Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

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Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by cchiego » Sun Nov 07, 2010 3:33 pm

Based on the recent Brandeis ACF Fall experience along with last year's ACF Winter South debacle at UGA and a number of last year's SCTs, it seems like it's time to address the issue of inexperienced tournament hosts. While it might feel good to assert our tournament-hosting superiority over inexperienced teams (experienced hosts who consistently screw up have fewer excuses), it's in nobody's interests to let bad tournaments happen.

I see three major areas where experienced quizbowlers can help inexperienced hosts:

1. Awarding Bids. Though it's often the case that the inexperienced schools are awarded the bid only if more experienced schools decline to host, the responsibility of the awarding organization does not end with just assigning the bid. Contingent upon awarding the bid (and the significant financial bonuses that come with it), the editors should make it clear exactly what needs to happen in order for the tournament to run successfully. Perhaps even institute a penalty of some sort for terrible hosting (or at least absurd things like refusing to take advice) or a bonus for competent hosting? Anything that would help to impress upon the new team that this will be a ton of work and you should take advice from other, more experienced people, who would really be happy to offer it. Maybe conduct a phone interview or something and lay out possible disaster options to see how they'd respond (if two teams cancel the night beforehand, one gets lost and arrives 2 hours late, and only half your staffers wake up on time, what will you do?).

2. Going to the Tournament itself. While it may seem like the marginal cost-benefit calculation isn't very high, all experienced readers help. At the very least, you make that room one less thing the TD has to worry about, but you can also help by rounding up teams (experienced players probably know people better than newbie TDs), checking schedules for errors, etc. Sure you may run into an annoyingly arrogant TD who doesn't appreciate your advice, but the other teams will and so long as the ultimate effect is a smoother tournament, that's all that matters. If you see that a new team is trying to host a 20+ team tournament, it is highly likely that they won't be prepared for it, so it's worth preparing for that likely outcome in advance and maybe introducing yourself and offering your services.

3. Assigning responsibility. Part of the problem seems to be this diffusion of responsibility: while nobody in particular's fault and understandable from each individual's point of view, it led to an ultimately bad end for everyone (tragedy of the quizbowl commons). In the future, if there's an site that's going to be run by a new team, hopefully ACF will dispatch an experienced player to act as an adviser or co-TD (and make that clear to the hosting program) to make sure it runs properly. NAQT should do the same as well, especially given the number of new programs that will be hosting. While nobody should expect miracles, just having someone tasked with the responsibility (for a significant fee, of course- good TDs aren't a dime a dozen) should help alleviate a number of these problems.

Other ideas/suggestions?
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by dtaylor4 » Sun Nov 07, 2010 3:40 pm

This needs to be spread, seriously.

For the record, if people in this part of the country need staff, reach out to me. I'm willing to travel (I'm traveling 5+ one way each of the next two weekends), and will do anything and everything that needs to be done. Just holler.

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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Sun Nov 07, 2010 3:53 pm

I think a simple solution to fix the problem of important tournaments being botched would be to leave hosting ACF Fall and other tournaments intended to impress new players (Sectionals, ACF Novice) to hosts we can guarantee will be good and then encourage less experienced clubs to mirror things like Penn Bowl, which are good tournaments but which I think are much more likely to attract a lot of teams that aren't going to be put off by quizbowl being poorly run (and which also are probably going to have smaller fields made up of teams that can help the host more, making them easier to handle than a 20 team+ field of a bunch of novices). If less experienced teams do a good job running their mirror, great, and if they don't, then at least it's a lot less consequential to screw up.
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by lasercats » Sun Nov 07, 2010 4:02 pm

The problems I had with hosting my first tournament yesterday were all within my own team. One guy forgot to set his alarm and showed up an hour late, one bitched about being stuck moderating, and one even left for an hour without telling me because he had confessional. Even though my tournament was small, it was a major pain in the ass to plan on my own. The lesson I have learned is to be a little harder on your teammates and delegate! Then you won't have stress dreams the night before.
I was lucky to have two very cordial teams who arrived on time, provided input nicely, and thanked me as they left. It ended up being quite a positive experience.
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Sun Nov 07, 2010 4:30 pm

