Why go to Nationals?

Dormant threads from the high school sections are preserved here.
Coach of AHAN Jr.
Posts: 1975
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2004 9:42 pm

Why go to Nationals?

Post by Tegan »

I'm pretty excited this year: I will be keeping score for NAQT in Rosemont, keeping score for PACE, and then coaching as a last minute replacement at Panasonic...It'll be my first real exposure to Nationals, and I figure it will be at three of the Major nationals, under three different formats. For all teams at all events: best of luck and may your journeys be safe.

As I read Dr. Chuck's last entry under the New Orleans thread, it got me wondering....what exactly is the purpose of a national championship tournament?

My take (and it might change over the next month) is that these tournaments are for the best teams to compete, challenge each other at the highest level, and win (at least a share of) the mythical national title (or at least try to place). In other words, if you really aren't "national" caliber, you should probably stay home.

Looking around, I am seeing that this is not what many (most?) think...it seems that some look at this as a reward, no matter how bad the season. If you can beat up on 15 weak teams, you're in to take a trip and get your skulls collectively bashed by some real talent.

I'm curious as to what the general feeling is.....I really think my team was not good enough to face a national caliber team this year (maybe in two years), yet I know of at least two teams we beat this year, and another two last year who are making long trips to Nationals. Are nationals supposed to be for the best in the nation, or is it good that some fodder shows up to be blasted.

User avatar
First Chairman
Posts: 3875
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2003 8:21 pm
Location: Fairfax VA

Post by First Chairman »

I guess having done this for a few years (and I still consider myself generally young :) ), there are definitely different views of what "nationals" is all about. This happens with all major competitions that I've organized or taken part in.
  • There is the elite group of teams that want to prove themselves as the best team in the nation.

    There is the group of teams that want to develop themselves into becoming among the elite group.

    There is the group of teams that is excited to be competing at a national even though they know they're not "good enough" to compete.

    There is the group of teams that are not that excited because they know they have no shot and it's just a "vacation."
For competitions like the NCAA tournament, we know that there are certain conference champions that will have absolutely no shot. That does not dampen their excitement to be in the Tournament, or even the NIT if that is the case.

Each group assigns different value to a national competition, and agreeing with Brother Nigel, I don't think it's worth the breath to criticize those teams that are at one spectrum versus the other. But in my opinion (which I recognize can never be enforced), each team should go to Nationals with a purpose and a goal for its program. That alone is a difference between a team at the fourth level to the third level. The more a team recognizes how much of a commitment they have already taken in enjoying the activity, in my opinion, the higher they rise in the taxonomy.

As organizers of and participants in national competitions, we need to be sure that there is always movement up the ladder. We should do whatever we can to encourage teams to move up the ladder, and we should be sure that the rewards for those who do make the commitment are worth everyone's respect and appreciation for a year's (or longer) worth of hard work.
Emil Thomas Chuck, Ph.D.
Founder, PACE
Facebook junkie and unofficial advisor to aspiring health professionals in quiz bowl
Pimping Green Tea Ginger Ale (Canada Dry)

Posts: 853
Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2003 10:22 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Post by jrbarry »

I like what Dr. Chuck wrote on this topic. I think he has characterized well the 4 different kinds of teams at Nationals.

My view of Nationals has changed over the 25 years I have been coaching this activity. At first (1980s) I went just to find out what other teams were doing in other places. By the early 1990s, I was going to WIN one of 'em. By 2000 I was going to reward for my team for hard work during the regular season. That remains why I go.

If you asked my current players, the ones coming to NAQT and PACE, why they are going to nationals, they would say to win. I am pretty sure my players do not even know my opinion on this as I hide it from them. (Nick and Taylor: you out there???) My opinion of my team will not change one iota regardless of how they finish at NAQT and PACE.

The bottom line is that we have no national champion and we never have had a national champion in any real sense of that word. We have FIVE or even SIX tournaments that claim to produce a national champion. According to each of our own opinions, some of those tournametns are better than others. But none of those tournaments produces a national champion the way the NCAA does or even the way the BCS does.

So, we have no national champion and we have 5-6 teams that can claim that title every year. Makes for good conversation anyway.

Posts: 397
Joined: Tue Apr 22, 2003 10:18 am
Location: Burke, VA

Post by jewtemplar »

It is clear that a national quiz bowl champion cannot be well defined if there are so many tournaments, but I know I for one don't care about whatever prestige the hard and fast title of national champion might bring. I care about competing in, and hopefully winning, the tournaments I judge to have merit. I happen to think that two particular tournaments mean much more than all the others. I know there are teams that compete in "bad (by the rough majority opinion of the board)" nationals for the same reason, and I think it's important that they carefully consider the tournament they are attending. Teams playing QU because they want to win a meaningful national title should understand that this is separate from how "fun" the tournament format is, or the tourism opportunities. I'm not saying that NAQT/PACE are necessarily objectively better, but those teams going for the win should be able to justify their nationals trip as such, not as a reward. My reward is the competition. No amount of sightseeing really compares.

