Coaching a New Middle School team?

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Coaching a New Middle School team?

Post by bryant_cong »

Hi everyone,

I've recently gotten students at my middle school interested in quizbowl, and I would like to know any coaching techniques/tips.
I am a player myself and graduating from my middle school this year.

Thanks in advance!
Bryant Cong
Challenger Berryessa '13
Bellarmine College Preparatory '17
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Re: Coaching a New Middle School team?

Post by dwd500 »

By the looks of the results from the MSNCT, your team seems to have a fairly good grasp on a lot of game play as it is. As you were the majority of your team's points, I think what you're driving at in your question is how to keep things going there as you move on, so I'll speak to retaining and recruiting.

For me and my kids, the single biggest factor that keeps kids involved in quiz bowl is that it's fun. Practices are fun, trips are fun, games are fun. Don't feel like you have to really try and "make it cool", either. I've often found that the game sells itself very well, at least to the people you'd want on your team.

We have a "club day" in September where groups set up info booths as the kids are in the gym before school. I take an easy set of questions, and the loudest buzzers I've got, and before you know it, there's 20 people that stay around our table. I have my returning players read and hand out fliers while I go handle my other tables (I run Drama Club and the school Show, as well.)

I don't really try to "push" the kids to study much. The kids that get drawn into the high levels of quiz bowl are really self-motivated. They will push themselves. I try to make sure I can meet them at the level they want. I got lots of new books for resources off this last summer, and found some great online resources (, sparknotes, Crash Course, 60 Second Recap, etc.) that seemed to appeal to the kids. I feel that I have a lot in common with my team when it comes to educational interests, and so if I see some series on youtube that teaches something well and I like it personally, I'm pretty sure the kids will like it.

I don't know how you'll manage this as a Freshman with your own team to worry about, but in general: Go to as many tournaments as you can, and get your players as much time behind the buzzer as you can. (It's the only way they get better.) Five years ago our competition calendar had one date on it, at a local school on a Tuesday night in March. No players from that team went on to play for our HS team. This year we hosted two tournaments, and traveled to four (would have been 5, but hey, snow.) We regularly had 18-22 kids at our Friday practices.

Tournaments can be fun for everyone, done right. Even my worst players on my worst 0-7 team talk about how much they had getting to travel and compete. And Culver's ice cream. They like Culver's ice cream.

Used to be we would finish the year with a big pizza party on a Saturday in April and finish the KMO early. I'm not sure how that'll work now that the KMO is ending.
David Dennis
Middle School Choir Director
District Scholar Bowl Coach
Washington, MO

Murray State University, 2001
Breckinridge County High School, KY 1996
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Song Oku
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Location: Ridgewood, New Jersey

Re: Coaching a New Middle School team?

Post by Song Oku »

I second every single point that Mr. Dennis made. Especially, make sure that your players enjoy quizbowl. Yes, some people may know more than others, but one can only improve if they truly love it. Of course, the optimal player would both know a lot and love quizbowl.

Do you have an official coach (Here referring to a teacher or some other adult affiliated with your school)? I was in the exact situation you were last year, (though I was in 7th grade) and I had zero support from the my school. Fortunately, I had very active parents who helped us get to MSNCT the past two years. But national tournaments may not be within everyone's budget, so it is crucial to have your school's support. After talking with my school's administration, I think that the quizbowl program will be able to survive in the near future, as I graduate this year.

Also important to sustaining a program is to cultivate your underclassmen. Like you, I am the top scorer in my school, so you're going to need lots of help from your future 8th graders to keep the team going. I can sleep knowing that I have 10 uber-enthusiastic 7th graders ready to take the reins after I graduate.
David Song

Ben Franklin MS 2011-13
Ridgewood HS 2011-13
Bergen County Academies '17
Princeton '21