I think that one difficulty is that those tournaments that need to be run the best are also those that attract the largest fields. We didn't bid to host Fall because we couldn't easily do so alone even if we weren't hosting two tournaments the following weekend. I would be more willing to host it if I had some way to trust that I'll get a large amount of volunteer staff from attending schools well ahead of time so I never have to have that sick, scared feeling where you don't have enough staff and don't have an obvious source for more staff. I don't know if there's an obvious solution for this; we just don't have the sheer volume of members that other experienced clubs do. I think more collaborative hosting options--like Brown and Harvard have done for a few SCTs--are in order. They're just a little harder to set up earlier in the year and when everyone wants all their novices playing.
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by lasercats » Sun Nov 07, 2010 4:35 pm

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:I think that one difficulty is that those tournaments that need to be run the best are also those that attract the largest fields. We didn't bid to host Fall because we couldn't easily do so alone even if we weren't hosting two tournaments the following weekend. I would be more willing to host it if I had some way to trust that I'll get a large amount of volunteer staff from attending schools well ahead of time so I never have to have that sick, scared feeling where you don't have enough staff and don't have an obvious source for more staff. I don't know if there's an obvious solution for this; we just don't have the sheer volume of members that other experienced clubs do. I think more collaborative hosting options--like Brown and Harvard have done for a few SCTs--are in order. They're just a little harder to set up earlier in the year and when everyone wants all their novices playing.
It would be great if there could be some sort of buddy program, where an experienced hosting team could co-host with a less experienced team. That would presumably prevent a few disasters on the day of the tournament.
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by MahoningQuizBowler » Mon Nov 08, 2010 1:06 am

One mistake I made in my first few tournaments I directed was reading at them. Tournament directors need to be available to fix the problems and adjudicate the protests that may occur before and during play. This can't happen promptly if the TD is reading.

Another suggestion I would make is not to rely too heavily on SQBS, especially when it gets down to the last round of prelims. If you're waiting on everything to be entered into the program before you do rebracketing, you've more than likely created a bottleneck and will delay the tournament a nontrivial amount of time while the data entry person plays catch up. Keep the records by hand on a separate piece of paper or on a chalkboard/whiteboard, cross off teams as they are mathematically eliminated, and if ties need to be broken (or order of play of tiebreaking half-packets needs to be determined) by statistical means, then you know which scoresheets to keep an eye out for and prioritize their entry once received. You can always catch up on the other games during the first playoff round or, if the schedule works out this way, during lunch.
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Nov 08, 2010 1:20 am

There are all sorts of disconnects between the people making the host decisions and the people playing. For instance, I wonder if the people in charge of ACF Fall are aware that Brandeis is probably THE LEAST convenient school on the Northeast circuit to get to, by a wide margin.
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by Cody » Mon Nov 08, 2010 1:26 am

Morraine Man wrote:There are all sorts of disconnects between the people making the host decisions and the people playing. For instance, I wonder if the people in charge of ACF Fall are aware that Brandeis is probably THE LEAST convenient school on the Northeast circuit to get to, by a wide margin.
I thought it was pretty obvious that you couldn't choose hosts that don't exist.
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Nov 08, 2010 1:31 am

I'm not really talking about this specific host selection. After all, I didn't play ACF Fall this year and no longer reside in the northeast. I'm just using that as an example of things that might cause systemic problems in host selection. You can replace Brandeis with your own region's inaccessible mountain fortress and get the same point: there are a lot of regional knowledge type things that host pickers simply won't know (because who can know every region so well), and this often leads to sub-optimal hosting decisions.
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by cchiego » Mon Nov 08, 2010 1:52 am

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:I think more collaborative hosting options--like Brown and Harvard have done for a few SCTs--are in order.
Of course, even experienced teams screw up too and do things like field house teams with their best moderators, leaving the worst moderators to actually read. In general though, this sounds like a good idea.
MahoningQuizBowler wrote:One mistake I made in my first few tournaments I directed was reading at them. Tournament directors need to be available to fix the problems and adjudicate the protests that may occur before and during play. This can't happen promptly if the TD is reading.
What I like to do is start off the tournament not reading, but then replace after a few rounds the slowest moderator for a bit just to help speed things up. Most of the things that can go wrong will go wrong at the start or around rebracketing time, so taking a round of two off to help keep things going or give a reader a break isn't bad.

I don't think a lot of people realize just how much work and effort it takes to be a good reader. It's not something anyone can just walk in with a laptop and do easily- you need to be very familiar with quizbowl and how to command a room/shut chatty teams up.
Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:I think that one difficulty is that those tournaments that need to be run the best are also those that attract the largest fields.

