Mid-Atlantic region. I decided to create this write-up in order to share my experience and knowledge with others so I can help newer statisticians in their endeavors. The most common mistake of first-time quizbowl statistician is not doing any research about quizbowl stats prior to the tournament. This write up is designed to help you get a better understanding of stats and how to optimize your performance as a statistician. So, let’s get started!

The Various Stat Keeping Programs

In order to start stat keeping you need to select a stat keeping program in order to fit your event’s needs. Here are some common quizbowl stat keeping programs:

SQBS

This is the most commonly used and my personal choice of quizbowl stat keeping programs. SQBS is the standard in terms of stat uploading and produces the only file that NAQT will accept for a statistics discount after a tournament ends. Typically, tournaments using SQBS will use paper scoresheets and the statistician will manually enter each individual game. This write-up will mainly be highlighting this program as it is seen as the standard in quizbowl.

Download or read the documentation for SQBS here.

Neg 5

This is a cloud-based quizbowl stat program that eliminates the use of paper scoresheets by allowing all scorekeepers to digitally submit their scoresheets. This program makes error detection much harder and requires more setup that SQBS if you are running a large event. In addition, the output of Neg 5 files is a bit unorthodox and would often require re-entering the stats into SQBS in order to upload the files to the forums and send to NAQT.  In addition, the servers can potentially crash; halting all stat keeping. For these reasons I can’t recommend Neg 5 for large events. I would only recommend this program if you do not have enough staff to have at least one person in the stats room.

Read more or use Neg5: https://neg5.org/

Advanced Stats

Pioneered by quizbowl stats whiz Ophir Lifshitz. This stats program also tracks buzz points, meaning you can see where everyone who played a set buzzed on a given question. Typically, advanced stats are used in college tournaments and are used to help writers and editors improve their packets in future iterations of a set. However, not all stats are calculated in this program and therefore it is recommended to have one person in control to input the stats into SQBS alongside Advanced Stats to avoid logistical errors. This program will be provided to you when you use a set that uses advanced stats.

Yellow Fruit

A newer stats program created by Manheim Township alum Andrew Nadig. This SQBS alternative allows you to easily organize stats by phase, create a more detailed scoreboard report, supports roster import, and allows for easy conversion to SQBS and html files. I have not personally used the program myself, but I have heard nothing but good things about it and it appears to be gaining more acceptance in quizbowl circles very rapidly. For further questions see this post on the HSQB forums or contact Andrew  on Twitter (@qzbwl) and he’ll be happy to help.

Download or read more about Yellow Fruit

Getting Started With SQBS

Before your tournament even begins you want to make sure your SQBS file is ready to go so that when you start getting completed scoresheets, you’ll be ready to enter them quickly. To create a new tournament, after downloading SQBS, open the program and simply click file and then select New Tournament (or Ctrl + N). You will be then presented the following screen:

sqbs1.png

For the standard NAQT format you do not have to make any changes to default settings; however, different types of question sets may require different values. For example, for ACF tournaments, you would simply unselect the 15-point value since their sets are not power- marked. Moving downwards, we now have the stat tracking section. The first to boxes must be checked for all most all scenarios so please make sure you make sure they are checked. If you are using lighting rounds and/or splitting the field into separate brackets or divisions check the corresponding boxes. Finally, we have Bonus Conversion Tracking. Make 100% percent automatic is selected unless you are using bounce backs; if it is not you will have to do all bonus conversion statistics by hand. Once you make all the necessary selections, hit ok and you will have a brand new SQBS file.

Once the file is created make sure to do 2 things immediately. First, save the file by selecting File and then selecting Save Tournament As (or Ctrl + A). Make sure you save the file to an easily accessible place on your computer, preferably either your documents or desktop. Secondly, you should set up auto-saves. This will make sure that you will have your progress saved even if you forget to save manually. This feature has saved me on multiple occasions.

Inputting Rosters, Teams and Divisions

Many tournaments will use division due to field size and packet constraints making round robins impossible. If you are running a round robin tournament skip to roster input section of this write up. To enter divisions simply pull up the Division Entry window and enter each unique division as seen in the example below. Once you are done click enter.

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Once you are done with divisions, if applicable, you are now ready to input rosters. First, pull up the Roster Entry window. Your screen should look like this:

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Once you have the window pulled up start by entering the team name. If a school has multiple teams but the school name and letter designation in the team name box. Next, if applicable, select the division you assigned the team to from a drop-down menu. If you are running a round-robin tournament you can skip this step. If you want a team in the field to play games but not contribute to final scoring, click the exhibition team box. 99% of the time this box should be unchecked, so make sure each individual team does not have this box checked. We are now ready to enter the team’s roster. Put one player per line in the box. Once you are done the final completed team roster should look like this:

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Once you are sure the entry is correct, click the next button and enter the next team. Repeat this process for every team in the field. If there comes a case where there is a duplicate team roster, simply click the delete button to delete the team roster. If an additional player is added to a team that was not listed on the initial roster, simply add the person on the next line below the last player in the roster. There is no need to create a new roster. Once you are done entering the rosters (and note that you can and probably should enter rosters before the tournament even starts; this is why it’s standard practice now to ask teams to submit rosters before tournaments so that you can get a head start), you are now ready to enter games.

