Recruiting new players

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Recruiting new players

Postby A Very Long Math Tossup » Sun Aug 20, 2017 6:45 pm

I'm currently running the CU Boulder team, and we're looking to recruit new members. Currently, only a few people show up to practice regularly, and many who have tried haven't stuck with it. Does anyone have any advice for recruiting (and more importantly, retaining) new players?
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Re: Recruiting new players

Postby tiwonge » Sat Sep 09, 2017 8:08 pm

I have a similar problem. The quiz bowl team here kind of died off for a few years, and I tried to re-start it last year.

In general, I have the most success with people on the team who extend personal invitations to friends who they think will be interested. The personal connection makes a big difference. I'd ask people on the team to make sure to invite friends (or classmates, or high school classmates, or others they might know) who might be interested. Of course, if you don't have many current people on the team, this is not a very useful tactic. Cold recruiting is a lot harder and a lot less successful.

Last year, I made an effort to recruit students. I contacted a friend who was part of the staff of the Honors Dorm, and he was happy to provide space and publicity for a recruitment event. I came in with a buzzer system, a packet or two of easy NAQT questions (some old intramural questions we had bought, and a recent high school set we ran), and some candy for points. (I think the NAQT questions work the best because they're short and less intimidating.) I talked a bit about quiz bowl, and everything I've learned by playing, and all the people I knew recently who had been on Jeopardy! and tried to make it somewhat personal to me. I had two different recruitment events (on different days and at different times to accommodate different schedules) and got a few people. One or two of them also brought in friends. There weren't many, but it was enough to re-start a team. I guess we had a total of 6 people attend 3 tournaments last year? And we had between 4-8 people coming to practice, I think.

We did also set up a table at the Activities Fair at the start of the spring semester and got some names, but not much came out of that. One person came to practice twice.

Of course, attrition happens. People got jobs, got busy with classes, had personal things come up. Only one or two of them are active members this semester, but that's more than I had at the start of last semester.

We held another Honors recruitment again this year, and another table at the Activities Fair (in September rather than January--much more effective), and had 11 people at our first practice, and a total of 14 people at practice over this week. I think that having a student with me helped some, so it's seen as a student event, and not just some old guy. (But I guess that's not a problem for you.) It's too early to say how many of them will stick with it, but we've doubled our initial amount, at least, so there's some improvement.

I do find that new players can find quiz bowl intimidating. In the past, I've had new students walk into practice and answer half the questions. I'm thinking that that's great, and the student is thinking that she doesn't know anything. I've tried to head that off this year by warning people about it: Starting out, quiz bowl makes you feel stupid. Don't look at it as all this stuff you don't know, but rather, there's all this neat stuff you have yet to learn. And I say that people with the intellectual curiosity to want to learn about all this neat stuff make great quiz bowl players. I don't know if will help, but I am trying to push this idea of using it as a learning experience.

Another thing that is finally paying off is our high school tournaments. After 8 or 9 years running local tournaments and seeing our players go off to Penn or Berkeley or LSU or Colorado, we have two freshmen this year who played on the local circuit last year. (We also have one player from Washington's Knowledge Bowl circuit that Dwight Kidder found, and at least one from Colorado's Knowledge Bowl circuit who found us himself.) You've started running high school tournaments, and keep doing that, but know that it might be a couple of years before it pays off. What you might do, though, is reach out to the high school coaches whose contact info you have, and ask them if any of their former players are at Colorado, and maybe invite them to come to practice.

It does help to have more people coming to practice. I think there's a minimum number--maybe 4--below which reading questions just isn't fun.

And don't forget to be on the look out for fellow students who might be interested. If there's somebody in your class who is always asking questions about things that are marginally related to class, or bringing up interesting points; if there's somebody who is bringing a Coetzee book to a math class, or reading Sartre while tutoring in the lab; invite them to practice. (Both from personal experience. One joined the club. The other was graduating, but might have if he weren't.) Maybe keep a business card sort of thing (Olivia made some bookmarks for us) with contact information on it and practice times to give to people who you think might be interested.

You also might think about running an intramural tournament. Talk to somebody who might be willing to sponsor or co-sponsor it, like the library or the Honors program or the Academic Dean or somebody. (Or apply for money from student government to buy an NAQT intramural set for yourself.) Contact various groups on campus--frats, sororities, academic clubs, campus ministry groups (who might be looking for a nice social event), etc., and invite them to form a team to compete. You'd have to make sure you have enough buzzers and staffers for it, depending on the number of teams you get. (If you can, provide lunch, and give them a spiel over lunch.) Invite them to practice. It's probably most effective if you have a tournament they can practice to attend in a few weeks, but I don't know what there's going to be in your area. If you schedule this for late in the semester (giving you plenty of time to plan for it), then the SCT is right after break. (You could also hold some rounds in reserve and have a mini in-house tournament among people who are interested. I don't know. It gives them something to do and a challenge to look forward to, at least.)

(Also, make a particular point of focusing on freshmen. Nothing wrong with upperclassmen, but if you can get a freshman, you might have that person around for 2-3 more years.)

