"This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Dormant threads from the high school sections are preserved here.
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"This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Wed Sep 29, 2010 7:32 am

The topic above is a comment i have heard more times in the last year by teenagers (about quizbowl) than all previous years combined coaching or playing in this activity in high school or college.

I hear it mostly from kids who say to me "hey, Mr. C, i want to come to Academic Bowl practice!" and when they show up, they sit there and say nothing, and the next time i see them, i hear the comment.

I also hear it from kids i take to tournaments who get destroyed by good (and mediocre) teams, contrary to the feeling that i know "good quizbowlers" are supposed to have or obtain from such a defeat (see Mike Cheyne's excellent post about this topic).

I'm getting sick of hearing it. Has there been a generational change, that quickly, in the attitudes of young men and women, that they don't even want to try to get better at something unless they are already basically good at it? If not for one player on our team, we would be one of the worst teams in the Mid-Atlantic region this year, because i have so many kids that just don't care about getting better at all since they see no point to it, or it's just "too hard." These are students, by the way, with some of the highest GPAs at our school (two members of our A Team last week are in the top 3 of their class, and number 1 will be on the team next time).

I feel like i know what i'm doing when i coach or conduct practices. We don't try to go through 4-5 packets in a couple hours; i take my time and repeat important clues and information, as well as tips for "quizbowl strategy" to the younger players. More than half of the attendees are taking notes during practice. I've had at least 5 players write 8-10 tossups already since the beginning of summer (it was a "rule" to be on the A Team this year), which are the first that all of them have ever written, and they were submitted to me before i gave comments and told them to re-edit every one... and they all did, making them totally acceptable and difficulty-appropriate tossups. And they still don't get those answers right at practice or tournaments.

Is this an attitude others are seeing as well from younger players? It's more prevalent than i have ever seen, and it's very tiring and frustrating.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Sep 29, 2010 10:12 am

This or some variation of it ("I'm too dumb", "I don't know enough", "I won't be useful to you guys") is really common among college freshmen too.

There are two strategies you can take:

* Argue that it will be fun to be on the quizbowl team even if you suck at quizbowl. This might take the form of travel (UChicago used to boast that if you attended practice, it would send you on a trip somewhere for free, regardless of your ability), it might take the form of activities (everyone on the team goes out to a restaurant, to a team ski cabin in Vermont, etc), or simply "we're nice people you want to hang out with us".
* Try to stress that it might seem impossibly hard now, but that you WILL get better, even if all you do is practice and listen to packets. Maybe have somebody give a moving testimonial in front of all the freshmen at the first practice. It's easier to get better than they think.

Maybe also have some existing member of your team take an interest in the new people. It is often said that UChicago retains many female undergrads because Susan Ferrari is nice to them. Personally, a big reason that I stayed in college quizbowl was because of Tim McElroy being friendly and mentorish to me. (When I first started attending UChicago practice, it was pretty common for me to only get 1-2 tossups the entire night)
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Cheynem » Wed Sep 29, 2010 10:28 am

*I like the Bruce suggestion about having people talk through their stories. I think it's worth explaining that quizbowl is a game of work--it's not like some people are inherently born with oodles of knowledge and some aren't. While sports analogies don't always work, I think this is one that does (because it's true for all activities): you wouldn't show up for the basketball team and expect after one practice to be playing as well as the starters. That's why there's practice. That's why you play the game. To get better.

*It's also important to highlight that quizbowl is a game which rewards a range of contributions. The guy who gets eleven tossups a game is the MVP, but the dude who chips in with two a game might be the difference between a win and a loss. Maybe it's the player who figures out the right answer on a bonus and never buzzes in. Those are crucial contributions and packing it in isn't going to help anyone. I can think of some stories where "one buzz" or "one bonus part" won a game, I'm sure you can too.

*If things are going dead or if there are buzzes that should be happening but aren't, talking through it might help. Are they just not paying attention? Having trouble making the connection between knowledge and buzzing in? Buzzer fear? Turning into a sports coach is bad, where you're yelling at them for not buzzing, but some simple conversing on the subject could be a good idea.

*You have to distinguish between people who want to play but are in a discouraged funk (as almost all quizbowlers fall into from time to time) and people who don't really want to play to begin with. Quizbowl isn't for everyone and there plenty of smart, bright people who are not right for the game. However, there are also people who would be perfectly fine players trapped in discouragement. Speaking to my own experience, it might help to shake up practice format a bit (no experienced players?). Maybe read some very easy questions and build up? Heck, read some speedcheck, do something to get them used to buzzing and saying an answer.

*Finally, what Bruce said, watch the team attitude. Make sure practices are inviting and team members are friendly. Minimize in-jokes and references to team history (quick stories here and there are fine). Don't discuss season expectations (yet). Try to avoid cliques.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Frater Taciturnus » Wed Sep 29, 2010 10:37 am

This is probably only the first year I have been in quizbowl that I haven't had to diffuse this comment. People seem to expect that because they are smart individuals, who often have succeeded at everything they have tried, that when they run into the wall their first time in quizbowl they don't know how to react. There is no real entitlement to success in quizbowl; everyone who has ever gotten good at quizbowl at some point has put in a lot of work to get there, even if it was before they started playing. Certainly natural ability plays a role, but it can only take you so far without the drive to improve and the knowledge of how to get better.

On a side note, I've been getting better retention at both levels of practice I run if after a tossup goes dead to groans of "oh it was just that? etc" to mention that for most people it takes some time to get used to being able to hear a clue you know and buzz on it, and that if you keep playing and keep listening you will get closer to clearing that hurdle.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by AKKOLADE » Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:01 am

I attended junior high and high school with this one kid that was very bright. Pretty sure she graduated with a 4.0 while taking higher level classes, was the star of the soccer team (I think she set the career record for goals in state), was extremely popular. Could succeed at anything she did.

