It is with pleasure that we can announce another round of our annual awards for playing and coaching. Every year, our decision is a hard one. There are so many diligent players and coaches around the state that to award them all would be impossible. This year, all three awardees have demonstrated heart and passion about quizbowl that we can all appreciate. We hope they can inspire more like them as the community continues to grow. Without further ado:
Congratulations to Will Steger of Manheim Township High School for winning Player of the Year for 2019-2020. This award recognizes his strong skills on the buzzer, particularly in the category of history, but perhaps even more importantly, his leadership skills. His diligence and discipline at practice, studying outside practice, and on tournament day have inspired his teammates and fellow competitors to in turn improve themselves and learn more. In this respect, Will represents what Pennsylvania quizbowl is all about: knowledge with character.
Congratulations to AZ Faiz of Manheim Township High School for winning JV Player of the Year for 2019-2020. AZ broke out in his sophomore season to become one of Pennsylvania’s top literature and fine arts players, scoring in bundles. Not since Alex Schmidt have we seen a player as well developed and confident at his age, and AZ’s rapid improvement has contributed to some major wins over nationally ranked programs.
Congratulations to Shan Hogan of Carver High School of Engineering and Science for winning Coach of the Year for 2019-2020. Shan has an enthusiasm for quizbowl which is infectious. Her many students at Carver and everyone else around the circuit recognize her chutzpah and mettle as she shares that passion and mentors her students. This year, Carver qualified for HSNCT, which is a big feat for a school that has less resources than many of their competitors. In addition, this award is in recognition of Shan’s exemplary tournament direction of the Philadelphia City Championship.
We congratulate all this year’s winners on a job well done, and can’t wait to see what’s next for them.
In this time of pandemic, we are all facing loss and difficulties. The quizbowl season has been cut short, and this year will unfortunately not feature any nationals events. While this is a devastating loss for us all, we still had five months of hard work studying and great buzzer play to go on, and thus GPQB will name all-state teams as always. We particularly salute this year’s seniors, who had to end their quizbowl career so abruptly. Without further ado, here are your GPQB All-State Teams for the 2019-2020 quizbowl season:
First Team All-State
Vijay Anne, Henderson High School
AZ Faiz, Manheim Township High School
Connor Mayers, Penn Manor High School
Will Steger, Manheim Township High School
Albert Zhang, State College High School
Second Team All-State
Matt D’Annunzio, Friends Select School
Chris Goodrich, Oxford High School
John Li, Great Valley High School
Anish Kodali, Great Valley High School
Rishi Raman, Great Valley High School
Carsten Brodbeck, Hempfield High School
Luke Capper, Trinity High School
Vikram Chodapaneedi, Henderson High School
Eddie Fuhrer, Kiski Area High School
Nolan Greenways, Great Valley High School
Noah Harrigan, Great Valley High School
Anshu Nunemanthala, Great Valley High School
We commend all these students on their hard work this season.
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.
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. Themost 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and they will process the request.
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 email@example.com. I hope that this guide helps and happy buzzing!
29 teams gathered in Philadelphia on Saturday, December 7th to compete in the Fifth-Annual Quaker Fall Open. When this tournament began 5 years ago, no UPenn high school tournament had ever had a team from Philadelphia in the field. This year, 10 out of the 29 teams in attendance hailed from the City of Brotherly Love.
Most stats from the two divisions, Nationals and Open, are up here.
In the Nationals division, the teams competed on a college-level set, the Early Fall Tournament (you can see last year’s EFT question set here to get an idea of how difficult it is). Ithaca A (NY) ran the table with a strong four-player effort to take first place and cemented their status as a national contender this year. After a spirited final that saw Ithaca A narrowly triumph 265-235, Manheim Township A continued their impressive but frustratingrun of runner-up finishes to take 2nd. Though MT A easily won against the other PA schools at the event, they’re still chasing some of the top teams in the Northeast region as a whole.
