How to not get overwhelmed by the college canon

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nsb2
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How to not get overwhelmed by the college canon

Post by nsb2 » Fri Jul 28, 2017 10:01 pm

My apologies if this should be posted elsewhere; feel free to move it if need be.

For those of you who don't know, I'll be a freshman at Berkeley this fall and played pretty well at HS level. Over the past few months, particularly during the summer, I've been trying to study deeper to get better at the college canon. I've played quite a few harder sets this summer (for example, at UChicago practices and CO), resulting in me going even deeper than I did previously and getting overwhelmed by the amount of things that get tossed up. As a result of this, I'm losing a bit of interest in quizbowl, even though I don't feel I should be. Is this a common feeling, and does anyone have any suggestions on how to stop myself from studying too much in a particular subject area? Thanks.
Pranav Sivakumar
Barrington Station MS '13, Barrington High School --> IMSA '17
UC Berkeley '21

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Re: How to not get overwhelmed by the college canon

Post by Cheynem » Fri Jul 28, 2017 10:36 pm

I think especially at a team like Berkeley, which is established and deep, you're in a pretty good place.

So when I returned to quizbowl after a six year hiatus in 2008, I also was at an established and deep school in Minnesota. This gave me the luxury to spend a lot of early practices and tournaments just getting things I knew already or stuff I was genuinely interested in (American history and culture). Over time, as you hear more questions, the "canon" begins coming to you--it sounds so stupid, but I remember my second year, being excited to get (very bad) buzzes on the War of the Triple Alliance and the Diels-Alder Effect, not even because I was studying it, but because I was remembering it.

Since I wasn't that good in high school, I do not know if this is true, but I wonder if some top players in HS get frustrated that they can't duplicate that success right off the bat. I wouldn't worry about anything. You're a good player and Berkeley is a good team.
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

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Re: How to not get overwhelmed by the college canon

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Fri Jul 28, 2017 10:57 pm

You're never going to learn everything about a subject area, and frankly you're not supposed to - otherwise this game would get boring! You need to learn to not be disappointed with yourself when you're not utterly nailing questions in every given area that you focus on.

The high school canon is very limited, and deliberately so - being constrained with what you ask in high school is how you get accessible questions that are accessible to people with limited exposure to the game. The college canon gets to ask about a wider ranges of things not just because the players are better (consider how the best high school teams did on even EFT/EMT) but because you get exposed to way more things in college.

The best attitude is, as Mike says, to learn to take it in. Sure, by all means take the game seriously, but don't sweat it if you're not automatically one of the kings of the game at your first college tournament!!!
Will Alston
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Re: How to not get overwhelmed by the college canon

Post by magin » Sat Jul 29, 2017 12:06 am

At harder college tournaments, even the best players will not know a vast majority of the clues and some of the answers. It's sort of like baseball: the best hitters still make outs around 60 percent of the time. We all spend most tournaments spending most of our time not knowing things and hearing clues whiz right past us.

I remember going to college tournaments my first year and being frustrated at not knowing who this "Borges" was and why there were so many questions about him. I'd look at hard packets and only be able to answer 2 or 3 tossups at most, and I couldn't understand how to learn the vast amount of stuff I didn't know.

The slow, gradual process of learning that stuff involved three things: 1) going to a lot of practices and tournaments and absorbing things the way Mike Cheyne described; 2) taking college classes and reading more books, and; 3) writing questions. If you're in college and on a college quizbowl team that practices regularly, you're probably going to be exposed to thing 1 and thing 2, at least, and questions will likely start to make more and more sense over time.
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Re: How to not get overwhelmed by the college canon

Post by Banned Tiny Toon Adventures Episode » Sat Jul 29, 2017 2:09 am

Cheynem wrote:I think especially at a team like Berkeley, which is established and deep, you're in a pretty good place.

So when I returned to quizbowl after a six year hiatus in 2008, I also was at an established and deep school in Minnesota. This gave me the luxury to spend a lot of early practices and tournaments just getting things I knew already or stuff I was genuinely interested in (American history and culture). Over time, as you hear more questions, the "canon" begins coming to you--it sounds so stupid, but I remember my second year, being excited to get (very bad) buzzes on the War of the Triple Alliance and the Diels-Alder Effect, not even because I was studying it, but because I was remembering it.

Since I wasn't that good in high school, I do not know if this is true, but I wonder if some top players in HS get frustrated that they can't duplicate that success right off the bat. I wouldn't worry about anything. You're a good player and Berkeley is a good team.
What the heck is the Diels-Alder effect
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Re: How to not get overwhelmed by the college canon

Post by 1.82 » Sat Jul 29, 2017 4:23 am

It's hardly an original observation, but this is, I think, the reason that success in high school doesn't correlate nearly as well with success in college as one might expect. People who play at a high level in high school are used to being able to buzz with confidence on a large number of questions across many categories in every round, and so when they get to college and find that they can't do that it frustrates them to the point where many quit. When I was exposed to quizbowl for the first time as a college student, I was just happy to get any questions at all, and so it was natural for me to slide into the role of a specialist in history and history-adjacent subjects.

No matter how good you were at high school quizbowl, when you start out as a college freshman it's useful to adopt the mindset of a newcomer, at least temporarily, since that's what you are. This means doing things that you might have eschewed as you became a master at high school quizbowl, like going to practice and paying attention and taking notes. As Mike mentioned, soon the process of learning clues through osmosis will kick in. When I started playing quizbowl, I knew nothing about biology because I hadn't taken a biology class in five years. Two years later, without having taken any biology classes and without having done any studying of biology clues for quizbowl, I had learned so much from just spending time around quizbowl that I was the top scorer on biology questions at the Maryland site of 2016 EFT.

