Eligibility Restriction for National History Bowl, 8th Grade

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Eligibility Restriction for National History Bowl, 8th Grade

Postby Nick » Tue Jun 28, 2016 9:08 pm

The rules of the National History Bowl include a provision that “a bowl team roster must include three, four, or five students in order to participate.”

ACE decided to adopt this rule after much careful thought and consideration. We understand why some individuals find this eligibility restriction objectionable, but our thinking is outlined below.

An essential distinction
The National History Bee and Bowl is an activity which suggests two distinct types of competition in its name. The activity exists to test the history knowledge of individuals, while the other activity tests the history knowledge of groups of multiple individuals. This eligibility restriction is seemingly the most relevant distinction between the two activities.

Specific to Middle School Division of the National History Bowl
We don’t advocate this eligibility restriction for any other competitions. This rule is specific to one of the two central competitions of the National History Bee and Bowl, Middle School Division and exists in no other activity. We are not denying any particular student the opportunity to demonstrate their history prowess - the bee exists for that exact purpose.

Variety and teamwork
ACE believes that valid academic competition can and should have various kinds, types, and flavors. Academic competitions, like athletic competitions, should test various characteristics (skill, speed, power). Some competitions should pit competitors against each other in decision-making “games” (basketball, tennis) and some are more “contests” with competitors attempting to compare specific feats (100m dash, golf). Some competitions should have subjective components (gymnastics) and some are almost entirely objective (triathlon). And yes, some involve single competitors (archery) while others incorporate the aspects of teamwork---communication, leadership, responsibility,etc---required in a group dynamic (soccer).

In addition to history knowledge, the bowl competition is meant to demonstrate and compare those group dynamics. We believe there is some logic to the idea that if bowl teams can’t demonstrate their level of aptitude for those skills (because they aren’t a group), then they cannot be properly compared to other teams and therefore should not be permitted to participate.

Not unprecedented
Some athletic competitions, like tennis, specifically have different divisions for single competitors and team competitors. It wouldn't be appropriate for Roger Federer to play solo in a doubles tournament, regardless of how successful he would or wouldn’t be. Michael Phelps doesn’t get to swim extra legs of the 400m relay. If a baseball team doesn’t have nine players, it forfeits. This kind of eligibility restriction is not unprecedented in organized competition, and their reasons are largely the same as ours.

Mixed customer feedback
Two years ago, the Middle School Bowl championship match was played between a team of one and a team of two. It’s absolutely true that those three young men are exceptionally impressive and deserve all the credit in the world for their accomplishments. It’s also true that we got everything from raised-eyebrows to angry emails about that issue. Again, even if you don’t find it compelling, I don’t believe you’re so unsympathetic that you can’t understand it might be demoralizing and odd if/when a four-person team loses to an individual. I know for a fact that a not-insignificant number of participating teams find this rule to be reasonable and preferable.

Not serious
The alternative just doesn’t look good. It’s definitely impressive, but it’s a reminder that our game is weak. Potential academic competitors (and those who fund the competitions) will take their cues on the “seriousness” of academic competition from its participants and organizers. Undermanned teams in most other activities would fall somewhere between silly and sad. Providing a minimum requirement that “you have to field a team to compete” indicates to others that we take this seriously (even if you don’t think so).

____________________________________________

One big negative
So all of that has to be weighed against the big, sole reason for the alternative – it would prevent some number of children from participating in academic competition. If you think I take that consideration lightly (denying children the opportunity to play), you’re wrong. I know in the short-term it seems contrary to ACE’s mission. In order to compensate, the National History Bowl’s Middle School National Championship has an open qualification and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

(I guess I should mention that denying registration fees is contrary to ACE’s financial interests, so that’s another negative).

____________________________________________

Weighing all the following considerations, however, ACE has decided to come down on the side of upholding this eligibility restriction, as we believe it is in the best interest of academic competition in the long term. We don't pretend for a second that the decision is obvious and easy, but we do think the pros outweigh the cons.

