Improving a Team (For Coaches)

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cchiego
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Improving a Team (For Coaches)

Post by cchiego » Sun Mar 01, 2015 2:39 pm

One lacuna in good quizbowl resources is advice targeted to coaches. While there's a decent amount of information out there on how to improve as a player, there's very little in-depth guidance for how to be a good coach. The few pieces I've found are good, but often lacking in specifics. In fact, most of the coaches' advice I've seen has come from bad local leagues or state associations (including the infamously bad Minnesota Knowledge Bowl video).

So I decided to write a guide that would be targeted at coaches who have had at least some introduction to quizbowl already (even if it's just having a team on bad questions) but would like to know what it takes to make their team better. Basically, I argue that focusing on building a good program rather than just a good team would be the best strategy for long-term and even short-term success. A lot of players may not realize just how much work goes into the administrative side of things on the part of coaches--directly coaching during matches is a really small part of the whole experience and probably not that critical in many cases--so it's worth thinking about what kinds of things coaches can implement to encourage success without being too much of a time burden. The time trade-off is a real problem in recruiting competent coaches, especially since many districts don't duly compensate the amount of time and effort it takes to be a good coach. But I think that spending time at the start in putting together a good program can have big rewards and save a coach a lot of time down the road.

I only have a year's worth of direct coaching experience though, so I'd be interested in comments and perspectives from long-term coaches and others about what they've seen helps build a successful team without completely sacrificing all of their free time. What do others think?
Chris C.
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Re: Improving a Team (For Coaches)

Post by Strongside » Sun Mar 01, 2015 7:44 pm

This viewtopic.php?f=20&t=12392&hilit=coach? ... ch#p230045 is also a good thread from 2011.

Two topics that stand out from that thread.

Daniel Hothem mentioned that even though TJ's success was more student driven than coach driven in comparison to other top schools, the loss of coach led to a decline in the competitiveness of their program.

Chris Ray made a good point in that it usually takes a dedicated self-starter who will work hard to a negative/neutral culture into a positive/winning one.

Make sure coaches know about quizbowlpackets.com. That website makes it basically impossible to run out of practice material.

Others may disagree, but I believe that one thing of the easiest ways to get good at quiz bowl is to put a heavy emphasis on learning history and literature.

Chris mentioned this, but requiring players to write things down is a great idea. Having a notebook is ideal, but even if they throw away the notes they take at practice, the act of writing things down is really helpful.

If players are very involved in a lot of other activities and cannot come to practice or even tournaments a lot, make sure they know that they can still be really good if they have the talent and initiative to work hard on their own, (assuming the coach will let them be involved in the program)

If players are being unruly at practice, give them warnings, and then kick them out for the rest of the practice if it continues.

Make sure not to be too hard on your players if they are unable to answer a question on a topic, even if it is really easy, or has come up a lot before.

Writing speed check questions about things the team has missed at previous practices is also helpful.

Do not focus too much on trash at practice, although an occasional packet is okay.

Strongly consider running the practice "shootout style" without teams.

Try to organize a coaching clinic for quiz bowl coaches in your area. Minnesota has an annual knowledge bowl coaching clinic that Chris alluded to, but nothing for quiz bowl.

Try to make sure good coaches are praised (by students, parents, teachers, and administrators).

The one thing that does intrigue me about high school quiz bowl is that even though a team can mostly function without a coach, the rise and fall of programs can often be attributed to a coach.

Maybe quiz bowl can come up with a better way to recognized and provide financial support and compensation to coaches. I know that David Madden and History Bowl has been doing this for several years.
Brendan Byrne

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Re: Improving a Team (For Coaches)

Post by 1992 in spaceflight » Sun Mar 01, 2015 8:52 pm

I just want to say that Chris Chiego's advice in his post about parents is excellent advice. At Washington, the parents are very involved in traveling with us to tournaments and helping out at our tournaments, and I think all of the traveling and seeing the kids play has helped them understand why we play quizbowl and why we need to fundraise (Seriously, involved parents who are ok with heading up fundraising efforts are awesome.).
Last edited by 1992 in spaceflight on Wed Apr 29, 2015 2:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Improving a Team (For Coaches)

Post by Deviant Insider » Sun Mar 01, 2015 11:16 pm

Here is a powerpoint I put together a year or two for a presentation to coaches in Illinois. Some (but not most) of it is Illinois specific, and it quotes some questions without credit. (I gave credit when I gave the talk, but I don't remember where the questions are from.)

It sure would be awesome if somebody could organize a meeting at someplace like NSC for coaches to give advice, get advice, and discuss things that come up.
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Re: Improving a Team (For Coaches)

Post by ValenciaQBowl » Fri Mar 06, 2015 12:28 pm

As a coach at a community college at which nearly none of my players has ever heard of quiz bowl, let alone played it, before they come out for their first practice, I'll simply add that I think the most important factor in a coach's success is his/her enthusiasm for the game. You can't fake it, and if you don't love it, it's much less likely that you'll get players to do so. If you want players to sit through 6-7 hours a week of practice in addition to work on their own at home, they better really want to do it.

