Various Thoughts on New England QB

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Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by deserto » Wed Jul 11, 2012 9:38 pm

Greetings,

I have played quiz bowl for Hanover (NH) High since the fall of my freshman year and have participated in probably 30-35 events in VT, NH, and elsewhere in New England. I have accumulated lots of experience and thoughts on the state of New England quiz bowl, which I think may be helpful, or at least informative, to those reading this forum.

Out of the 240 teams that played in this year's NAQT HSNCT, only 2 were from New England. This number is far too low and speaks to the relative lack of established circuits in most parts of NE. Traditionally, the winner of the VT-NEA Scholars' Bowl is the only team from Vermont that attends a national tournament (usually HSNCT, but inadvisably NASAT in 2010); this is likely because the Scholars' Bowl winner earns an all expenses-paid trip to the national of their choice, while any other team that wishes to attend a national must foot the cost themselves. I was excited that 5 teams from Vermont, including two from South Burlington, attended HSNCT last year. This year, however, the improved South Burlington unfortunately did not attend. Vermont QB is, IMO, the most organized and pyramidal of any NE state's. The year-long Scholars' Bowl league keeps teams engaged throughout the academic year, with three scattered pyramidal tournaments, as well as numerous regional and playoff competitions on NAQT IS-A, SC, and lighting rd. questions. I wish there were more standard-difficulty tournaments in Vermont, but I'm not going to complain, especially given the comparatively dismal state of QB next door in NH. It will be interesting to watch the evolution of QB in Vermont over the next couple of years, as longtime TD Kevin Commo may be moving out-of-state and I have heard from my coach that longtime CVU coach John Bennett may be retiring, at least from coaching, within the next year or two.

Hanover, my school, is the only one to have hosted a pyramidal tournament in NH. We drew 15 schools, most from in state, to a novice tournament, which I thought went over well, in February. In April, however, I received just one registration from the approximately fifty hand-signed, hand-addressed invitations to the NH NAQT Championship I sent to coaches and was forced to cancel the tournament. The pyramidal circuit in NH is basically non-existent; I and a teammate of mine, Graham, have been trying to build it up slowly but have not met with much success. Phillips Exeter went to a number of good tournaments this year and was very successful, however they were no-shows at NHBB and HSNCT and NSC, all of which they had registered for. It would sure be nice to see PEA step up and host a tournament, perhaps on an HSAPQ or quality house-written set, but they may first need to work on internal organization and actually going to the tournaments for which they sign up. NHQBL and Granite State Challenge, both of which use terrible, one-line questions with inconsistent and strange distributions and which are played on unfair, irrational formats, are the predominant academic competitions in the state. NHQBL, whose tournaments are all round-robin style with ten-minute rounds run on hose-packed Academic Hallmarks questions, draws some talented teams who would likely enjoy pyramidal QB and do reasonably well at it. NHQBL is run by my coach, Mr. Murphy, which has been a point of contention between us for awhile. Mr. Murphy is well-intentioned but I think fails to realize that bad questions on a bad format do arguably more harm than good, are not fun, and may be the reason why NHQBL tournaments tend to have rather sparse attendance. Having played in many an NHQBL regional, I can say that the competition is simply a lot less fun, lively, intellectually stimulating, and fair than pyramidal QB. Mr. Murphy is at best reluctant to promote pyramidal quiz bowl, which makes me pessimistic about the prospects for good QB in NH. I still believe, though, that the potential for pyramidal QB to be successful here, perhaps under the auspices of a Texas Quiz Bowl Alliance-like organization, exists. (What ever happened to that New England QB organization of Guy Tabachnick, Christian Carter, et al?) With Granite State Challenge on hiatus (perhaps a permanent one, seeing as the NH House do not look likely to restore NHPTV's funding), now may be as good a time as ever to start up such an organization; it could run several tournaments a year and open them to other NE teams to ensure sizable fields.

