Getting teams started at new schools as an outsider

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AKKOLADE
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Getting teams started at new schools as an outsider

Post by AKKOLADE » Mon Apr 10, 2017 9:58 pm

Does anyone have thoughts/insights into how to successfully get new teams to start playing quiz bowl? I'd like to see some discussion on this before I pitch in with my experiences.
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cchiego
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Re: Getting teams started at new schools as an outsider

Post by cchiego » Mon Apr 10, 2017 10:53 pm

The basics:

It helps to be affiliated with a current college or high school (ideally on the team or advising that team in some fashion). This gives you a bit of credibility that being just a random person would not have and also may help keep your email from getting stuck in spam filters with a school district or .edu email.

Ideally, you should be pitching an invitation to something specific rather than just "start this team!" so that the new school people have a clear goal/timeline in mind. Trying to say "start a club for this activity that may at some point have some competitions scheduled near you" is quite difficult. Instead, "hey we're hosting this awesome tournament for this cool thing called quizbowl down the road in 3-4 months and we want to invite you start a team and come!" works much better.

Once you're ready to start the outreach process, you have two general kinds of approaches. A successful outreach operation will often require some of both:

The Bottom-Up Approach:
Your initial goal is to make contact with a person who knows the school and can help you find your potential coach. Search school websites for this information. This is usually the principal, but also look for people with titles like "activities coordinator" as well as gifted education teachers. I often email a couple of people at once and then follow-up by trying a few others. I also like to stress "please forward this on to anyone you think might be interested in sponsoring a quizbowl team."

The initial email contact should avoid being overly detailed. Since the quizbowl community has still collectively failed to produce a 2-3 minute "basics of quizbowl" video or even a decently-edited video of a basic game, the best phrase is "It's like a more academic version of Jeopardy!" Mention that you're happy to talk with any interested advisers and/or students and would love to set up a time to come visit with a buzzer set to show them how it works.

The Top-Down Approach:
Similar in many respects, but this time you target people at the state, district, archdiocese, conference, county, etc. level to either pass on information about your tournament to schools who might want to start team or get them to start running their own competition and invite schools to start teams through that. Your goal here is again to get the information about quizbowl to someone at a school who is willing to sponsor the team. For this approach, email and phone calls are both good. At this level, look for people who are in "gifted support" or student services. This is going to be much more hit-or-miss than even the other types of approaches, but all it takes is one powerful person at this level to take an interest in quizbowl for you to get a massive leg-up.

Once you have a contact at a school interested in setting up a team:

Absolutely nothing beats in-person visits to the initial interest meeting at a school. You can explain the game, immediately respond to questions, get players gently introduced on difficulty-appropriate sets, and start building up trust with the coaches and players. Usually, all it takes 20-25 minutes of this first practice and then everyone in the room is hooked. I like to always bring copies of fliers to these visits too just so that there's a paper copy of all the main quizbowl websites and resources as well as a list of upcoming local tournaments (or ask the prospective coaches to print them out).

If you can't get there in person, find a competent, friendly person with a flexible schedule who can. If you can't get there, you can try Skyping in to the initial practice if they have that info. But without a buzzer system and an experienced quizbowl person to operate it and read questions live, it'll lose some of its pizzazz. If nobody can make it there in person or via Skype, then you should at least call up the coach and talk to them. You might also try to send them some videos and podcasts, but again this is going to dramatically increase the chances of them misunderstanding things, having difficulty with recruitment, and/or just deciding this is too confusing and too much trouble.

This process does not end once you get this team to enter a tournament. Give them an idea of what to expect at the tournament. You want to make sure that you manage their expectations. Emphasize the rebrackets in the afternoon and the opportunity to play against teams of similar skill levels. I always like to stress bringing a notebook and aiming to get at least one question a round per player--something will come up that they know, they just need to be ready for it. At the tournament itself, always check in with the team--ask them how they're doing, talk about any concerns that they have, and be positive. Introduce the coach to as many other coaches as you can, then stay in touch with them after the tournament.

Once you have a few teams in an area up and running, start asking the coaches and students to work their connections at other schools. Friends, former co-workers, siblings, etc. These social networks are often excellent routes for expanding once you have your foot in the door.

The main emphasis in all of this is getting in touch with a contact at the school who is interested in coaching a team. These are the keystone people for quizbowl and absolutely must be your focus in all of these recruitment efforts.
Chris C.
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Greater Pennsylvania QuizBowl
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Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite
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Re: Getting teams started at new schools as an outsider

Post by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite » Tue Apr 11, 2017 1:45 am

cchiego wrote:a decently-edited video of a basic game
Are there any reasonable-quality high-school videos of matches out there? If so, it should be possible to do a bit of editing and add an overlay with the questions and the score.
Harry White
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Re: Getting teams started at new schools as an outsider

Post by Deviant Insider » Tue Apr 11, 2017 8:27 am

cchiego wrote:The basics:
The initial email contact should avoid being overly detailed. Since the quizbowl community has still collectively failed to produce a 2-3 minute "basics of quizbowl" video or even a decently-edited video of a basic game, the best phrase is "It's like a more academic version of Jeopardy!" Mention that you're happy to talk with any interested advisers and/or students and would love to set up a time to come visit with a buzzer set to show them how it works.
Victor Prieto succeeded in producing a 4-5 minute "basics of quizbowl" video.
David Reinstein
Head Writer and Editor for Scobol Solo and Masonics (Illinois), TD for New Trier Scobol Solo and New Trier Varsity, Writer for NAQT (2011-2017), IHSSBCA Board Member, IHSSBCA Chair (2004-2014), PACE Member, PACE President (2016-2018), New Trier Coach (1994-2011)

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