She came to one quiz bowl practice in junior high school, which was on KMO stuff. She didn't get a single question right. That's certainly not a knock on her; she'd never done it before, and the person who can just sit down and start buzzing in on qb questions is rare.

That was it for her. She never showed up again.

I think George is on to something: the people for who quiz bowl is the most appealing are people who are very likely to have never faced a challenge before qb. Dealing with that is possibly the biggest issue for retention.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by cchiego » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:38 pm

High GPAs don't mean anything other than that they're willing to do schoolwork. It says nothing about intellectual curiosity or ability to think like a quizbowler. Thinking like a quizbowler means having a mental map of all the possibilities out there and the ability to quickly narrow them down. Sort of like the canon, but to me it's more like a "web" of interconnected facts that a player knows and can utilize. Language clues (i.e. what do the names sound like?), dates, geographic features, etc. can all be helpful in figuring out where you are on that map. Being able to quickly run through all these possibilites and engage in a kind of Bayesian updating as more of the question is read is not easy and can't always be learned (although, of course, studying helps- though more in some people than in others). And then you have to be willing to take the risk of buzzing in, which trips up many bright people as well.

It IS hard to learn, retain, and quickly recall all these facts- it's a bit like the Red Queen scenario when you have to keep constantly reviewing things to keep your mental map up-to-date and account for the changing nature of the canon and the improvement of other teams. You have to constantly invest time well beyond normal studying and that's something many people aren't willing to do. I'm not sure if it's a generational thing, but it is true that people don't like doing what makes them feel stupid and it's much harder to convince them that this is good for them to overcome rather than them just not doing quizbowl at all. I could make a Straussian comment about the decline of the Western Canon/core curriculum and the rise of overly niche "classes" (or even better, the rejection of objective facts in postmodern thought), but I don't see that at the high school level actually; AP and IB classes in particular are perfect for quizbowl-style knowledge in most cases.

Fortunately, even if people can't necessarily learn to think like a quizbowler, they don't have to if they want to be part of a quizbowl team. That's where good PR, a friendly attitude, etc. all come into the equation. But attrition happens. Quizbowl is a time suck. It's not a glamorous organization that's going to attract a wide range of people. Realistically, I'm not sure any institution (save, perhaps, Chicago) can hope for more than 8 dedicated people and maybe another 8-10 who show up occasionally and will go to a tournament or two.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Wed Sep 29, 2010 1:15 pm

There are reasons to do quizbowl that have nothing to do with the actual activity of quizbowl. The other people on your team are a great social group--in college, at least, you really want every bit of a support system you can get, and having a variety of networks of friend-potentials really can't hurt. People on other teams can be zany and fascinating. You can meet people who share your interests, academic or otherwise, since you'll find amazingly curious people.

We always tell our freshmen that you can feel free to come to as many or as few practices and tournaments as you want--the only time we come to "cuts" or "making the team" is when we decide who'll represent Harvard's team or teams at the national tournaments. Invariably, this leads to a slightly better turnout at the beginning of the year than pressing, and some of the kids who might otherwise be on the edge stay on.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Wed Sep 29, 2010 2:09 pm

Yeah, when I first started quizbowl, I was pretty terrible. I ended up staying on the team out of perseverance/spite, but realistically not many freshmen are going to be that stubborn when there are other activities open to them. I did consider quitting at one point, though, and I think it would have encouraged me if someone had told me that I really could get better, and that if I looked up all those things I'd never heard of, I'd become competent pretty quickly. Frankly, this is what packets are very good for: learning basic facts about the most important topics from a wide variety of areas. Assuring new players that, with a little work, they really can learn and improve, is probably the best way to keep them interested in qb.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Wed Sep 29, 2010 2:20 pm

Also, there aren't many more than one regular-difficulty tournament's worth of stuff to write about. Ask them if they'll give it five practices, and aim for three packets per practice of some IS or HSAPQ set. Have them write stuff down. Then read them a new tournament, looking back at their notes from the first one. They'll see how many times the one had a Dickens bonus whose third part was an early clue in the other, and so forth--that while it all might seem remote and inaccessible when they come in knowing so little, that they'll be able to get more questions every single tournament if they just learn one fact every round.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Cheynem » Wed Sep 29, 2010 3:10 pm

Yeah, it's great when you can say concrete things like "This came up last practice" or "This was asked about at the tournament last weekend." This moves the questions from some abstract thing to "Oh, I should remember this because it just came up."
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by quizbowllee » Wed Sep 29, 2010 3:21 pm

Coming in to coach a brand new team, I was afraid this would happen to me. And I was right. Our first practice had 28 students. The team is now down to about 12. The thing is, most of the ones who quit did so within the first week of practice, before we ever even went to a tournament. Thankfully, those who have stayed seem inspired by the challenge. Like so many of those mentioned in this thread, these students have exemplary GPAs and are on their way to IB Diplomas. However, this simply doesn't translate AT ALL into ability at quiz bowl.

