Logistical Barriers to Starting Successful Collegiate Quizbowl Teams

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cchiego
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Logistical Barriers to Starting Successful Collegiate Quizbowl Teams

Post by cchiego »

Given that I will be teaching this year at a school that does not currently have an active quizbowl team (though there's a good chance that will change soon!) and is in very close proximity to a number of other colleges and universities that also lack active teams, I've been thinking through some of the barriers that a new team would have to jump through in succession to get a program up and running. Leaving aside macro issues like "is College Quizbowl too hard," I'd like to focus on four general logistical issues.

1. Lack of Time to Organize I. Why does the Entering Freshman Contact List from NAQT come out so late (usually late August or even later until it's publicly posted)? This makes it difficult for groups of players outside the few actively involved in the quizbowl social communities to coordinate over the summer before getting to campus to get the ball rolling on starting a new team. This is also a missed opportunity for the community. There should be much more direct encouragement of and coordination with the players going to schools without existing teams on the contact lists (either from NAQT or from established teams or alumni/staff in the region) earlier in the summer to encourage them to continue to play in college and to help them navigate through the challenges of starting a new team and easing into the local circuit. Waiting until very late in the summer--sometimes after school starts--makes this much more difficult to not only meet deadlines for student organization registration but also increases the likelihood that potentially interested players will choose other clubs and activities at the start of the year.

2. Lack of Time to Organize II. Why are the Collegiate Novice events scheduled very early in the Fall Semester? While this is convenient for established programs to send their new players to and is likely a good introductory experience to quizbowl for those players who do participate, a new team will have a hard time getting off the ground in time to organize, recruit, secure transportation, and secure funding in time for these events. Even ACF Fall, which is a very significant step up in both difficulty and competitiveness, likely requires a fledgling team to come together in 1-2 months. If you miss these two, then the next-best introduction (and one that seems to get the most new/occasional schools) is DII SCT in February. After that there might be one additional event (the Spring Undergrad Event, however/if it materializes) in most circuits. Leaving aside the usual strength of DII SCT fields loaded with veteran recent HS grads, this is a pretty limited schedule as well.

3. Cost of Attending. Why does it cost money for totally new teams to compete? Given the way most colleges reimburse only established student organizations (and the wheels of bureaucracy often move quite slowly even if you do get all the formal approvals on time), it may be quite challenging or unlikely for fledgling teams/groups of interested students to get funding to attend Fall events. Expecting students who may have never played quizbowl before to eat the cost of both travel and registration upfront seems like a needless barrier to entry and not really a good source of revenue for the circuit (especially compared to what you could make from turning a new team into a circuit regular). I know there used to be a sort of circuit ideal that any scrappy freshman who was *truly* dedicated to the game wouldn't worry about the costs, but that's not really a good attitude to have in terms of expanding the game to new schools.

4. Lack of Resources for Things Outside of Improving. There are now many articles and posts on how to improve at quizbowl (a welcome development!), but there aren't many about how to effectively lead a team, manage leadership transitions from year-to-year, and develop quizbowl/organizational skills beyond the buzzer, especially at the collegiate level. Quizbowlers tend to want to play as much quizbowl as possible and so opportunities at nationals and regional tournaments for workshops are instead taken up by side events and as much quizbowl as possible in the tournament schedules. That's great on some level, but it leaves a pretty big hole where you see a lot of schools briefly flourish under a dedicated, experienced player or two and then decline and disappear once that person leaves (this seems to be a pretty big problem at smaller schools, especially liberal arts colleges). So one clear route to more collegiate teams is simply keeping more programs alive and thus not making a new group re-invent the wheel and jump through the logistical hoops to revive a team. This might be a good topic for additional discussions and initiatives within the quizbowl community. For instance, if a new team does show up out of the blue at a tournament, is there a rapid-reaction force in place to help welcome them into the community and serve as a resource for them? If it's known that the entire leadership of a team is about to graduate, are the other schools in that area aware and willing to help out the remaining members of that team to rebuild?

More relevant for the upcoming 2019-2020 competition year: if there is going to be any concerted attempt to develop new teams at new schools, the organizational wheels need to start turning *now* rather than, say, via an email blast of invitations sent out in September (that's going to be far too late for most potential new schools). I know that even under the best of circumstances collegiate outreach can be difficult, but I'd love to see the Collegiate Novices this year have a far greater number of new schools and for those new schools to last beyond this year.
Last edited by cchiego on Sat Jul 27, 2019 11:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Logistical Barriers to Starting Successful Collegiate Quizbowl Teams

Post by Cheynem »

Your points about 1 and 4 are supremely accurate and a good clarion call for things like more organization and more thought about team formation.