Although I'm going to college in the midwest, I still feel invested in New England quiz bowl and would like to see it grow and thrive. I truly appreciate the work Matt Jackson, Bob Pirrie, Dallas Simons, the aforementioned Mr. Commo, and others have done to better the state of the competition we all know and love in New England. Clearly, though, there is lots left to be done. I think running tournaments on easy, and I mean easy, sets is a good place to start. In VT, even IS-A TUs generally go to the FTP before being answered or go dead. Honestly, I think there is a place for MSNCT-level or below questions in NH and even VT HS quizbowl.

Thanks for reading this long post; I'm very interested in hearing people's ideas and thoughts on the subject.
Gabe Brison-Trezise
ex-Hanover High School,
Kenyon College

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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by biggiebird89 » Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:41 pm

Having come from a format in upstate New York similar to the GSC (especially the bad one-line questions, odd distributions, awkward formatting, etc), I didn't realize that QB was THAT well-respected and organized in VT (where I attended college until May '11). When myself and a couple of others tried our hand at organizing a novice tournament for VT/NH teams in 2010, we didn't expect the level of competition to be as dedicated and intrigued as it was, and even then in the 2nd incarnation of the tournament. It was a satisfying experience both years to provide an opportunity for teams to hone their skills and display their knowledge, even at a novice setting, especially in a region of VT that has generally underwhelmed themselves when it came to providing challenging teams/teams to just show up period to regional/State play.

I have earned a great deal of respect through dealing with Kevin and Bill for their assistance in helping our tournament to become the independent success that it has become, and we're very happy that there's nearly a 95% chance it will be going on for a 3rd year this coming fall. I have tossed around the idea of opening up this tournament to teams from Maine as well because, quite honestly, I'd never heard a PEEP out of ANYONE concerning ANY teams/leagues active in Maine at all, and if you're talking New England, ALL 6 states should be documented. I totally agree that Vermont has one Hell of a system for QB with their formatting, and to see any sort of shift in this would be disparaging to the overall structure and status of the play. I feel like NE QB is one of those regions/subjects that doesn't get much attention due to the lack of other circuits similar to Vermont. New Hampshire has some INCREDIBLY powerful teams (i.e. Hanover, PEA, etc), so why New Hampshire can't follow suit I think most don't seem to follow. Even some kind of "New England NAQT championship" or "Tournament of Champions" in the late spring as some kind of event would be a GREAT way to foster a united stance on QB in the region.
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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by Rahulr » Tue Dec 25, 2012 10:17 pm

I do agree that QB in New England is overall rather weak, but among us Vermont does have the most structured system and is the most involved state. I myself am from a bordering suburb of Boston, and I am surprised to see that there's hardly any awareness about quizbowl in the area. There are events such as MIT Fall Tournament, Harvard Fall Tournament, High School Quiz Show (WGBH), but really that's it.

I learnt about quizbowl at MIT Splash, and was immediately drawn to it. Now, I have established a quizbowl team at my high school which has definitely raised some awareness. I am in a bit of trouble though because there are hardly any tournaments in Eastern Mass (or all of MA for that matter) besides very few.

I am now working with other schools in the area to promote quizbowl, and we're definitely leading up to having NAQT events and state championships and all that. For some reason, however, NHBB as well as Math and Science competitions are fairly popular among the academic crowd of Massachusetts, so I'm surprised that quizbowl isn't.

Anyway it's interesting to hear thoughts from others in New England. Thanks guys.
Rahul Ramakrishnan
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Belmont High School '16
Belmont, MA

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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Wed Dec 26, 2012 2:26 am

Hello Rahul, and welcome to quizbowl!

Quizbowl awareness is rather new in eastern Massachusetts, but its expansion and growth is a real project for several of us. For example, MIT has brought back its fall and spring tournaments, and has been doing a lot besides in the realm of outreach and expansion (such as the talk you heard). I expect that by the time you're an upperclassman in high school, there will be a significant amount more quizbowl competition going on in Massachusetts than ever before.