Below the top came a 3-way tie for third place, with a Connor-led (91.88 PPG) Penn Manor tying with a depleted Great Valley A (several of their normal A-team members were absent so several B-teamers played on A here) and Friends Select, who scored an overtime victory (195-185) over Penn Manor via a higher bonus conversion rate. The Great Valley team put up an impressive 15.84 PPB but also an aggressive 7 to 29 power-to-neg ratio. In contrast, Friends Select played much more conservatively, with only a single power for the entire day.
Finishing just below that tie was Hotchkiss, who came down from Connecticut and put together a solid 13 PPB performance anchored by Cooper’s 52.5 PPG. Moravian A and B both braved the EFT questions as well and, along with Wissahickon A, rounded out the field in the Nationals division.
Given some of the unusual team compositions necessitated by regular members being absent from some of the larger programs’ teams, the Open division was wide-open this year. The LOGIC question set used in this division had generally accessible answerlines and bonuses (though science and literature, per quizbowl tradition, tended to be particularly unforgiving) while the tossups often had fairly challenging and lengthy lead-ins. The teams at QFO seemed game for the questions overall though and, though no open team broke 20 PPB, only 5 were below 10 PPB.
Great Valley “B” won the division with an impressive performance from Rahul, whose 90.5 PPG topped the division. Rahul displayed a strong mastery of the quizbowl canon, nabbing tossups across a whole array of categories, and rarely getting stumped on any bonus. GV continues to display considerable depth and the regular GV C team will be a tough out for other teams at future events.
In the runner-up position, Germantown Friends School put on an outstanding display of buzzer aggression, with 39 powers to go with 33 negs in the prelims and a total of 50 powers and 49 negs for the day. In contrast to GV B, they still have some holes in the regular quizbowl canon (particularly in literature), but also deep pockets of knowledge that led to impressive NBA Jam-style “on fire” streaks. While they still have a ways to go, they may yet challenge Friends Select this year for the Philadelphia City Championship.
Manheim Township B also put on a strong performance in the prelims with Deeya (44.4 PPG) and Ellie (11 powers) leading the way, though they faltered a bit at the end of a long day in their cross-bracket matches against GV B and GFS. Downingtown East A‘s top-bracket performance was led by Maggie (62.2 PPG) yet maintained a balanced attack. Just below, Ithaca B played high-risk high-reward quizbowl that led to some impressive victories and agonizingly close losses (their 3 losses were by a total of 65 points). Manheim Township C continued to display the standard MT brand of solid, disciplined quizbowl and balanced performance that covers most of the canon well, though rarely spectacularly so. And Archbishop Ryan continued to ride the Ryan (76.6 PPG) train, with their performance varying directly with their star player’s PPG, while Wissahickon B rode a wild coaster of 5 straight losses followed by 4 straight wins and then 2 more losses to round out the day.
D-East also demonstrated strong depth with their B team’s solid day as well (led by Nora’s 38.8 PPG) while Carver A (with Sebastian’s 45 PPG) suffered 3 one-tossup losses, but finished with a solid 16.05 PPB and 20 powers. Below those teams, the crossover bracket seeding got a little more random with Carver B and Great Valley C having solid mornings but tougher afternoons, Bodine displaying impressive breadth (see Alex’s 71.6 PPG) but not making much headway against stronger teams, and Wissahickon’s C and D teams curiously clustering together. The field was rounded out with two more Carver teams (C and D), Franklin Towne Charter A (featuring Mansi’s 39.3 PPG) and B, and Moravian C.
A Word of Advice: Have an Organized System for Answering Bonuses
One of the big differences that I noticed at all levels (from the lowest-bracket to playoff bracket teams) when reading was between teams that had a clear system in place for working together on bonuses versus those teams that had little or no organization on bonuses. The teams with a system usually ran things through a designated captain: the captain would listen to their teammates while sometimes asking for confirmation or probing for new information before offering a response to the moderator. The other team members repeated what was being asked for and made guesses as needed. This kind of structured system reduced unforced errors and often generated solid guesses.
In contrast, other teams engaged in a kind of chaotic, anyone-can-say-anything experience with no set structure in place on bonuses. This would then lead to frequent miscommunications between team members and poor guesses. Though it may not change a team’s performance that much, on average I suspect better-organized teams would get 3-4 more bonus parts each tournament than a similar less-organized team, which in close matches could be the difference between winning and losing.
