Some thoughts re novice tournaments

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Great Bustard
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Some thoughts re novice tournaments

Post by Great Bustard »

I branched out from my usual home in hs quizbowlland today to help out at the novice tournament at Yale. Matt Jackson et. al. did a great job directing and keeping the tournament on schedule despite starting about 45 minutes late to accommodate a late team. Just some random thoughts follow, based on what I saw, meant to stir some debate.

1. Start times
The start time of the tournament was supposed to be 9:45; in reality it was about 10:30 before things got going. The fact that it was 9:45 and not, say, 8:45, made it a much more enjoyable experience for me, as I had to drive about 1hr 40 to get there (and certainly a number of teams came this morning from much further). But I did hear at least two teams grousing about being exhausted from having to wake up at 6:30, and it got me wondering whether something like 11 or 11:30 would be a better start time. If the tournament ended even two hours later, and even if the finals had been played, it would have ended by 7pm - certainly in time for dinner, and to allow everyone to get back by midnight. The only circuit I've heard of that routinely schedules tournaments to begin around 11am-12pm is the SF Bay area hs circuit. But I at least would be all for it, especially at the college level, where early morning wakeups are often a memory of high school, and which are likely to turn novice players out for a look off a bit.

2. Eligibility/Difficulty of Novice Tournaments
Are there any novice tournaments out there for people who didn't play hs quizbowl at all? Some of today's teams were way overmatched, and I have a hard time believing they'll come back wanting more.

3. Ratings System
Has anyone attempted to put together a ratings system both for the 3 main subject areas (lit, history, sci) and overall? It seems like doing tournaments based on ratings might not be a bad idea. Or Swiss pairs if doable. All Scrabble tournaments I've played in utilized both Swiss pairs and ratings. Maybe this way tournaments could be done more based on ratings and less on solely whether someone is in their first year of college quizbowl or not? I readily admit this may be a little time consuming/difficult to manage/etc., but this I think accounts for a major reason why so many high school quizbowlers drop out of the game at the college level, along with keeping it difficult for new players to break in at the college level.

4. Length of questions / powers
Obviously these points have been hashed out ad infinitum over the last 10-15 years, but specifically in the context of novice tournaments, it seems to me that questions that were 4 lines rather than 5 and with powers would have been more enjoyable for the new players that novice tournaments are actively trying to 'hook.' Over 180 tossups that I read, maybe 3-5 were answered in the first line, and maybe 5-10 in the second line, and many of those were by Yale One (which won the tournament), led by Spencer Weinreich. Also, there seemed to be a lot of extraneous verbiage in the bonuses, which might be interesting or helpful for future study (although I counted 1 player over the day who seemed to be writing things down consistently), but seemed not to make much of a difference at all as to whether teams got it right or not. Slightly shorter tossups and bonuses would also allow for more people to be ringing in more frequently, along with more bonuses being answered too. And at the novice level, I don't think the pyramidality would really suffer for this.

5. Questionnaires / Feedback
Matt did a great service by introducing the forums, but what about getting feedback? I can sit here and speculate what new players / teams might like, but what about getting their opinions directly? Is there some way of doing this? Maybe a few people who weren't forum regulars before will now become so, but at some level, their opinions here would be prone to the old forum problem of selection bias. What about the players (maybe the majority?) in the tournament who aren't going to come on the forums? Or aren't likely to get hooked on quiz bowl period?

6. 3 Person Teams?
It's occurred to me over a number of NHBB high school tournaments (which granted, are single subject, and thus lend themselves more to dominance by 1 or 2 players) that limiting teams to 3 players might allow for more players to buzz more frequently. I haven't seen the stats from this tournament yet, but there were many, many teams where the third and fourth (and a few including the second, and one including the first) best players on a team failed to answer any tossups. How about this for a new statistic to track - ppg for 4th best player. Does this vary over kinds of tournaments? I understand that due to buzzer and staffing limitations, having more teams is often not feasible, and also that having 3 players on a team doesn't reflect standard practice (and of course, part of a novice tournament is to introduce such practices), but I did wonder in particular how enjoyable the "fourth wheel" on a team found this tournament / all tournaments.

Interested in hearing opinions on all these points - I'm sure some of this has been discussed before, and I'm sure that I'm overlooking certain things, but I am interested to hear all thoughts.
David Madden
Ridgewood (NJ) '99, Princeton '03
Founder and Director: International History Bee and Bowl, National History Bee and Bowl (High School Division), International History Olympiad, United States Geography Olympiad, US History Bee, US Academic Bee and Bowl, National Humanities Bee, National Science Bee, International Academic Bowl.
Adviser and former head coach for Team USA at the International Geography Olympiad

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Skepticism and Animal Feed
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Re: Some thoughts re novice tournaments

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

nationalhistorybeeandbowl wrote: 1. Start times
The start time of the tournament was supposed to be 9:45; in reality it was about 10:30 before things got going. The fact that it was 9:45 and not, say, 8:45, made it a much more enjoyable experience for me, as I had to drive about 1hr 40 to get there (and certainly a number of teams came this morning from much further). But I did hear at least two teams grousing about being exhausted from having to wake up at 6:30, and it got me wondering whether something like 11 or 11:30 would be a better start time. If the tournament ended even two hours later, and even if the finals had been played, it would have ended by 7pm - certainly in time for dinner, and to allow everyone to get back by midnight. The only circuit I've heard of that routinely schedules tournaments to begin around 11am-12pm is the SF Bay area hs circuit. But I at least would be all for it, especially at the college level, where early morning wakeups are often a memory of high school, and which are likely to turn novice players out for a look off a bit.
The fact of the matter is that quizbowl people, and this includes both teams and staffers, are terrible at being punctual. I always advise people to announce a start time of about one hour before the actual start time you want, because typically it will take an hour for all of the teams and staffers to show up. Scheduling a tournament for 11am is an excellent way of having a tournament that starts at noon.

Quizbowl people are also terrible at not wasting time during tournaments: moderators talk between questions or let players talk between questions, TDs take too long to rebracket, editors don't finish the packets on time, etc. There are all sorts of delays absolutely endemic to college quizbowl that make it a good idea to start a tournament as early as possible, because it will probably run late. The very best tournaments, of course, run on time, and the quizbowl internet is full of Taylorist ways of ensuring that your tournament runs on time, but we're not in a perfect world.

The best idea I've ever seen is what MIT did for a few tournaments in 2007/2008: a late penalty. The best way to do this IMO is to inflate your entry fee by $20 (or whatever) and then have a -$20 discount for being on time.
Bruce
Harvard '10 / UChicago '07 / Roycemore School '04
ACF Member emeritus
My guide to using Wikipedia as a question source

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