Many posters on this message board are great quizbowl players who have played solo at a quizbowl tournament before, and you don’t like the idea of a rule that would prohibit your access to the game. This rule sounds threatening. I understand, as I’ve played solo at tournaments, and I appreciate the frustration from any individual who wouldn’t be able to participate as a result of this rule. Even if you wouldn’t have come to the same conclusion that ACE did, I hope you can find the logic in some of our reasons and appreciate our motivations.
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Re: Eligibility Restriction for National History Bowl, 8th G

Postby Excelsior (smack) » Wed Jun 29, 2016 1:12 am

Some athletic competitions, like tennis, specifically have different divisions for single competitors and team competitors. It wouldn't be appropriate for Roger Federer to play solo in a doubles tournament, regardless of how successful he would or wouldn’t be. Michael Phelps doesn’t get to swim extra legs of the 400m relay. If a baseball team doesn’t have nine players, it forfeits. This kind of eligibility restriction is not unprecedented in organized competition, and their reasons are largely the same as ours.


In all of your examples, there are clear structural reasons for teams consisting of smaller number of players to be forbidden. Baseball teams have a number of distinct positions that must be filled; relay races have baton passes (or whatever the swimming equivalent is), which obviously cannot happen between one person and themself; doubles tennis has mandatory rotation of who serves.

Quizbowl, by contrast, is an activity in which all the players on a team are equivalent. There are no distinct positions to be filled, nor any features of gameplay that inherently require multiple people to execute. While in principle, some sort of uber-Federer who can deliver aces on every serve might be advantaged by playing solo in a doubles tournament, there is no advantage to be gained by having fewer players on a quizbowl team. (As an aside: MATHCOUNTS - a competitive academic activity for teams of middle schoolers - is enormously more like middle school NHBB than any athletic sport, and in MATHCOUNTS, teams of between 1 and 4 people are permitted. Science Olympiad - another competitive academic activity for teams of middle schoolers - also has no lower bound on team size, despite it being literally impossible to compete in all events without enough people and/or a time machine.)


But honestly, since you folks have a separate product for solo players, I wouldn't be all that miffed if I were someone who wanted to play the Bowl solo and was told I had to play the Bee instead. Whatever. What of teams of two players, though? A team of two is clearly a "[group] of multiple individuals". Unless the second player is a comatose buzzer rock, a team of two has "group dynamics". I remain unconvinced that you have any reasonable grounds for forbidding teams of two players.
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Re: Eligibility Restriction for National History Bowl, 8th G

Postby i never see pigeons in wheeling » Wed Jun 29, 2016 2:55 am

Excelsior (smack) wrote:
But honestly, since you folks have a separate product for solo players, I wouldn't be all that miffed if I were someone who wanted to play the Bowl solo and was told I had to play the Bee instead. Whatever. What of teams of two players, though? A team of two is clearly a "[group] of multiple individuals". Unless the second player is a comatose buzzer rock, a team of two has "group dynamics". I remain unconvinced that you have any reasonable grounds for forbidding teams of two players.


I don't believe it's justified to disenfranchise solo players from the bowl, either. There are a variety of reasons one may choose to play the Bowl solo. Whether an individual wishes to challenge themselves playing against a team or simply cannot find teammates, it's really their prerogative, not ours, which is the same way we treat high school students, college students, and, in the case of quiz bowl, middle school students. Really, if an individual is put up against the combined knowledge of teams, which should impart a substantial disadvantage, then they should be allowed to try to overcome that disadvantage (as my outstanding teammate, Sameer Rai, did three years ago to win the HS History Bowl).

Nick wrote:
Two years ago, the Middle School Bowl championship match was played between a team of one and a team of two. It’s absolutely true that those three young men are exceptionally impressive and deserve all the credit in the world for their accomplishments. It’s also true that we got everything from raised-eyebrows to angry emails about that issue. Again, even if you don’t find it compelling, I don’t believe you’re so unsympathetic that you can’t understand it might be demoralizing and odd if/when a four-person team loses to an individual. I know for a fact that a not-insignificant number of participating teams find this rule to be reasonable and preferable.