I know how hard it is to build a team from scratch. It's not easy, and it's not quick. You might just have to be satisfied with a few more people every semester. And you might not see the fruit of this before you graduate, but maybe your successor will. (Speaking of that, also make an effort to include others in your planning and leadership so that when you leave, somebody will take over, and your efforts will not be for naught.)

I guess my summary is to try for personal connections first, and also give people a chance to experience how fun it is to buzz in and answer questions.
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Re: Recruiting new players

Postby tiwonge » Sat Sep 09, 2017 8:26 pm

That was a lot about recruiting. I didn't give much about retaining. I don't have as many ideas here.

I guess you have to make sure that it is interesting. That means 1) they aren't intimidated or discouraged and 2) have interesting things for them to do. Maybe some others can suggest something along these lines.

Oh, also, having friends might help. Encourage them to bring friends to practice.

One thing I do in practice is to spend a lot of time talking about the stuff that comes up. I don't get through as many packets in practice, but I think people like this--they learn new and interesting things, and they also get a chance to add their own insights to a topic. (This semester, I am trying to read at least one packet per practice under game conditions.) When people buzz in early, I ask what gave that to them, and ask what else they know about this (and see if it comes up later in the question). This gives them a chance to share their knowledge, and makes them more engaged.

I have tried to encourage them to take notes and look stuff up later on, but that doesn't seem to stick with most people. I have suggested to some students that they share one thing they learned in quiz bowl on our twitter feed as a quiz bowl fact of the day #qbfod. This is mostly just to try to push them to look something up, but it hasn't worked very well.

One other thing I want to try to do more of is to have social non-quizbowl events together. Especially for quizbowl-relevent things that are happening. If the university orchestra is putting on a concert, I want to see if we can get a group to go to it. If some notable figure is coming to campus to give a lecture, I might try to go to that with clubmates. (And then we could go out and have dinner or coffee or something afterward and talk about it.) Doing pub trivia or something as a group might also be fun, although if there are underaged people, it might be problematic. (Whole Foods hosts one near campus, so we can go there. A lot of bars that host them might not let underage people attend.)

And do some fun packets in practice, too. I don't know if you do it, but I do try to read at least one trash packet at practice. (I was surprised to get some resistance to that yesterday, but I'll still do it.) If you have access to a projector, the PERV visual trash tournament that Mike Bentley put together some time ago was really fun. It's a bit dated now, though, and I don't know if there's a more modern incarnation of it.

Also, and this is probably a very important point, get to know everybody. Have them know each other. (Social events are great for this.) If you know the people in the club, that's almost as good as bringing a friend along.

There will be attrition, though. People get busy. And people who enjoy quiz bowl tend also to have heavy academic loads, in my experience. But if you make it fun and enjoyable, maybe they'll come back when they're less busy.
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Re: Recruiting new players

Postby The Billiards Fool » Sun Sep 10, 2017 4:50 pm

First, thanks Colin this is great advice!

To anyone who has experience doing this: what do you recommend for a first practice for new people?

This was our first year in a while at the involvement fair, so for the first time we will have kids who heard a tiny spiel at the fair and are showing up. How do we best get them interested without scaring them? We've decided to have veterans sit out at first, and read easier material, but are there any specific things anyone has noticed can best get people over that initial "holy shit this is a lot of information coming at me right now" bump?
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Re: Recruiting new players

Postby 100% Clean Comedian Dan Nainan » Sun Sep 10, 2017 7:00 pm

Neggman wrote:First, thanks Colin this is great advice!

To anyone who has experience doing this: what do you recommend for a first practice for new people?

This was our first year in a while at the involvement fair, so for the first time we will have kids who heard a tiny spiel at the fair and are showing up. How do we best get them interested without scaring them? We've decided to have veterans sit out at first, and read easier material, but are there any specific things anyone has noticed can best get people over that initial "holy shit this is a lot of information coming at me right now" bump?


We (Auburn) just used 2014 ICCS (http://collegiate.quizbowlpackets.com/747/) for our first week of practices, which were definitely at least a little harder than regular hs sets but not as hard as some of the easier college sets. Several players didn't return after the first practice anyways, but there were a few people who were definitely comfortable with the difficulty and were interested in learning more/improving and therefore came back. Hope this helps!
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Re: Recruiting new players

Postby tiwonge » Sun Sep 10, 2017 7:34 pm

cwest123 wrote:
Neggman wrote:First, thanks Colin this is great advice!

To anyone who has experience doing this: what do you recommend for a first practice for new people?

This was our first year in a while at the involvement fair, so for the first time we will have kids who heard a tiny spiel at the fair and are showing up. How do we best get them interested without scaring them? We've decided to have veterans sit out at first, and read easier material, but are there any specific things anyone has noticed can best get people over that initial "holy shit this is a lot of information coming at me right now" bump?


We (Auburn) just used 2014 ICCS (http://collegiate.quizbowlpackets.com/747/) for our first week of practices, which were definitely at least a little harder than regular hs sets but not as hard as some of the easier college sets. Several players didn't return after the first practice anyways, but there were a few people who were definitely comfortable with the difficulty and were interested in learning more/improving and therefore came back. Hope this helps!


That's also my preferred set for new players. I haven't really had the problem of having both new and experienced players.
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