On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

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On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Steeve Ho You Fat » Mon Nov 09, 2015 11:45 pm

This will be the first post in a series on "business casual dress". Here, I'll discuss why it's important to dress in a professional, adult manner when you're staffing high school tournaments. I'll follow up with a discussion of what appropriate dress consists of, give some recommendations on how to find reasonably priced clothes that fit, and offer some general suggestions on style that will make you look good to parents and coaches who normally interact with professionals.

I think it's really important for anyone staffing a high school tournament to wear, at a minimum, "business casual" clothes. Now, the definition of what this entails is pretty flexible and I'll go into more depth on it later, but dressing decently can dramatically increase your professionalism and help make your interactions with parents and coaches go more smoothly. It is a fact that many high school parents and coaches will be more inclined to see you as an authority figure if you aren't wearing a hoodie or T-shirt and sweatpants, and it helps create a little bit of separation between you and the players, which is especially helpful for younger college students who are only a year or two older than the players (or even high schoolers staffing tournaments themselves). When a tournament is administered by people who look like they put some effort into their appearance, coaches and parents will expect that they have also put some effort into the planning and view the tournament as a more professional event. While I know a lot of you think this is silly, it's a fact, and you won't change anybody's minds about the issue by silently protesting and wearing pajamas - you'll just change their minds about your competence.
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Muriel Axon » Tue Nov 10, 2015 1:45 pm

You can learn from Richard Hamming and John Tukey:
Another personality defect is ego assertion and I'll speak in this case of my own experience. I came from Los Alamos and in the early days I was using a machine in New York at 590 Madison Avenue where we merely rented time. I was still dressing in western clothes, big slash pockets, a bolo and all those things. I vaguely noticed that I was not getting as good service as other people. So I set out to measure. You came in and you waited for your turn; I felt I was not getting a fair deal. I said to myself, "Why? No Vice President at IBM said, `Give Hamming a bad time'. It is the secretaries at the bottom who are doing this. When a slot appears, they'll rush to find someone to slip in, but they go out and find somebody else. Now, why? I haven't mistreated them.'' Answer, I wasn't dressing the way they felt somebody in that situation should. It came down to just that - I wasn't dressing properly. I had to make the decision - was I going to assert my ego and dress the way I wanted to and have it steadily drain my effort from my professional life, or was I going to appear to conform better? I decided I would make an effort to appear to conform properly. The moment I did, I got much better service. And now, as an old colorful character, I get better service than other people.

You should dress according to the expectations of the audience spoken to. If I am going to give an address at the MIT computer center, I dress with a bolo and an old corduroy jacket or something else. I know enough not to let my clothes, my appearance, my manners get in the way of what I care about. An enormous number of scientists feel they must assert their ego and do their thing their way. They have got to be able to do this, that, or the other thing, and they pay a steady price.

John Tukey almost always dressed very casually. He would go into an important office and it would take a long time before the other fellow realized that this is a first-class man and he had better listen. For a long time John has had to overcome this kind of hostility. It's wasted effort! I didn't say you should conform; I said "The appearance of conforming gets you a long way.'' If you chose to assert your ego in any number of ways, "I am going to do it my way,'' you pay a small steady price throughout the whole of your professional career. And this, over a whole lifetime, adds up to an enormous amount of needless trouble.
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by rxailagan » Tue Nov 10, 2015 1:52 pm

I don't have anything to add to this right now but I completely agree with this thread.
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Chaac and Ayyy » Tue Nov 10, 2015 3:08 pm

Quick question about what counts as "Business Casual" footwear. I don't really have anything in between formal dress shoes and my everyday sneakers, so is it better to err on the side of formal rather than casual?
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Muriel Axon » Tue Nov 10, 2015 3:28 pm

Chaac and Ayyy wrote:Quick question about what counts as "Business Casual" footwear. I don't really have anything in between formal dress shoes and my everyday sneakers, so is it better to err on the side of formal rather than casual?
Yes, unless your formal shoes are patent leather or something, in which case you ought to get a more normal pair of formal shoes. (Not speaking as a shoe snob here -- anyone who knows me knows how awful I am about shoes.)
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Everything in the Whole Wide World » Tue Nov 10, 2015 3:30 pm