User avatar
Posts: 2170
Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2004 2:12 am
Location: Alabama

Post by quizbowllee »

We will be leaving in about 6 hours for Chicago (by charter bus from Alabama).

I thought I would weigh in on why I'm bringing my team to both NAQT and PACE Nationals. First off, why those two? Because having looked at the various formats and the quality of questions, those two are by far the best.

Secondly, why go at all? Do I think we can/will win?

I told my team and their parents VERY emphatically that this is the first tournament that I have ever taken them to that I KNOW they cannot win. I'm taking them so that they (and I) can see the best and play the best, for that is the only way one can become the best. As most of you know, I have a very young team. I want them to see what it is that we are shooting for so that they will know how far we need to come in the next few years.

As a highly competitive (read: WAY TOO competitive) coach, it's going to kill me to watch them take the kinds of beatings I know that they are going to take, but I think it's a great eye-opener both for them and for me.

Finally, I believe Dr. Chuck was the one who said that each team should have a goal in mind. We certainly do. I think that we have a pretty good shot at the Small Schools Title, and that is our goal for our A-team. Our B-team's goal is NOT to lose every game. However, our main goal is to keep our heads up, play our best, have fun, and learn as much as possible.

See you all in Chicago and Orlando!
Lee Henry
AP English Teacher
Quiz Bowl Coach
West Point High School
Cullman, AL

Posts: 827
Joined: Fri Apr 18, 2003 1:46 pm
Location: Athens, GA / Macon, GA

Post by NoahMinkCHS »

jewtemplar wrote:Teams playing QU because they want to win a meaningful national title should understand that this is separate from how "fun" the tournament format is, or the tourism opportunities.
I agree with this point, but only to a point. Not to be relativistic, but "meaningful" can mean many different things to different teams. While meaningful to many people here means that other people here (i.e., those engaged in this activity as a major hobby) respect their results, meaningful for many teams might be winning the respect of their peers, their school community, or their hometown. And nobody is gonna tell the local newspaper, "Yeah, we won a national title. But you see, it's only one of like 6, and to be honest, most people don't think it's that legitimate. But we did get this nice brass cup for our troubles."

When we made the semifinals at the NAC my sophomore year, we got in the paper. We didn't go through a format lecture, and we didn't explain that a team at the LA phase had a much better chance of making the Final Four than a team anywhere else -- who cares? We'd made a name for ourselves locally, we'd accomplished something worth promoting, and that meant something.

The next year, we finished pretty well -- though certainly not top 4 -- at NAQT. To us -- at least me -- that meant at least as much, if not more. But it barely registered for most people. A friend asked me, the next week, how we did. "Just playoffs? Didn't you guys make the final four last year?" Somehow, I think my brief format comparison didn't explain it -- you wanna explain pyramidality, powers, and speed rounds to the uninitiated? (I think I settled on, "Well, this was a different -- harder, better reputation -- tournament," or something like that.)

What I'm trying to say is, it really depends who you want to impress -- if anyone. Our first year, I think we fell into Dr Chuck's third tier (excited to be there), with aims at the second -- which I think we realized that year. We were glad to be there, LA is wonderful, but we did want to do well, too. I think as the next two years moved on, we moved more towards breaking thru to that first tier, and that was our goal -- to be successful, known, and happy that we'd done as well as we could. I think we did a decent job with that, not sure we made it, though. But it was fun, which was the real goal, anyway.

User avatar
Posts: 85
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2003 10:22 pm
Location: Wauchula, Florida

Post by hardeecoach »

Unfortunately, I think Hardee probably falls into Dr. Chuck's third category: excited to be there but not really a contender. Last year was the first time we ever got to go to nationals (NAQT). We were happy to be there at all and pleased that we came out respectably in the middle. I expect something different at PACE this year, due to the notably smaller field, an unfamiliar format, and the caliber of the teams. I think it's sad that we are the only Florida team at PACE. We do well in our division-- the smaller school districts of the state-- but we don't claim to be the best, by any means. But after getting to meet :kenj: at NAQT last year, some of my team members have become more versed in the "Who's Who" of quiz bowl. Wouldn't a high school basketball player like to play a pick-up game with Shaq or Yao Ming? What a motivator!

Posts: 397
Joined: Tue Apr 22, 2003 10:18 am
Location: Burke, VA

Post by jewtemplar »

NoahMinkCHS wrote: What I'm trying to say is, it really depends who you want to impress -- if anyone.
Sorry for the late response to this one. You probably know that I don't much care about impressing anybody, or else I would devote time to much more high profile competitions. My claim is that the teams really there to win national tournaments must fall into a few categories, one of which is those who are motivated by the desire to compete in a format they judge worthwhile against unparalleled competition. Such a team that attends Chip or Panasonic for this purpose should rethink their choices. Perhaps I am fooling myself into thinking that there is a statistically significant number of such teams at the nationals often disparaged on this board, but I think it would be a shame for them not to have evaluated these curious formats.