I have to say, I am actually unsympathetic to that argument, though not to the teams themselves. Losing is a (valuable) part of life. It sucks to lose, and I understand how it stings especially badly in middle school, and it can sting even more when one's team gets crushed by an individual. "Angry email" senders advocating for this kind of policy on the part, however, comes off as resentful rather than constructive. I do not believe this sort of resentment should guide a policy that could actually disenfranchise people who want to play this game but cannot find sufficient teammates. I have a plethora of experience with tournaments in northern California, and the NCQBA has a substantive policy of trying to encourage solo and two-man teams with discounts rather than banning them because quiz bowl lives or dies, in many cases, on the backs of one or two individuals who decide to play from a particular ms/hs. Responding to the concerns of your customers is part of your job description, but it is also your job as an executive of ACE not to cater to or placate resentment.

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Re: Eligibility Restriction for National History Bowl, 8th G

Postby jonpin » Wed Jun 29, 2016 1:00 pm

Excelsior (smack) wrote:Quizbowl, by contrast, is an activity in which all the players on a team are equivalent. There are no distinct positions to be filled, nor any features of gameplay that inherently require multiple people to execute. While in principle, some sort of uber-Federer who can deliver aces on every serve might be advantaged by playing solo in a doubles tournament, there is no advantage to be gained by having fewer players on a quizbowl team. (As an aside: MATHCOUNTS - a competitive academic activity for teams of middle schoolers - is enormously more like middle school NHBB than any athletic sport, and in MATHCOUNTS, teams of between 1 and 4 people are permitted. Science Olympiad - another competitive academic activity for teams of middle schoolers - also has no lower bound on team size, despite it being literally impossible to compete in all events without enough people and/or a time machine.)


And in fact, 15-20 years ago that rule did not exist, and students could not officially compete without being part of a 4-person team. That was a garbage rule, and has since been changed.

I am a little sympathetic towards the idea of "we got complaints about this thing, so we changed it", BUT the people who complain about things are always the ones who want stuff changed. If you're going to make such a rule change, which would have by your own admission disqualify the teams that played for the title two years ago, you really need to at the least open it up to a survey of ALL teams, not just the ones who go out of their way to contact you.
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Re: Eligibility Restriction for National History Bowl, 8th G

Postby centralhs » Wed Jun 29, 2016 10:00 pm

I can see not allowing a student to play solo since there is a Bee division specifically for that but I don't see any reason that teams of two should not be allowed. Not all students - especially middle schoolers - have the confidence to compete on their own. Or even enjoy competing on their own. If two students from a school want to play but can't find any other students willing/able to fly across the country, why deny them the chance?

If ACE is absolutely determined to maintain this policy, they should require teams to submit a roster of players well in advance of the competition. That way, ACE could contact teams with less than three players listed on their roster and tell them not to come. The most objectionable part of what ACE did, in my opinion, was to disqualify a team after the competition had already begun when the students on the team had done nothing wrong whatsoever.
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Re: Eligibility Restriction for National History Bowl, 8th G

Postby Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant » Wed Jun 29, 2016 10:49 pm

Not serious
The alternative just doesn’t look good. It’s definitely impressive, but it’s a reminder that our game is weak. Potential academic competitors (and those who fund the competitions) will take their cues on the “seriousness” of academic competition from its participants and organizers. Undermanned teams in most other activities would fall somewhere between silly and sad. Providing a minimum requirement that “you have to field a team to compete” indicates to others that we take this seriously (even if you don’t think so).


Honestly, the idea that teams who can't find or afford to send additional players and are confident enough to play shorthanded make academic competition look weak and unserious and therefore should be barred from entry reflects worse on ACE than the actual presence of shorthanded teams does.
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Re: Eligibility Restriction for National History Bowl, 8th G

Postby AZQuizbowl » Thu Jun 30, 2016 12:04 am

The idea that quiz bowl in any form is comparable to baseball (or other team sports) in terms of teammate function is laughable. Quizbowl, including history bowl, CAN be played with less than a full roster, whereas most athletic team sports do not function without a certain number of players. I vaguely remember National Academic League having a minimum and maximum for buzzer teams, but only because the format dictated that each student on each team would go head to head in a buzzer race. History bowl and quizbowl do not have a format like this.

Also, the thought of disqualifying a team after the tournament had started for a rule that had only been made public a week or so before should be worse than teams of kids upset by being beat by less than a full team. The fact that ACE neglected to check the rosters and notify the team in question in advance reflects poorly on the company.