The flip side of this though is that these are usually the easier tournaments, so theoretically there should be a large number of experienced readers/players not playing and available to staff.
lasercats wrote:The problems I had with hosting my first tournament yesterday were all within my own team. One guy forgot to set his alarm and showed up an hour late, one bitched about being stuck moderating, and one even left for an hour without telling me because he had confessional. Even though my tournament was small, it was a major pain in the ass to plan on my own. The lesson I have learned is to be a little harder on your teammates and delegate
This always happens. Also: teams will always drop right before a tournament or not even show up. You have to just plan for these kinds of contingencies in advance.
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by Important Bird Area » Mon Nov 08, 2010 2:14 am

SirT wrote:I thought it was pretty obvious that you couldn't choose hosts that don't exist.
This. All too often the choice is "inexperienced host, or no host at all". In this case:
two weeks after the bid deadline vcuEvan wrote:
Ondes Martenot wrote: Any news on the New England site?
I still haven't received a bid.
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Mon Nov 08, 2010 2:18 am

Morraine Man wrote:There are all sorts of disconnects between the people making the host decisions and the people playing. For instance, I wonder if the people in charge of ACF Fall are aware that Brandeis is probably THE LEAST convenient school on the Northeast circuit to get to, by a wide margin.
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by AKKOLADE » Mon Nov 08, 2010 7:29 am

Morraine Man wrote:I'm not really talking about this specific host selection. After all, I didn't play ACF Fall this year and no longer reside in the northeast. I'm just using that as an example of things that might cause systemic problems in host selection. You can replace Brandeis with your own region's inaccessible mountain fortress and get the same point: there are a lot of regional knowledge type things that host pickers simply won't know (because who can know every region so well), and this often leads to sub-optimal hosting decisions.
Right, but there has to be other bids for the fortresses to not be picked.
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Nov 08, 2010 2:42 pm

One of the problems of picking hosts is precisely the kind of regional knowledge (e.g. Brandeis being inconvenient) that Bruce mentioned. What I would suggest to future editors is that instead of being reactive to hosting bids, they should be proactive in terms of getting them. By this I mean that you should try and contact potential hosts regardless of whether or not they have bid, and if you think someone would be a good host, try and persuade them of this. If you need to hear from someone in the region, ask. There are plenty of us that have the kind of knowledge you're looking for.
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Nov 08, 2010 2:45 pm

Ronnie the Bear wrote:Right, but there has to be other bids for the fortresses to not be picked.
Not necessarily. You can contact the hosts directly and ask them if they're interested.

Just to add to what I said above, I'm a little skeptical of the bidding process. It's a process that only works if people genuinely provide the editors with useful information. For someone who knows the circuit, having, say, Maryland put in a bid is good. You know Maryland is a good host, has space, etc. But if only Brandeis puts in a bid and it turns out that no one on that team knows how to run a tournament, well, people are going to get a bad tournament. All of which is to say that yes, solicit bids, but if you're not getting the results you want, you should take it on yourself as an editor to find the host you're looking for.
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by Papa's in the House » Mon Nov 08, 2010 2:49 pm

Swank diet wrote:
MahoningQuizBowler wrote:One mistake I made in my first few tournaments I directed was reading at them. Tournament directors need to be available to fix the problems and adjudicate the protests that may occur before and during play. This can't happen promptly if the TD is reading.
What I like to do is start off the tournament not reading, but then replace after a few rounds the slowest moderator for a bit just to help speed things up. Most of the things that can go wrong will go wrong at the start or around rebracketing time, so taking a round of two off to help keep things going or give a reader a break isn't bad.

I don't think a lot of people realize just how much work and effort it takes to be a good reader. It's not something anyone can just walk in with a laptop and do easily- you need to be very familiar with quizbowl and how to command a room/shut chatty teams up.
This is a pretty good idea if you're worried about being TD and reading at the same time. I read at EFT and it wasn't a particularly big deal. I always leave an IM client on when reading off my laptop so the stats person (or any other readers) can get a hold of me if there are protests/problems/etc. so I can figure out how to proceed. I also make sure to brief other readers, the teams, and the stats person on what to do if certain scenarios arise.
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by dtaylor4 » Mon Nov 08, 2010 5:05 pm

Papa's in the House wrote:
Swank diet wrote:
MahoningQuizBowler wrote:One mistake I made in my first few tournaments I directed was reading at them. Tournament directors need to be available to fix the problems and adjudicate the protests that may occur before and during play. This can't happen promptly if the TD is reading.
What I like to do is start off the tournament not reading, but then replace after a few rounds the slowest moderator for a bit just to help speed things up. Most of the things that can go wrong will go wrong at the start or around rebracketing time, so taking a round of two off to help keep things going or give a reader a break isn't bad.

