Coaches' Corner

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Coaches' Corner

Post by quizbowllee » Mon Sep 12, 2005 9:26 pm

I am starting this thread in the hopes that fellow coaches will be willing to share and discuss strategies, methods, ideas, anecdotes, etc. By doing so, perhaps this can be a useful tool for new (and veteran) coaches.

Here in Alabama, I am often approached and asked about my strategies, philosophies, etc. I'm always glad to share some of my methods. However, I would love to hear some of the ideas from other coaches, particularly from some of the perennial powerhouse schools.

Here are some questions that might help get this started:

1) What does a typical practice session consist of for you?
2) What type of questions do you find most/least useful? What companies offer good prctice material? Which should be avoided? Why?
3) What books, resources, etc. do you use and why? Also, how do you go about using them?
4) Do you give your students tests? If so, what formats? What are the consequences for doing poorly on the tests?
5) How do you handle conflicts with other activities such as sports, band, etc.
6) How do you go about raising funds? What has and hasn't worked in this regard?

You don't have to answer all of these (or any for that matter), these are just suggestions to get started.

Looking forward to hearing from you and sharing ideas.

-Lee
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Post by quizbowllee » Thu Sep 15, 2005 11:00 am

Boy, this thread tanked....

I guess I could start by answering my own questions.

1) Our practices consist mainly of playing actual rounds. I always keep score and make the teams play by all the rules. I believe that you play like you practice. I do, however, explain the things that they miss and make them write them down.
2) I usually use NAQT questions in practice. I also sometimes use ACF packets. These are obviously harder, but it improves depth of knowledge considerably.
3) I actually like Patrick's Press's book of lists. Their questions are terrible, but their study aids and guides are useful.
4) I do give students tests on all of the notes they have taken. I give these tests once they have taken enough notes to justify a test. This used to be about once a week, but lately they have gotten better, so I give a test once a month or so.
5) Conflicts happen. On my team I have several athletes, band members, choir members, etc. I handle them the best that I can. I usually defer to these other activities in the hopes that if I ever desperately need one of these students, then the coaches/sponsors will remember my willingness to share and will reciprocate. So far, this has actually worked.
6) Fund raising stinks. Obviously, we hold tournaments. Also, we host a dance or two a year. We've also held carwashes, yard sales, cell-phone drives, etc. We even got a government grant last year.

Anyway, I'm still hopeful that others will be willing to share some ideas and strategies.
Last edited by quizbowllee on Thu Sep 15, 2005 12:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by ValenciaQBowl » Thu Sep 15, 2005 11:22 am

I'll take the bait, Lee. I coach in a community college and do most of what Lee has described. A couple things we do at Valencia that I've found valuable:

1. In late October, when we've gotten new players settled in for a few weeks, we do a PowerPoint slide show of the 50 or so most commonly asked about paintings. Besides looking at the slide, I emphasize the details that frequently have been mentioned in previous questions. The Carleton Frequency Lists can help in creating something like this.

2. In addition to writing questions each term (something all players should be asked to do), my players pick an area interesting to them and write up a "buzz sheet" on it, providing qb-related basics, which they share with the team in a presentation. This is casual, not formal, but last year I had folks who talked about, for example, the three main slave rebellions that come up (Prosser's, Vesey's, Turner's) or famous presidential scandals or battles of the Second Punic War or novels of Toni Morrison or what have you. The key is letting them work where they're already interested, getting deeper and then sharing. I keep the buzz sheets for future teams. We've got lots of 'em. (Of course, I've made a large number of them myself).

These are a couple things that would be mostly sneered at in a serious four-year college practice, but which work for us and could probably work at the HS level, too.

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Post by quizbowllee » Thu Sep 15, 2005 12:40 pm

ValenciaQBowl wrote:
These are a couple things that would be mostly sneered at in a serious four-year college practice, but which work for us and could probably work at the HS level, too.
Chris, it would be pretty foolish for anyone to sneer at anything you guys are doing - especially when you consider how many of those 4-year schools you guys have beaten over the years.

I like the "buzzer sheet" idea. I might have to use that... I also go over paintings in this manner, although the art distrbution in high school is nowhere near where it should be.
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Post by Matt Weiner » Thu Sep 15, 2005 1:12 pm

ValenciaQBowl wrote:These are a couple things that would be mostly sneered at in a serious four-year college practice, but which work for us and could probably work at the HS level, too.
Any strategy that involves actually learning things to get better instead of complaining that the questions should be rescaled to what one's team already knows is okay in my book. A community college with a serious approach is far superior to a four-year school that whines all the time.
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Post by rchschem » Thu Sep 15, 2005 3:16 pm

At Raleigh Charter we do most of those things in one way or another:

1. Practices are usually round play. We split teams up by age/ability so as not to scare off the young un's, then rearrange as people demonstrate skill.

2. Sometimes we have teachers come in to do presentations on subjects, sometimes specific and sometimes general overviews.

3. We have students write up presentations like Chris' buzz sheet idea from time to time.

4. Our players write questions for our tournament (multi-format, about 700 or so) and learn so much about game play and general knowledge.

5. We generate handouts about common topics (lots of You Gotta Know list pilfering--thanks NAQT!) and have quizzes over them.

6. We also keep player stats in practice. It's a tremendous motivator.

If we can figure out how to get all this stuff into a system, we'll market it. Well, we'll market it once Mr. Barry retires and there's a power vacuum in QB education.

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Post by jrbarry » Fri Sep 16, 2005 9:23 pm

Good one, Eric. "power vaccuum?" maybe in my head! :-)

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Post by jrbarry » Fri Sep 16, 2005 9:47 pm

We use NAQT questions in practice as well as the great questions from past Riverdale, Dorman, Walton, Ezell Harding
and Brookwood tournaments. I want practice questions from which my players can LEARN info.

Most of my practices are competitive tally practicies with tossup after tossup read with pauses for teaching, explaining, and taking notes. We keep stats and a posted Tally ranking at all times. We have a quiz every Thursday in each player's major or minor areas. I have an intricate (haha) system of punishment meted out to kids whose quiz scores fall below their assigned thresholds. Quiz scores are added to the Tally ranking which is the primary way (but not the ONLY criteria) I determine who plays where in our tournaments. I want my practices to be competitive and for my best players to always practice against each other.

