(Re)Building (and sustaining) a team

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(Re)Building (and sustaining) a team

Postby tiwonge » Sun Sep 04, 2016 1:07 am

I'm trying to rebuild the program here at Boise State. Looking back, we never did a great job at recruitment or team-building. We had a good 3-4 year period where we had some good young players who lasted a few years, but when they left, we were never able to recruit more. Or rather, when they were here, we were not really able to recruit students to play with them or to continue playing after these students left.

What are some things that can be done to help with this transition? The people who were on the team then probably should have done a better job at recruiting or inviting more people to come to practice, but that didn't happen. What can I do to facilitate this with a current or future team?

What are some things that can be done (in practice, outside of practice--I've heard of teams having socials and stuff?) to draw in new players or to make new players feel more comfortable? I told the interested players some of the stuff we'd be doing, including dates of specific tournaments we'd compete in, and I hope that goal might keep them involved. I think that involving them in running our high school tournaments will also be helpful, but the more I ask of them, the bigger a time commitment it becomes, and with just a few students, it falls heavily on their shoulders.

I don't have a whole lot of contact with students here. My recruitment this year will involve a couple events held at the Honors dorm (with the assistance of the Honors coordinator who has been helpful), and I think I'll be able to get enough new students to form a team, if they all stick. High school quiz bowl players don't come here, so I don't have that pool of students to draw from (which also makes it harder, since any new players are absolute novices).

I hadn't really done much socially with the team before (there's a huge age gap between me and students, and I don't want to make them comfortable, or to patronize them too much), but I was thinking that this might help a bit. One of the things that made our team successful when we did have a nice run was that the players were all pretty close to each other, and mostly friends with each other outside the club. (That's kind of how they all joined; they were invited by somebody who was already on the team. But I guess they didn't have any more friends who were interested.)

After a couple of years where I was really getting discouraged, I feel motivated right now, and want to see what I can do to try to make it more sustainable for future years.

I don't even have the luxury yet of trying to figure out how to work in new players with experienced players. I wish that were a problem I had.
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Re: (Re)Building (and sustaining) a team

Postby cchiego » Sun Sep 04, 2016 5:28 pm

Trying to start and keep a team going without an active circuit in the area is going to be very difficult. I think in addition to trying to get a team going at BSU, you're going to need to work to get at least 3-4 other colleges within reasonable driving distance to start teams. I know it's a huge pain to try to get things started at colleges that you're not directly affiliated with, but multiple teams do a much better job of feeding off each other and keeping each other supported and alive.

It looks like within 5-6 hours of Boise, your best options are:
- College of Western Idaho (Nampa)
- Idaho State (Pocatello)
- U of Idaho (Moscow)
- Whitman College (Walla Walla, WA)
- Washington State (Pullman, WA)
- Utah State (Logan, UT)
- University of Utah (SLC, UT)
- BYU (Provo, UT)

What you're doing at BSU sounds like the best route at this point--working with Honors program people and trying to think of a way to support the team in the long term. You might see if you can get the honors program people or other student activities people at BSU to put you in touch with their counterparts at some of these other universities. A phone call will probably work better than emailing to get their attention. There are some bad quizbowl-ish activities in these various states--Knowledge Bowl in WA, National Academic League in UT, etc. that might ring a bell to people. You will get lots of "noes." Keep trying until you find someone who says "That sounds interesting."

Given the huge distances, if you do end up getting some teams starting and hosting college tournaments you should probably try to find a way to let the visiting teams crash with whomever's hosting to save on hotel rooms and encourage socialization between teams. You might think of this as a "quizbowl weekend" and offer perhaps an easy side tournament or some other event in the evening to make it worth the while of other teams. This is where the social aspect could be useful--it'll basically have to be a "roadtrip" team that enjoys being around each other on long drives. Focusing on having at least 2-3 college events per year might help--Collegiate Novice, ACF Fall, and SCT DII seems like a good combo.

You probably will need to also encourage more high schools to start teams, which I know you've probably been trying to do, but it's really the best way to ensure there's a lasting college circuit. Perhaps the Honors program at BSU might be interested in sponsoring a tournament for local teams as a recruitment strategy? The benefit of this would be not only getting players, but getting in touch with teachers who'd be interested in coaching and providing stable, long-term programs in the area.

Best of luck!
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Re: (Re)Building (and sustaining) a team

Postby tiwonge » Sun Sep 04, 2016 7:18 pm

I've got a small high school circuit going, but all the high school students who play quiz bowl go elsewhere--Stanford, WUSL, LSU, Johns Hopkins, etc.

I still run high school tournaments on principle, and maybe if it expands to more schools, we might get a few people to come here (or possibly to nearby schools). One of our high school players did go to College of Idaho, and we did get him to come to one college tournament we hosted, but he wasn't able to start up anything, much less to get a lasting program. (It's a lot of work to try to start something up, and it's that much harder for an incoming freshman to do it.)

