Tryouts?

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Tryouts?

Postby Pallas's cat » Mon Jul 11, 2016 9:22 pm

At our school, we are fortunate to have a lot of support for our academic team and many students (30-40) each year who want to join. My coach usually has a written test of a bunch of facts to choose around 14 or 15 people for the team. However, I feel like this method of narrowing the team down ends up picking the people who initially happen to know a few more facts (but aren't willing to study as much) while excluding those who might have dedicated more time and effort to quizbowl. What are some better methods for choosing a team?
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Re: Tryouts?

Postby Knickerbocker glory » Mon Jul 11, 2016 10:16 pm

Your method isn't necessarily terrible; at my former high school Saratoga, we narrowed down a team of around 12-15 people from 50-60 people via a written and buzzer tryout process for the History Bowl team. Tryouts aren't to find who knows the most; rather, it's to find people who are more likely to perform well, because people who know more at the tryouts likely studied before, have an actual interest in the subjects (as opposed to the bulk of people who tried out who did it for extra credit), and are thus more likely to study more when they're on the team and improve more.

That being said, some of the best players of all time have started from little to no knowledge at all—notably, Sameer Rai of Bellarmine would have been cut first if cuts had been implemented. I suggest what I did for quiz bowl in Saratoga and what we do at Cal—run massive practices open to everyone. The ones not interested at all drop off within the first two practices, the ones casually interested show up occasionally to practices and major tournaments, and hardcore players attend nearly every practice and tournament. These players naturally are our best players.

Point is, you don't have to cut players to select the team. Let the team naturally select itself.
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Re: Tryouts?

Postby Theodore » Tue Jul 12, 2016 11:31 am

I agree with Bruce.

Both years when I was captain of my high school team, we would have over 30-40 students at the interest meeting, but about 8 people attending each practice just a month after the interest meeting. Bruce is correct in that the team will naturally select itself: expect a lot (over half) of players to drop within the first couple of weeks.

In addition, I see no reason to limit the size of a school's quizbowl program, aside from rooms/space for practice. If you have too many people show up to a practice, try to get a second room for practice and have two simultaneous practice games. Alternatively, you can assign groups of people to show up on different days of the week (e.g. grade 9s and 10s on Tuesday, grade 11s and 12s on Thursday).

Other than limited practice space or time, there is really no point in artificially reducing your team size, given that tournament directors regularly permit 3+ teams from a school to compete at a single tournament. Of course, try to get more rooms or more practices per week before you cut the size of your team.
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Re: Tryouts?

Postby Cheynem » Tue Jul 12, 2016 12:13 pm

My old HS coach did "tryouts" every year. No one was ever cut, but it gave him a sense of what people knew. The other thing it did, even subtly, is send a message that it's an activity that requires work and improvement. It separates it from say the Harry Potter club or even something like a "trivia club." The name of the game is to improve, learn things, and get better. I think if everyone is cool with that, even if you're not actually that "good" or if you're just more into staffing or casually participating, that's fine.
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Re: Tryouts?

Postby ScottF » Tue Jul 12, 2016 9:21 pm

My middle school has 125+ kids try out every year. We start by letting everyone know when the tryout is (a couple weeks notice) and what they should study.
For the tryout we have a 40 question powerpoint, with about 10-12 seconds per slide. It doesn't emulate quiz bowl exactly, but it does require some degree of quick thinking. We divide up the questions similar to distribution lists, so for example, every 5th question will be history. We set up the answer sheet the same way, in five columns, so that with a quick glance we can see who is strong in lit, science, history, etc.
We generally take the top scorers automatically, and then have a playoff for the remaining spots. We have two rooms, 10 kids, and we let them play head to head.
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Re: Tryouts?

Postby Pallas's cat » Wed Jul 13, 2016 9:59 pm

Thanks for the responses! We'll definitely keep them in mind for the upcoming school year.
I think we had previously limited the team because our coach makes us wear these off-white sweaters for our (non-pyramidal) local league, and there are only 15 sweaters. That's definitely not a good reason to restrict participation though.
Jackie Wu
Downingtown East HS '18
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