Lastly, the idea that two people doesn't constitute a team is ludicrous. I can maybe get what you're saying about distinguishing the bee from the bowl via number of players, but it completely neglects the differences in the bee and Bowl format and scoring. (Note that I'm not entirely sure what format the EMS bowl used this year, vis a vis lightning rounds etc, but at the very least the scoring was different than "get a tossup, get one point, go out on this number"). While the Bee and the Bowl are both testing similar knowledge of history, they are testing entirely different play styles, and to assume that a single person team would not get an entirely different experience out of playing the bowl than the bee is narrow sighted.

At the end of it all, it seems that at least the EMS NHBB is distancing itself from the general quizbowl community with these strange changes (including the all buzz) that may make it harder for NHBB students to adapt to all subject quizbowl, even if it's the insanity that is the USABB.
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Re: Eligibility Restriction for National History Bowl, 8th G

Postby Cody » Thu Jun 30, 2016 12:41 pm

Even aside from the many legitimate points brought up in this thread, I can also guarantee you that - at some point - this rule is going to unfairly bar a team from playing because one of their players got unexpectedly sick. I've heard of it happening multiple times in Scholastic Bowl.

Is that what you want?
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Re: Eligibility Restriction for National History Bowl, 8th G

Postby AKKOLADE » Fri Jul 01, 2016 5:31 pm

Just to add something that isn't a blatant repeat of the various reasons this is a very bad rule:

My wife is not a quiz bowl person. She played a little back in high school and she's read at one of my tournaments, but all in all she doesn't think about the activity very much. It's just not her thing.

Shortly after NSC, as I was looking back through the stats, I told her about how Eric Wolfsburg performed at NSC, finishing 13th as an individual. Her response was to be very impressed.

I hardly think that solo or duo teams give a reflection of non-seriousness, and is nowhere between or near silly or sad. People who are upset by this could probably be properly summed up by having the crying Jordan meme photoshopped onto their photo.
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Re: Eligibility Restriction for National History Bowl, 8th G

Postby Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant » Fri Jul 01, 2016 5:51 pm

Who are these people/groups funding ACE (and/or NHBB) who are saying that shorthanded teams make the event look bad, or are they hypothetical?
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Re: Eligibility Restriction for National History Bowl, 8th G

Postby centralhs » Fri Jul 01, 2016 7:55 pm

If a survey was actually taken of middle school coaches and/or players, I would be interested to know what percentage objects to one person teams and (especially) two person teams at History Bowl competitions. In nearly two decades of involvement with quiz bowl, I don't recall ever hearing anyone object to one or two person teams. People generally seem impressed when a "short-handed" team of one or two people performs well against full teams. My middle schoolers certainly always seem impressed by solo players or small teams that have the confidence to play "short-handed" and do it well.
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Re: Eligibility Restriction for National History Bowl, 8th G

Postby Benin Rebirth Party » Sat Jul 02, 2016 12:34 am

I'm sure more teams #golearnmorethings than send angry emails after seeing one or two player teams do well at tournaments.
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Re: Eligibility Restriction for National History Bowl, 8th G

Postby High Dependency Unit » Sat Jul 02, 2016 9:52 am

raffi_-_c-a-n-a-d-a.mp3 wrote:I'm sure more teams #golearnmorethings than send angry emails after seeing one or two player teams do well at tournaments.


But parents don't always see things the same way as their kid's team does.
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Re: Eligibility Restriction for National History Bowl, 8th G

Postby centralhs » Sat Jul 02, 2016 10:51 am

2013 in amusement parks wrote:
raffi_-_c-a-n-a-d-a.mp3 wrote:I'm sure more teams #golearnmorethings than send angry emails after seeing one or two player teams do well at tournaments.


But parents don't always see things the same way as their kid's team does.

Well, that was exactly what I took from Nick's e-mail explaining why they went with this eligibility policy. From the way he made it sound, the decision was made because people (presumably parents) complained in past years not because anyone at ACE necessarily thought it was a good idea/policy. Honestly, Nick's other stated reasons (making the competition seem weak and silly, etc) and sports analogies didn't make a lot of sense to me; I suspect the parent complaints were the main reason for the policy change this year.
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