I'd encourage you guys to travel a little further into Connecticut, where there are always some tournaments each year. Consider the Connecticut Invitational at UConn on February 2, only 90 minutes away. In addition, my own Yale University is well within driving range of Belmont; we host two tournaments each year, and while this school year's Fall Academic Tournament (FAcT) already happened (with 10 Massachusetts teams in attendance), we'll again be welcoming teams from Massachusetts at our Bulldog High School Academic Tournament (BHSAT) in March. Those events plus MIT's spring tournament, the MITBAT, should offer three solid chances at competition within a reasonable radius of you.

Feel free to email me at matthew.jackson@yale.edu if you have any questions about getting your team off the ground or jumpstarting other events in the area. I'd also be glad to join in the discussions you're starting up about establishing new tournaments if you'd like me to provide additional guidance. I'm curious to know which other schools you're working with and whether they could be invited to these three tournaments.
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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by Great Bustard » Wed Dec 26, 2012 6:44 pm

Hi Rahul,
Welcome to the forums (and quizbowl)! Just to clarify regarding NHBB, NHBB is different from all-subject tournaments to be sure, but on the other hand, NHBB "is quizbowl" in a way that almost every other single subject competition at the high school level (i.e. Science Bowl, Science Olympiad, various math competitions, etc.) is not. Our questions are pyramidal in format, and are written by highly experienced quizbowl players who write for HSAPQ. Without exception, any tossup that you'll hear at an NHBB tournament could also come up in a "normal" quizbowl tournament (provided the difficulty is comparable). Also, our approach to history is very all-encompassing, with history of the arts, sciences, religion, popular culture, historical geography, recent history, etc., so there's lots of crossover appeal even for players who are not the standard history specialists on their teams.
We have 2 tournaments coming up in Eastern Massachusetts in the next few months - at Everett on Jan. 26, and Lexington on March 9. Both of these will be well-attended (probably 20-30 teams in Everett, and 30-40 teams in Lexington), and it would be great if you'd consider joining us! You might also be interested in our resources guide (for all subjects, not just history), and links to past questions from our tournaments if you'd like to get a sense of what our questions look like. These can be found here: http://www.historybowl.com/study-guide/
Hope this helps - feel free to email me at director@historybowl.com if you have any other questions about NHBB or quizbowl in general.
David Madden
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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by Rahulr » Fri Dec 28, 2012 12:05 pm

Thanks to both David and Matt for your wonderful and extremely helpful advice and guidance. You can take it as granted that you'll be seeing Belmont at tournaments such as BHSAT and NHBB along with others as well.

Hearing all these wonderful opportunities and such great support has really changed my mind on quizbowl, and I am now far more confident that Belmont will be able to embrace this opportunity even further.

I believe that another reason Massachusetts, and New England in its entirety, is overall weak in the quizbowl arena is mainly because of lack of awareness. For example, almost everyone knows about the show Jeopardy! and they all absolutely love to watch it and see how many questions they can answer. Also, you may know of High School Quiz Show, a trivia competition televised by WGBH. Many people are fond of it and also test their knowledge while watching it.

However, when someone (like myself) brings up quizbowl, they are somewhat clueless as to what it is. They know it has something to do with trivia, but beyond that, really nothing. Because of this lack of knowledge on what quizbowl is, potential players are more reluctant to attend meetings. If these people were exposed to what quizbowl is and had a good understanding of it, they'd be much more likely to join and try out for the team.

I believe that the solution to strengthening New England quizbowl would first be to make people more aware of it. This could be done by having established QB teams directly contact schools in the area to come attend their tournaments, because schools with ragtag (for lack of a better word) teams checking forums and such is highly unlikely.