Furthermore, as a reader, it’s much easier to focus simply on whether or not an answer is correct when a team has a clear system of responding in place instead of multiple players shouting out responses with varying degrees of directedness. If you want your team to maximize its bonus performance and reduce the stress levels of everyone in the room, spend a bit of time getting a system in place for responding on bonuses.
Thirty teams were in action this past weekend at the fifteenth iteration of Sagacity, one of the longest-running western PA tournaments hosted by the University of Pittsburgh. The event used the NAQT IS-189A question set and timed 9-minute halves.
For the second year in a row, first place went to a State College team led by Albert Zhang, last season’s JV Player of the Year. Albert was joined by Allen, Jupiter, and Ananya on State College A, and the team combined for 90 powers and 25.40 points per bonus over the tournament. Clearly the strongest team in the field stats-wise, we look forward to seeing how they stack up against other in-state competitors at future tournaments.
State College A’s undefeated record was only ever seriously threatened by their B team, who lost 330-390 in the finals to finish in second. Allderdice A won a 385-335 game against Winchester Thurston A to take third place, their only losses being extremely close games against their own B team and State College B. A shorthanded WT A was led by 83.18 and 65.91 points per game from Johnny and Andy respectively, and the team’s 12 total negs indicate they played more cautiously than many of their playoff competitors whose neg counts were double or triple as high. With the addition of more A team regulars, WT’s 19.61 PPB should continue to increase.
Kiski Area and Morgantown A (WV) ended third in their parallel championship brackets to tie for fifth overall. Playing solo for Kiski, Eddie put up 125 PPG in the prelims and scored a 5/7/2 statline to get a 415-365 playoff win over State College B. He accumulated the highest individual points per game of the tournament. Central CatholicA and Allderdice B tied for seventh. Central Catholic was led by Jude’s 83 prelims PPG and supported by contributions from Joe, Xander, and Jack. Hampton A and North Catholic ended in ninth, and the top brackets were rounded out by Bishop Canevin and Armstrong A, the latter of whom we welcome to the Saturday invitational circuit after two HSNCT appearances.
In the first consolation bracket, Mt. Lebanon, Dubois, Central Catholic B, and Shady Side Academy played close games against each other. Following their impressive showing at Mellon Bowl last month, Mt. Lebanon continued their trend of balanced scoring across a five-person team with contributions from Nathan, Aryan, Ben, Katherine, and Jacob. The only afternoon loss for Dubois was a 205-245 game against Shady Side, which consisted of Andrew playing solo with 80 PPG in the prelims. The rest of the bracket included SSNCT regulars South Side A, led by Jacob’s 71 PPG, and Sharpsville A.
In the next brackets, Chartiers Valley featured a strong 63.50 PPG from lead scorer Shanti and overcame a 2-3 morning to ease into an undefeated afternoon performance. Apollo-Ridge and two teams from John Marshall (WV) joined B and C teams from aforementioned schools, and every team at the tournament finished with at least one win.
Overall, teams were able to hear over 20 tossups in almost every game and had fun competing against each other. While there aren’t any upcoming Pittsburgh tournaments in the next two months, we hope these schools keep studying and look forward to seeing their continued improvement at events this spring!
Ten teams from five schools in Philadelphia gathered at Carver HSES last Saturday to kick-off the quizbowl season in Philadelphia at the Philly City-Wide Novice tournament. Though many of the teams are familiar names, most of the students were making their quizbowl debuts on the very-accessible (although wordier-than-usual-on-the-bonuses) SCOP question set.
An all-Freshman team (FSS B) from Friends Select won the event, powered by the 77.78 PPG of Charlie, who may be the latest scion of a veritable quizbowl dynasty. The other FSS B players were quite solid as well and FSS looks, once again, to be undergoing the Quaker equivalent of “reloading” rather than rebuilding their team over the next few years. Coming in second was FSS A, an all-senior (yet new-to-quizbowl) group that was paced by Nyeema’s 46.67 PPG. In third (by a one-tossup head-to-head loss to FSS A) was Carver HSES A that also displayed the depth of Carver’s program as well as some aggressive buzzing tendencies (18 powers to 27 negs over 9 matches).