I find it incredibly bothersome that students who are excelling in IB and AP programs, receiving 4s and 5s on AP Exams, and graduating with 4.0 GPAs aren't learning the most basic information that appears in the high school quiz bowl canon. Why is this?
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Cheynem » Wed Sep 29, 2010 3:36 pm

I don't find it that bothersome. A lot of the quizbowl canon is not particularly helpful for class purposes and vice versa. When I was in high school, I spent a lot of time learning how to write and read Spanish, which is not tested (per se) in quizbowl. I learned how to use critical thinking skills in writing research papers/evaluation papers, which is also not tested in quizbowl. I spent a lot of time learning how to find derivatives and integrals and write mathematical proofs, which are also not tested in quizbowl aside from the theoretical. All of those skills are good ones that good students probably learn how to do, but they're not (and should not be) part of the traditional quizbowl canon. In contrast, I read very little in terms of literature and never really learned European history (for class). In fact, to be frank, I'm now in my ninth year of college and probably about 2/3 of what comes up in quizbowl I have never learned in a classroom setting. And yet, I would consider myself a successful student. I don't think it's that big a deal.

(For those who care, I popped open a random ACF Fall packet from last year and wrote down the tossup answer lines to see how many of them I encountered in a classroom setting, and it was only like 3/20. This seemed odd at first, but then I realized it really wasn't. I knew a lot of those answers outside of quizbowl though, and it was because I enjoyed learning about things and reading on my own. I learned about Nasser [at first] through MAD Magazine, for example, and I read about Potsdam on my own. For literature, unless you take a broad survey course or happen to luck out and read what is asked about in class, most of this also takes place on your own. I've certainly never read almost every work in quizbowl in a classroom setting.)
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by David Riley » Wed Sep 29, 2010 3:46 pm

Lee--I think that it's because with "No Child Left Behind", etc. teachers are expected to teach to the test, hence that is what students learn. When basic info comes up at practice and my students don't know it, I joke with them and say "no sense of civilization" (right, Nolan?). And your scenario has happened to me numerous times; I start with a large cadre of freshmen who dwindle after the first meeting.

I think the relatively rapid advancement of quizbowl in the past five years or so explains a lot as well, the transition from middle school to high school quiz bowl is much more difficult than it used to be. And if our students have been raised in the "everybody wins" culture, it's that much harder. Fortunately, I have a frosh/soph coach who is really good at assuaging freshman fears.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Wed Sep 29, 2010 4:01 pm

Being able to learn what's put in front of you is not nearly enough to be a good quizbowl player--that said, I actually think there is a strong correlation between academic ability and quizbowl potential. If you look at those player polls that come out every week, you'll generally find that the players near the top also have excellent GPA's, strong test scores, and generally high marks in traditional indicators of intelligence. You need to do a lot of independent learning to cover the things that come up in quizbowl, but I suspect that, with some effort, those who succeed in academics would have similar success in this game.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Camelopardalis » Wed Sep 29, 2010 4:22 pm

quizbowllee wrote:I find it incredibly bothersome that students who are excelling in IB and AP programs, receiving 4s and 5s on AP Exams, and graduating with 4.0 GPAs aren't learning the most basic information that appears in the high school quiz bowl canon. Why is this?
Is this really that surprising though? I mean, I went to a pretty academic school where anything below 4.0 was considered below average, and yet we really learned nothing in the high school quizbowl canon. What courses are there to learn about economics? Opera? Philosophy? African literature? Our English classes consisted of reading and critiquing maybe a half dozen works of fiction, and our history classes were virtually all about domestic happenings from the past two centuries. As much as we talk about "real knowledge", efficient quizbowl success comes primarily from immense volumes of basic information; and I've never taken a high school class that emphasized memorization of plot summaries and stock clues. The only classes that ever gave any of our team quizbowl knowledge were science/math courses and AP Euro History.
Last edited by Camelopardalis on Wed Sep 29, 2010 4:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Angry Babies in Love » Wed Sep 29, 2010 4:44 pm

I was thinking about this same thing. It just seems that sometimes it just has to be the right type of person, the type of person who is more motivated than discouraged by sucking, or the type of person who comes in knowing stuff. I was the latter, having studied like crazy for the geography bee, but I can imagine it really being tough for the former. I think the answer is segregation paired with easier questions to start. Most people come in knowing a little, based off what they are learning (our school starts off with something Greek for Pre-IB English 9, either The Odyssey or Antigone I don't remember, so all of our youngins know that well) in school. This year, our retention rate is pretty decent,; most, except for one new sophomore, seem to primarily be of the type who are motivated to do better.
As for academic ability and its correlation to quizbowl play, it exists, but it's not very strong. If you were to look at my transcript you would have not the slightest clue I was on the quizbowl team, let alone the captain. This correlation comes from the fact that those who have the drive to be successful academically usually drive to get good at quizbowl, but I rarely study for either, so I guess I'm in the minority.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Wed Sep 29, 2010 5:32 pm

I'm glad this sparked discussion. It's been helpful. It was originally just a rant but i figured i would get a few sympathetic posts.

Teaching/coaching at a "regular" public school (i.e., one that does not/cannot pass the mandated threshold for Adequate Yearly Progress), every single practice i keep hearing "how am i supposed to know that?" when my answer continually is "study packets." It just doesn't get done. They know it will make them better, but so few of them actually study that it doesn't improve anything.

And the next week i just hear the same complaints again of students who say they find it impossible to get good at this, but they read about one packet every two or three weeks and think that that's sufficient. When i tell them of how much effort and work Trey put into "getting good" the last couple years, most students laugh and say "he had no life."

Students are learning far fewer helpful things in classes than even i did 10 years ago. In my AP classes, we read dozens and dozens of poems by American poets... Stevens, Williams, Sandburg, Cummings, Whitman, Longfellow, Lowell, Pound, Ginsberg, ... it seems like if the answer isn't Poe, Frost, or Hughes today, they have probably never heard of it.

This is the state of CR quizbowl (minus our captain) for the foreseeable future.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Cheynem » Wed Sep 29, 2010 5:42 pm

I think you may be a little defeatist, Mr. C, but perhaps I'm overly optimistic. Hopefully by the end of the year, people will start to have different attitudes.