Once again, thank you for your advice and assistance. I'll be sure to contact you should I require guidance/assistance.
Rahul Ramakrishnan
President, BHS Quizbowl
Belmont High School '16
Belmont, MA

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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by rpirrie » Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:25 pm

Hello Rahul, glad you will be able to come to CT INV IV.
I found your comment on directly contacting schools interesting. Hooking this up with Biggiebird's comment on Maine, I'd be interested in getting a discussion going about Maine and Rhode Island. Both states are off the radar. I actually did as you suggested on my own initiative; I wrote to 5 RI schools in our area (only 1 hour away from Storrs). I addressed my letters to the principal and head of science departments (I am a bit prejudiced being a chemistry teacher myself). I wasn't surprised to get only one response, but it still poses the question of how to expand quiz bowl into areas where it doesn't seem to be well known. One hint I got from my one respondent is that their school can't afford a quiz bowl team (is school budgeting very bad in ME and RI?); I tried to tell him that it costs very little to start a team but to no avail. I'd be very willing to work on this problem, but I'd love to hear some additional ideas on how to do it.
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E. O. Smith High School

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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by biggiebird89 » Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:41 am

Unfortunately in this area of the US (a very rural one at that), most schools who are undergoing budget issues are going to be less likely to take an investment in something (regardless of how much it'd matter to the kids). I know at my former HS (where I sub at a teacher), I attempted to talk my former coaches into hosting their first tournament (SCOP mirror) as a fundraiser for the team (that would've done HUGE given the region of teams), but was told (unlike in the past) that 1.) interest was down in terms of having a team and 2.) even if interest was there in having a team, funding for said team throughout the year was going to be limited at very best. Most schools would rather cut their losses than to take a personal hit and pay for (or split up between coaches) entry payments for tournaments or league play. Sad, but true.

In terms of Maine and Rhode Island....that's a bit more tricky. Maine could generally not have many teams at all or no league, and RI may have teams but not many interested. Especially with so many tournaments nearby (Harvard, Prison Bowl, all of VT's events, etc), there's no real reason why teams can't get involved. Perhaps it might be worth it to continue directly contacting schools with a letter to the c/o "Quiz Bowl/Trivia Team" and see how far it goes....as long as the message is getting to the schools, it's really up in their hands from there. You can lead the horse to water, but you can't force it to drink - similarly, you can lead the school to quiz-bowl, but you can't make them play (especially if circumstances prevent them from doing so).
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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Tue Jan 01, 2013 6:19 pm

Rahulr wrote: I believe that the solution to strengthening New England quizbowl would first be to make people more aware of it. This could be done by having established QB teams directly contact schools in the area to come attend their tournaments, because schools with ragtag (for lack of a better word) teams checking forums and such is highly unlikely.
You're very perceptive to note that direct contact is a necessary step to drawing good-sized fields and reaching out to people who might not check the forums. Yale sends an email directly to every team on our contact list each time we host a high school tournament, and several other events in the area do so as well. If you have specific "ragtag" schools in mind, you should definitely forward me the email addresses you've been contacting so we can reach out directly to them. Otherwise it's hard to know who we're supposed to look out for. (We've never gathered the resources to do a physical mailing, but other schools such as Centennial Maryland have done them to good results.)

I personally think it's best to focus my efforts on Connecticut and Massachusetts, where they seem to be bearing actual fruit, than to keep casting after Rhode Island and Maine, but if anyone has any actual real live contacts in those areas I'd be glad to talk to them. I've seen no evidence to support Garrett's hopes that any teams play any format of question-and-answer with buzzers in those states.
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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by deserto » Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:44 am

I'll jump in here to say that, for a tournament we hosted at Hanover last year, I sent physical invitations to 6-8 Maine schools and email invitations to as many more and got no replies. Like Matt, I have seen no indication that Maine or Rhode Island has any form of organized quiz bowl. It would be wonderful to have some schools from either state develop teams and send them to tournaments, especially since there are now several annual tournaments - Harvard Fall, and MIT's and Yale's fall and spring tournaments - not too far afield (except possibly for northern ME schools).

Phone calls might be a better way to encourage that development. It's very easy for administrators - for lack of a better option, I addressed most of my letters to the school principal - to disregard an email or a form letter in a #10 envelope. If you can get someone from the school on the phone and have them listen to your pitch, which would have to consist of a brief explanation of quiz bowl in addition to tournament details, I imagine your chance of success would be much higher. Still, there are a lot of barriers to entry. The team needs a faculty member or other staff person to serve as chaperon/coach, and just to participate in a tournament, they need transportation, funding, etc.