We have a booster club including many parents of alums and people who have no real connection to us except we recruited them from local trivias nights. They work our two tournaments and contribute to us annually. We have about 100 people who are not academic team parents who write us an annual check every August. Our two tournaments raise about 50% of our budget. Brookwood football gives us a contribution every year. We sell concessions at school on a limited basis. We write questions for two leagues.

Conflicts are hard to handle and should be handled on a case-by-case basis. Some conflicts cannot be worked out so I just make 'em choose. At my school, you simply cannot do Band and Academic Team OR debate and academic team. I just lost one of my best sophomores to debate. I allow kids ot compete in ONE sport and stay on the team...but not two sports. No one kid (or coach, for that matter) is indispensable.

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Post by quizbowllee » Sun Sep 18, 2005 1:41 pm

Dr. Barry, if you don't mind, I have a few questions about some of your strategies.

1) You say that you read "Tossup after tossup," should I infer from this that you seldom read the bonuses, or do you treat the individual bonus parts like tossups?
2) You said that you want your practices to be competitive and that you have your best players playing against one another. This is something that I've wondered about for a while...
a) Do you not think that it is beneficial to have your best players (ie-your "starters") playing together as much as possible so that they can form a team identity and team unity?
b) I seem to have a problem with my younger and less experienced players not learning much when all the good players are answering all the questions. How do you counter that problem? I see that this is a problem that is going to come back and bite me in the rear in a few years when all of my starters graduate.

Thanks for the input.
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Post by Tegan » Mon Sep 19, 2005 8:04 am

quizbowllee wrote: b) I seem to have a problem with my younger and less experienced players not learning much when all the good players are answering all the questions. How do you counter that problem?
I had the exact same problem..... not only was it frustrating my younger players, but in many cases it was serving as an anti-motivator (I know, even with hard work, I won't be that good, so why bother.)

What I did was devote a small part of practice to playing a variant of a lightning round (even using NAQT style toss-ups which aren't always so "lightning"). Once you rang in with an answer, you were out for five questions. This taught patience, as well as getting other players a chance to ring in. I certainly would NOT do this as a regular way of running practice, but every so often I thought it had a good effect on the team.

In addition, when I had a really good player who was obviously snarfing the questions (read: no point to continuing his/her/its practice for the day because they were already in kick-butt form), I would have them read so I could concentrate on giving critique to the rest of the team. Again, not something I would ever advocate as an everyday tactic, but from time to time it was beneficial for all involved (not to mention giving kids good moderating experience).

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Post by msuter » Mon Sep 19, 2005 11:23 am

First, let me say thanks for starting the "Coach's Corner" thread. I hope the admin will make it a permanent section of the bulletin board. Much of what I have read here has been, at one time or another, discussed in other threads, but it would be very difficult to dig out. I believe more coaches would join the BB if they could go straight to this section for coaching tips and questions and not have to dig through lots of posts they have no interest in.

When I was coaching, I was fortunate in having three assistant coaches, and we had enough kids for multiple teams (we had 25-40 kids). I set up a rotation schedule so that the same kids did not have to play the A team each practice (we practiced 2 times a week for two hours each or 3 times a week for an hour and a half each).

Practices alternated between subject areas (one per coach--math, science, social studies, and "English," which included everything else) and general knowledge. Each coach ran his or her subject area practice based on what was needed and could include quizzes or instruction as well as subject-specific tossup practice. The general practices, which included tossups and bonuses, were always competitive and we kept individual and team stats. We generally allowed three tries on the tossups since we had so many kids. The stats covered correct tossup answers by subject area and incorrect interruptions. I didn't record incorrect answers if the question was complete. Stats were totaled and discussed with the kids at the end of each match. The goal, obviously, was to increase correct answers but particularly to cut down on incorrect interruptions which may or may not result in negative points, depending upon the tournament.

If one student started to dominate either a subject area or general practice, we had several ways of dealing with it. One was to make him or her sit out five minutes (it kills them to have to listen and not answer
':smile:'. Another was to make them wait three seconds after hearing the whole question before they could buzz, which gave the younger kids, who thought they knew the answer but weren't quite sure, an opportunity. If the kid was being a real jerk with ridiculous interruptions (What is...BEEP) or behavior, he had to run 3-5 laps around the hallway where we practiced. If one student dominated his or her subject practice, we switched him to his weakest area. Sometimes we suggested he not come to subject area practice for a day or two if he was particularly dominant and had him write questions instead or read questions.

To get balanced teams, we had each kid sign up for his or her subject-area specialty and for a second choice. I used these choices to get a mix of upper- and under-classmen as well as have all the subject areas covered as much as possible on each team. In addition, we rotated some of the kids on the B-E teams every 3-4 weeks, looking for the right balance and for team chemistry, which I think is probably the most important element of a good team other than their actual knowledge. Once you get the balance, then the kids can begin to develop ownership of their team. I always cringed when we went to tournaments and had to face a team of all 9th graders who just hadn't been exposed yet to the upper level classes and vowed I'd never do that to my kids.

Some years I had kids committed enough that they got together nights and weekends to study and quiz one another--they could always check out question sets; some years, they didn't have that kind of commitment and it showed in the scores and records.

No kid ever had a "guaranteed" spot on the A team--he or she had to earn that spot each year. I had only one freshman ever make the A team and several of the upperclassmen were less than happy. We set up challenge matches, much like the tennis team did, where each person challenging the freshman had to play 100 tossup questions they'd not heard (from all subject areas, not just the challenger's specialty) against him. None of the challengers were successful but at least they felt their concerns had been heard and they had statistical proof that he belonged on the A team.

As far as practice materials, we always began our general practices with Patrick's Press weekly questions, particularly for the current events. Once they were used, then we went to question books, purchased sets, old tournament sets, KMO (you can turn many of the mult. choice into tossups), etc. I would suggest that you purchase as many question sets from tournaments as you can, even if you can't go to the tournament. You can go through thousands of practice questions in four years (if a kid starts as a freshman), and I found that the kids remembered questions they heard four years ago (some could even tell you what tournament they were from), so I usually tried to mark the questions when I used them to avoid the repetition.

