building the strongest team

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jessbowen
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building the strongest team

Post by jessbowen » Sun Oct 28, 2012 4:29 pm

I'm looking for advice on how to build the strongest team.

Our school is relatively new to Quiz Bowl - we just played in our fourth ever tournament, and both the A team and B team placed in the top brackets. In bracket play, both teams tied for 5th - so not the TOP teams, but both equally strong. Perhaps I should be aiming for one stronger and one weaker rather than two moderately strong teams, but I'm not sure how to go about this. And after having watched the winning teams, there's no way we could have competed with them, no matter how I shuffled people.

My strategy has been separating people who have similar strengths and trying to make sure there were people good at different subjects on each team. I have not looked at stats from past tournaments and put the top 4 scorers on one team. And, even if I shouldn't, I take into account factors like grade, personality, attendance at practices, and even gender (I'm trying to encourage more girls and I have some girls who just need more confidence.) But it basically just boils down to my hunches on who will make the best team.

I know I need to focus more on specialization, but I'm not sure how to do this. DO you assign kids specialties and ask them to study? Do you have kids volunteer? Do you have kids "audition" for special slots on your A team? (how does this work exactly?)

I have several really strong Freshmen that I'd like to help develop. They're enthusiastic, good players, but need a lot of work on quiz bowl etiquette. I've been separating them because I think it will help them develop, but they want to play on the same team and perhaps they will play better together. But will everyone hate them and they make my school look bad?

Thanks for any advice,
Jess Bowen
Jessica E. Bowen
AMSA Charter School
Marlborough, MA

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Re: building the strongest team

Post by sbfromcopley » Sun Oct 28, 2012 5:17 pm

If you are trying to take the specialization route with your team, which is always the most effective way to win when done well the first thing you need are willing players. If your players are not determined to study on their own time and try to become better then you as the coach? can only do so much at practices. The best players don't get good from their team practices, they get good on their own time. You need to find a way to encourage/motivate your players to want to study at home and get better. As far as picking who does what specialization, ask them what each of them are interested in and then try to get them on a path where they try to master that subject. Reading packets and looking up the answerlines on google is a good way to start as well as looking up answerlines in the http://www.quizbowldb.com search. When they have a better grasp on their subject then they need to start learning real knowledge on it. For example, your lit specialist needs to read works that come up, your myth player should read primary source and reputable text books on different myths, etc. The ideal situation would be where all the kids on your expected A-team are interested in different subjects, and if it doesn't quite pan out that way as it most likely won't ask and see if they would be willing to split up subjects and maybe specialize in one that wasn't necessarily their top choice. Keep in mind that while you do attempt to do all of this the bottom line is that it is completely based on their own willingness to improve. The best thing you can really do for your team is to find a way to show them how becoming good quizbowl players can benefit them in other ways as well as the enjoyment they can get from being a good team (travel, overnight tournaments etc.). It is up to them whether they want to be the best team they can be or if they just want to have fun going to tournaments with friends.

To address your second question of whether or not you should put your freshman on the same team, if they will be an annoying loud team that talks a lot in games then yes other teams will be annoyed and yes they will make your school look bad. I don't see any other reason why people would hate them though, so if they do not seem like they are going to be a really loud annoying talkative team during matches then I don't see why anyone would get irritated. If you do think that keeping them separate would be more ideal in their own improvement though then I think you should keep them on separate teams.

Edit:better content
Sayeef Moyen
Copley '15
Ohio State '19

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jessbowen
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Re: building the strongest team

Post by jessbowen » Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:49 am

I guess what I mean is what factors does a coach use in building a team? Do you have kids take a test in certain subjects? On a 4-person team, do you have fixed slots for science, history, literature and geography? Do you hold try-outs?

Usually, at our practices, we just read questions from old packets. Sometimes we keep score, but I don't usually keep individual scores. Nor do I note what category the questions come from. So other than a general sense of who's good at what, is there something more I should do?
Jessica E. Bowen
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Re: building the strongest team

Post by sbfromcopley » Mon Oct 29, 2012 5:41 pm

Typically players know what their strong points are, but if you find that your kids are interested in specializing but don't really know what they should do you could make a test which tests the different major subjects and then assign them specializations accordingly. For example, on our Copley team while we don't have specializations everyone knows what they are expected to be good at. While I'm not completely sure I am fairly confident that teams that do end up having kids who specialize successfully typically do it with minimal interference from their coach. They do it because they realize that is the best way to play or their coach told them and they decided to take it upon themselves to make it happen. As i said before, it comes down to whether or not your kids want to have a great team. If you do notice that your kids are specializing on their own, but maybe two of them appear to be doing the same subject you should definitely try to redirect one of them. The main job of a coach I think is to 1) take his team to GOOD tournaments. 2) take his team to tournaments frequently 3) get his students excited to play and get better on their own with some guidance as he sees fit. Those are the things you need to focus on. If you take them to good tournaments when they get beaten by really good teams hopefully they will take it upon themselves to get better after seeing how good they can be. As far as tryouts go, if you think you have too many kids or you have a lot of kids who show up but don't really want to get better and just cause distractions you may want to hold tryouts. If you are at a good number of players that can be easily managed I think you should hold off on tryouts and try to get as many kids as you can to improve. Keep in mind, this is just what I think would help run a good team from a players perspective, I am not a coach. You may want to ask some of the better coaches in the nation who run teams that always seem to be good year after year.
Sayeef Moyen
Copley '15
Ohio State '19

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Re: building the strongest team

Post by David Riley » Mon Oct 29, 2012 8:01 pm

I for one thoroughly agree with the Sayeef's points on what makes a good coach. Unfortunately, there are some coaches out there who think they're quiz bowl's answer to Woody Hayes or Bobby Knight, and some activities directors who think they're Billy Martin. If your coach is one of them, though, work to change things from inside the organization.
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ProfessorIanDuncan
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Re: building the strongest team