Finding and engaging with individuals involved in other academic competitions - science bowl, ocean sciences bowl, academic decathlon, television quiz shows - might be the most productive recruitment method. Since the infrastructure for a team already exists, making the transition to pyramidal qb would presumably not be that difficult. I'm betting that's part of the reason why MIT has had such great success bringing aboard so many Massachusetts teams that participated in the WGBH show.
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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by kcommo » Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:19 pm

deserto wrote:I'll jump in here to say that, for a tournament we hosted at Hanover last year, I sent physical invitations to 6-8 Maine schools and email invitations to as many more and got no replies. Like Matt, I have seen no indication that Maine or Rhode Island has any form of organized quiz bowl.
I've been involved in quiz bowl since 1995 and the only time I've ever seen a team from Maine or Rhode Island was at Panasonic. Oak Hill from Sabbatus represented Maine at PAC for several years in the late 90s and early 2000s but I've never seen them compete elsewhere, and I didn't get a response when I tried to invite them the early versions of my tournaments.

And even when Brown was hosting high school tournaments, no schools from RI showed up.
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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by rpirrie » Wed Jan 16, 2013 2:27 pm

So, we concentrate on Massachusetts and Connecticut in Southern New England. Of course, we should keep the north/south connection going--can any of you northerners join us southerners at CT INV IV? I remember having Hanover at last year's tourney, which added considerably to the range of abilities at the event. We just scrounged up 4 more playing rooms, so we have room for 8 more teams. Let me know what you think! And if you can come down, please reply on the forum, to give our tourney a "bump". Thanks!
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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by AKKOLADE » Wed Jan 16, 2013 3:19 pm

Re: recruiting schools that don't have teams: it's worth a try. Email the principal, or an activities director if one exists; it's a low effort way to get an invitation out that could yield rewards.
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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by kcommo » Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:32 pm

rpirrie wrote:So, we concentrate on Massachusetts and Connecticut in Southern New England. Of course, we should keep the north/south connection going--can any of you northerners join us southerners at CT INV IV? I remember having Hanover at last year's tourney, which added considerably to the range of abilities at the event. We just scrounged up 4 more playing rooms, so we have room for 8 more teams. Let me know what you think! And if you can come down, please reply on the forum, to give our tourney a "bump". Thanks!
Feb. 2 is also the first day of the Vermont-NEA Scholars' Bowl playoffs so all our teams are already playing that day.
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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by jessbowen » Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:50 pm

Is it possible to use financial incentives to encourage first time schools or states? Often in registration fees, there are discounts for bringing buzzers and readers. What if a tournament offered a discount to any team from Maine or Rhode Island and/or any school for whom this was their first Quiz Bowl tournament? (that might be hard to verify and might need to rely on an honor system.)

I know the burden of the lost revenue would be borne by the sponsoring institution, but in the long run, it could lead to more revenues as more schools get involved?

Just trying to think outside the box.
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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by Tanay » Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:56 pm

jessbowen wrote:Is it possible to use financial incentives to encourage first time schools or states? Often in registration fees, there are discounts for bringing buzzers and readers. What if a tournament offered a discount to any team from Maine or Rhode Island and/or any school for whom this was their first Quiz Bowl tournament? (that might be hard to verify and might need to rely on an honor system.)
This is definitely done in other parts of the country. The California Cup offers a $50 discount for new schools, and it's been a substantial incentive for registration.
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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by rpirrie » Thu Mar 07, 2013 12:19 pm

In the meantime, gotta get a buzz going about the regional! Chime in, commit to coming, keep related threads going.
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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by njsbling » Fri Mar 08, 2013 10:13 am

