Coaching strategies

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Coaching strategies

Post by idek »

To all experienced MS coaches,

My name is Vishal Sivamani, and I was an 8th grader for the Coppell West quiz bowl team. In wake of my graduation and the resignation of our coach prior to the 2017-2018 season, I have been appointed as the head coach of Coppell's middle school team.

I am very, very new to coaching. Although I know the circuit connections very well and was a passable player in middle school, I still don't really get how to structure the team. In my tenure, we were very much based on one heavy generalist with speciality players to complement the weaknesses of the generalist. But I don't know how I would make a balanced team where every member pitches in their subject.

Which do you believe works better? Do I need a star-caliber player? Or is it wiser to build a well-rounded team without a dominant scorer?

Vishal Sivamani
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Re: Coaching strategies

Post by Stained Diviner »

Welcome to coaching!

Before I answer your question, let me put in a plug for Quizbowl 101, especially the section for players, teams, and coaches.

Unfortunately, the answer to your question has been summed up by Donald Rumsfeld, who said, "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time." As a coach, you have to figure out how good your students are and how hard they are willing to work, then figure out how to get the best from them. Having a generalist and specialists in lit, science, and history is a great way to go, but it might not be an option. If your science specialist knows more history than anybody on the team, then your configuration might be different. Also, sometimes a specialist has weaknesses within the subject they specialize in.

Ideally, each student works on building on their strengths, and the team overall works on covering their weaknesses. In reality, those ideals create some contradictions at some point, and the team should talk about how to handle that. Even something as simple as that may be difficult if you don't have at least a few students willing to work.

Mike Cheyne made a great post a few years ago about being a fourth scorer. It doesn't handle all situations--sometimes the fourth scorer isn't willing to work, and sometimes one student is so dominant that the three other students on the team should think of themselves as the fourth scorer. That being said, there is great advice there about how to be a quizbowl teammate that applies to everybody.
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Re: Coaching strategies

Post by Golran »

I'm going to suggest something that might be against the grain here - no matter what strategy your team decides to adopt, make sure to keep the game fun for them. You don't need to win a national, state, or local tournament for the students' time on the team to be worthwhile, you just need to instill a love for learning. If your team is letting every science question drop and competing over every lit question among one another but having fun doing so, I'd say you did a great job coaching, even though your team probably isn't balanced to win a lot of games. Let your team's interests guide you in what to direct them to. Have materials available and make suggestions, but be sure to let the players take control of their own paths.
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