Anyway, I didn't take many AP classes in high school and those that I took have been uniformly worthless in quizbowl (even the Spanish class--we read Fuentes and Borges pieces that have never come up). Blaming the curriculum is entertaining (although not reading Amy Lowell is always a good thing), but fundamentally, quizbowl comes down to getting good at the game. The name of the game is remembering things, learning about things, writing and reading about things. I enjoy cultivating a sort of laissez-faire, cigarette to the wind image of quizbowl where nobody studies things, but I'd be the first to admit that quizbowl is work. Even if you don't sit and pore over packets, you need to remember what comes up, what to buzz on, etcetera.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region » Wed Sep 29, 2010 5:50 pm

Regarding the original post, I really don't think this is a generational thing. I've been associated with one college team for the better part of 12 years, and there have always been droves of first-time players who quit after a practice or two because they're not immediately good at it. I really like Mike's basketball analogy and plan on using it.

There are a few other things I've heard over the years in terms of why people don't want to play. One common thing I've heard from quitters is that they just don't see the use of learning all about myth, opera, lit, etc. It's easy to say, "Well, people with that kind of mindset just shouldn't play quizbowl anyway," but I don't think it's that simple. It's easy to say it's just good to know this stuff, but some people might be potentially good quizbowlers who don't immediately understand why learning about the novels of some Egyptian "no one's heard of" is important.

Another related thing I hear people who don't want to play quizbowl say is that it merely tests "rote" knowledge. I think there is a mindset, even (especially?) among smart people, that discourages knowing lots of things. Many people don't like so-called useless information or the people that possess it.

Anyway, those are two other things I have heard in terms of why people quit or don't play in the first place. Frankly, I had a bit of those mindsets when I started college. I think my admiration of the knowledge of my teammates and of my competition broke me out of that mindset. I don't really know good ways of addressing those mindsets, though, besides just saying that there's nothing wrong with knowing lots of things and that it's indeed important to know lots of things.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Angry Babies in Love » Wed Sep 29, 2010 6:35 pm

Ethnic history of the Vilnius region wrote: Another related thing I hear people who don't want to play quizbowl say is that it merely tests "rote" knowledge.
I think that this is a key point. I don't know, however, how to show them that quizbowl is really more of an art than a science for most, how you don't have to know everything in the question, or even much about the answer line, to get a tossup.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by centralhs » Wed Sep 29, 2010 7:34 pm

Another related thing I hear people who don't want to play quizbowl say is that it merely tests "rote" knowledge. I think there is a mindset, even (especially?) among smart people, that discourages knowing lots of things. Many people don't like so-called useless information or the people that possess it.
Does anyone have a good argument against this type of criticism of quiz bowl? The Debate Team at my high school has begun to constantly trash our quiz bowl team, saying that it is all about "learning and regurgitating useless facts." The trashing has gotten so persistent that my best player (who has devoted much of his 3 years of high school to learning for quiz bowl) talked to me earlier this year about how he was starting to wonder if maybe the debate kids were right and he had just been wasting a lot of time learning all this stuff. I, of course, value being culturally literate and don't find the kind of information in the quiz bowl canon at all "useless." I know that it is important to become familiar with famous authors, battles, scientific terms, etc. because you then have a base upon which to acquire deeper knowledge about these subjects. But how do you explain this to high school students who seem to think it's "useless" to know about literature or history or art?
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Wed Sep 29, 2010 8:03 pm

centralhs wrote:
Another related thing I hear people who don't want to play quizbowl say is that it merely tests "rote" knowledge. I think there is a mindset, even (especially?) among smart people, that discourages knowing lots of things. Many people don't like so-called useless information or the people that possess it.
Does anyone have a good argument against this type of criticism of quiz bowl? The Debate Team at my high school has begun to constantly trash our quiz bowl team, saying that it is all about "learning and regurgitating useless facts." The trashing has gotten so persistent that my best player (who has devoted much of his 3 years of high school to learning for quiz bowl) talked to me earlier this year about how he was starting to wonder if maybe the debate kids were right and he had just been wasting a lot of time learning all this stuff. I, of course, value being culturally literate and don't find the kind of information in the quiz bowl canon at all "useless." I know that it is important to become familiar with famous authors, battles, scientific terms, etc. because you then have a base upon which to acquire deeper knowledge about these subjects. But how do you explain this to high school students who seem to think it's "useless" to know about literature or history or art?
My "meaningful activity" essay for the common app was actually a refutation of that argument. The essential skills of argument, etc., are certainly things that you learn through debate: I debated in high school and loved it. But you don't argue with abstractions and invented evidence--one of the biggest problems with the terrible, terrible mock trials my awful eighth grade civics teacher attempted to hold was that there was a premise, but there weren't any established facts. Your side could call a witness who had seen just about anything, and then you win because you established the essential facts first.

You reason, and the reasoning is important. The most important thing about being human is our capability for rationality. That's why we have science, and the fact that we have science is why we live past 30 and have food to eat, so that's pretty great. But we don't reason in a vacuum. I suppose the Ideal Literary Analyst would just bounce around the world at random, like some kind of ideal gas particle, occasionally colliding with and reading a BOOK and then analyzing it. But that's not a reasonable model for an actual real person. Quizbowl is no replacement for reading, and it doesn't claim to be. But I have probably learned about the existence of upwards of two hundred authors solely through quizbowl. Take the books and authors that I learned about otherwise, though--those books, in the real world, don't exist in the vacuum in which I encountered them. I learned about THOSE books by finding out about new authors, and reading those new authors. I did a better job of reading and analyzing my real-world books because I read books I wouldn't have encountered but for quizbowl. Quizbowl is a game of context, both in how to best learn for it--talk to Jonathan Magin--and in what it gives you. Now when I read history, or literature, or the newspaper, I have tremendous context for what I read. I can analyze and interpret better, I can appreciate and enjoy better.

