Tournaments need staff in order to run

Elaborate on the merits of specific tournaments or have general theoretical discussion here.
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eliza.grames
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Tournaments need staff in order to run

Post by eliza.grames » Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:22 am

After two staff-frustrated tournaments in a row, I wanted to get the quizbowl community's input on a suggestion to require a minimum number of team staffers offered per team that attends a tournament.

Caveat: This proposal only applies to teams that aren't brand new and have been around for a few years and could plausibly supply a staffer. Like don't try to apply this policy to the Coast Guard Academy (though shoutout to them for being awesome and sending a ton of staff to SCT!) or Olin, but do apply it to UConn, Columbia, Yale, etc... There's obviously got to be some wiggle room for what teams should be sending a staffer with their teams which has to be worked out on a per-case basis.

My proposal is that for any team that attends a tournament and brings n teams > 2, the team should offer the host team floor(n/2) staffers to account for the field size increase. If the host has sufficient internal staff, they can decline the offer, else if the addition of the new teams increases the field size, the host can accept the offer of team staffers.

So like, if you want to send seven teams to a tournament, you have to offer 3 staff, even if the host declines or only needs one of them. Or if you send three teams, you have to offer one staffer.
Eliza Grames
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Re: Tournaments need staff in order to run

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:05 am

The rule that you're proposing, Eliza, sounds like a potentially okay demand for a school to make in a specific dire situation that warrants it. But I think it is an overreach to try to institute as a normative rule.

When a school puts in a bid to host, editors are supposed to ascertain that the school is capable of providing enough staffers to conceivably sustain a decent-sized field before they grant a bid; and by accepting a bid, schools are committing to providing enough staff. This doesn't mean enough staff for any sized field. It is completely reasonable for hosts to say up-front in their announcement: "we have enough staff for a tournament of X size, but not for more than X, unless teams bring some," so long as X is a number representative of an average field for that region. And it's fine to prioritize allowing as many schools as possible to bring A teams over Big Wig School bringing their F team. But a site that cannot manage a decent field should not be hosting. Nationals-qualifying tournaments (SCT and Regionals) are the only ones in which it is acceptable for hosts to put the priorities of having a house team on par with the priorities of providing staff to run their own tournament. (To be clear, I know nothing about the specific situations you've dealt with recently, and am not impeaching the conduct of any particular school. I'm speaking in the abstract.)

Now, lest that sound too harsh, let me give a little background: I remember well the staffing problems that the Northeast used to have c. 6-7 years ago. In those days, it was very difficult to find hosts for tournaments, because effectively only four schools (Brown, Yale, MIT, and Harvard) were capable of running a tournament. The circuit could only sustain itself if we agreed to rotate hosting among ourselves, and there was an implicit agreement that we would, regardless of whether anyone in the Northeast was editing that semester. Granted, when it came time to bid, schools were frequently reluctant to make good on that implicit contract, and it took some haggling among ourselves. But that system ultimately worked, because you were only forcing people to roll out of bed to staff on their own campus, not to get up at the crack of dawn to drive several hours to staff. If we had tried the latter, no one would have budged, and the entire circuit would have fallen apart.

In situations where one school really wanted to host but didn't have enough staff to see it through by themselves (perhaps they were a young program getting off the ground, or they desperately needed the hosting fees), they appealed to other teams to help them, and they got help. They made this appeal before the host bid was secure. They didn't agree to host and then suddenly discover that they wouldn't have enough staff. If the situation was particularly bad, and literally no team was free to host by themselves, two schools would enter into a host-sharing agreement, where they'd split the hosting fees somehow, based on who secured the rooms and how many staff each school provided.
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Re: Tournaments need staff in order to run

Post by The Bold Ideas of Bernie Sanders (I-VT) » Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:45 pm

In the Illinois high school world, it's fairly common for a host to initially open the tournament to A and B teams before determining if C + can attend after the registration dust clears. John's correct in that the host should have the control over how many teams it can and should accommodate, but at the same time I feel his post would carry more weight if it came from someone other than the leader of the college which has by far the highest number of teams per school tournament attendance rate in history.
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Re: Tournaments need staff in order to run

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Thu Feb 01, 2018 5:16 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:I remember well the staffing problems that the Northeast used to have c. 6-7 years ago. In those days, it was very difficult to find hosts for tournaments, because effectively only four schools (Brown, Yale, MIT, and Harvard) were capable of running a tournament. The circuit could only sustain itself if we agreed to rotate hosting among ourselves, and there was an implicit agreement that we would, regardless of whether anyone in the Northeast was editing that semester.
Sadly, sounds like little has changed.
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Re: Tournaments need staff in order to run

Post by ProfessorIanDuncan » Thu Feb 01, 2018 5:56 pm

In fairness, I presume one of the tournaments that Eliza is referring to is Sectionals at Yale where 36 teams are registered. When is the last time that a college tournament had a field of that size (excluding Nats obviously)? I looked back through the NAQT website and over the past 7-8 years no Sectionals has had a field of 30 teams, let alone 36. I don't think that Yale could've anticipated that the field would be 36 teams, and as I recall Yale did a very good job hosting 26 teams last year. None of the blame here should fall on Yale.

