How do the top teams study and specialize?

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How do the top teams study and specialize?

Post by araksuj » Sun May 31, 2015 10:44 pm

Ok so I understand the basics of how to study (read packets and write down or card the things you don't know) but what techniques to the top teams use to study that differentiates from the rest of the teams at national competitions. Also specifically how do the top teams specialize? Do they usually have one person do lit, another history, another person do science, and another person do fine arts or is there a specific formula to distribute all of the categories covered quizbowl among four players. Finally is it possible for an ok team (made playoffs at hsnct,lost first round) to become a top team with one year of hardcore studying?
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Re: How do the top teams study and specialize?

Post by Tanay » Sun May 31, 2015 11:25 pm

araksuj wrote:Finally is it possible for an ok team (made playoffs at hsnct,lost first round) to become a top team with one year of hardcore studying?
I can take this one. At Bellarmine's first national tournament (May 2009), neither of its teams advanced past the second round of the playoffs. At our next tournament that November, we played a local tournament at which none of us could name a single work by Thomas Mann or Robert Schumann. Six months later, we took 4th at HSNCT. Times have changed, but I don't think the canon of askable knowledge has ballooned to an extent that would make a similar run impossible.
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Re: How do the top teams study and specialize?

Post by The Formiddable Dark Skeik » Mon Jun 01, 2015 12:17 pm

araksuj wrote: Also specifically how do the top teams specialize? Do they usually have one person do lit, another history, another person do science, and another person do fine arts or is there a specific formula to distribute all of the categories covered quizbowl among four players?
On our team, (I believe Hinsdale Central has a similar formula), our literature person focuses upon visual fine arts, our science person focuses on math, our history person also studies music, and we usually have a fourth person who also focuses upon math, science, and economics.

When in doubt, study questions that are a level above you in terms of difficulty, i.e. collegiate questions.
Last edited by The Formiddable Dark Skeik on Tue Jun 02, 2015 10:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How do the top teams study and specialize?

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Tue Jun 02, 2015 12:34 am

araksuj wrote:Ok so I understand the basics of how to study (read packets and write down or card the things you don't know) but what techniques to the top teams use to study that differentiates from the rest of the teams at national competitions.
A big one is looking at collegiate tournaments. Stuff that's "basic knowledge" at collegiate regular difficulty is frequently going to get you an easy power or a 30 on high school questions - especially on the bonuses.
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Re: How do the top teams study and specialize?

Post by Rufous-capped Thornbill » Tue Jun 02, 2015 11:13 am

Ok, so I want to make two broad points in this thread, one about specialization and one about studying at a high level.

Most coaches, players and teams these days seem to understand that specialization is the most efficient and effective team-building model for quizbowl. It makes sense; the daunting amount of knowledge required to be a good quizbowl team is best attacked by 4 players instead of 1 or 2. The success of teams like State College, Dorman, LASA, DCC and now Arcadia proves this point. It incredibly hard, if not impossible, to compete at elite national levels as a single generalist.

However, something that I feel like a lot of people miss is that simply deciding to take that approach is not a magic bullet to improvement. In a lot of ways, quizbowl team building is a crapshoot, where your success as a coach or team basically depends wholly on how many players are willing to work. If you have a team of four, with each assigned (or self-assigned) their respective subject areas, but only your history player wants to put in the time to succeed, then you're going to be a very middling team. Specialization is awesome, but it takes immense commitment from at least three people, and if that commitment is not there, then your team is going to always lose certain subjects, and lots of games, by design. So it may not always be the best route for every team.

But that does not mean that your team cannot still succeed (and I want to stress that when I use the word 'you', I'm speaking in the very general). Another successful model for team building is one core generalist surrounded by a few specialists. Usually this model comes in the form of an older generalist finally finding some support from younger players. This model is also very effective, if not as easy. See: Bellarmine, Ladue.

Basically, I want to caution against trying to force specialization on teams where it simply won't work. I've been playing this game for a long time now, and I cannot tell you how many times I've seen supposed specialists not actually know their areas, but the team model remains the same, and those subjects simply never get learned by anyone.

My second point is much shorter, mostly because Will Alston already hit on it. The key, at least I've found, to succeeding at higher level quizbowl is to challenge yourself. Only reading or studying high school QB material will ensure that you're consistently getting middle clues and easy powers on worn clues, which is fine as a baseline, but unless you are writing questions, reading challenging question sets, or simply exploring areas of knowledge on your own (e.g. Reading A Book), you will not be able to buzz consistently on early clues or pull consistent 30s. Will is absolutely right that college hard parts (or even just answer lines) often are early clues in high school questions. So if you want to become super good, challenge yourself and be OK with feeling dumb for a while.
Last edited by Rufous-capped Thornbill on Tue Jun 02, 2015 11:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How do the top teams study and specialize?

Post by Banned Tiny Toon Adventures Episode » Tue Jun 02, 2015 11:49 am

Inkana7 wrote:Ok, so I want to make two broad points in this thread, one about specialization and one about studying at a high level.