As far as competition between QB and other activities, I've worked with some coaches and band directors who allowed the kids to split time once or twice a week; others were inflexible and the kid had to choose. Kids participating in more individual sports, such as golf and cross country, have a better chance of doing both than those in big team sports, such as football or basketball. If kids chose to do both, they understood that the primary playing time went to those who were there for practice. Every year was different and brought different challenges and the use of different techniques.

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Post by quizbowllee » Mon Sep 19, 2005 12:40 pm

msuter wrote:First, let me say thanks for starting the "Coach's Corner" thread. I hope the admin will make it a permanent section of the bulletin board. Much of what I have read here has been, at one time or another, discussed in other threads, but it would be very difficult to dig out. I believe more coaches would join the BB if they could go straight to this section for coaching tips and questions and not have to dig through lots of posts they have no interest in.
Thank you. I thought that this thread was way overdue. I, too, hope that it can become a staple of this board and that it will draw more coaches to post.

I also appreciate all of the feedback. Even with this negligible sample of coaches, I've learned that there are many different ways of coaching. Personally, I've never been one to give students "subjects" that they are to specialize in. This is one of the main reasons that I can't convince any of them to go to ACE Camp, too. It seems that my best players all want to be "General Knowledge" players. I can see that there are some problems with this strategy, but they have done pretty well (and if it ain't broke...).

My argument is this: Let's say that we are playing a team from Uber-High School. Uber-High School has a team of four specialists, whereas I have a team of four incredible gen. knowledge players. A question comes up about Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. Odds are that only the literature expert on Uber-High's team will know the answer, whereas all four of my players will know it (at least by the author). Therefore, their are 5 players in the match with the potential to answer this particular tossup - and 4 of the 5 are mine. This greatly increases our chances of getting the tossup. If I had only one literature player, then thre is a 50% chance he will get it. If all four know the answer, then there is an 80% chance.

Of course, this method has significant challenges. It would be easier to achieve deeper knowledge with specialists, but it seems that this hasn't been a problem yet. The real test for our team (this is only the 2nd year that we've had a high school), has yet to come. However, considering that I had 4 freshmen go 6-5 at PACE and get 3rd in the consolation, I feel confident that they are going to be quite a force their senior year.

Now, the problem I alluded to earlier is this - there is an ENORMOUS discrepancy between my starting four and the rest of my team. You said that the starters are never set in stone and they must earn thier spots each year, and I wholly agree. However, there is not a single player on my team that can even come close to challenging even one of my starters - and they all know that. This causes some complacency.

Anyway, I have tons more comments and thoughts, but this post is getting rather long, so I will end it here and await your feedback and comments.

Thanks.

-Lee
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Post by DumbJaques » Mon Sep 19, 2005 2:41 pm

My argument is this: Let's say that we are playing a team from Uber-High School. Uber-High School has a team of four specialists, whereas I have a team of four incredible gen. knowledge players. A question comes up about Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. Odds are that only the literature expert on Uber-High's team will know the answer, whereas all four of my players will know it (at least by the author). Therefore, their are 5 players in the match with the potential to answer this particular tossup - and 4 of the 5 are mine. This greatly increases our chances of getting the tossup. If I had only one literature player, then thre is a 50% chance he will get it. If all four know the answer, then there is an 80% chance.
Well. . . sure, if you think of quizbowl as a game of chance. But even if it is between 5 players who will only know the answer at the end, it's unrealistic to assume it's going to be 20% that each one might get it all of the time, even any of the time. Buzzer speed, ability to quickly recall something, anticipation. . . all of that factors in.

More importantly, you are assuming that all 5 will know it pretty much only at the end. Granted, not too many general knowledge players are going to be getting a tossup on Master and Margarita before "Bulgakov." But a literature specialist very well could. I'd like to think of myself as pretty much a generalist, but I know enough about the plot/setting/characters of the novel to get it before the author. Are you saying you prefer to give up the first four or five lines of a tossup and just go for the buzzerrace? I'll grant you that strategy will beat people, but it isn't going to beat, to return to your example, the "uber-high school."

Also, I am not a coach. Disregard my puny views accordingly.
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Post by Tegan » Mon Sep 19, 2005 3:26 pm

To at least a certain extent, quizbowl does have an element of chance. Two equally good teams, equally quick, equally experienced, will often times be at the whim of whatever particular questions are in that round.... with one or two being the difference.

Ideally, you would want a team of genknow masters, but I have found that these teams are few and far between. Even at NAQT nationals, I doubt I saw four teams that were truly loaded to the gills that way. I have seen teams where no one was a master of anything, but neither were they particularly fast in any one subject area, and could be beaten. In the absence of that, you need to have some specialists to support your genknow masters. In Illinois, this generally means that you need one or two math people (not a problem in most states, but in Illinois it is rare for a genknow master to also be lightning fast in math .... it happens, but rare).

Lacking a team consisting of the Three Storms led by David Lo Pan, I think you need to have a few specialists.

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Post by jrbarry » Mon Sep 19, 2005 6:52 pm

) You say that you read "Tossup after tossup," should I infer from this that you seldom read the bonuses, or do you treat the individual bonus parts like tossups?

SOME BONUSES I WILL READ CONVERTED TO TOSS-UP STYLE IF POSSIBLE. THAT DEPENDS ON IF I THINK MY TEAM NEEDS TO HEAR THAT PARTICULAR BONUS.

2) You said that you want your practices to be competitive and that you have your best players playing against one another. This is something that I've wondered about for a while...
a) Do you not think that it is beneficial to have your best players (ie-your "starters") playing together as much as possible so that they can form a team identity and team unity?