I don't think a lot of people realize just how much work and effort it takes to be a good reader. It's not something anyone can just walk in with a laptop and do easily- you need to be very familiar with quizbowl and how to command a room/shut chatty teams up.
This is a pretty good idea if you're worried about being TD and reading at the same time. I read at EFT and it wasn't a particularly big deal. I always leave an IM client on when reading off my laptop so the stats person (or any other readers) can get a hold of me if there are protests/problems/etc. so I can figure out how to proceed. I also make sure to brief other readers, the teams, and the stats person on what to do if certain scenarios arise.
This only works if you have an experienced statsperson in case something blows up. An inexperienced statsperson is prone to buckling, which can cause serious problems.

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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by fleurdelivre » Mon Nov 08, 2010 9:53 pm

grapesmoker wrote:Just to add to what I said above, I'm a little skeptical of the bidding process. It's a process that only works if people genuinely provide the editors with useful information. For someone who knows the circuit, having, say, Maryland put in a bid is good. You know Maryland is a good host, has space, etc. But if only Brandeis puts in a bid and it turns out that no one on that team knows how to run a tournament, well, people are going to get a bad tournament. All of which is to say that yes, solicit bids, but if you're not getting the results you want, you should take it on yourself as an editor to find the host you're looking for.
I think this is more generally applicable. I kept an eye on the Brandeis Fall thread, and if in moderately early planning stages I'd seen a call for moderators, I might well have worked out my travel plans so as to pitch in. The main trick is to getting editors who know which potential TDs to call, and TDs who know where to seek experienced staff - and while this seems rather obvious, maybe it isn't as clear as we'd hope.
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by Broad-tailed Grassbird » Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:45 am

Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:
Morraine Man wrote:There are all sorts of disconnects between the people making the host decisions and the people playing. For instance, I wonder if the people in charge of ACF Fall are aware that Brandeis is probably THE LEAST convenient school on the Northeast circuit to get to, by a wide margin.
Image
Suck it up princess. As far as quiz bowl travel goes, we have to travel a pretty average amount (aka we don't have it that bad): That is there is 1 school in the state 1 hour driving away that fortunately hosts a lot of tournaments. After that its Chicago ~4 hours, and then a bunch of places 5-7 hours away (UIUC, OSU, Pittsburgh, etc.). And I'll say that we're lucky. We're not in Arizona, Texas, California, or the Pacific Northwest. Those teams have it hard. All of you folks up in Boston, you have it easy.
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:08 am

nalin wrote:Suck it up princess. As far as quiz bowl travel goes, we have to travel a pretty average amount (aka we don't have it that bad): That is there is 1 school in the state 1 hour driving away that fortunately hosts a lot of tournaments. After that its Chicago ~4 hours, and then a bunch of places 5-7 hours away (UIUC, OSU, Pittsburgh, etc.). And I'll say that we're lucky. We're not in Arizona, Texas, California, or the Pacific Northwest. Those teams have it hard. All of you folks up in Boston, you have it easy.
I forgot that because other regions exist, it's entirely pointless to try to find the most convenient tournament site among a variety of tournament sites. Thank you for pointing out that Bruce is a princess for suggesting that the ACF Fall editors might be better able to make decisions about what the most convenient site is by using local expertise. That was a pretty princess-like suggestion.
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Nov 11, 2010 9:42 pm

nalin wrote:Suck it up princess. As far as quiz bowl travel goes, we have to travel a pretty average amount (aka we don't have it that bad): That is there is 1 school in the state 1 hour driving away that fortunately hosts a lot of tournaments. After that its Chicago ~4 hours, and then a bunch of places 5-7 hours away (UIUC, OSU, Pittsburgh, etc.). And I'll say that we're lucky. We're not in Arizona, Texas, California, or the Pacific Northwest. Those teams have it hard. All of you folks up in Boston, you have it easy.
Back in my day, we had to travel 10 hours uphill both ways in the snow barefoot to play a tournament! AND WE WERE GRATEFUL!
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Re: Inexperienced Tournament Hosts

Post by Coelacanth » Fri Nov 12, 2010 11:49 am

grapesmoker wrote:Back in my day, we had to travel 10 hours uphill both ways in the snow barefoot to play a tournament! AND WE WERE GRATEFUL!
Thanks to the Great Halloween Blizzard of 1991, I actually had the experience of walking three miles, mostly uphill, in thigh-deep snow, to get to a tournament.

So those stories the old-timers tell you aren't always complete hyperbole.
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