I am trying to establish a contact at CoI through a friend who works there, and maybe it will amount to something, and maybe it won't. I have offered my services in helping them start something up--scrimmage matches between them and BSU, or even coming in and coaching once a week or so. I just need interested students.

U of I is about the same distance from here (time-wise) as Seattle or Portland, and there is an established team at UW in Seattle, and one trying to get established at Reed College in Portland. BYU and Idaho State are about 5 hours away. I am pretty sure that we can get funding for long trips--its the time commitment that makes it hard. Gonzaga did have a team. I think it lasted 2 years. Whitman had a team. It lasted one semester. BYU came up for one tournament. Other than UW, no other school's team in the whole northwest has managed to stick. We're probably the second-most successful team, and we've been inactive for a couple of years.

I don't want that inactivity to happen again, which is why I want to think now about how to sustain a team. (It really needs to exist outside of myself, so that if I leave, or if I get discouraged, or if I get busy, it will continue. And so that the team can share some of the burden I am shouldering in trying to get quiz bowl happening around here.)

The best bet in getting other collegiate teams in the area is for me is to focus on Treasure Valley area schools--CoI, NNU and possibly the community college, CWI. I at least can have some positive influence locally. I just don't know how to reach out to them to get interested students. I guess I could cold-call their Student Life or Honors programs or something.

We plan on hosting a NAQT novice tournament, which I think is a good first tournament for absolute novices. (UW is going to host ACF Fall, and I plan to take our team there. I'd also like to see Reed College host something for us to go to.
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Re: (Re)Building (and sustaining) a team

Postby cchiego » Sun Sep 04, 2016 8:21 pm

tiwonge wrote:I still run high school tournaments on principle, and maybe if it expands to more schools, we might get a few people to come here (or possibly to nearby schools).

I think this is really the key to the rest of the problem. If high school quizbowl in Idaho is limited only to a few top high schools and those students, they'll go out of state and it'll be hard to keep college teams going. But if you can get a wider mix of high schools involved then you'll start to get more players who'll stay home in Idaho. If you can get high school quizbowl from 2-3 schools into 12-13 schools in Idaho, then this all gets much easier. I know this is much easier said than done, but it may be a better use of your time in the long run.

U of I is about the same distance from here (time-wise) as Seattle or Portland, and there is an established team at UW in Seattle, and one trying to get established at Reed College in Portland. BYU and Idaho State are about 5 hours away. I am pretty sure that we can get funding for long trips--its the time commitment that makes it hard. Gonzaga did have a team. I think it lasted 2 years. Whitman had a team. It lasted one semester. BYU came up for one tournament. Other than UW, no other school's team in the whole northwest has managed to stick. We're probably the second-most successful team, and we've been inactive for a couple of years.

Yeah you have a really tough geographic situation up there. It sounds like in part the issue is that none of these schools' attempts to start up has been concurrent with enough other schools. This is why it might make sense to try a coordinated, all-schools-at-once approach as much as possible at the start of the year.

The best bet in getting other collegiate teams in the area is for me is to focus on Treasure Valley area schools--CoI, NNU and possibly the community college, CWI. I at least can have some positive influence locally. I just don't know how to reach out to them to get interested students. I guess I could cold-call their Student Life or Honors programs or something.

It might help to have something concrete on offer like the NAQT Novice or some other tournament to piggyback on when you call to ask them about starting the team up. From what I've seen with other college extracurriculars, they plan very far ahead--it's not unusual to invite schools in Spring for something taking place next Winter in Model UN and Debate it seems. If you get in touch early with both an invite to a concrete event and an offer to go over and run a demonstration for any interested students, it might help.

But all of these approaches seem time-intensive and, like all outreach, are a bit of a numbers game. Considering Wikipedia lists 172 high schools in Idaho, you might have better luck striking gold by going after those rather than the relatively few college contacts. Even 2 or 3 dedicated high school coaches interested in outreach could change the landscape.
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Re: (Re)Building (and sustaining) a team

Postby tiwonge » Sun Sep 04, 2016 8:44 pm

Aside from expanding the high school circuit to get more high school students and potentially future students here at BSU into quiz bowl, and expanding the collegiate circuit to make it more active and give people more opportunities to play--both of which I am trying to do, but are not going to bear immediate fruit--is there anything that can be done with the students I currently may have?

How do established programs sustain themselves? What encourages students to stick around, and to take leadership down the road? (I know that not everybody sticks around, and there is probably a pretty high attrition rate, even among established schools.)

At what point should I start burdening my new players with responsibilities? There are some club-related things they have to do that I can't do (become officers, go to officer trainings, deal with paperwork requesting funds, etc.) that they will have to do. I have mostly been doing everything else--establishing dates, running practices, talking to other schools, and so on.
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