The Current State of New Jersey Quizbowl

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The Current State of New Jersey Quizbowl

Postby Neggman » Fri Jan 12, 2018 12:32 am

Chris Chiego in the Scarlet Knight Winter announcement wrote:It's pretty incredible that I don't think there's been an event in NJ with a novice bracket or a novice-only tournament in the past few years. Princeton did split standard-competitive this year, but that's it. Perhaps that's why the largest events in NJ are still the 50-60-team modified Jeopardy dreck.


Chris Chiego in the Scarlet Knight Winter announcement wrote:A novice set (I assume you mean IS-A set, since the last few SCOP and the PA novice sets have not been mirrored within NJ) implies neither a novice-only tournament nor a novice bracket. When attempting to recruit most schools (read: not the supermagnets or top university town schools) to pyramidal quizbowl, it often helps to have opportunities for those teams to do more than finish in the bottom third of a tournament, which is what novice tournaments and brackets do. Given far more schools in New Jersey play non-pyramidal quizbowl than pyramidal quizbowl, it would be nice to try to change that and get more teams playing pyramidal permanently. The standard NJ tournament (regardless of set) wherein a few non-circuit schools show up each time and usually get trounced isn't a very effective way to accomplish that goal.


This seems as good as any time to start a discussion that is definitely long overdue. While I have existed in New Jersey quizbowl for five years now, I am definitely not qualified to talk about NJ quizbowl writ large. Despite this, I'm gonna push on through and attempt to do so, likely parroting the lessons learned from other regions and how they can apply to NJ, as well as attempts to see why NJ might not yet have undergone full scale good quizbowl proselytization.

First things: I don't mean to impugn any particular person or school in any critiques. I have undoubtedly done far short of what I could have done, and will attempt to get better at this in the future. With respect to future plans, Rutgers will undoubtedly be running a novice only tournament next year. I'll talk about this in a second, and very little is figured out about it, but it's 100% going to happen. We will also make a broader effort to reach out to schools who play bad quizbowl or anything of the kind (they, rather than the frosh of established schools, will be our recruitment goal for the novice tournament, although of course all are super welcome!).

I believe there are two primary issues (Rutgers specific) with running a novice tournament:
1. The schedule is jam packed with tournaments. The simplest solution to this, to me, seems to allow for more overlap, particularly with a novice tournament. I don't personally see it as a problem if there are two tristate area tournaments being run on a day while a novice tournament is run in NJ. Obviously gaps in the schedule are the best, but they may not always materialize. We will try and be quicker about solidifying dates in the future, but for example, running SCOP at Rutgers the same day as Hunter runs it in NYC does not seem like the issue I had thought it was. By my count 5 (EB, HT, Ridgewood, Bergen, and St. Joes) NJ schools attended 2017 SCOP Novice @ Hunter, two of which are closer to Hunter than Rutgers. Hopefully in tandem with increased NYC outreach, I don't see why NJ SCOP would infringe on Hunter's turf (something I previously thought). Of course, the best situation would be perfect schedule harmony, but I'm assuming the trend in tournaments will remain stagnant at the minimum or increase.

There is also the possibility of making our fall tournament a novice one, an idea that seems fine to me. If people with more knowledge of when teams take new players could let me know that'd be awesome! An issue with deciding our fall tournament schedule this year was whether or not schools would have their new team members yet (when I was at EB, our new team members didn't start until October).

2. Staffers: While we are doing our best to recruit more people, our team is still on the smaller side. While we tend to be just fine on staffers, were we to run a larger, two bracketed tournament with legitimate novice and experienced brackets, we would likely run a bit dry. This does not conflict with running a novice tournament next year, its just another issue worth discussing.

Have other states made moderator databases? Having the contact information of those willing to help out seems incredibly impactful. A more concerted effort on the part of tri-state area quizbowl teams (NYU, Columbia, Princeton, and Rutgers primarily) to staff each others' tournaments seems imperative. Princeton aiding us in running states is the only reason we can do so.