Formal. No one will be off put by too-formal footwear in this context, but sneakers,flip flops, or sandals might. Generally footwear is less important than shirt/pants since your shoes will probably be under a desk or table when you're reading, but it's always better to err on the side of caution.
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Tue Nov 10, 2015 4:26 pm

Muriel Axon wrote:You can learn from Richard Hamming and John Tukey:
"Don't wear bolo ties" is indeed advice worth remembering.
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Cheynem » Tue Nov 10, 2015 4:28 pm

Unless you're Philip Rivers.
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Habitat_Against_Humanity » Tue Nov 10, 2015 4:44 pm

Though I'm not particularly convinced that a high-schooler dressed in business casual would assuage all my concerns about a quiz bowl tournament (though it couldn't hurt), I think it might be worth discussing some other general professionalism tips. One thing that gets under my skin a little bit as I become an ever-more-curmudgeonly-oldish-man is cursing. Personally, I don't really mind an F-bomb or two among friends, but if you're around high schoolers and by extension more adult-y parents and coaches, it's probably a good idea to curtail that part of your personal lexicon, especially if you're involved in running the tournament.

I guess I tend to view putting on a tournament as a weird sort of catering service. You and your staff are providing an environment and services which allow others to enjoy themselves. In general, you don't want to do anything that would miff your guests or hinder their good time. As such, dressing up a bit and watching your language are good ways to provide a welcoming and enjoyable environment.
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Steeve Ho You Fat » Tue Nov 10, 2015 8:52 pm

I certainly agree with Nolan's points - professionalism includes dress, behavior, and actually running a good tournament.

I've made a follow-up thread with several posts laying out the basics of finding and wearing decent clothes here. Hopefully anyone who agrees that dressing professionally helps to improve tournaments, but was never taught how, can learn something from it.
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Bloodwych » Tue Nov 10, 2015 9:30 pm

Cheynem wrote:Unless you're Philip Rivers.
He also has 8 kids and plays for the Chargers. So... don't.
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by The Stately Rhododendron » Wed Nov 11, 2015 2:49 am

Auks Ran Ova wrote:
Muriel Axon wrote:You can learn from Richard Hamming and John Tukey:
"Don't wear bolo ties" is indeed advice worth remembering.
My thunderbird bolo has gotten me far in life, but the look I go for is "renegade son of a Wyoming State Senator."
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by bmcke » Sat Nov 21, 2015 6:27 pm

When I direct or do any control-room for a tournament, I bring nametag stickers and make the staff all wear nametags. I can't usually control how people dress, but I think the nametags are a nice cue to show people that all the staff are real staff of a real event.
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Lo, a momentary rabbit-stage » Sun Nov 22, 2015 3:50 am

While I guess I understand the appeal of having small armies of teenage staffers in polos and slacks, I think we need some perspective on this. Ultimately, these are people taking huge chunks of time out of their weekend to read questions or take score for no reward other than the satisfaction of helping out, the social aspect, and knowing that they're helping quiz bowl survive. These are people who deserve our gratitude and encouragement, not the imposition of strict dress codes. It's one thing to include a reminder in your pre-tournament email to staffers not to look too sloppy (and I totally encourage this), but it's another to mandate "business casual" or lay down a list of forbiddens a la week 1 of high school (no spaghetti straps, mods! you might distract the players).

I strongly disagree with the professionalization of saturday tournaments in general, as ultimately we're not here to stroke the egos of the three parents who come to sit in each room and write down every question, we're here to serve the hundreds of players at each tournament - players who frankly give fewer than two hoots about whether or not their moderator has two or four pockets in their pants, given that there's a 75% chance the moderator is an involved adult or student at the school who they will have formed many opinions on prior to seeing them in either their sweatpants or their slacks. One of the major things that drew me to quizbowl and moved me to stay was precisely the level of casualness - the fact that there was an activity so highly coordinated largely run by people who are authentically just normal high school students was impressive.