I HAVE NEVER HAD A KID IN THE TOP 10 ON ANY OF MY TEAMS WHO HAD TROUBLE PLAYING TOGETHER IN MATCHES. I TALK TO THEM ABOUT THAT AND WE PLAY IN LOTS OF TOURNAMENTS TO GET REAL SITUATION PRACTICE IN THAT. I RARELY LET THE TOP 4-5 PLAY ON THE SAME TEAM IN THE QUASI-RARE INSTANCES THAT WE PLAY MATCHES IN PRACTICE. COOPERATION AMONG MY TEAM MEMBERS IN REAL MATCXHES JUST NEVER HAS BEEN A PROBLEM. JUST MY EXPERIENCE.

b) I seem to have a problem with my younger and less experienced players not learning much when all the good players are answering all the questions. How do you counter that problem? I see that this is a problem that is going to come back and bite me in the rear in a few years when all of my starters graduate.

BEST KIDS PRACTICE AGAINST EACH OTHER AND NEXT BEST PRACTICE AGAINST EACH OTHER. POOREST PLAYERS BEVER PRACTICE AGAINST MY BEST PLAYERS AFTER THE FIRST 2 WEEKS OF PRACTICE WHEN I DETERMINE JUST WHO IS THE BEST. I SPLIT MY TEAM IN HALF (TOP IS THE PURPLE TALLY AND BOTTOM IS THE GOLD TALLY.) AND CONDUCT TWO PRACTICES SIMULATANEOUSLY. IT HELPS TO HAVE LOTS OF HELP BY ASSISTANT COACHES AND STUDENTS. I NEVER HAVE HAD TROUBLE GETTING VOLUNTEER READERS, ETC AT MY PRACTICES.

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Post by msuter » Mon Sep 19, 2005 7:03 pm

I didn't mean to imply that our teams were all composed of specialists--in fact, few of them were. I simply asked them to choose what area(s) they felt they were best in as a way to ensure that we had a fairly good mix of students on each team and to create a manageable way to handle practice with 25+ kids.

Even those students who claimed to be science specialists and who insisted they were never going to answer fine arts questions found out that, after 2-3 years of hearing questions asked repeatedly on the same topic, they were buzzing in and answering not only fine arts but almost everything else.

Ideally, my specialists continued to be specialists but also became generalists and vice versa. As Lee said, he has a tremendous group of generalists now but that may change in a few years--a situation most of us who have coached for a while have encountered. Academic teams, just like athletic teams, tend to cycle, and you have to be prepared to coach both the "uber" team as well as the "un-uber" team.

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Post by quizbowllee » Mon Sep 19, 2005 9:35 pm

DumbJaques wrote:Well. . . sure, if you think of quizbowl as a game of chance. But even if it is between 5 players who will only know the answer at the end, it's unrealistic to assume it's going to be 20% that each one might get it all of the time, even any of the time. Buzzer speed, ability to quickly recall something, anticipation. . . all of that factors in.

More importantly, you are assuming that all 5 will know it pretty much only at the end. Granted, not too many general knowledge players are going to be getting a tossup on Master and Margarita before "Bulgakov." But a literature specialist very well could. I'd like to think of myself as pretty much a generalist, but I know enough about the plot/setting/characters of the novel to get it before the author. Are you saying you prefer to give up the first four or five lines of a tossup and just go for the buzzerrace? I'll grant you that strategy will beat people, but it isn't going to beat, to return to your example, the "uber-high school."

Also, I am not a coach. Disregard my puny views accordingly.
You make good points - and points that I fully expected someone would make. First, let me point out that I said that my four players would know the answer at least at the author. It is entirely possible that at least one would know it before then (although I doubt it at this point - only because for some unknown reason I chose a really obscure book in this hypothetical scenario).

Of course, I don't always view quiz bowl as a game of chance. However, a lot of the time - if a question does come down to the end - then it becomes a crap shoot between the players on the respective teams that do know the answer. I'd prefer to have all of mine buzzing than just one - even on the most obscure of questions. When this happens, the team with 4 people who know the answer will usually beat the team with only 1 or 2 people who know the answer...



Also, I'd like to thank Dr. Barry for taking the time to reply to my questions. It sheds some light on how you do what you do. Unfortunately, I do NOT have any additional help. I'm a one-man crew trying to coach grades 6-12 all at once. The disparity in abilities is unfathomable. Consider a 6th grader who has never seen a buzzer in the same practice as the veteran high schoolers - all with only one coach. Of course, I often hold separate practices, but its sooooo time consuming to do both well.

Also, unfortunately for me and my team, my starters have four very unique and extreme personalities, and this often leads to serious problems when they try to work together. Hence, unlike Dr. Barry, I have to spend a great deal of time in practice ironing out personality conflicts and resolving ego issues. Also, the team has no clear leader - our captain is simply the most outspoken and most willing to BE captain....

Anyway, I'm basically just pointing out the shortcomings of my team at this point, but I like hearing from other coaches who might have (or have had) the same situations and what he or she did to overcome them. Don't get me wrong, I'm VERY proud of my team and I think they are great, it just seems that most of their losses come less from lack of talent - or even lack of knowledge - than from a total breakdown in communication and team work.
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Post by ValenciaQBowl » Tue Sep 20, 2005 4:25 pm

Breaking up the best players from the newer players, as many here have noted, is indeed helpful. Lee, if you're the only coach, you may want to consider having one of the senior team members (or the most mature, or the best reader) read just to your A team, allowing them to play "every man for himself," which they'll likely enjoy, while you go to another room and read questions to your newer (or less strong) players. We often have to do this at Valencia early in the fall, as new players will simply not come back if they sit mutely and watch my best players smacking toss-ups early on stuff the new players have never heard of (not to mention, they shouldn't have to hear me yelling at my veterans for not getting certain things . . . yet). That way we can ease them in, get them to enjoy the game, and then let them see where they can be in a year with hard work.

Another thing that can be fun is pitting your A team vs. your B team while telling your A team they can't buzz in until the words "for ten points" have been fully read. We do this when we have big discrepancies in players, still keeping score. The A team squirms in agony waiting for their chance, but the B team gets to hear more of the question and can actually win. But you can't overdo it, either. (PS--I often play this way against my A team, putting that handicap on myself, except in years when my A team will whip me without any handicap on me).

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Post by First Chairman » Tue Sep 20, 2005 4:53 pm

I haven't been doing as much active coaching this particular year since I'm letting my kids learn the logistics of running a team, but I'm going ahead and putting a couple of cents into this.