Inputting Games

The first thing to do before entering games is to double-check the completed scoresheets as they arrive. Some tournaments will have additional staff in HQ to do this for you. If you don’t additional help you must do this yourself. Add up all the toss-up points and count the bonus parts; the bonus points will by that count by 10. Add the two numbers and check it against your final score. If it matches, repeat the process for the other team. If not look through each individual toss-up and bonus set and make sure the running total is added correctly.

Here is a list of common mistakes:

  • Bonus total ends in a 5
    • Bonus total cannot end in a 5 since each bonus is worth 10 points each. If the bonus total ends in a 5, the scoresheet is wrong and must be fixed
  • Math error in running total
  • Incorrect stat lines for players
    • Be sure to recount powers (if applicable), toss-ups, and negs (if applicable) on the scoresheet if the score does not match. Once counted, re-calculate the toss-up points per player

This process is a double-check and cannot be substituted for scorekeepers checking the score. Stress that your scorekeepers should follow the same process so you can get stats in at a timely pace. If there are multiple instances of mistakes by the same scorekeepers, be sure to let the tournament director know so they can deal with the situation. Once you are done double-checking the scoresheet, its time to enter the score into SQBS. To start open the game entry tab; your screen should look like this:

sqbs5.png

First pick the two teams playing the match from the drop-down menus at the top on both the left and right. Once you select the teams the rosters should automatically appear in the middle of the window. Once the teams are selected, click on the box below the drop-down menus and input the final score for both teams. In addition, enter the round number in the “Rnd” box in the bottom left and the number of tossups in the game in the “Toss-Ups Heard” right below the rosters in the center. We are now ready to enter the individual stats for each player.

First, we need to check the GP row. The sum of the numbers in this row must be less than or equal to 4. For example, if there are 4 people playing the entire game, they all should have a GP of 1. If there was a substitution in the middle of the match the GP of the player will not be one. For the affected players, instead of the default 1, type in the number of toss-up played divided by the number of toss-ups in the match. For example, if the player played 10 questions in a 20 toss-up match you would simple enter “10/20” in the GP row for that player. If there is a player who didn’t play in each match, simply type in a 0 into the GP row. If a player played the entire match simply type in a 1 if not already inputted automatically.

After the GP row is done, we can now input the individual stat lines. Next to the GP columns you will see rows coordinating to the different point amounts you can earn for a toss-up. Use the scoresheet to enter their stat lines into the appropriate row. Do not attempt to type in the “Pts” row since SQBS does the math for you and will update as you put in toss-up values. If a player didn’t get a certain toss-up value for a round just leave the box blank; by default, the value in each box is 0. Repeat this for every player on the team.

After you are done the row you can now check the bonus calculations. SQBS automatically calculates bonus heard and bonus points. If the bonus points match the value of the corrected scoresheet. Repeat the state inputting process for the other team. Below is a picture of a completed scoresheet of a typical game.

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Once you make sure everything is correct simply click next to get to a new blank game entry. You can then enter the next scoresheet. This process will work for most scoresheets you come across, but there are 2 notable scenarios where the game inputting process is slightly different.

The first situation is a forfeit. If a team leaves early or doesn’t show up to the tournament at all the games the team is not present to will result in a forfeit. In order to enter a forfeit, you simply, first, select the two teams who were supposed to be playing. For the score of the team who forfeited you simply put the letter “L” in their score box; the other team will receive an “W” in their score box. Lastly, check the forfeit box near box near the next button.

The second situation of note is a game that goes to overtime. For a game like this you begin by entering the game as normal. Note the toss-ups in the overtime period do not count towards Toss-Ups Heard. So, if there was a 20 question rounds with 3 overtime question you would enter the number 20 in the “Toss-Ups Heard” box. After you are done entering the scoresheet as normal, we can now focus on overtime. First, check the “Overtime” check box in the bottom right corner. Lastly, for the 2 boxes next to the overtime check box enter the number of toss-ups correctly answered by the team during the overtime period. For example if the team on the left got 2 toss-ups and the right team got 1 toss-up in a 3 question overtime period you would enter the number 2 in the box closest to the “Overtime” check box and the number 1 in the box closest to the delete button. Below is an example of a game entry of an overtime game.

To access previous game entries, you simply press the previous button until you get to the game in question. However, a more efficient way to do this requires using ID numbers. Every game entry in SQBS has its own unique ID number when inputted. The first game you input will be ID # 0, the second 1, the third 2, and so on. I would recommend writing this ID number on the scoresheet in order to easily access a game entry To access you input the ID number into the box to the left of the “Previous” button and click the “Go To” button to get to the game entry.