Ultimately success at quizbowl is a journey, not a destination. Don't be frustrated at all the new clues you have to learn; instead marvel at all the new clues you get to learn. If quizbowl isn't broadening your horizons, then there's no real point.
Naveed Chowdhury
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Re: How to not get overwhelmed by the college canon

Post by Cheynem » Sat Jul 29, 2017 9:29 am

If I knew what the Diels-Alder effect was, I would be a scientist.
Mike Cheyne
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Re: How to not get overwhelmed by the college canon

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Jul 31, 2017 9:51 am

All the way back in 2004 when I was a college freshman, I felt exactly the same way. After being a big fish in a small pond in high school, I was suddenly attending UChicago practices where not only were the questions much harder and full of things I had never heard of, but the room routinely contained three of the top 10 best players in quizbowl history (Yaphe, Teitler, Subash) and we had frequent visits from Zeke (another top 10 all-time player) in addition to a smattering of people who merely were in the middle of having Hall of Fame caliber quizbowl careers and were not in the conversation for GOAT and many people who were solid 20-30 PPG players.

Practice was two times a week, for about three to four hours. I had a rule for myself: I would go home when I correctly answered a tossup. Under this rule, I routinely stayed at practice for 2-3 hours as a first semester freshman. All the while, questions on things I had never heard about whizzed past my head. After I got my one tossup, I would walk home in the darkness and consider whether or not I should quit quizbowl. I was very lucky that one other guy on the team, a sophomore named Tim, took a liking to me, and told me that I should not get discouraged but instead should listen to "Let's Go" by Trick Daddy ft. Twista every morning and allow that song to set the tone for my day. If not for Tim I might have given up. I did as Tim said and the song's upbeat message resonated. By t way, the next year, Scott Podsednik, the leadoff hitter of the White Sox, used "Let's Go" by Trick Daddy ft. Twista as his walk-up music and his team won the World Series, so it clearly works for other competitive activities and not just quizbowl.

Anyway, more important than Trick Daddy was the fact that I kept going to practice, twice a week, every single week. And I signed up for literally every tournament I could. My first tournament was ACF Fall and I put up very decent statistics on an easy question set where most of my games were against other novice teams. This made me feel better. My second tournament was Illinois Open (Nats-level difficult) and I put up about 7.00 points per game. In January or February of my freshman year I attended Manu Ginobili, which was more or less intentionally being written to be one of the hardest tournaments ever, and I finished dead last in scoring, at the very bottom of the stats sheet.

But then a pretty cool thing happened. All the clues and answerlines that were whizzing by my head started to be absorbed by my head. Just from months and months of listening to tossups, I was learning things and buzzing on them. By the end of my freshman year, I was a pretty respectable player. And I played ACF Nationals 2005 (the hardest ACF Nationals ever, at that point) as a freshman and Chicago Open as a freshman and didn't totally embarrass myself at either. Heck, at Chicago Open as a freshman I beat Andrew Yaphe to a literature tossup, and that's by far my weakest category.

Stick with it and you'll be surprised how quickly you'll get better. And all of that is just from hearing tossups: if you're actively studying on top of that, you'll get better even faster.
Bruce
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Re: How to not get overwhelmed by the college canon

Post by The Billiards Fool » Mon Jul 31, 2017 5:31 pm

So I was in a pretty similar position about a year ago (though I think you were a bit better than I was in HS). While I still wouldn't call myself "good" or whatnot, I think a big part of it is reminding yourself where you were when you began playing in HS (or middle school) and how it felt to continually get better and better. A large part of what pushed me to study more seriously this summer is the reminder of how much more fun I had in HS once I took it more seriously and competed on more questions (alongside it being fun because of how much the collegiate canon and canon-adjacent exposes you to). You have to adjust your standards for sure; it's much harder and rarer to find a top-tier specialist the likes of which exist more frequently in HS quizbowl. But if you adjust your standards from "powering 6-7 questions a game" to at first being a solid contributor by doing alright in your primary category and improving in that capacity, the improvement, while slower, will feel good. From there on out you'll probably be having more fun again and getting better and whatnot.

I don't know the kids at Berkeley for the most part, but the teams are obviously very good, and that will help. While we (Rutgers) are not Berkeley level, having some veteran college teammates be established and pretty good at what they do eased the pressure on me. Good teammates makes it so you won't feel its on you every time you lose as I imagine you may have felt in HS (just because that's how most good players feel in my experience). Having the quality of teammates I assume you're going to have will mean that as your improving you won't have to be enduring lots of games where you lose 400-70. That last part I say because while you feel the way you do right now in the summer (a feeling I can definitely empathize with), it may return to being more fun once the year comes around because you'll be fully immersed in a quizbowl environment, not just looking at packets and being overwhelmed by the amount of clues you don't know.

I'm only a year into collegiate quizbowl, and I'm not that good and have yet to really see how my summer studying will pay off, so take this for what you will.

Also:
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea said:

The best attitude is, as Mike says, to learn to take it in. Sure, by all means take the game seriously, but don't sweat it if you're not automatically one of the kings of the game at your first college tournament!!!
I thought I was pretty good in high school. I went 2/14/11 in 11.5 games at EFT. Safe to say I didn't expect that. While you probably won't have this much of a rude awakening, don't expect to be killing it from Day 1. Remembering how fun it was to get better and know more when you did it for the first time in HS is probably my best guess for a good motivation for pushing forward until you end up having equal fun in college (if not more).
Emmett Laurie
East Brunswick '16
Rutgers University '20

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