There are two major skills that I always emphasize to the students. In increasing order for me it is (1) Listening and (2) Buzzing in. It no use to have speedy fingers if you don't know the answer, so Listening also includes the research angle (write questions, study others' questions and their clues). Practice should mix addressing listening skills with buzzing skills.

I enjoy running tossup-only speed drills, but after a student answers 5 or 6 tossups correctly, I tell that person to drop out so that everyone else gets a chance to buzz in. Similar to singles seeding play in the college realm (must answer [total number of tossups] divided by [total number of players] to advance to the next round of singles seeding play).

But research is really important. Anticipating answers is a difficult skill to master without any prior research.
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Post by quizbowllee » Wed Sep 21, 2005 9:03 am

I appreciate all of the suggestions and advice. I have tried pretty much all of them at one time or another... Things seem to be getting better. Though, I'm actually taking a slightly backwards approach. While I work with the younger players on the quiz bowl basics, I'm having my strongest middle schoolers quiz the high school team. I'm noticing that my middle school players are learning a lot this way, and my high schoolers are getting good review and practice.

I'm still ironing out the same personality conflicts, but I think they can be remedied.

BTW - Does anyone have any good advice on how to get results out of a brand new group? For example, how do you approach coaching the kids who have never played before and who have never been exposed to most of the material found in quiz bowl? Is there a quick way to do this? To me, this is always the most daunting task.
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Post by dtaylor4 » Wed Sep 21, 2005 12:23 pm

When I played in high school, everyone on the team had to learn the LAM lists (lit, art, music) which totaled 300 lit, 150 music, and 150 art. For most of the players, this took no more than a couple of weeks.

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Post by Deviant Insider » Wed Sep 21, 2005 2:21 pm

To give a simplistic answer to Lee, here is a top ten list I put together a few years ago:
10. If you can give units, make sure you do.
9. If the answer is a person's name, say only the last name unless it is Roosevelt.
8. If you're not in the match, you'll know all the answers.
7. Do not confer in any way, shape, or form during a tossup or the reading of a bonus. Same for after time has been called. If you are not in the match, do not talk or whisper at all.
6. The quickest way to impress your coach is to answer tossups in a match.
5. The quickest way to decrease your playing time is to show poor sportsmanship or poor teamwork. If you have a serious problem with anything during a match, quietly alert your coach.
4. Wait until you are recognized by name before giving an answer.
3. If the other team misses a tossup, wait until the end of the tossup to buzz in. If the other team misses the last tossup and we are ahead by less than ten points, give the wrong answer.
2. Listening is one of the most important skills in scholastic bowl. The captain should be the member of the team who listens best.
1. The score, the moderator, the quality of the questions, other teams, and everything else do not matter during a match. Answering questions is the only thing.

The list above is advice to students rather than coaches. As a coach, I find it helpful to tell kids about a team's past successes (if they exist) and to accentuate the positive.

Thanks for the thread. Reading about what other coaches do in practices has been helpful and humbling.
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Post by dtaylor4 » Wed Sep 21, 2005 10:25 pm

ReinsteinD wrote: 3. If the other team misses a tossup, wait until the end of the tossup to buzz in. If the other team misses the last tossup and we are ahead by less than ten points, give the wrong answer.
Before you do this, the players need to be POSITIVE that they are actually ahead...

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Post by rcline » Thu Sep 22, 2005 10:02 am

3. [...] If the other team misses the last tossup and we are ahead by less than ten points, give the wrong answer.
Ok, I'm new, I'll bite. What is the point of this? Not, I feel confident, just to deny the other team the benefit of your knowledge....
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Post by dtaylor4 » Thu Sep 22, 2005 10:28 am

I'll use Illinois as an example:

Here, tossups are worth 10 (w/o negs) and PLEASE MAKE FUN OF ME BECAUSE I SPEAK NEITHER LATIN NOR ENGLISH (which bounceback) are worth up to 20 each. If Team A is up by 5, and Team B goes in early and misses, Team A benefits by not getting the tossup and finishing the game because if Team A gets the tossup and bagels the bonus, then Team B has a chance to tie or win the game.

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Post by Howard » Thu Sep 22, 2005 12:31 pm

rcline wrote:
3. [...] If the other team misses the last tossup and we are ahead by less than ten points, give the wrong answer.
Ok, I'm new, I'll bite. What is the point of this? Not, I feel confident, just to deny the other team the benefit of your knowledge....
In some formats, bonuses bounce back as well. I presume this is to keep the other team from winning off missed bonus questions.
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Post by rcline » Thu Sep 22, 2005 7:03 pm

Here, tossups are worth 10 (w/o negs) and PLEASE MAKE FUN OF ME BECAUSE I SPEAK NEITHER LATIN NOR ENGLISH (which bounceback) are worth up to 20 each. If Team A is up by 5, and Team B goes in early and misses, Team A benefits by not getting the tossup and finishing the game because if Team A gets the tossup and bagels the bonus, then Team B has a chance to tie or win the game.
So in other words, this strategy is based on the assumption that your players will get the questions wrong? Isn't that a bit defeatist?

Although, I guess it's like in football where the winning team kneels the ball when time is almost up.
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Post by Trevkeeper » Thu Sep 22, 2005 9:17 pm

No, it's assuming that they will get it right. Imagine this scenario:

A game is being played in IHSA Format, which means 10 point tossups, and bounceback bonuses totaling 20 points.

Team A goes into the final tossup (there are no timed rounds) up by 5 points over Team B. Team B buzzes in and gets it wrong (there are no negs or powers in Illinois format, so Team A is still up 5 points after B bussed in incorrectly).

Situation A: Team A doesn't buzz in at all. They win by 5.

Situation B: Team A buzzes in and is incorrect. They win by 5.

Situation C: Team A buzzes in, gets it right, and gets no points on the bonus. Team B gets a chance at the bonus, and gets all 20 points. Team A received 10 points for their correct buzz, putting them 15 ahead of Team B. However, they get no points on the bonus, and with the 20 points Team B received from the bonus, Team B wins.