Debate and quizbowl are perfectly complementary. I hope that more participants in both events choose to cross-pollinate in the future.
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Post by cvdwightw » Wed Sep 29, 2010 8:15 pm

Although there is a pretty well-defined "study old packets and the same things will come up over and over again" tradition in quizbowl, it's also true that it's the only (to my knowledge) competition without a rigidly defined platform of what must be studied in order to be successful in any given year. Whether it's an early round of a terrible TV tournament or the HSNCT finals, there is no study guide that says "if you know or do these things then you will succeed in this competition." And I think that intimidates a lot of people, especially these 4.0 students that are used to having people tell them exactly what they need to know to be successful and then being successful by studying those things.

As to the more recently posed question, while Charles Meigs has a rightly deserved reputation as being off-kilter and occasionally inappropriate, this post by him is a must-read for anyone trying to get people to join or stick with quizbowl. It's not exactly tailored to high school, but I'm sure that a good coach can adapt many of his points to get it to work for his or her particular high school.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by AlphaQuizBowler » Wed Sep 29, 2010 9:51 pm

centralhs wrote:The Debate Team at my high school has begun to constantly trash our quiz bowl team, saying that it is all about "learning and regurgitating useless facts." The trashing has gotten so persistent that my best player (who has devoted much of his 3 years of high school to learning for quiz bowl) talked to me earlier this year about how he was starting to wonder if maybe the debate kids were right and he had just been wasting a lot of time learning all this stuff.
Honestly, I don't know why Debate gets so much cred as an intellectual activity. High school policy debate is farther from real argument than high school quiz bowl is from real learning. Policy debate has a much more heavily weighted game aspect. Where in actual intellectual discussion does the person who can talk the fastest have an advantage? At least in quiz bowl, even if you're studying old packets, you're still learning something.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Self-incompatibility in plants » Wed Sep 29, 2010 10:00 pm

When i tell them of how much effort and work Trey put into "getting good" the last couple years, most students laugh and say "he had no life."
I'd just like to go on record and state that I have, and have always had, a very active social life. Thank you.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Tanay » Wed Sep 29, 2010 10:16 pm

AlphaQuizBowler wrote:
centralhs wrote:The Debate Team at my high school has begun to constantly trash our quiz bowl team, saying that it is all about "learning and regurgitating useless facts." The trashing has gotten so persistent that my best player (who has devoted much of his 3 years of high school to learning for quiz bowl) talked to me earlier this year about how he was starting to wonder if maybe the debate kids were right and he had just been wasting a lot of time learning all this stuff.
Honestly, I don't know why Debate gets so much cred as an intellectual activity. High school policy debate is farther from real argument than high school quiz bowl is from real learning. Policy debate has a much more heavily weighted game aspect. Where in actual intellectual discussion does the person who can talk the fastest have an advantage? At least in quiz bowl, even if you're studying old packets, you're still learning something.
As a former policy debater, I'll chip in here and say that William is absolutely correct in his criticism of high school policy debate. As a current debater in other formats, however, I feel obligated to add that debate in general does cater to certain intellectual interests in a more complete way than quiz bowl can. The comparison between quizbowl and debate, though, is pointless, because the intent of (most forms of) debate is to foster critical thinking skills, improve one's knowledge base in a (relatively) narrow area, and promote word efficiency and solid delivery. Little, if any, of that applies to quizbowl.

Edited: clarity
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Howard » Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:32 pm

Carangoides ciliarius wrote:And the next week i just hear the same complaints again of students who say they find it impossible to get good at this, but they read about one packet every two or three weeks and think that that's sufficient. When i tell them of how much effort and work Trey put into "getting good" the last couple years, most students laugh and say "he had no life."
Don't feel too bad. This has been, relatively speaking, the state of my team for quite some time. For the first time in a few years, I'm starting to see some indications that there may be some wholesale change.

You need to translate some of what they're saying out of teen-speak. What they're really saying is they'd rather do other things (or need to do other things) with the time they could be spending on quiz bowl. And if that's their choice, then help them live with their choices. I've never taken the view that it was my job to require students to put in a certain amount of personal quiz bowl study time. Nor have I ever believed it was appropriate to boot a student for not coming to enough practices. In my opinion, it's one giant exercise in setting and achieving goals.

"How good do you want to be? This will help you." And then I let them decide. With few exceptions, I do not give them a hard time about their decisions. I will, on the other hand, from time-to-time discuss how doing things differently may have resulted in a more desirable outcome. If we don't have a very successful year, I'm okay with that. Why, because I believe learning something about how to set and achieve goals is among the most important things they can learn. If I can combine that with some quiz bowl knowledge and a tournament win or two, then I've achieved the trifecta. As long as I'm there when they need guidance, I'm doing the most important part of my job.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:44 pm

NoWayItsTanay wrote:
AlphaQuizBowler wrote:
centralhs wrote:The Debate Team at my high school has begun to constantly trash our quiz bowl team, saying that it is all about "learning and regurgitating useless facts." The trashing has gotten so persistent that my best player (who has devoted much of his 3 years of high school to learning for quiz bowl) talked to me earlier this year about how he was starting to wonder if maybe the debate kids were right and he had just been wasting a lot of time learning all this stuff.
Honestly, I don't know why Debate gets so much cred as an intellectual activity. High school policy debate is farther from real argument than high school quiz bowl is from real learning. Policy debate has a much more heavily weighted game aspect. Where in actual intellectual discussion does the person who can talk the fastest have an advantage? At least in quiz bowl, even if you're studying old packets, you're still learning something.
As a former policy debater, I'll chip in here and say that William is absolutely correct in his criticism of high school policy debate. As a current debater in other formats, however, I feel obligated to add that debate in general does cater to certain intellectual interests in a more complete way than quiz bowl can. The comparison between quizbowl and debate, though, is pointless, because the intent of (most forms of) debate is to foster critical thinking skills, improve one's knowledge base in a (relatively) narrow area, and promote word efficiency and solid delivery. Little, if any, of that applies to quizbowl.