Post by ProfessorIanDuncan » Mon Oct 29, 2012 8:53 pm

In my opinion tryouts don't really work unless you have over 20 truly committed players. A player who is unskilled but willing to improve is way better than a player who is skilled but unwilling to improve. At the beginning of the year a coach would be more likely to cut the former player and keep the latter, which would be of detriment to his or her team.
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Emil Nolde
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Re: building the strongest team

Post by Emil Nolde » Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:55 pm

If you seriously have enough people to run a competitive tryout, then you really should consider yourself blessed. At our school, we only have around ten people that will actually come to things.
In general, I think a good team, or one that wants to be good, should practice around 3 hours a week, and individual members should play individually. If a single player really wants to gain recognition, then really that person should practice every day.

As coach, the job should be, as others have more or less said:

Fight your team's battles. When appropriate, a good coach should be loud when something isn't fair.

Supply your players with new knowledge. My coach teaches me something new every day. If you encounter something new, take it to your players. When Carlos Fuentes died, Fr. Lorinskas spent the majority of the next day's practice focusing on him.

Immerse yourself in the world of quizbowl. Seeing as you're posting on these forums, you probably know how to accomplish this.
James Zetterman
Carbondale Community High School '15
SIU Carbondale '19 or thereabouts

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Adm Akbar says It's a Tarp!
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Re: building the strongest team

Post by Adm Akbar says It's a Tarp! » Wed Oct 31, 2012 1:26 am

I Definitely agree with if you have enough for tryouts consider yourself blessed haha. I began this year thinking we'd have to do some kind of tryout or with help from an assistant coach split practices since we started with 18 and it's hard to have organized, good practices of that size (and only one fully functioning set of buzzers). However, drops are inevitable as students figure out how committed they want to be to quizbowl and the committment their coach expects. So, it probably won't be long until I'm down to 12-13, which is still a very good number, but it won't be from holding tryouts, just natural for some to drop it after a month (or less) of practices.

I agree with what others have said about what a coach can do to improve the team, and it really does come down to the players wanting to improve on their own. Some general thoughts about team-building from a coaching perspective. Each year will be different and each team has different strengths/weaknesses, so this probably won't all be relevant to your team, but hopefully it helps.

I took a year off last year, because the previous year the senior players frustrated me to the point where I needed a break. None of them stepped into that leader/captain role like I anticipated when the previous captains graduated. I've come back this year and rather pleased by the new and excited group. Took them to a tournament last week, and it was everyone's first Saturday tournament, except for one. With more knowledge myself on the weekly tournaments, I'm also hoping to get the team out to more. One weakness that has always plagued my teams (and I haven't found a way to get the team better..it's been a problem for years) is bonus conversion. We're normally quick on the buzzers and listening/recognizing what the question is asking, but our bonus conversion has been bad to put it mildly. Too many times we've answered more toss-ups than the opponent, yet wind up losing by 10, 20, 30 because of terrible bonus conversion.

I have a very strong music player. She has nearly all the classical composers who get asked about down. I suggested she start working on operas and so now she's interested in all the operas. I'll soon suggest classical artists and their works next, and I'm hoping she will be just as interested by that suggestion. This way, an excellent classical music player by the end of the year will realize she's become a good, well-rounded fine arts player. It's down to the players being committed to improving, but often times they still need (and want) direction on how they can become better. "Hey, I see you're really good, and are passionate about your European geography. How about African geography? Asian geography?...etc"

I've only seen one coach dedicated to doing this, and I'm highly doubtful it's beneficial, but every team will be different. Anyway, there is a coach in our league dedicated to a complete line switch every match. The coach will carry 8+ on the varsity team and substitute in an entirely new team at the half...every time. It seems to baffle everyone. Normally, I have a significant drop off from my top 2-3 scorers and the #4 scorer. And an even more significant drop off from #5-6 and the rest. I'm probably going to start with 5 varsity, and leave a possibility of adding a 6th depending on what happens with the JV. With the JV I have no issues going with 8, because their knowledge and experience is usually comparable. But I can't ever imagine taking out any of my top 3 players, so there's no point to carrying multiple substitutes, on the Varsity team, if I'm not going to put them into matches.

Finally, it may be cliche, but set clear goals and expectations. I know the goals for my team this year and they've been clearly expressed to the players. They believe it, but now it's about putting in the work. It includes doing my part in signing them up for tournaments and their own part towards improving.
Fountain of Youth? There's already enough youth. Why not the Fountain of Smart?

-John Timmer, Kent State '10, Jackson-Milton Quizbowl Coach ('08- )

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Emil Nolde
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Re: building the strongest team

Post by Emil Nolde » Wed Oct 31, 2012 11:21 am

definitely agree with above post. While ideally you have both talent and commitment from the get-go, when you have to pick one, go with the latter. I also do think it is a good tactic to recommend a field of study to your players, especially if they underrate it's important. This is especially important in literature, history, and fine arts, when everyone knows it's important to know certain characteristics the biggest things, but might not be aware of what comes up for a certain niche eg South American lit, or Russian composers and the Mighty Handful, or etc.
James Zetterman
Carbondale Community High School '15
SIU Carbondale '19 or thereabouts

Keep your expectations low.

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Re: building the strongest team

Post by Eddie » Thu Nov 01, 2012 10:45 pm

I definitely agree with the commitment > talent argument. One of our A-team players hasn't attended practice for a couple of weeks because of college apps and whatnot, and there's been a definite decline in his playing skills, and a definite increase in that of the rest of the team.
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