It is because of situation C you buzz in (or don't buzz at all, but it's better to buzz in and give the wrong answer, to make sure someone on your team doesn't accidentally give the right answer) and say the wrong answer. The day is over, and you win.

Hope that helps.
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Post by NoahMinkCHS » Fri Sep 23, 2005 3:29 am

rcline is right, though, in that it does assume at least the possibilty your team messes up the bonus. The kneeling analogy makes sense, though -- you hope your QB doesn't throw a pick or your HB doesn't fumble, but it could happen and you could get screwed when there was no need to score again. Or, you say you'll take the W and go home, and take a knee.

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Post by mlaird » Sat Sep 24, 2005 3:58 pm

Right now, I'm having the same problem that Lee seems to be having, in that I have a squadron of new freshmen, and I don't know what to do to get that score up higher. I feel bad stopping to lecture inbetween matches, when these kids need to be grounded in the format before they stand a chance at a tournament. I also seem to get a lot of complaints from the upperclassmen when a teachable moment comes up ("Oh, is this thing like a class now? Last year all we did was play matches!"). I'm trying to nip this in the bud with my underclassmen, and get them used to learning things in practice.

The real problem is that I only get to see them for 2 hours a week, and this hardly seems like enough time to squeeze in a match or two and teach them the things they need to know. I'm wondering how often you coaches (or players) practice with your teams, and how much time you think should be put in outside of school.

edit: usual spelling errors and such

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Post by quizbowllee » Sat Sep 24, 2005 5:57 pm

mlaird wrote:Right now, I'm having the same problem that Lee seems to be having, in that I have a squadron of new freshmen, and I don't know what to do to get that score up higher. I feel bad stopping to lecture inbetween matches, when these kids need to be grounded in the format before they stand a chance at a tournament. I also seem to get a lot of complaints from the upperclassmen when a teachable moment comes up ("Oh, is this thing like a class now? Last year all we did was play matches!"). I'm trying to nip this in the bud with my underclassmen, and get them used to learning things in practice.

The real problem is that I only get to see them for 2 hours a week, and this hardly seems like enough time to squeeze in a match or two and teach them the things they need to know. I'm wondering how often you coaches (or players) practice with your teams, and how much time you think should be put in outside of school.
I've always let the kids dictate how much they want to practice. I do get a class period for high school quiz bowl, and I also practice some after school.

As for your problem with the upperclassmen, I sympathize 100%. However, I've made my team so used to hearing my comments and teachings after virtually every tossup and/or bonus, that they just expect it. Even when they get a tossup really early, I tell them why they COULD have gotten it earlier (they really hate me for that).

One of my players who is also a varsity football player has told me that I'm tougher on them than the football coaches. I think he meant this as a good-natured insult, but I took it as a complement. My students join the team knowing that I'm going to push them very hard and expect their best. I also very sparingly give abundant praise in practice. I've noticed that this makes them even more determined to impress me, and it makes my praise more meaningful to them. I see where this method could've backfired very early on, had they gotten tired of my methods and quit. Fortunately, that didn't happen, and it has just become part of our tradition. I have a reputation at the school, and indeed in the state, for being a very tough coach. To combat this, I also always keep twice the number of team members than I actually need. It never fails that at least half of them quit. This has caused some problems in the past. However, in the end, it's those who are willing to stay and put up with me and my demands that make great players and great teams.
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Post by DrakeRQB » Mon Sep 26, 2005 6:54 pm

We typically practice after school for about 90 minutes two or three days a week. One day we do rapid-fire toss-ups to get them some buzzer practice (we have a lot of rookies this year) and we also teach between questions whenever the opportunity presents itself. Once a week (usually on Fridays) we try to do a scrimmage - sometimes the scrimmages are intrasquad, but we also have an established faculty team that we occasionally bring in to scrimmage our varsity team. We also use varying formats in the scrimmages - tossup/bonus, four-quarter, etc.

We occasionally hand out cheat sheets, either NAQT's You Gotta Know! or ones that we've made up with lists of Presidents, important Congressmen, etc. Those have helped our kids out tremendously.
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Post by miamiqb » Wed Nov 02, 2005 10:44 am

Just joined this forum...you guys are really intimidating me with all these improvement methods ;-). When I was in high school we practiced 90 minutes a week, occasionally reading questions in small groups for fun during the week at school. We only broke out the lists on the drive up to tournaments....and we were a pretty good team (couple of tournament wins under our belts).

My question is this: (at a four-year college especially) how do you keep from driving smart people away by asking them to memorize lists, write questions, and/or take quizzes?? Our team really needs something like that to get the basics down, but as a peer with only a handful of members it is hard to try to get people to study. I have mentioned NAQT lists, questions, etc. casually but no one yet has taken the initiative to look them over.
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Re: Wowt

Post by quizbowllee » Wed Nov 02, 2005 11:56 am

miamiqb wrote:Just joined this forum...you guys are really intimidating me with all these improvement methods ;-). When I was in high school we practiced 90 minutes a week, occasionally reading questions in small groups for fun during the week at school. We only broke out the lists on the drive up to tournaments....and we were a pretty good team (couple of tournament wins under our belts).

My question is this: (at a four-year college especially) how do you keep from driving smart people away by asking them to memorize lists, write questions, and/or take quizzes?? Our team really needs something like that to get the basics down, but as a peer with only a handful of members it is hard to try to get people to study. I have mentioned NAQT lists, questions, etc. casually but no one yet has taken the initiative to look them over.
At the college level, it's probably not going to happen. If you try to take on a "coach" role with your peers and teammates, they usually just resent you.

Unless you recruit players from strong high school teams that are dedicated and used to that kind of preparation, I'd say your stuck with what you've got. You can always improve yourself, though...
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Post by First Chairman » Wed Nov 02, 2005 1:36 pm

You make it fun. You make winning a "desire" to have fun. Then you make the methods necessary for you to have fun. :)

Sounds simple, but hard to execute... :)
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Post by Captain Sinico » Wed Nov 02, 2005 2:33 pm

Also, it's very much more important, at the college level, to have people who are willing to work (e.g. to practice hard, study, and especially write questions) than it is to have "smart" people, whatever we want to understand that term to mean. This is because very few people enter college as good players and the only way I know of to get better is through work. The best position for an organiaztion to adopt is one of welcoming meritocracy, wherein merit is defined by the amount of work you're willing to do. In other words, welcome everyone, but make it clear that, unless they like losing, playing on the B team, and not having much say in the organization, they'd better be prepared to work hard; conversely, assure them that hard work will make them better players over time.