Edited: clarity
Yeah; I always did public forum, and the style I cultivated borrowed a lot of policy's useful terminology (for example, a "turn") without its awful mechanical balance-sheet rapid-fire characteristics. I can confidently say that the better-reasoned argument nearly always won.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Thu Sep 30, 2010 12:52 am

Carangoides ciliarius wrote:When i tell them of how much effort and work Trey put into "getting good" the last couple years, most students laugh and say "he had no life."
This is an interesting misconception about people who are good at quizbowl that I've heard quite often. I was staffing a local tournament a couple years ago where a coach told his team (after a blowout loss) that the captain of the opposing team had "no friends" and proceeded to tell his team that they shouldn't feel bad for losing because at least they had a social life. This was somewhat mystifying, considering that the player in question had (and still does have) a very active social life, and is much better at quizbowl than I was in high school, even though I actually didn't have a social life.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Thu Sep 30, 2010 12:58 am

Hilltopper22 wrote:
Carangoides ciliarius wrote:When i tell them of how much effort and work Trey put into "getting good" the last couple years, most students laugh and say "he had no life."
This is an interesting misconception about people who are good at quizbowl that I've heard quite often. I was staffing a local tournament a couple years ago where a coach told his team (after a blowout loss) that the captain of the opposing team had "no friends" and proceeded to tell his team that they shouldn't feel bad for losing because at least they had a social life. This was somewhat mystifying, considering that the player in question had (and still does have) a very active social life, and is much better at quizbowl than I was in high school, even though I actually didn't have a social life.
Also mystifying because that coach is a quizbowl coach, not a "you should have a more active social life" coach. Alas, the educator. Where has he gone?
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Cheynem » Thu Sep 30, 2010 1:02 am

It's a silly argument that is frequently used to demean people who happen to be skilled at an activity. The ludicrousness of it is that it can be applied to anyone who spends a good deal of time improving and working hard on an activity--but who would ever say "Well at least I have a life!" to a football player who is constantly at practice, doing exercises, and watching film? If you're not a fan of sports analogies, use other ones: would we disparage an aspiring actor for constantly learning lines and practicing speeches Improving at any activity takes time, yes, but just like any other activity it hardly precludes one from having a balanced life.

I actually have a theory about what could be going on. Quizbowl,for many, is not an activity like a sport or anything (debate, drama) that requires intensive work. Rather, for many, quizbowl is trivia, like bar trivia or Trivial Pursuit. You sit down, you answer some questions, you inherently know stuff, and it's fun. You would never study for it or work at it. Getting new people to see (if they want to improve) that quizbowl is more like a sport or a skilled activity than "FunTrivia" is important.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Thu Sep 30, 2010 5:58 am

Cheynem wrote:Getting new people to see (if they want to improve) that quizbowl is more like a sport or a skilled activity than "FunTrivia" is important.
I know, that's a key point, Mike. I try to do this but it's really difficult for kids who have never seen/heard a pyramidal question in their life before they step into my room (our middle schools, despite my urging, refuse/don't care to have any quizbowl-related activities). The fact that i have a senior on my team who still buzzes in and says "Barack Obama" as a stupid guess to a question he doesn't understand kinda underlines this point, i guess.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Thu Sep 30, 2010 12:32 pm

The thesis of the last half-dozen posts is "quizbowl takes work". I think we can all agree on this.

But I think that it takes far less work than many new people fear. It might take over half a decade to become Seth Teitler, but you can become a perfectly decent (20-30 PPG) college player in a fairly short time. And you don't even have to learn every subject: you can specialize. I've made a quizbowl career out of only answering questions about the fairly narrow range of subjects that I personally find interesting. The "cost" of studying is greatly reduced for me, because I have a lot of fun doing it, and to a large extent it's something that I would be doing anyway, quizbowl or not.

So instead of telling people at Practice #1 that "You will need to work hard. Schnell!", you can phrase it more gently as "It seems impossible now, but it's much easier than it seems to get better, and you don't have to learn every subject either."

Coach Chrz, I'm curious if you try to get people on your team to specialize, or if you encourage everybody to become a generalist. Do you give people specific things/subjects to learn?
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Thu Sep 30, 2010 2:56 pm

Morraine Man wrote:Coach Chrz, I'm curious if you try to get people on your team to specialize, or if you encourage everybody to become a generalist. Do you give people specific things/subjects to learn?
At this moment, it's a little of both.

Clearly some people hate one subject over another sometimes. The majority of my team absolutely despises Literature questions for some reason. Luckily our team captain Alexa has a wealth of Lit knowledge that has always been her main interest.

I certainly have had people specialize before. Sometimes it works... but when "the science player" can't buzz in and say "copper" at the end of the tossup, it's pretty disheartening. I try to tell them this, and then i try to comprise teams of 3-4 specialists... but when those teams go to tournaments and average less than 80 points per game (as our A Team did this past weekend), they feel like they must "study everything." Then they think that this means an incredible amount of work, then usually just shut down.

