Turning a small, mediocre team into a good one

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jonathanshauf
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Turning a small, mediocre team into a good one

Post by jonathanshauf » Sun Jul 29, 2018 3:00 pm

I'm from a very small charter school in a rural area. As you can imagine, the number of players we have available to us is quite limited, As we tend to only have a max of about 15 players on our team, and its usually more like 10. We finished 203rd at nationals, so we're mediocre at best, and the highest my school has ever finished was 190th or so. We have a small number of high schoolers and middle schoolers who are very dedicated, and a few more who aren't super committed to studying a bunch, but enjoy quizbowl as an extra-curricular activity. My question is, how do we become a decent team, on the national scale? I know it can be done with a school of our size, since Glasgow, for instance, a school of similar size to us, finished T-32 at nationals. I study at least an hour a day to improve personally, but how can we as a team become somewhat competitive?
Jonathan Shauf, TJ Classical 2020

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Re: Turning a small, mediocre team into a good one

Post by Beevor Feevor » Tue Jul 31, 2018 3:34 pm

There are tons of historical threads on the forums about getting your team from mediocre to contender. Obviously none of them offer quick-fixes, but the collective wisdom of those threads can be mined pretty quickly by going into either this section, the New High School Teams section, or the Best of the Best section.

As someone who started one of these threads almost 6 years ago, I can point you to the advice that people gave me that I've held on to ever since. Link to that is here; that should be able to give you a good start on the fundamentals.
Eric Xu
Western Albemarle High School '15
University of Virginia '19

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Re: Turning a small, mediocre team into a good one

Post by jonathanshauf » Tue Jul 31, 2018 6:46 pm

Beevor Feevor wrote:There are tons of historical threads on the forums about getting your team from mediocre to contender. Obviously none of them offer quick-fixes, but the collective wisdom of those threads can be mined pretty quickly by going into either this section, the New High School Teams section, or the Best of the Best section.

As someone who started one of these threads almost 6 years ago, I can point you to the advice that people gave me that I've held on to ever since. Link to that is here; that should be able to give you a good start on the fundamentals.
I read that thread, and it was very helpful. It is very inspiring to see the improvement that your team had, in a relatively short amount of time.
Jonathan Shauf, TJ Classical 2020

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Re: Turning a small, mediocre team into a good one

Post by joshxu » Tue Jul 31, 2018 9:08 pm

jonathanshauf wrote:the number of players we have available to us is quite limited, As we tend to only have a max of about 15 players on our team, and its usually more like 10. We finished 203rd at nationals, so we're mediocre at best, and the highest my school has ever finished was 190th or so. We have a small number of high schoolers and middle schoolers who are very dedicated, and a few more who aren't super committed to studying a bunch, but enjoy quizbowl as an extra-curricular activity.
I'm relatively new to quiz bowl, but I can speak from my one year of experience. This is quite similar to my team's situation. Last year, we had 12 quiz bowl players, out of which two were primarily science bowl players doubling as quizbowlers. This season, four of those players (the entire A team from last year) have graduated, and two others have ditched the team. And out of the remaining six players, only four of us really care about quiz bowl (the entire B team from last year). For the past decade or so, my school has had an extremely small team. But in spite of this, we have consistently finished in the top half of the field at HSNCT, which I think would be called "decent".

What has enabled my school to be "decent" despite lacking a motivated core is consistent studying. We play intrasquad games almost every school day, and we regularly get tested on study materials. The advice on the old thread that Eric linked to is very useful. In particular, I would like to highlight the study tools on NAQT.com, Protobowl, consistent studying, and attending tournaments regularly (unfortunately, this is something my school doesn't do).

I hope you find all this useful!

Edit: Added precision on the state of my team.
Last edited by joshxu on Sat Aug 04, 2018 11:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Josh Xu

Santa Monica High School (Class of 2021)
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Re: Turning a small, mediocre team into a good one

Post by Deviant Insider » Tue Jul 31, 2018 9:50 pm

It is very helpful to have 3-4 dedicated players who are all willing to study and who coordinate that studying so they are each building on their strengths and covering for team weaknesses. It helps for those students to play lots of matches together so they can figure out what they need to work on and improve during the season.

If doing well at nationals is an important goal for you, then it helps to play several tournaments at regular difficulty and above. Sometimes that's very difficult to do because some areas of the country don't have many tournaments like that, but do the best you can and make sure you study packets that are at the difficulty level you want to succeed at or a little bit harder.
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Re: Turning a small, mediocre team into a good one

Post by Thiccasso's Guernthicca » Tue Jul 31, 2018 11:28 pm

My team at the beginning of this past school year epitomized mediocrity. The first three tournaments I ever attended (March, October, and November 2017), we finished smack dab in the middle of the field. I was frustrated because I knew we had the potential to be good (my teammate was the second highest individual scorer at HFT main site, for example), so I went to work.

Starting in December, I pushed for us to attend WAY more tournaments than our club ever did (driving to Yale for BHSAT was the first time our club had ever gone out of state for a tournament) and started building an infrastructure of sorts for our club. I typed up guides to the forums, to quizbowl rules, to studying, to basically everything one would need to know at a foundational level to dive into quizbowl. I started studying (not just Protobowl/NAQT You Gotta Know list studying, but genuine deep studying), and eased my teammates into doing so as well. We cleaned up the structure of our practices so they would emulate actual quizbowl matches, tempered our members' rowdiness, and did a lot of recruitment and outreach (we went from four members to eighteen within a year, and holding newly established practices for novices only helped a lot with that). We began interacting with our circuit and the larger quizbowl community, which made tournaments a lot more enjoyable – we were no longer competing with people we didn't know, we were competing with friends. By the end of the year, we got third place at States and tied for 77th at HSNCT. Is T-77 an amazing standing? For many teams, absolutely not. But I'm very happy with it, considering we had gone from nothing to something in less than a year.

I'd be lying if I said this wasn't a taxing endeavor. I spent many, many hours every night planning out the week (and the week after that, and the week after that as well), figuring out what study resources to send out, seeing who to reach out to in hopes of recruitment, and studying card after card. If you're going to take a similar role in building up your school's program, you will have to be ridiculously persistent. But I promise you it's all worth it in the end – to see that you had a hand in establishing a serious program that will only continue to grow for years and help players find new ways to love this game is, in my opinion, ultimately more rewarding than any other quizbowl accomplishment.
Wonyoung Jang
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Re: Turning a small, mediocre team into a good one

Post by jonathanshauf » Wed Aug 08, 2018 3:03 pm

Thank you all for the tips. Hopefully you'll hear from us again soon.
Jonathan Shauf, TJ Classical 2020

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