Institutional consistency also seems a reason this may not have been addressed full force yet. Looking at the tournament hosts for this year and the last few years, from New Jersey, there has not been a ton of consistency which could breed institutional knowledge. Rutgers, for instance, began running tournaments in 2016, and both Rutgers and Princeton have in the past had occasional problems with tournaments. East Brunswick began running tournaments in 2016 as well and hopefully will continue to do so, Bergen did so for a few years (though they have continued to run their middle school tournament which is awesome), St. Joes no longer does; High Tech is the only tournament runner other than Princeton whose lineage goes back before 2016 and is extant today (I hope I did not miss anyone).

This, I believe, is largely because many teams are player-oriented (which is not bad necessarily but can hurt consistency). EB began running tournaments my senior year when our A team wanted to; St. Joes stopped after the Alex/Greg/Jack days; Bergen is different because Pinyan is one of the best out there, and they still run a tournament, but they also ran HS tournaments during the Rebecca/Zach/David days.

The only school not mentioned there from NJ hosting this year is Princeton HS (awesome to see a new team in the mix). I have to imagine the lack of teams running tournaments for the 10th year, etc. has hurt the ability of NJ to form a strong core of tournaments. I don't believe this is an inherent problem for outreach, but I imagine coordinating more would help, and having an established program helps. (That said, if there is anything we could ever help with, staffing, etc. feel free to reach out to any of us on Rutgers' team).

In terms of reaching new programs, I was recently shared a list of schools that attended non-quizbowl quiz-style tournaments and we will do our best to reach out to those schools. I don't believe States is the best time to introduce teams to quizbowl since it uses SCT and will have all the best teams doing their best, however we will use that list as well as any other information to particularly spread knowledge about novice-level tournaments.

I hope this is somewhat helpful. Even if nothing I said is, I hope having a discussion thread at all can help come to decent conclusions. We, Rutgers, will definitely ramp up our efforts to improve the circuit, and aid any other schools who wish to help. I'd greatly appreciate advice from people like Chris Chiego, who have done incredible work, and who seem to know NJ better than most. I hope many NJ schools (and neighboring states' schools as well) can help in this task and we can make this a concerted state-wide effort to provide the wide variety of tournament options that can best grow this circuit.

A few questions I have:
1. To what degree do central organizations help, like the PA Coaches one, and should that be part of our aims? (even if its simple stuff like a staffer database)
2. How do we coordinate most effectively with each other and with new schools?
3. Since many NJ schools' institutional consistency seems buoyed by a few people, how do we help build that?
4. Is it too late for this year? And if not, what can we do with the remainder of the schedule, which is populated by lots of tougher sets (and two A sets that are not novice/have novice brackets)?
5. What can do, other than offer discounts and offer novice tournaments, to best ensure retention of new schools?
6. If anyone has notes on how Rutgers in the past few years has done things that were possibly suboptimal, that would be helpful to know!

I wish I had thought more concertedly about this earlier on; any advice would be awesome! I hope nothing I asked has been talked to enough in other places (I tried to read all relevant threads on the forums), but if so I'll gladly learn from those.
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Re: The Current State of New Jersey Quizbowl

Postby alexdz » Fri Jan 12, 2018 12:43 am

As a veteran of the effort to improve in Missouri, I'll tackle question 1.

A centralized organization is definitely a huge benefit, but it takes a lot of time and investment over multiple years to grow. I think you could start small, though - certainly creating a centralized staffing database would be a good idea. We recently started a MOQBA Staffing Pool facebook group, in which hosts of tournaments can post that they're looking for additional staff and provide information on compensation, etc. That way, people who are in the area but who might not be connected directly with a team can join the facebook page and get notified about staffing opportunities. This absolutely could not hurt and I don't see why you wouldn't do this, no matter what else you do.