Coming in just outside the trophy tier was the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush, who continued their tradition of finding solid generalists with Elijah’s 66.11 PPG. Their run was highlighted by a 200-170 win over Franklin Towne Charter, who finished just behind Rush at 5th and brought a large number of novice players and observers that formed a rotating all-around cast. Behind them came FSS C, composed of 8th graders (!), and then the B and C teams from Carver HSES. Though they finished with only 3 wins, Carver C did notch an impressive 290-125 upset over FSS A. Rounding out the field was Bodine A and B, coached enthusiastically by both their regular coach and their returning senior Alex.
Although no new #phled schools were able to make it to the event this year, hopefully more schools will be ready to go in time for the City Championships in March to join the young talent on display at this event as well as the returning veterans from each school.
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.
With the start of the 2019-2020 quizbowl competition season, a large number of recent high school graduates and former high school players will be headed to college. In PA, there are currently active quizbowl teams at only a handful of colleges in the state: CMU, Pitt, Penn State, Gettysburg, Swarthmore, and Penn (West Chester is also partially active). All of these college teams are key to the high school quizbowl circuit as most of them host high school tournaments throughout the year, provide a pool of moderators for other tournaments, and strengthen connections to additional high school teams around the state.
Yet there are many other colleges in Pennsylvania (and around the country) that lack active college quizbowl teams. We thus present a brief guide to starting a new college quizbowl team for any interested students (NAQT also has a NAQT-centric guide to starting a college team as well that might be useful):
Get a group of interested students. To start an official student organization, most colleges require that you have a certain number of interested individuals to register. Even if you want to try college quizbowl informally first before starting an official team, you’ll likely need to find other players. Here are some ways to recruit them:a. Check the entering Freshman contact lists on NAQT’s website as a start, but also use word-of-mouth and intra-college Facebook groups (or things like your school’s subreddit) to identify individuals who might be interested in playing quizbowl at your school. Be sure to use local equivalents for “quizbowl” like “Academic Challenge” or “Scholars Bowl” or whatever else it might be called in your area.
b. Get on some listservs. Most colleges have student activity listservs that announce various activities and events that you can use, but you should also consider Honors College/Program listservs and even departmental listservs if you can get them.
c. Post fliers around campus advertising quizbowl. It helps to have clear contact information on the flier (set up a Gmail address for your team if you don’t want to use your own) and advertise for a specific event like an “interest meeting” with a specific date and time if possible. See if you can schedule and advertise a couple of these initial practices/interest meetings early on so that you can maximize the amount of interest for new players.
d. Ask local high school coaches about their alumni who might have ended up at your college. This could be a good way to not only make contacts within the local HS quizbowl community but also to identify some potential players who might be overlooked.
Get Plugged-In to the College Quizbowl Community.
a. Find the contact info for nearby college teams either by searching online or contacting NAQT. You should introduce yourself to other teams in the area and find out generally when and where the tournaments for the upcoming season will be held so that you can start planning out a schedule of tournaments and so that you will be included on future emails. These other teams can also serve as valuable sources of advice and guidance (as well as friendship!), so don’t hesitate to ask if you have questions about how things work.b. Venture onto the quizbowl forums and Discord. There’s tons of information and many examples of past new teams and players asking for advice on these.
c. Read up on the resources online. There are plenty of instructional resources to help teams get better; you should share these with the other members of your team and perhaps even read through them together.