Most coaches, players and teams these days seem to understand that specialization is the most efficient and effective team-building model for quizbowl. It makes sense; the daunting amount of knowledge required to be a good quizbowl team is best attacked by 4 players instead of 1 or 2. The success of teams like State College, LASA, DCC and now Arcadia proves this point. It incredibly hard, if not impossible, to compete at elite national levels as a single generalist.

However, something that I feel like a lot of people miss is that simply deciding to take that approach is not a magic bullet to improvement. In a lot of ways, quizbowl team building is a crapshoot, where your success as a coach or team basically depends wholly on how many players are willing to work. If you have a team of four, with each assigned (or self-assigned) their respective subject areas, but only your history player wants to put in the time to succeed, then you're going to be a very middling team. Specialization is awesome, but it takes immense commitment from at least three people, and if that commitment is not there, then your team is going to always lose certain subjects, and lots of games, by design. So it may not always be the best route for every team.

But that does not mean that your team cannot still succeed (and I want to stress that when I use the word 'you', I'm speaking in the very general). Another successful model for team building is one core generalist surrounded by a few specialists. Usually this model comes in the form of an older generalist finally finding some support from younger players. This model is also very effective, if not as easy. See: Bellarmine, Ladue.

Basically, I want to caution against trying to force specialization on teams where it simply won't work. I've been playing this game for a long time now, and I cannot tell you how many times I've seen supposed specialists not actually know their areas, but the team model remains the same, and those subjects simply never get learned by anyone.

My second point is much shorter, mostly because Will Alston already hit on it. The key, at least I've found, to succeeding at higher level quizbowl is to challenge yourself. Only reading or studying high school QB material will ensure that you're consistently getting middle clues and easy powers on worn clues, which is fine as a baseline, but unless you are writing questions, reading challenging question sets, or simply exploring areas of knowledge on your own (e.g. Reading A Book), you will not be able to buzz consistently on early clues or pull consistent 30s. Will is absolutely right that college hard parts (or even just answer lines) often are early clues in high school questions. So if you want to become super good, challenge yourself and be OK with feeling dumb for a while.
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Re: How do the top teams study and specialize?

Post by acrosby1861 » Sat Aug 15, 2015 6:14 pm

Inkana7 wrote:If you have a team of four, with each assigned (or self-assigned) their respective subject areas, but only your history player wants to put in the time to succeed, then you're going to be a very middling team. Specialization is awesome, but it takes immense commitment from at least three people, and if that commitment is not there, then your team is going to always lose certain subjects, and lots of games, by design. So it may not always be the best route for every team.
Basically my team last year in a nutshell.
Inkana7 wrote:So if you want to become super good, challenge yourself and be OK with feeling dumb for a while.
Be prepared for this. But the more you subject yourself to the harder stuff, the feelings of being dumb will eventually go away.

Also, I've seen this happen. A team can nail the tossups but fail miserably at the bonuses. Meanwhile, another team can nail the bonuses but fail miserably at tossups. If you have both scenarios on your team, somehow coordinate the two and use it to your advantage.
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Re: How do the top teams study and specialize?

Post by johntait1 » Sun Aug 16, 2015 2:39 pm

Quizbowl it's pretty hard to do really well with one person: Farragut had a really good generalist but he finished tied-53rd two years in a row at HSNCT since he got like 90% of our questions. At PACE in 2014 we finished 8th because he had two specialists helping and he was only getting like 60% of the questions.

Also, its a lot easier for a team mostly led by one person to do really well in History Bowl since its more likely for one person to be just interested in history rather than every subject.

Lastly, hardcore studying really does work and you can get really good in a relatively short amount of time.
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Re: How do the top teams study and specialize?

Post by Santa Claus » Sun Aug 16, 2015 7:49 pm

I really agree with a lot of what has been said above, and I only have one thing to add.

If a team, any team, wants to win with a team of specialists, everyone on that team needs to do everything they can to be the best. Whether that's best in the circuit or best in the nation is up to how ambitious that team is, but the idea is the same. Each individual member has to want to be the best; they need to put in the time and effort doing constructive studying on questions above their intended difficulty to make it happen. They each need to become good individual players for their team to be great.

Sometimes people don't want to study some of the fringe topics. Arcadia had nobody who was really good at philosophy, and our art comprised of me hoping Gericault would come up. This'll kill you if you play PACE, or NASAT, or college tournaments, but if you only want to win HSNCT or normal HS tournaments, you can probably do okay.

But at its core, if you're a science specialist and you're losing questions to the other team's science specialist or their central generalist, if you're dropping hard parts and middle parts like it's a thing to do, that's when you have to really get studying.

One last thing: in my personal opinion, it is totally feasible to have all the best specialists in each of the big 3 categories on the same team (I think it's happened pretty recently, in fact). So that shouldn't get in the way of everyone on a team trying to be the best they can be.
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Re: How do the top teams study and specialize?