Yes, having large discounts for new teams (along with discounts for bringing a buzzer/scorekeeper, etc) are good incentives for getting new teams to play quiz bowl. Currently, I don't think the problem with Maine is the fees that are charged at tournaments in other states, but that Maine schools are just not aware of the Quiz Bowl circuit in New England (I am currently working on outreach to Maine; hopefully we can run a tournament in April in Maine (still working on getting a host)).
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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by rpirrie » Thu Mar 21, 2013 7:48 am

Hello--just hoping for a field update for the New England regionals. Thanks.
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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by rpirrie » Thu May 30, 2013 3:58 pm

Congratulations to Lexington on going 8 - 5 at nationals , taking 33rd place. We went up against them at the New England Regionals--they are an excellent team, and deserve their overall standings at HSNCT.
I am wondering if we have any records on whether this is the best showing for a New England team at nationals? I think it may very well be.
Look forward to playing them again next year.
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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by kcommo » Thu May 30, 2013 6:40 pm

rpirrie wrote:Congratulations to Lexington on going 8 - 5 at nationals , taking 33rd place. We went up against them at the New England Regionals--they are an excellent team, and deserve their overall standings at HSNCT.
I am wondering if we have any records on whether this is the best showing for a New England team at nationals? I think it may very well be.
Look forward to playing them again next year.
I think that ties the best showing by a New England team at NAQT. Hanover was 8-5 last year (http://www.naqt.com/stats/team-performa ... m_id=41777) and Champlain Valley was 8-5 in 2011 (http://www.naqt.com/stats/team-performa ... m_id=32643). But either way, it's still really impressive for a first- or second-year program.

To my knowledge, the highest finish for a New England team at any national tournament was Burlington's fourth pace at Panasonic in 2001 but that was in a ridiculous format and in a field of only around 40 teams. St. John's Prep and New Milford ("Team Waramaug") had top-25 finishes at Beall Bowl in 2000 (http://www.qbwiki.com/wiki/2000_NAC), and that's the highest I know of in a head-to-head quiz bowl format, though I don't think there are good records out there for the tournaments further back than the late 90s.

And while I'm at it, Plymouth Regional (N.H.) also deserves a major shoutout for its great showing at History Bowl this year, winning the small-school national championship and reaching the overall quarterfinals -- going 12-2. I saw them in two events and it's too bad they didn't participate on the regional quiz bowl circuit because they're really good. They went 3-1 against Hanover across various formats so I think they would have given the other top teams in the region a run for their money.
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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by rpirrie » Fri Jun 21, 2013 8:38 am

Hello—just posting a question I sent out to interested people through email, regarding possible participation in WBGH's High School Quiz Show.I am in contact with the folks at WGBH, and I am interested in getting together a CT contingent for the show, or starting up a similar program through CPTV. WGBH has been encouraging. So, I am interested in knowing…
--how would you folks in MA describe the impact high school quiz show has had on MA Quizbowl?
--is anyone in CT interested in putting together a 4 team contingent?

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Re: Various Thoughts on New England QB

Post by vcpavao » Sat Aug 03, 2013 10:49 pm

Bob -

From my quiz bowl experience with my high school (I participate in both HSQS and Quiz Bowl tournaments), I can confidently say that the two are distinct. The main difference is question format: High School Quiz Show gives straightforward, predictable questions that last no longer than one sentence, while quiz bowl tournaments, such as HSAPQ and NAQT, offer much harder, deep questions that offer the opportunity for "power" points and bonus questions. Pretty much apples and oranges.

Most schools study for the two events differently. The only way to really study for HSQS is to pay attention in school, review basic concept material, and read the news, (although NAQT "you gotta know" lists do help). Quiz bowl tournaments incorporate topics at a more in-depth, difficult level - long questions starting from very specific to more general (I'm sure you're familiar).

I personally find the tournaments much more interesting, rewarding, and challenging. It's fun to have that game show experience, but it really winds down to who has the faster thumb, not who knows more. For example, my high school Acton-Boxborough beat Hingham on HSQS, yet Hingham performed significantly better at the HSAPQ in the Spring.

Hope this information helps.

Victor Pavao
Acton-Boxborough '14, Villanova '18
Somerville, MA

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