Now that you have a group of interested people and have an idea of what tournaments you might want to attend, you should make sure you’re an official student organization at your school. This will bring a host of benefits, including funding, but also making it easier for other interested players to find your group and for being legally able to reserve rooms and other things on campus. The major hoops to becoming an official organization vary across colleges, but they’re usually some form of:
a) Show up to required meetings for organizations;
b) Complete any required online workshops;
c) write a constitution or other organizing document. *Keep in mind that some schools may have very narrow date windows in which you must register as a student organization each year; look up these dates and plan accordingly.* Some schools may also require that you have a faculty or full-time staff member as an advisor. Some schools will provide this advisor for you while others will require you to find this person yourself. This is where asking around for any faculty who enjoy trivia, appeared on Jeopardy!, played quizbowl themselves in college, etc. would be quite useful. It may take some time to find a person like this, but if you do get a dedicated advisor that can be very helpful in ensuring the long-term survival of your team and in dealing with the college or university administration.
Every quizbowl team in the country is based around weekly practices, sometimes one but often two times a week. You need to secure a location that you can reliably use for practices (which is why it helps to be an official student organization) and ideally a buzzer set to use to practice with. Here’s a good overview of the available types of buzzer systems; it’s worth getting one as soon as you can. Your school may have a buzzer set (or two) lying around somewhere, so ask the student activities people and keep an eye out for them on campus. Make sure that practices are efficient (don’t waste time not doing quizbowl things at them) and regular (be sure to update the advertisements of when you practice on Facebook, listservs, fliers, etc.). You want to make sure people who are interested in quizbowl know where to go to find the team. You also want to make sure that new people who wander in to a practice feel like your team is both organized and open to new people.
Some schools will require you to have existed for a year to get some types of funds. Others may give you one-time appropriations of funds on a case-by-case basis. It differs at every school, so check your own rules. One thing that you can do though is check for multiple sources beyond just your school’s Student Activities fund. There may also be Honors Colleges/Programs willing to sponsor a team as well as specific funds from administrators like the Provost for special events. Ask around and keep looking–you never know what you might find.
Get to Tournaments. One mistake that new teams often make is thinking that they need to keep practicing before going to events. Since a lot of improvement at quizbowl comes through more experience on the buzzer, competing against other teams, and listening to questions, by not going to tournaments you actually make it harder to improve. Just go! Find a nearby tournament of appropriate difficulty, come in with low expectations, and enjoy the event. Quizbowl roadtrips can be a blast by themselves, especially in college.As far as appropriate difficulty goes, you can usually get an idea of how difficult a given tournament might be by reading through past iterations of that tournament or looking at posts about that tournament on the forums. In general, the tournaments most accessible and appropriate for new collegiate teams are NAQT Collegiate Novice, ACF Fall, NAQT DII SCT, and the Spring Novice tournament (that goes by various names each year). Other tournaments–even those labeled “regular-difficulty”–may be quite challenging for new teams, so plan accordingly.
Get Ready for the Future.
Be constantly thinking about what your team will look like next year. You will (hopefully!) graduate within a few years, so make sure that you are seeking out new players to join the team and keep it going every semester. You also want to make sure that people have experience expanding their leadership skills, not only in playing but also in the basic logistics of running a team. One potential practice is to basically assign everyone who wants an officer position an officer position suited to their interests.
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.
On behalf of the PA NASAT committee, we are happy to announce the selections for this year’s National All-Star Scholastic Tournament, to be held this June 22-23 at the University of Kentucky. NASAT pits teams consisting of the best players from each state against each other in a head-to-head setting. The event uses difficult collegiate questions and many of its players have gone on to outstanding careers in collegiate and higher level quizbowl. This is the only all-star tournament to highlight teams on a state-by-state basis.
After participating in a tryout process, team candidates were selected based on their statistics by a panel of college players and staffers in the state. Without further ado:
Jakobi Deslouches, Allderdice
Noah Harrigan, Great Valley
Rishi Raman, Great Valley
Will Yaeger, Hempfield
Albert Zhang, State College
Austin Davis, Allderdice
Connor Mayers, Penn Manor
Anshu Nunemunthala, Great Valley
Malaika Paralkar, Downingtown East
Ryan Zhang, Hempfield
We congratulate all these excellent quizbowlers for their fantastic specialist knowledge during tryouts and commend the hard work put in by the students and their coaches, teachers, parents, and mentors. We look forward to cheering on team PA in Lexington, KY later this month!