Beyond that, your centralized organization could take many forms. Some states (Texas, Iowa, Missouri come to mind) offer tournaments hosted by the organization as well as a list of tournaments hosted by schools or colleges in the area. Missouri certifies individual events based on criteria like questions and format. Or, your "organization" could be more like a clearinghouse for announcements and discussion, which is also doable and means less work for the organization's members.
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Re: The Current State of New Jersey Quizbowl

Postby cchiego » Fri Jan 12, 2018 1:37 am

Neggman wrote:A few questions I have:
1. To what degree do central organizations help, like the PA Coaches one, and should that be part of our aims? (even if its simple stuff like a staffer database)
2. How do we coordinate most effectively with each other and with new schools?
3. Since many NJ schools' institutional consistency seems buoyed by a few people, how do we help build that?
4. Is it too late for this year? And if not, what can we do with the remainder of the schedule, which is populated by lots of tougher sets (and two A sets that are not novice/have novice brackets)?
5. What can do, other than offer discounts and offer novice tournaments, to best ensure retention of new schools?
6. If anyone has notes on how Rutgers in the past few years has done things that were possibly suboptimal, that would be helpful to know!

I wish I had thought more concertedly about this earlier on; any advice would be awesome! I hope nothing I asked has been talked to enough in other places (I tried to read all relevant threads on the forums), but if so I'll gladly learn from those.


1. Alex D.'s post is right-on. The PA coaches' org is still in its infancy and we've mostly relied on the GPQB website to disseminate information. Some of the things we do like tournament coverage and podcasts are really good for driving up interest, but it does take a good bit of time. For now, y'all could probably make due with just a basic website that keeps tournaments updated and has links to how-to-improve resources. You might be surprised at how many hits you'll get from schools in NJ just looking around for events or improvement.

2. At the very least, emailing all the current hosts to try to plan out the schedule for the next year might be a good idea. For new schools, keep in mind that earlier is usually better when contacting them--try to time your outreach waves to the first month before (some schools have very strict cut-off deadlines for when they can start new clubs and/or schedule events) and after school starts and then maybe another at the start of the second semester.

3. This is where coaches are essential and the issues posed by student-driven teams really rear their head. I'd note many of the non-pyramidal quizbowl tournaments in NJ seem to have had the same sponsors for many, many years--they probably know the other coaches and are friendly with them. Pyramidal quizbowl needs that kind of permanency which, unfortunately, students are usually unable to provide (though HS to College in-state is about as good as one can hope). Eventually, alumni can be useful, but that will take time and require people to stay in contact.

As far as attracting outside help to tournaments, a staffer exchange between schools like Princeton and Rutgers and others seems like a good idea (it's pretty pricey to get to Philly unfortunately; you're looking at least $40 each staffer by train). But most importantly, be sure that the staffer experience is good. It should be fun, it should be efficient, and it should make the readers feel like they are appreciated and contributing to something.

4. Try to see if some of the currently scheduled tournaments would at least split into novice/experienced (or standard/national or what have you) brackets. They can even use the same set.

5. Establish a personal relationship with the coaches and players and integrate them into the circuit. This is challenging, but it's really the key. Talk to them at check-in, check-in on them during the tournament, follow-up with them afterwards, encourage current teams and players to talk with them, etc. Also, it somewhat goes without saying, but make sure tournaments are well-run and professional.

6. Not giving teams a copy of a NAQT question set after they paid to play your tournament is very, very odd. Don't do that.
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Re: The Current State of New Jersey Quizbowl

Postby Dead Parrot » Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:00 am

To add on to Emmett's post, I think the main problem with the NJ/NY circuit is that there are so many schools that attend most or every major tournament with multiple teams that there's little incentive to expand to other schools. That there are so many schools dedicated to playing good quizbowl here is largely a good thing, but it may be getting to the point where they're hindering less experienced schools from entering the circuit by taking up so much field space. Chris Chiego sent me a list of NJ schools that do bad quizbowl back in the summer of 2016, but I've sadly never gotten around to contacting them because our tournament fields have always filled up relatively quickly on their own. Also, as Emmett points out, the combined NJ/NY schedule is already so packed that there's little room for new novice tournaments. This has been discussed before, but it may be time to start thinking about splitting the NJ and NY circuits (i.e. running mirrors of the same set in both states). This could allow for greater outreach on both sides of the Hudson as teams would have greater ability and incentive to reach out to new schools in their respective areas. (NJ people could try to wean teams off of bad local formats like Jeopardy!-style tournaments while teams at Columbia, Hunter, and Bard can put greater focus on growing quizbowl in the Big Apple.) At the very least, there's no reason why the same A-set or novice set can't be mirrored in both NJ and metro NY if we need more opportunities for new teams to play good tournaments and join the circuit. This might be a dicier proposition for bigger tournaments like Prison Bowl, though.