There are also many practical reasons why having a dress code is pretty inconvenient and unnecessarily annoying for staffers. First of all, cost. Is it possible to find good and cheap business casual clothes? Sure, probably, but it's still cost - purchasing them, actually going out and getting them, keeping them clean and un-wrinkled - and that's a cost that someone really shouldn't have to deal with when they're literally donating their entire Saturday to read questions to high schoolers who will almost certainly be wearing that dreaded sweatpants and tshirt combination.

The second reason is because of the quashing of individuality and diversity that dress codes are so resistant to. People have widely varying aesthetics and ways they feel comfortable with themselves, and even in quizbowl people do in fact dress in manners that are neither (business casual) nor (stained sweatpants and a wifebeater). I'll use myself as an example, because it's convenient. I put a lot of effort into the way I dress, and I care a fair bit about my appearance and the way I present myself. At the same time, pretty much nothing in my closet would fit the intern-going-to-his-first-job-interview aesthetic y'all are pushing for. Ultimately, I think it would be a lot more valuable for people to see me in a colorful graphic sweater with skinny black pants, purple/blue hair, and tall boots (what I wore yesterday, actually) and realize that "Hey, quizbowl isn't just for straight white and asian nerds" than have me feel uncomfortable in a polo and khakis so that people don't have to actually confront the diversity of people who play and staff for quizbowl events.

The above idea is one that has literally been embraced by much of the Greek system (we don't care what your aesthetic is, as long as it's clear that you're putting effort in to not look sloppy), and yet here we are still clinging to boring dress codes so we can further burden the high schoolers and adults who willingly donated half of their weekend to ensure that quizbowl continues to grow. By all means, request that your staff not look sloppy, but any kind of code that looks like it could belong on an e-vite to an office party or in a high school planner should stay away from quizbowl.
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Nov 22, 2015 1:48 pm

I'd generally agree with Charlie's post. As long as you look good/"respectable" in whatever you're going around in, there almost certainly isn't going to be a problem. I'd be perfectly happy showing up to staff a non-national high school tournament in the same sort of outfit (Levis/cardigan/V-neck) that I wore to staff ACF Fall and play Penn Bowl, and I don't think there would really be a big problem.
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Sun Nov 22, 2015 3:26 pm

So I think the thread's advice comes off as a little more universal than it was intended--in my view, at least, it's very much "a beginner's guide to not looking like a slob (when in a position of authority at a high school quizbowl tournament)". If you're already competent and confident regarding dressing, you're probably aware of what looks both good and appropriate, and you shouldn't be too concerned about the thread (and no one should be shaming you into wearing boring business clothes or whatever). The biggest issue this thread is concerned with is making sure people* aren't wearing pajama pants and ratty t-shirts, not making sure they are specifically wearing generic button-ups and slacks.

*again, "people" being "people in positions of authority running high school tournaments"--for almost any other situation, "don't look like a mess" is perfectly sufficient for staffers, and I too agree that there's a ton of value in players being able to dress basically however they want.
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Amizda Calyx » Sun Nov 22, 2015 4:08 pm

Going off what Charlie said, I think it's more damaging when guys wear poorly-fitting business casual dress than it is when they wear any variety of non-business casual clothes, provided they aren't sloppy. I don't really see why there's that much distinction between most of the outfit Charlie described -- colorful graphic print top, black skinny jeans -- and what I wore staffing the last NSC -- colorful paisley top, pink skinny jeans.

At the same time, I do believe it's important to emphasize some degree of professionalism when staffing high school tournaments. Looking put-together makes you more identifiable as a staffer to students and coaches and makes the activity appear a little more organized and legitimate -- which might play a factor in how well we retain teams traveling longer distances. Coaches putting in the effort of driving 200 miles in the early morning for the first time are probably going to need a fair amount of validation that their time was spent on a worthwhile activity if they're going to repeat it -- seeing a bunch of college kids in sweats (or garish minidresses and high heels, or clubwear, or untucked, oversized shirts and too-short slacks, or...) might give the impression that even the people running it don't consider the tournament important enough for professionalism.
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant » Sun Nov 22, 2015 5:03 pm