Exporting Reports

Once you have entered all the scoresheets in the morning session it is time to export the reports. However, before you export you should give the stats one final check. You can do this by doing a command called Quick-Print Teams. You do this by clicking Reports in the top left-corner and then clicking Quick-Print Teams (or Ctrl + T). You will then have a pop-up appear with your team standings. Make sure that amount of games and the records for each team are correct.  If everything checks out, you are ready to upload the stats to the forums.

You will first have to create the files you need to upload to the forums. To do this click Reports and then click Full-Web Reports. You will then be prompted to give the files names. Insert a name and save it to a place that is easily accessible, i.e. the desktop.

Next you need to sign into the forums with the account that owns the tournament listing for the tournament. Once you are logged in click the link to access the Quizbowl Resource Database. The web address is https://hsquizbowl.org/db/. Click on your username in the top right and you should be directed to a page with a list of tournaments under My Tournaments. Click the applicable event. Once you get to the tournament listing click “Edit Tournament Listing.” Then on the next page click “Manage Stat Reports.” Finally click “Add Stat Report” on the next page. You should get to a page like below.

sqbs7.png

Click choose file for each report upload the appropriate report. For example, for scoreboard upload the file whose file name ends with “_games.html.” Once you are done uploading all the files click “Add Stat Report” and the stats are uploaded to the forums. Complete this process again at the end of the day when all the stats are entered SQBS.

Finally, in order to get the stat discount for NAQT you simply send the .SQBS file  to results@naqt.com and they will process the request.

Conclusion

Being a statistician can be a bit daunting at first, but if you follow the guidelines set forward by this write-up you can make the experience an enjoyable one. If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact me. I am a member of the GPQB discord or you can also contact me via email at nlucaswim@gmail.com. I hope that this guide helps and happy buzzing!

Setting Your Team’s Goals for the Upcoming Quizbowl Season

One of the best–and somewhat daunting–things about quizbowl is that there’s always more learning to be done. There will always be a new clue to look up, a new subject to try to master, a new name to add to your study lists. Finding ways to motivate yourself and your team to keep learning these new things–particularly at times like now in the middle of summer–can be crucial to determining how the next quizbowl season will go.

A good way to get your team on the same page for the upcoming year is to decide on what your goals will be as a team. Individual improvement is great, but quizbowl is a team competition. Working as a group to encourage each other will be a much more enjoyable, if not more effective, experience than solitary studying. 

What sorts of goals might a team set going into a new year? Here are a few ideas (and a few things to steer away from):

Beating a Rival Team
There is no better feeling in quizbowl than triumphing over a rival team. Such a rival could be a local geographic rival, a sports conference rival, or a team from further away that your team found annoying at a previous tournament. Either way, identifying a rival and using them as a friendly source of motivation and yardstick for improvement is a time-tested and effective way of motivating quizbowl players to improve.

Reaching Specific Points-Per-Bonus (PPB) levels
This is an easy-to-measure metric that you can track in practice and at tournaments. It’s also somewhat independent of the strength of the other teams in your area, so it can be a good way to chart your progress even if it isn’t necessarily leading to more wins immediately. Keep in mind, of course, that the target PPB will likely vary by question set, so set a reasonable goal and work to increase it over the course of the year. 

Being the Best Team in your City/County/Region of the State
This is fairly self-explanatory, but is always an effective way to market your team to your administration and/or potential outside sponsors. If you don’t already have a tournament in your area to crown the best county/city/part of the state, then consider starting one. Even if it’s just a few teams competing, it can be a great way to get one’s community involved and a goal that you can set.

One goal that a lot of teams set–but which also might be tricky to translate into improvement–is making the playoffs or finishing at a certain rank at the national championships. The problem with this approach is that nationals finishes are fickle; there’s a lot of randomness depending on who you get matched up against. The last thing you want to do is finish the season not having achieved your goal due to, say, a top team getting upset in the first round of they playoffs and showing up to ruin your playoff run or getting subject to the few unbalanced matchups in the card or seeding system. Another potential goal of reaching a certain winning percentage for your team’s record for the year can lead to less-than-ideal incentives; you don’t want to make a habit of, say, attending tournaments with lots of less experienced teams simply to claim more wins. 

There are also plenty of ways that your team can contribute to quizbowl and the general quest for competitive academic knowledge outside of competing. Running a tournament well, getting your neighboring schools involved in quizbowl, and simply representing your school well with notable good sportsmanship and friendliness can all be excellent goals by which to measure a successful quizbowl season. 

-Chris 

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

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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

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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.

Commentary

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 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.

Sincerely,
-_____[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]____!

Sincerely,
-_____[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!