And one part of "loving the game" is being good at it yourself (or at least trying to be). At last weekend's CCCT, I had a discussion with a couple of coaches who asked me how they could try to replicate Valencia's success, and in both cases my advice was to read packets yourself and try to be a better player. That will allow you to think through the clues in a toss-up and help your players understand not just clues to buzz on but how questions work.
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Re: Improving a Team (For Coaches)

Post by naesorman555 » Tue Mar 24, 2015 9:45 pm

Thanks for this awesome guide. I played quiz bowl in high school, and while I'm in college I'm coaching the JV teams. I think our coach does a great job of mixing in fun when he can (ex. wearing bowling shirts or football jerseys as team uniforms, creative pool names at tournaments, and proper amounts of good nature ridicule for missing basic things). We also sometimes throw a holiday social that really gets parents and players involved by playing trash rounds and getting to know everyone. The most important thing is that you (the coach) care; if the coach cares, players will start to care.
Sean Moran
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Hoover High School Assistant coach (2013-present)
Birmingham-Southern College Class of 2017

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Re: Improving a Team (For Coaches)

Post by naesorman555 » Wed Mar 25, 2015 11:00 am

I was wondering if anyone advice for transitioning middle school players into the high school quiz bowl. I'll have a couple of pretty good middle schoolers moving into 9th grade next year, but I'm a little unsure about how much to throw at them when the new year starts. I don't want to discourage the less experienced players from joining the team, but I also want to really challenge the players that have potential to be incredible.
Sean Moran
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Re: Improving a Team (For Coaches)

Post by dwd500 » Wed Mar 25, 2015 7:50 pm

It really depends. What do you need these Freshmen to be? Do they need to be contributors to your top group, or do they need to be support for a B or C team?

Middle Schoolers (and even slightly older/younger) just want to be good. They need to feel some level of accomplishment in something. The fact that they've found a niche with you already will go a long way in retaining them for a while. If they've had even a little success, being a good quiz bowler is "something they are," and it would take a great deal of evidence to the contrary to dissuade them.

Never underestimate the ability of a kid to take on a challenge, but BE VERY CLEAR WHAT THE CHALLENGE IS. If you need that Freshman to fill a spot on your B team, what subject does that team need help on, exactly? Where's the best place to get started in that subject, the stuff that will at least get them tossups at the very end? (Lists of Authors and works, etc.) This is where, I feel, a coach is most valuable. You need to know who contributes what, and then you can set them up to succeed.

It doesn't help to say "you need to play better." It needs to be along the lines of "This team needs you to pick up some more Literature tossups," or, "we need to turn these Science 10's into 15's."

The best areas for beginners to feel like they're really contributing are in areas where the canon is small. Classical Music, Poetry, Philosophy, Art, etc., at the beginning High School level don't have a huge amount of information to digest. A good player can distinguish themselves in those fields with a good month or two of study. Having that be "their subject" really helps in establishing that identity.

When players have that sense of identity as a player, and feel that identity is valuable to the team, it'd take a lot to tear the two apart. Once that's established, a culture that encourages players to push each other is allowed to blossom.

As long as people know what the challenge is, they have a remarkable ability to rise to it.
David Dennis
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Washington, MO

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Breckinridge County High School, KY 1996

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Re: Improving a Team (For Coaches)

Post by Strongside » Sun Jun 21, 2015 11:53 pm

A few thoughts on this this topic.

My favorite part of Chris' coaching blog post is the part about making no excuses.

Three things that he specifically mentioned that should be avoided if one wants to build a program.

1. A pernicious cycle of low expectations.
2. Mediocre achievements.
3. A focus on “having fun” rather than improving.



I wanted to touch on motivation in high school quiz bowl.

I believe that the most important thing in coaching is having motivated players.

The ideal situation is highlighted by Bill Tressler (https://gpqb.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/g ... -tressler/) about his time coaching Wilmington Charter. "The students wanted to do well, I just had to provide the opportunity."

If your players are currently motivated, or will get motivated easily, (and preferably sooner than later), coaching quiz bowl should be an enjoyable experience.

If the players are not motivated, and will never get motivated no matter how hard you try, coaching quiz bowl will probably feel more like a chore.



I also have a question for others.

As a coach, what should be done with players who have negative and toxic attitudes toward quiz bowl, specifically attitudes that could damage a program?

I realize the easy and obvious answer is to get them to change their attitudes or kick them off the team, but I feel that is a lot easier said than done.
Brendan Byrne

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Re: Improving a Team (For Coaches)

Post by Deviant Insider » Tue Jun 23, 2015 8:28 am

Strongside wrote:A few thoughts on this this topic.
As a coach, what should be done with players who have negative and toxic attitudes toward quiz bowl, specifically attitudes that could damage a program?

I realize the easy and obvious answer is to get them to change their attitudes or kick them off the team, but I feel that is a lot easier said than done.
My first piece of advice is to not expect this to happen--both because it probably won't and because you're in a better frame of mind if you don't go in with that expectation. When a new coach has a different attitude towards the activity than a previous coach, there is a period of adjustment, but the new coach has to stay positive even during the rough patches. If a situation is bad, the first step is to have a conversation with somebody about what they want and you want to determine whether you can help each other.
David Reinstein
PACE VP of Outreach, Head Writer and Editor for Scobol Solo and Masonics (Illinois), TD for New Trier Scobol Solo and New Trier Varsity, Writer for NAQT (2011-2017), IHSSBCA Board Member, IHSSBCA Chair (2004-2014), PACE Member, PACE President (2016-2018), New Trier Coach (1994-2011)

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