Amizda Calyx wrote:Going off what Charlie said, I think it's more damaging when guys wear poorly-fitting business casual dress than it is when they wear any variety of non-business casual clothes, provided they aren't sloppy.
Bibb County schools use "uniform" dress codes that, in my observation, often result in kids wearing school t-shirts with khaki pants. The overall effect is not what I would describe as professional or dressed for success or whatever.
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by The Time Keeper » Sun Nov 22, 2015 7:32 pm

I think it's important not to have pizza stains on what should be one's freshly-washed, decent-smelling clothing, but beyond that, a person's demeanor and the way they interact with players/coaches/etc is vastly more important.
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Cheynem » Sun Nov 22, 2015 8:00 pm

I agree with Pat.

i think in 90% of cases, if you're even considering what you should wear and its effect on looking professional, that's good enough (maybe not if you're like the TD, or this is a national tournament, or if there are other reasons, like schools used to more formal leagues). The fact that you are thinking about these things probably means you won't be wearing scrubby shirts or pajamas or offensive shirts.

I agree with some but not all of Charlie's points. I think, as Rob and Pat said, we're not about mandating a dress code but rather a style of professionalism. If you can look presentable while not wearing a polo and khaki pants (and i think you can), have at it. Different people have different styles.

I would say though that we DO need to be cognizant about what parents think--quizbowl is about recruitment, and like it or not, coaches/parents have opinions that can make or break whether or not quizbowl teams will play in tournaments or circuits. If they think you are an unprofessional clod for whatever reason, that hurts your capital as a quizbowl representative.

I understand Charlie's point about making quizbowl diverse and not limited in the types of people it attracts. I think a professional style is something that goes beyond the idea of "quizbowl is for white straight people"--we should not confuse professional dress recommendations with racial or sexual discrimination (and I don't think Charlie is necessarily saying this, but I don't want people thinking that asking people not to wear ratty blue jeans is somehow racist).
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Sun Nov 22, 2015 8:08 pm

Cheynem wrote:I agree with Pat.

i think in 90% of cases, if you're even considering what you should wear and its effect on looking professional, that's good enough (maybe not if you're like the TD, or this is a national tournament, or if there are other reasons, like schools used to more formal leagues). The fact that you are thinking about these things probably means you won't be wearing scrubby shirts or pajamas or offensive shirts.

I agree with some but not all of Charlie's points. I think, as Rob and Pat said, we're not about mandating a dress code but rather a style of professionalism. If you can look presentable while not wearing a polo and khaki pants (and i think you can), have at it. Different people have different styles.

I would say though that we DO need to be cognizant about what parents think--quizbowl is about recruitment, and like it or not, coaches/parents have opinions that can make or break whether or not quizbowl teams will play in tournaments or circuits. If they think you are an unprofessional clod for whatever reason, that hurts your capital as a quizbowl representative.

I understand Charlie's point about making quizbowl diverse and not limited in the types of people it attracts. I think a professional style is something that goes beyond the idea of "quizbowl is for white straight people"--we should not confuse professional dress recommendations with racial or sexual discrimination (and I don't think Charlie is necessarily saying this, but I don't want people thinking that asking people not to wear ratty blue jeans is somehow racist).
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Steeve Ho You Fat » Sun Nov 22, 2015 8:15 pm

Charlie, if you can look decent while staffing while wearing different things, that's great - the target audience of this thread is people who don't think it's important to look decent at all. I think it is quite important to, whether through business casual (the easy default option for people who aren't fashion-forward and who prefer basic rules to follow) or something else, look put together and not like you just rolled out of bed.