Also, I think the lack of a centralized organization overseeing good quizbowl is somewhat responsible for the continued popularity of bad quizbowl in the Garden State. Even apart from the schools who go to Jeopardy!-style tournaments, many of the schools that participate in bad quizbowl only play in their (often better publicized and with a greater sense of institutional continuity) county/local league and have little interest in playing anything else. The Jeopardy!-style tournaments are more independently organized by comparison, but a great number of their participants are firmly wedded to the format and not interested in going to or looking for tournaments that are run differently. A central organization backing and publicizing good quizbowl in NJ (like the one Chris and others set up in PA) would likely give us greater legitimacy with these schools, but with the surfeit of good tournaments and teams that already exists, there is little desire among circuit regulars to form such an organization. In short, the problem seems to be: both the good and bad circuits are satisfied with their status quo and see no need to reach out, making the two camps very isolated with no real flow of information between them. I'm not really sure how this gap can be bridged, though.
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Re: The Current State of New Jersey Quizbowl

Postby cchiego » Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:17 am

Dead Parrot wrote:Chris Chiego sent me a list of NJ schools that do bad quizbowl back in the summer of 2016, but I've sadly never gotten around to contacting them because our tournament fields have always filled up relatively quickly on their own.

A fairly easy solution to this problem is to email all the new schools/potential new schools early on in the semester (after you're claimed your tournament date but before you start reaching out to any other teams). This gives all those schools first crack at getting in touch with you. Also, even if say your fall tournament filled up, you could at least contact them and let them know about the tournaments later in the year in advance. I'm kind of amazed though that these schools were just never contacted then....

Dead Parrot wrote:many of the schools that participate in bad quizbowl only play in their (often better publicized and with a greater sense of institutional continuity) county/local league and have little interest in playing anything else. The Jeopardy!-style tournaments are more independently organized by comparison, but a great number of their participants are firmly wedded to the format and not interested in going to or looking for tournaments that are run differently. A central organization backing and publicizing good quizbowl in NJ (like the one Chris and others set up in PA) would likely give us greater legitimacy with these schools, but with the surfeit of good tournaments and teams that already exists, there is little desire among circuit regulars to form such an organization.

This is the same problem we have to deal with in many counties/IUs in PA. There's no one good answer to it, but the more schools that you can get to play some pyramidal stuff the greater the push there might be internally to switch to pyramidal questions for those competitions. Unfortunately, that can be a decade-long project and bad quizbowl organizers do not usually go down without a fight.

Also, I think PA seems better organized from the outside than it really is--I don't know if things like PSACA or GPQB have really made quizbowl more "legitimate" that much as of yet. Instead, we have formed a pretty strong group of coaches, college players, alumni, and others who consistently enjoy staffing and encouraging outreach (I think this is fairly similar to what Illinois, Missouri, and other places have gone through as far as the camaraderie part). That, more than any organization, is the key to increasing tournament sizes and encouraging pyramidal quizbowl. I would encourage that approach over attempting to organize some kind of complex central organization.

Dead Parrot wrote:In short, the problem seems to be: both the good and bad circuits are satisfied with their status quo and see no need to reach out, making the two camps very isolated with no real flow of information between them. I'm not really sure how this gap can be bridged, though.