I think the other issue with tournaments like Sectionals and Regionals is that ultimately they are qualifiers for national tournaments, and in my opinion turning teams away due to hosting limitations seems a bit unfair. I think that implementing a policy for these tournaments where schools that bring 3-4 teams should be obliged to bring a staffer, 5-6 should be obliged to bring 2, etc. as a backup if needed. Obviously for a tournament like the Canadian sectional this year, where there are 11 teams and Toronto makes up 5 of them, the host should be able to manage 11 field team without needing to call on Toronto to provide mandatory staffers (I have no idea if Toronto has already committed staffers to the tournament).
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Re: Tournaments need staff in order to run

Post by eliza.grames » Thu Feb 01, 2018 7:31 pm

ProfessorIanDuncan wrote:None of the blame here should fall on Yale.
That's, uh, exactly my point. Yale has plenty of internal staffers to host a tournament with a reasonable field size. When tons of unanticipated teams register, then you end up with a staffing problem. This means that teams who want to play the tournament should pitch in a few staffers to account for the field size increase, and those schools which are expanding the field the most and are capable of helping out should pitch in the most staffers to make sure the tournament runs smoothly. It's a much better alternative than field caps at nationals qualifying tournaments (or really any tournaments, because no one likes being turned down from playing).

Since SCT is one of the tournaments that I'm referring to, let's use it as an example (the other being Regionals, which had a field cap that was only raised by two because we had one team staffer). If you use this policy, then Yale would have to provide, at a minimum, 9 team staff (for schools with one or two teams), and would have the option of accepting 7 team staff offers. Throw in a couple random staffers from the area like me and Mirza, and the tournament is covered. Yale could of course still find outside staffers and any teams could register staff even if they weren't required to offer them because they want a discount, so realistically, my guess is Yale would have needed to accept maybe three of the mandatory team staff. Would it really be that painful for Columbia, Harvard, and NYU to each bring one staffer?
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Re: Tournaments need staff in order to run

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:58 pm

My question is, is NAQT themselves helping at all? I've never had to ask in the time I've run tournaments, but since it's for an event that NAQT has a vested interest in seeing run well, does the organization ever offer to help recruit staffers, or contact active members so that they'll staff?
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Re: Tournaments need staff in order to run

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:17 pm

To re-iterate what everyone else has said, I don't think anyone was impugning Yale. (I didn't even know that that was the site Eliza was primarily thinking of.)

The difficulty I'm having here, Eliza, is that you are making a giant leap from "this policy would have greatly helped this tournament" to "this should be a normative rule restricting tournament attendance."

This would seem to entail the following assumptions:

(1) Teams inherently "owe" hosts staffers. (Your proposal says not that hosts should be able to engage this rule in dire circumstances, but rather that this rule should be in operation from the outset, unless the host uses a sort of "right of refusal.")
(2) Future staffing shortages are best served by the application of a pre-ordained, one-size-fits-all rule, rather than a negotation between the parties involved in the shortage to determine what the optimal solution is for their specific situation.
(3) The existence of such a rule does not create negative incentives that compound the likelihood or magnitude of this problem.

I haven't heard your reasons yet for thinking any of these are so.

I think I have addressed in my previous post why I don't think (1) is true. I might say more about (2) or (3) depending on what reasons you give. But for now, I'll say that the big problem with (2) is that every staffing shortage that I've encountered required a different solution. For a SCT/Regionals, which teams can provide competent staffers without jeopardizing their chances of qualifications will vary. (At 2010 Northeast SCT, Brown was the only one that could manage this, even though they were not the largest team.) Regarding (3), this strongly risks normalizing the idea of making players staff as anything but an extreme last resort. There are many steps that one should take before then (e-mailing all the high school coaches and retired players in the area, contacting NAQT for a list of possible staffers in the area if you don't have a good one, seeing if teams can be siphoned off to any other site, determining if NAQT/ACF can provide an autobid to some team to remunerate them for providing a whole team worth of staffers, etc.) (To be clear, I'm not insinuating that Yale didn't try all of these things.)

EDIT: Many typos
Last edited by ThisIsMyUsername on Fri Feb 02, 2018 1:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
John Lawrence
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Re: Tournaments need staff in order to run

Post by Important Bird Area » Fri Feb 02, 2018 1:03 am

UlyssesInvictus wrote:My question is, is NAQT themselves helping at all? I've never had to ask in the time I've run tournaments, but since it's for an event that NAQT has a vested interest in seeing run well, does the organization ever offer to help recruit staffers, or contact active members so that they'll staff?
We have, but there are serious limits to our ability to recruit staff for a 36-team SCT. (Consider how many of the staff for our high school and middle school events are active college players; now consider that high school coaches can't staff SCT without forfeiting the chance for their own teams to hear the set at later tournaments.)
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