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Post by miamiqb » Wed Nov 02, 2005 7:07 pm

quizbowllee wrote:
miamiqb wrote:Just joined this forum...you guys are really intimidating me with all these improvement methods ;-). When I was in high school we practiced 90 minutes a week, occasionally reading questions in small groups for fun during the week at school. We only broke out the lists on the drive up to tournaments....and we were a pretty good team (couple of tournament wins under our belts).

My question is this: (at a four-year college especially) how do you keep from driving smart people away by asking them to memorize lists, write questions, and/or take quizzes?? Our team really needs something like that to get the basics down, but as a peer with only a handful of members it is hard to try to get people to study. I have mentioned NAQT lists, questions, etc. casually but no one yet has taken the initiative to look them over.
At the college level, it's probably not going to happen. If you try to take on a "coach" role with your peers and teammates, they usually just resent you.

Unless you recruit players from strong high school teams that are dedicated and used to that kind of preparation, I'd say your stuck with what you've got. You can always improve yourself, though...
But wait...doesn't recruiting success come from current success in tournamnents?

(A little OT) How do I improve myself? I do what I can (i.e. I read the newspaper for pertinent names/events, I have been reading classical literature, reading over old history texts, old Stanford questions, listening to online podcasts, ) and I am probably going to start writing questions weekly, but is there any subsitute for hearing questions against strong opponents? I might start on You gotta know and frequency lists (which I know okay) but it still isn't the same (btw I did read NAQT's guide and that is what I base my methods of off)
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Post by miamiqb » Wed Nov 02, 2005 7:14 pm

ImmaculateDeception wrote:Also, it's very much more important, at the college level, to have people who are willing to work (e.g. to practice hard, study, and especially write questions) than it is to have "smart" people, whatever we want to understand that term to mean. This is because very few people enter college as good players and the only way I know of to get better is through work. The best position for an organiaztion to adopt is one of welcoming meritocracy, wherein merit is defined by the amount of work you're willing to do. In other words, welcome everyone, but make it clear that, unless they like losing, playing on the B team, and not having much say in the organization, they'd better be prepared to work hard; conversely, assure them that hard work will make them better players over time.

MaS
I like this philosophy....especially since there are so few kids at our school who did qb in high school. The problem is how do you introduce qb to new players without scaring them off? There is a bit of a learning curve....so do you start with easier questions (intramural/high school)?
Meritocracy though...excellent idea
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Post by Tegan » Wed Nov 02, 2005 11:14 pm

One of the things I have done after viewing some great programs in athletics at the high school level: make it a program that the kids will want to work for, want to be proud of, and want to be a part of more than anything.

---I started simple with a pin scale: small pin for your first toss up...another for five, a different pin for 10, 20, 50, and a certificate for 100.
---I made sure all of the kids earn letters and numerals if they meet certain requirements of attendance and accomplishment (just like the athletes).
---Once a year, the kids select an adult who has given to the program, and we present an honorary varsity letter...which we present at the banquet.
---If the team works hard enough, we earn an overnight roadtrip.

It seems syrupy, but I have found that it makes most of the kids walk a little taller and work a little harder.

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Post by First Chairman » Thu Nov 03, 2005 2:24 pm

It's too bad we don't have "helmet stickers" on the occasion of similar "landmark" performances.
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Post by David Riley » Fri Nov 04, 2005 3:01 pm

Starting a new thread here: I am finding that the commerical question sets that are available (outside of NAQT) are generally eithe too easy or poorly written. If there is a commercial question writer with whom you are familiar, then please answer the following, either here or email me at driley@loy.org.


1) What is the format?

2) In what style are they written (short answer, pyramid, etc.)?

3) What is the proportion of arts questions to the core subjects?

4) What is the proportion of miscellaneous or "trash" questons to the core subjects?

5) Are there any interdisciplinary questions?

6) Is there a variety of subcategories within each distribution? For example, do social studies questions cover a variety of topics, or are they all American history?

7) Are alternative answers given?

8) How often have incorrect answers been encountered?


Thank you for your consideratoin.


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Post by Matthew D » Sat Nov 05, 2005 2:10 am

E.T. Chuck wrote:It's too bad we don't have "helmet stickers" on the occasion of similar "landmark" performances.
lol.. that would be interesting I wonder if you could do something like that but have a monogram on the sleeve of the team shirt.

I was thinking about different ways to keep my new team motivated.. lucky for me the new has not worn off yet. So I wanted to say thanks for this and to Lee for starting this thread

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Post by quizbowllee » Mon Nov 14, 2005 1:17 pm

OK - I'm ashamed to have to ask this question to my fellow coaches, but here it goes: Do any of you have problems with your players' grades? I have one player, an absolutely brilliant young man and an anchor on our team, who just refuses to do his work and take any initiative. It seems that every time mid-term progress reports go out, he has at least one grade in the "below C" range. This is infuriating me. He is SO smart, but completely unmotivated.

I have instituted a rule that any player with a "C" or below on their report cards will not compete until the next grading period. I fear that this is going to cause half of my starters to miss District, Small Schools State, and Regionals...

It's sad when a QUIZ BOWL COACH has to consider pulling a Coach Carter, but that's the boat I'm in. Any suggestions? Have any of you had similar problems? If so, how did you handle it?
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Post by David Riley » Mon Nov 14, 2005 1:34 pm

I tell my students at the beginning of the year--and remind them as needed--that if they are on the weekly ineligibility list, even as a warning, more than three consecutive times, then they will not play the next tournament (we do a tournament every weekend Oct through March, excepting Thanksgiving and Cheistmas holidays).

I have not, however, had the problem you seem to be having, though I know coaches who have. I'll ask around to see how they handled it.