Quizbowl does take work, indeed, but i'm just having a very hard time inspiring these teenagers to actually do much of it at all, or at least, enough that it will matter.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by cvdwightw » Thu Sep 30, 2010 3:29 pm

Carangoides ciliarius wrote:they feel like they must "study everything." Then they think that this means an incredible amount of work, then usually just shut down.
Again, look at every class they have. Look at every other academic extracurricular out there. These kids are in the mindset that in order to succeed, they have to know everything, because that is drilled into them by every class they are taking and every other academic extracurricular they are doing. It's a real system shock when they encounter an activity in which buzzing correctly on 20% of the questions in a game is considered really good. Remember also that most of these kids are really competitive and used to winning "smart" things, so when they encounter a team that beats them 500-10 or whatever, that's a huge blow to their self-esteem.

I really don't have any good ideas for how to overcome either of these huge stumbling blocks (the mindset that they need to know everything to be a successful player, and the giant ego smack when they get blown out by a team that's practiced more), but I think they are probably the two biggest issues with getting smart kids to accept the challenge of becoming a good quizbowl player.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant » Thu Sep 30, 2010 6:10 pm

Hilltopper22 wrote:This is an interesting misconception about people who are good at quizbowl that I've heard quite often. I was staffing a local tournament a couple years ago where a coach told his team (after a blowout loss) that the captain of the opposing team had "no friends" and proceeded to tell his team that they shouldn't feel bad for losing because at least they had a social life. This was somewhat mystifying, considering that the player in question had (and still does have) a very active social life, and is much better at quizbowl than I was in high school, even though I actually didn't have a social life.
I can't get over how bad an example for the students that is.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Carambola! » Thu Sep 30, 2010 10:52 pm

Make quizbowl pracices more fun. There's a foosball table, video games, and Settlers of Catan at my house that we play after every meeting, and that usually brightens the freshmen who have been sitting there for one or two hours getting very few questions. While video games may not be possible, having an occasional board game or something after the meeting couldn't hurt. Keeping people entertained goes a long way toward keeping people coming back, and I prefer keeping things fun over keeping things overly serious. Having separate practices for inexperienced players would be good as well; hold back the skilled players and read packets that everyone feels they can get. CMST, for example. If people keep coming to practices and tournaments, improvement should come naturally.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Edward Elric » Thu Sep 30, 2010 11:58 pm

laserphaser wrote:Make quizbowl pracices more fun. There's a foosball table, video games, and Settlers of Catan at my house that we play after every meeting, and that usually brightens the freshmen who have been sitting there for one or two hours getting very few questions. While video games may not be possible, having an occasional board game or something after the meeting couldn't hurt. Keeping people entertained goes a long way toward keeping people coming back, and I prefer keeping things fun over keeping things overly serious. Having separate practices for inexperienced players would be good as well; hold back the skilled players and read packets that everyone feels they can get. CMST, for example. If people keep coming to practices and tournaments, improvement should come naturally.
Jeffrey made another good point which is that you can always meet together and practice on questions at somebodys house. It doesn't always have to be practice twice a week in room XXX from X-Y. You can make it fun and not just a chore that you do twice a week (which I know is how some people from my HS viewed it at times).
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Fri Oct 01, 2010 12:00 am

laserphaser wrote:Make quizbowl pracices more fun. There's a foosball table, video games, and Settlers of Catan at my house that we play after every meeting, and that usually brightens the freshmen who have been sitting there for one or two hours getting very few questions. While video games may not be possible, having an occasional board game or something after the meeting couldn't hurt. Keeping people entertained goes a long way toward keeping people coming back, and I prefer keeping things fun over keeping things overly serious.
Anybody that knows me knows our practices are very laid-back and fun. It's part of the reason why, actually, i think so many terrible players keep coming and not caring if they get good at all: they enjoy just hanging around apparently.
Having separate practices for inexperienced players would be good as well; hold back the skilled players and read packets that everyone feels they can get.
I have tried doing this but i can only commit to two afternoons a week and rarely enough people show up to justify splitting up practice in an organized way. For example, on Wednesday at about 3:30, there were 3 kids in the room (school had been over for a half hour). By 3:50 there were about 8. By 4:15 there were about 12. And then by 5pm, everyone was gone. Today, a total of 2 students were there from 3:10 til 3:45. Then 3 students were there until about 4:15. Then about 6 of them until 5:15. There are so many other clubs eating up their time that there are never more than 5 people at practice on time anymore.
CMST, for example.
We read those the first couple weeks. They were both excited to hear middle school "easy" questions and then crushed when they still were not very good at them. Then, naturally, the team lost to Longfellow Middle School last weekend.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Charbroil » Fri Oct 01, 2010 1:20 am

Carangoides ciliarius wrote:
CMST, for example.
We read those the first couple weeks. They were both excited to hear middle school "easy" questions and then crushed when they still were not very good at them. Then, naturally, the team lost to Longfellow Middle School last weekend.
Have you considered not mentioning that they're middle school questions, and instead simply saying that these are easy and/or introductory questions? That might make people less demoralized.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Papa's in the House » Fri Oct 01, 2010 10:56 am

centralhs wrote:
Another related thing I hear people who don't want to play quizbowl say is that it merely tests "rote" knowledge. I think there is a mindset, even (especially?) among smart people, that discourages knowing lots of things. Many people don't like so-called useless information or the people that possess it.
Does anyone have a good argument against this type of criticism of quiz bowl? The Debate Team at my high school has begun to constantly trash our quiz bowl team, saying that it is all about "learning and regurgitating useless facts."
One of the things my friend (a former debate team captain) and I frequently discuss is how similar debate is to quiz bowl. She once made that comment to me and I proceeded to say the same thing about debate. After talking about it a bit longer, she realized that both members of the debate team and quiz bowl players need to have a basic understanding of "useless" information in order to do the things they want (buzz in on a tossup or figure out a policy decision). I would just point this out to the debate team next time they make this comment. Knowing the topic they will be discussing at their next debate and being able to draw examples based on that topic will certainly help you make your point.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Cheynem » Fri Oct 01, 2010 11:23 am