Post by Beevor Feevor » Sun Aug 16, 2015 10:29 pm

Santa Claus wrote:But at its core, if you're a science specialist and you're losing questions to the other team's science specialist or their central generalist.
In a nutshell, this is, I believe, the correct way to go about studying and specializing at the high school level, and possibly at higher levels as well. Developing a kind of territoriality, where you can think "oh, that's my category; I shouldn't be missing those tossups" is really the way to go about proper specialization. At least up to this point in high school Quizbowl history, it's been rare that teams have been able to cover all 20/20 of the distribution at a #1 rate. As Kevin mentioned, even the top 4-specialist teams in recent history, such as Arcadia and LASA, have left certain parts of the distribution alone, or at least were only middling at certain categories. That's totally alright, so long as you're moderately rabid about defending the rest of the distribution and splitting that up fairly evenly so that people are studying only what they really want to be the best in the country at (or best in the state, county, team, whatever level of competency you're seeking).

Basically, try to never lose tossups in your category to a generalist. Generalists have a lot to focus on, and specializing in categories gives you many advantages over a generalist that you can exploit. As a specialist, understand that you have a smaller answer space to learn, will have quicker reaction timings as a result of that focus on a smaller answer space, and will also have increased mental endurance from not concentrating on all 20/20 (or however broad the generalist you're playing against is).
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Re: How do the top teams study and specialize?

Post by vinteuil » Mon Aug 17, 2015 1:34 am

Einhard wrote:
Santa Claus wrote:But at its core, if you're a science specialist and you're losing questions to the other team's science specialist or their central generalist.
Basically, try to never lose tossups in your category to a generalist. Generalists have a lot to focus on, and specializing in categories gives you many advantages over a generalist that you can exploit. As a specialist, understand that you have a smaller answer space to learn, will have quicker reaction timings as a result of that focus on a smaller answer space, and will also have increased mental endurance from not concentrating on all 20/20 (or however broad the generalist you're playing against is).
Kevin's remark (great advice) also applies to generalists, of course, if they want to specialize in a certain part of the distribution as well (and it's hard to win matches as a generalist unless you do that).
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Re: How do the top teams study and specialize?

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Aug 17, 2015 2:28 am

Einhard wrote:
Santa Claus wrote:But at its core, if you're a science specialist and you're losing questions to the other team's science specialist or their central generalist.
Basically, try to never lose tossups in your category to a generalist. Generalists have a lot to focus on, and specializing in categories gives you many advantages over a generalist that you can exploit. As a specialist, understand that you have a smaller answer space to learn, will have quicker reaction timings as a result of that focus on a smaller answer space, and will also have increased mental endurance from not concentrating on all 20/20 (or however broad the generalist you're playing against is).
This is, in fact, my strategy to defeat Jacob Reed next year. It's unlikely to work, but that's mainly my fault.

On a more serious note, that's basically what I did for history and it worked out rather well. I make a habit of looking up things I miss that I think I should know, but I'm most rigorous about this for history questions (particularly classics/Continental Euro/World) since those are the categories I think the most of as "mine." I've begun doing this for other categories recently and hope it has the same effect, since the history thing's worked out pretty well :twisted:
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Re: How do the top teams study and specialize?

Post by Guile Island » Mon Aug 17, 2015 9:39 am

vinteuil wrote:
Einhard wrote:
Santa Claus wrote:But at its core, if you're a science specialist and you're losing questions to the other team's science specialist or their central generalist.
Basically, try to never lose tossups in your category to a generalist. Generalists have a lot to focus on, and specializing in categories gives you many advantages over a generalist that you can exploit. As a specialist, understand that you have a smaller answer space to learn, will have quicker reaction timings as a result of that focus on a smaller answer space, and will also have increased mental endurance from not concentrating on all 20/20 (or however broad the generalist you're playing against is).
Kevin's remark (great advice) also applies to generalists, of course, if they want to specialize in a certain part of the distribution as well (and it's hard to win matches as a generalist unless you do that).
Yeah, this is a really good point. I didn't find myself growing much at all as a collegiate-level generalist until I realized that there were certain parts of the science distro that I was probably better off paying less attention to both during matches and in studying.
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Re: How do the top teams study and specialize?

Post by gettysburg11 » Mon Aug 17, 2015 2:41 pm

vinteuil wrote:
Einhard wrote:
Santa Claus wrote:But at its core, if you're a science specialist and you're losing questions to the other team's science specialist or their central generalist.
Basically, try to never lose tossups in your category to a generalist. Generalists have a lot to focus on, and specializing in categories gives you many advantages over a generalist that you can exploit. As a specialist, understand that you have a smaller answer space to learn, will have quicker reaction timings as a result of that focus on a smaller answer space, and will also have increased mental endurance from not concentrating on all 20/20 (or however broad the generalist you're playing against is).
Kevin's remark (great advice) also applies to generalists, of course, if they want to specialize in a certain part of the distribution as well (and it's hard to win matches as a generalist unless you do that).
This is 100% true. I could do a pretty decent job as a generalist, but it wasn't until I started tackling specific categories that I really felt like I could take over games.
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