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Post by rchschem » Mon Nov 14, 2005 2:28 pm

We follow the same eligibility rules, regarding grades, as all of our other sports teams. I consider QB a "sport" in terms of practice time and competition time. Of course, we don't have to enforce this often but I did have to kick somebody off the team 2 years ago.

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Post by msuter » Mon Nov 14, 2005 9:09 pm

As far as eligibility is concerned, our students who competed in Scholastic Bowl had to maintain their grade eligibility in order to play since SB is a Va. H.S. League sponsored activity and they have to meet the same eligibility requirements as athletes except for the physicals. Team members had to show me their report cards each six-weeks grading period. If they had any grades below a C, they had 10 days to 2 weeks to bring me a signed note from the teacher that they were bringing up their grade. If they didn't, they got benched until the grade was up. I was a little more lenient if the offending grade was for an AP class, but not much.

One would assume that quiz bowl students will maintain their grades, but several years before I retired, the team that defeated Spotswood in the regional SB tournament championship was found to have used an ineligible player--he had failed 5 of 7 classes for the first semester--and they had to forfeit their regional victory and participation in states. I think this did more than anything I could say to reinforce to them that their grades did matter.

Once the SB season is over (states, if we make it that far, are in late Feb.) a number of kids drop off the team and we are left with Saturday invitational tournaments, which we play from Sept.-May. The ones that remain usually don't have a problem with grades, but I still checked on them.

I have had just a couple of students who repeatedly had grade/motivation problems. Most of the time, a conference(s) with the student and the teacher of the class he/she was failing and the parent(s) seemed to do the trick. Reminding the student that his lack of effort reflects poorly on the whole team and the on the school might help as well. However, if he refuses to get down to work, then I think you are doing a disservice to the other kids who are keeping their grades up while they are practicing and competing by keeping him on the team.

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Post by csrjjsmp » Mon Nov 14, 2005 9:45 pm

quizbowllee wrote:OK - I'm ashamed to have to ask this question to my fellow coaches, but here it goes: Do any of you have problems with your players' grades? I have one player, an absolutely brilliant young man and an anchor on our team, who just refuses to do his work and take any initiative. It seems that every time mid-term progress reports go out, he has at least one grade in the "below C" range. This is infuriating me. He is SO smart, but completely unmotivated.

I have instituted a rule that any player with a "C" or below on their report cards will not compete until the next grading period. I fear that this is going to cause half of my starters to miss District, Small Schools State, and Regionals...

It's sad when a QUIZ BOWL COACH has to consider pulling a Coach Carter, but that's the boat I'm in. Any suggestions? Have any of you had similar problems? If so, how did you handle it?
I was like this when I was in high school. I got A's easily in my real classes, but the problem was that sometimes there was just a crap class (Art in my sophomore year and Statistics in my senior year) that wasn't worth my time. The material wasn't hard, I just couldn't be bothered to do the work, and sadly the worst classes tend to also be the ones that put more emphasis (grading-wise) on busy work and less on exams, which were a breeze.
If your player is doing poorly in a class because he is too lazy to study and learn the material, by all means scold him or kick him off the team, I don't really know anyone that thinks a student should be putting extracurriculars ahead of schoolwork. But if he's in the same boat I was, yelling at him won't do him any good, it'll just make him resentful. In my case, I was never in danger of being dropped from anything I did, if I was, I might have brought my grades up, I might not have. Also, some people just naturally care more about their grades than others. Probably a parenting thing.

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Post by STPickrell » Tue Dec 20, 2005 4:37 pm

Another thing that helped me in HS was to "play along" with the local TV quizbowl show. In my day there were 31 Pop Quiz matches, and I was on two of them -- so that in essence was me playing 29 more matches for practice. I tried playing along with It's Academic, but the questions were different from what I was used to on Pop Quiz and the Central Va tournaments (and the players were, consequently, more used to the format.)

Maybe if a coach could get the tapes of a show in another state, this might help.
Shawn Pickrell, HSAPQ CFO

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quizbowllee
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Post by quizbowllee » Sat Feb 25, 2006 9:05 pm

I really need some help and/or advice from some fellow coaches regarding my team's current situation.

I have easily one of the best teams in Alabama this year. There are four players who are all great. At every tournament we go to, they hit on all cylinders, scoring huge win after huge win.

However, at every tournament this year, they hit a point where they just stop. Quite frankly, it's the damndest thing I've ever seen. Take today, for example. In the first round of a tournament, we beat a team 305-115. We went on to crush everyone we played until the playoffs. In the first round of the single-elimination playoffs, we faced that same team again (the one we had just beaten 305-115). They killed us. My kids just sat there.

If this was a one time thing, I'd attribute it to bad luck. I mean, everyone has a bad round sometimes. But, no. They do this at EVERY tournament this year. We recently had a tournament that we won. However, in one round we lost to a team that - to my knowledge - had NEVER beaten an "A" team this year. Their only wins had come from "B" and "C" teams. This team that beat us averaged 70 ppg, whereas we averaged well over 300. It was the same thing, they just SAT THERE and didn't answer anything.

They have now done this in 10 of the 12 tournaments we have attended this year. It's not the losing that upsets me, it's the complete lack of trying. They're not doing it on purpose - I know that. But I just sit there and watch them let things that they know by heart go by. And it's always just one round a tournament, and in all but one case, it was in the playoffs, to teams that are seeded way below us.

I've come to the conclusion that success in this game is about 50% psychological, but I'm at a loss on this. These are the same kids I had last year, who won nearly every tournament that they played in....

If anyone has any suggestions about what I can do to fix, this PLEASE help me. I'm at an absolute loss.
Lee Henry
AP English Teacher
Quiz Bowl Coach
West Point High School
Cullman, AL

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Post by AKKOLADE » Sat Feb 25, 2006 9:34 pm

Are there any other factors that appear on a regular basis during these matches? Same time of day, specific things that happened in the previous match or anything else?

Given what you told us, my guess is that they're underestimating their opponents to the point where they just can't perform at their regular level.

My high school had a similar problem with the varsity team back in my junior year of high school. They didn't really turn it on until the end of the season and that required a chewing out from the coach. That might help out, but it might not.

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