Mr. C:

At the risk of sounding blunt, you might be putting too much pressure on your kids. A lot of your recent posts seem to suggest your frustration that your kids don't know as much as you would like them to. That's certainly an understandable response, but sometimes students pick up on this frustration from their coach and resent it.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Fri Oct 01, 2010 11:57 am

Cheynem wrote:Mr. C:

At the risk of sounding blunt, you might be putting too much pressure on your kids. A lot of your recent posts seem to suggest your frustration that your kids don't know as much as you would like them to. That's certainly an understandable response, but sometimes students pick up on this frustration from their coach and resent it.
I get you, Mike. I try not to do this, though. I will say that in this thread i have been much more blunt and negative than i am in-person with the kids. I'm sure, though, that it comes off that way occasionally. I try not to.
Mr. Andrew Chrzanowski
Caesar Rodney High School
Camden, Delaware
CRHS '97-'01
University of Delaware '01-'05
CRHS quizbowl coach '06-'12
http://crquizbowl.edublogs.org

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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Francis the Talking France » Sun Oct 03, 2010 1:16 pm

I was at my first tournament at Tar Heel Cup, and we had a girl who felt sick maybe 5 or 6 questions into the 1st round and asked to leave, and never came back. Now knowing this about her, she excels in school, and never came to a meeting prior to the tournament. Our coach basically just asked her during English Class (because he's her teacher) to try quiz bowl. Needless to say that she was shocked by these questions and was very mad when she knew the bonuses, but didn't know the tossups. I'm not sure if she was nervous or actually sick, but I believe she took the worst approach possible.

Another kid had this look on his face as if he was so confused by every single question. He wasn't analyzing anything either, he just sat there with his head in the clouds. Needless to say we did have 3 players for 95 questions (not including bonuses), we only won 1 of 5 games. Me and another teammate answered some questions, but we knew we were at a disadvantage with inexperience.

If kids aren't taught to not get down on themselves, then they will fail and never come back. It's simple fact. Quiz Bowl is like no other thing I have ever tried. I tried out for Jeopardy and there was no studying involved and I made it to Raleigh last June for the pre-actual show tryout. Jeopardy is basically like the last sentence of a tossup in quiz bowl. So much simplicity. Quiz Bowl requires analyzing, studying, re-studying and high morale. I know this is going way back to the top of the thread, but I just wanted to leave my 2 cents as my first real post on this forum.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Sun Oct 03, 2010 1:36 pm

Good points, dude. Welcome to the forums.

I'll reiterate that this has been a helpful thread and i've appreciated all the responses. Hopefully i'm not the only person/coach/team that's been given good advice through this.
Mr. Andrew Chrzanowski
Caesar Rodney High School
Camden, Delaware
CRHS '97-'01
University of Delaware '01-'05
CRHS quizbowl coach '06-'12
http://crquizbowl.edublogs.org

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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Edward Powers » Sun Oct 03, 2010 11:06 pm

Coach Chrzanowski,

Going back to your original inquiry, I do not think there has been a generational change. My guess is these things go in cycles for all but the greatest programs, and even they would probably admit they have "down" seasons as well. Just think of Trey last year---he's a member of the current generation, but he surely loved and understood the demands of quizbowl and tried to promote it as well as he could.

So, keep the faith, have some fun with your kids, and things should eventually turn around.


Edited: For concision.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by scquizbowl » Thu Oct 21, 2010 3:13 pm

It's like what happened when I was in school. Some of the smartest students, who had over a 4.5 GPA (our scale goes to 5), took all IB classes, and were ranked in the top 5-10 of my class, never touched a buzzer (or were afraid to). We had our regional QUEST tournament, and we had trouble even getting players because they were worried that they would miss questions.

Back when I started as a freshman, we had about a dozen students who would attend practice, but after a few practices and a couple tournaments, they went away. We had to tempt them with free pizza in order to keep them coming. Several of them just attended because of that. Other people were worn out by the 3 practices a day.

The ones that we did get on the QUEST team, usually never came back; or they were too nervous to answer. One year in the QUEST finals (we had 3-person teams), I answered every question except one. It hurt us in our progression as a program.

By the time I was a junior, we had about five people on the team. I recruited a couple people for the team, and they helped a little bit, but they rarely contributed.

Most of the kids on the team were naturally smart, but I worked as hard as everybody else even with just a 3.0 GPA and one AP class.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Ras superfamily » Thu Oct 21, 2010 4:30 pm

scquizbowl wrote:Other people were worn out by the 3 practices a day.
I think you found your problem
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by Steeve Ho You Fat » Thu Oct 21, 2010 4:43 pm

TheCopleyIndian wrote:
scquizbowl wrote:Other people were worn out by the 3 practices a day.
I think you found your problem
I thought I was dedicated. People who practice 15 times per week have corrected me.
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Re: "This makes me feel stupid. I don't think i'm coming back."

Post by David Riley » Wed Oct 27, 2010 3:41 pm

I think another issue here is that, with the advent of good quiz bowl, the transition from middle school to high school is that much harder, especially if said middle school does not academically strong. Our freshmen is half of what it used to be--so far, one has left but the others so far are sticking with it.
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