This is an excellent summary of the issue. I hope that more NJ stakeholders will weigh in here, since it's a unique mix of opportunity and challenge.
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Re: The Current State of New Jersey Quizbowl

Postby bmccauley » Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:18 am

cchiego wrote:I think PA seems better organized from the outside than it really is--I don't know if things like PSACA or GPQB have really made quizbowl more "legitimate" that much as of yet. Instead, we have formed a pretty strong group of coaches, college players, alumni, and others who consistently enjoy staffing and encouraging outreach (I think this is fairly similar to what Illinois, Missouri, and other places have gone through as far as the camaraderie part). That, more than any organization, is the key to increasing tournament sizes and encouraging pyramidal quizbowl. I would encourage that approach over attempting to organize some kind of complex central organization.


Speaking as one of the PA Coaches and a member of the temporary board for PSACA, I would say the network has been the biggest thing. Tournament sizes are growing not just because of interest, but also because of the resources of experienced readers/moderators--which includes several coaches who have bought in to quizbowl in this area, along with the growing network Chris mentions. We've also benefited from the growth of college players/alums that continue to be invested in the high school game by working with new schools/doing outreach (I think Chris had a part in the creation of every Philadelphia team) and crafting novice level events (see the split fields at Penn and the Swarthmore SCOP tournament as just two examples). These actions have enabled the growth we've seen in the last half decade (pretty much every team on the circuit except State College/Manheim Township/Henderson have existed at most 5-6 years).

As for the NY/NJ novice idea, I think they can absolutely run multiple novice events on the same set. In PA, we discussed using the Tressler/PSACA set at a series of host sites around the state--even though we weren't as successful as we had hoped--because one barrier to entry is the travel/cost. Having small, local events--maybe even closed or restricted to certain areas--can remove some barriers and introduce teams in a fun way. I know the conversations I've had with Bill about his set included a vision of seeing several sites around PA alone, so I don't see why that idea couldn't be used to crack into some of those NJ pockets. There's nothing wrong with having a small field of 12 newer teams getting to play good quizbowl.
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Re: The Current State of New Jersey Quizbowl

Postby lumosityfan » Fri Jan 12, 2018 3:21 pm

First, as a fellow member of the NJ party, I thank you for starting up this conversation. I have been waiting for people to start thinking about ways to increase quizbowl participation in NJ for quite a while now so this is very exciting. I think emailing the teams very early on is a great idea particularly because bureaucracy in NJ school districts is so annoying and time-consuming. Most of the times when teams recruit 2 months before, the field has either filled or the school doesn't have enough time to fulfill paperwork. Also, I think having more tournaments in NJ is key because most schools do not allow out-of-state tournaments or at least make it harder for the school to be able to go to NYC or Philly as much as they would maybe like to. Having more tournaments in the vicinity of those schools will make it easier for those schools to go to quizbowl tournaments as they do not need to travel as far. Thus splitting the region might be beneficial (although Columbia and Philly schools should def still reach out to NJ school if at all possible; the two are not mutually exclusive). In addition, I think having a coordinated effort to do more outreach to teams and create a schedule is great because that way teams will have an easier way to figure out when quizbowl tournaments are and the details of those tournaments. In terms of reaching out to bad circuits, I would recommend just reaching out to teams from those bad circuits when they come to good quizbowl tournaments and talk to them about good quizbowl, whether they liked it, how they can improve, etc. I find that talking to them allows them to really see what's going on and also allows us to gain a greater perspective about what it's like to be a part of a bad circuit. (I did this somewhat with trying to change the question source of BRITE and boy the emails that they gave me back showed me a lot.)
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Re: The Current State of New Jersey Quizbowl

Postby monty » Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:06 pm

Dead Parrot wrote:Chris Chiego sent me a list of NJ schools that do bad quizbowl back in the summer of 2016, but I've sadly never gotten around to contacting them because our tournament fields have always filled up relatively quickly on their own.


There probably will be spots free for our Princeton High School tournament given that almost all Eastern PA teams have played IS 171A. David, would it be possible for you to find that list so maybe I could contact some of those schools? (edit: thanks Chris for the list)
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