I'll respond specifically to a couple of your points that I disagree with:
Ultimately, these are people taking huge chunks of time out of their weekend to read questions or take score for no reward other than the satisfaction of helping out, the social aspect, and knowing that they're helping quiz bowl survive. These are people who deserve our gratitude and encouragement, not the imposition of strict dress codes. It's one thing to include a reminder in your pre-tournament email to staffers not to look too sloppy (and I totally encourage this), but it's another to mandate "business casual" or lay down a list of forbiddens a la week 1 of high school (no spaghetti straps, mods! you might distract the players).
Ike and I discussed this a little bit in the other thread, but this is needlessly pessimistic. If you offer me a ride home, but only if you spend 3 hours dropping off 5 other people and doing your grocery shopping first, I'd say thanks but no thanks. Similarly, if you offer to staff a tournament, but show up looking like a slob, you could be damaging the tournament. Just like you'd ask your staffers to show up on time, or remember to bring their laptops, you can also ask them to put a basic amount of effort into looking reasonable.
I strongly disagree with the professionalization of saturday tournaments in general, as ultimately we're not here to stroke the egos of the three parents who come to sit in each room and write down every question, we're here to serve the hundreds of players at each tournament
If you think this is the only way that adults interact with quizbowl then...I'm not sure what to say besides "you're wrong". From parents who drive, to teachers who coach, to administrators who decide budgets, (post-college) adults have a huge impact on high school quizbowl. And, without making any judgement on whether or not it's wrong, it's a fact that many adults will make judgements based on this. I'm not making any normative judgements about whether it's right or not here, just stating how the world works, and that, for a big number of people who have a bigger influence on quizbowl than you may realize, it matters.
There are also many practical reasons why having a dress code is pretty inconvenient and unnecessarily annoying for staffers. First of all, cost. Is it possible to find good and cheap business casual clothes? Sure, probably, but it's still cost - purchasing them, actually going out and getting them, keeping them clean and un-wrinkled - and that's a cost that someone really shouldn't have to deal with when they're literally donating their entire Saturday to read questions to high schoolers who will almost certainly be wearing that dreaded sweatpants and tshirt combination.
This argument is irrelevant because everybody needs to own professional clothes if they want to get and keep a job. Maybe you've never had a job interview for a professional job, but when you do, you'll be expected to wear a suit (which is much more expensive and difficult to obtain than a basic button down shirt and pair of slacks). Even in fields, like academia, where most professors wear what I'd consider business casual on a day-to-day basis, every single one of them has a suit they wear for interviews and formal occasions. If you wear sweatpants and a t-shirt on a day-to-day basis, there's no reason you can't spend a small amount of money and time to get some clothes that are appropriate for more formal occasions (by the way, for your own sakes, please don't wear an open collar shirt and slacks to a job interview unless it's a super, super informal job!). When these are items that everyone should have in their closet anyway, it hardly burdens staffers to ask them to wear them.

I think you're confusing your personal, normative opinions on how things should work ("Everybody should wear whatever they want and not be judged for it") with the way the world does work ("People who dress in certain ways are perceived as being more professional and treated better"). I'm not saying whether I agree or not with your opinion, just that this is how the world works, and I think that quizbowl tournaments can help themselves by aligning themselves with how the world works.
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Re: On Dressing Well for Staffing High School Tournaments

Post by Steeve Ho You Fat » Sun Nov 22, 2015 8:15 pm

Auks Ran Ova wrote:
Cheynem wrote:I agree with Pat.

i think in 90% of cases, if you're even considering what you should wear and its effect on looking professional, that's good enough (maybe not if you're like the TD, or this is a national tournament, or if there are other reasons, like schools used to more formal leagues). The fact that you are thinking about these things probably means you won't be wearing scrubby shirts or pajamas or offensive shirts.

I agree with some but not all of Charlie's points. I think, as Rob and Pat said, we're not about mandating a dress code but rather a style of professionalism. If you can look presentable while not wearing a polo and khaki pants (and i think you can), have at it. Different people have different styles.

I would say though that we DO need to be cognizant about what parents think--quizbowl is about recruitment, and like it or not, coaches/parents have opinions that can make or break whether or not quizbowl teams will play in tournaments or circuits. If they think you are an unprofessional clod for whatever reason, that hurts your capital as a quizbowl representative.

I understand Charlie's point about making quizbowl diverse and not limited in the types of people it attracts. I think a professional style is something that goes beyond the idea of "quizbowl is for white straight people"--we should not confuse professional dress recommendations with racial or sexual discrimination (and I don't think Charlie is necessarily saying this, but I don't want people thinking that asking people not to wear ratty blue jeans is somehow racist).
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