For point 2, I am assuming what you are suggesting is add and space out more "introductory" type tournaments and not simply move things like Collegiate Novice and Fall further and further back. I would not be opposed to one more novice tournament that can be later in the spring semester, but to be honest, I think the schedule makes sense--there usually are a flurry of novice tournaments or somewhat introductory tournaments right at the beginning of the year, then Fall around late October/November, then DII SCT after that. Something around the time of when MUT was, perhaps even easier, would be great as well. I'm curious as to how many introductory type tournaments you think the schedule should have and when they should be.

Point 3: This is an interesting point. I think most TD's and experienced quizbowl people would be willing to cut breaks/discounts to truly new teams and shorthanded teams. In some cases, this is codified in specific tournament announcements. In other cases, it becomes "talk to the TD if this is an issue and we'll work something out." I certainly am not opposed to granting discounts, especially for truly new teams, but I also think point 3 feeds into point 4--once a team gets a mild footing, how can they work out ways to pay for going to things? What's the best solutions?

In many of these cases, as accurate descriptions as they are, the goal for people "in" quizbowl is to lower the barriers. In some cases, these can be done through logistical or organizational means. In other cases, they are more of attitudinal means--getting new teams to not look at these barriers are impervious restrictions to quizbowl. In other words, "we as a new team don't have to go through endless loops to actually become a team, we can just get into a car/take a bus/take a train to this tournament and start playing."
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Re: Logistical Barriers to Starting Successful Collegiate Quizbowl Teams

Post by cchiego »

Cheynem wrote:
Sat Jul 27, 2019 11:46 pm
For point 2, I am assuming what you are suggesting is add and space out more "introductory" type tournaments....I'm curious as to how many introductory type tournaments you think the schedule should have and when they should be.
Yes, there should be more introductory/DII-type events. I got my own start in college quizbowl at a juniorbird event on an IS set and, for someone coming from an isolated mostly nonpyramidal circuit, it was the right difficulty to whet my appetite for more.

Interestingly, some states (NY and KY) already have some sort of shadow novice/occasional attendee circuit that seems to help keep a greater variety of teams going (many of the teams involved in those attend DII SCT as well). While I would prefer to see more of a Florida-style circuit that gets more of these schools to regular events and even integrates the CCs as well (Delta Burke seems to be an effective bridge), a true novice/DII set of events may be a good option to provide a clear "entry-level" set of events and avoid things like new teams stumbling into far too challenging events.
Cheynem wrote:
Sat Jul 27, 2019 11:46 pm
Point 3: This is an interesting point. I think most TD's and experienced quizbowl people would be willing to cut breaks/discounts to truly new teams and shorthanded teams. In some cases, this is codified in specific tournament announcements. In other cases, it becomes "talk to the TD if this is an issue and we'll work something out."
One problem with this is that truly new teams might not understand what this means in practice. I think it's far better to explicitly say "new team plays for free" and to also consider that travel is often a far bigger expense than registration.

For the point about what they do for, say, their third event or second year as a team, this is where my fourth point comes in with help for both navigating campus funding and potentially running (or helping to run) an event. Most colleges seem willing to give active orgs at least some funding, but the specific processes and pots of funding can be challenging for some teams and it can help to have advice on what to do (e.g. make sure you actually show up to funding meetings ready to answer questions). Hosting a HS event is a time-tested fundraising mechanism that has the added bonus of helping the local circuit. In cases where the college team exists but doesn't have much of an existing local circuit to draw from (say, in Maine or South Dakota), that might be a great opportunity for targeting national outreach efforts.
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Re: Logistical Barriers to Starting Successful Collegiate Quizbowl Teams

Post by Evan Lynch »

cchiego wrote:
Sat Jul 27, 2019 11:36 pm
2. Lack of Time to Organize II. Why are the Collegiate Novice events scheduled very early in the Fall Semester? While this is convenient for established programs to send their new players to and is likely a good introductory experience to quizbowl for those players who do participate, a new team will have a hard time getting off the ground in time to organize, recruit, secure transportation, and secure funding in time for these events. Even ACF Fall, which is a very significant step up in both difficulty and competitiveness, likely requires a fledgling team to come together in 1-2 months. If you miss these two, then the next-best introduction (and one that seems to get the most new/occasional schools) is DII SCT in February. After that there might be one additional event (the Spring Undergrad Event, however/if it materializes) in most circuits. Leaving aside the usual strength of DII SCT fields loaded with veteran recent HS grads, this is a pretty limited schedule as well.
The UK circuit has consistently held a novice event in mid-late November, usually 2-3 weeks after Fall, which both gives clubs time to pick up new players and also for players who get their first taste at Fall or EFT to come back relatively soon after and have a good time in effectively a sanitised environment. Thanks to the extended Christmas break, it's not really possible to have anything from early December through to mid-January, after which you're basically into DII SCT anyway (which we don't run). We've tried to include another novice event where possible in mid-February, although the UK opens have recently also been held at that time and there's something of a fixture pile-up. But yes, you're correct that the main tournaments for new players are EFT/Fall/Novice in the autumn, then nothing until the MUT window, and another set in the interim would go a long way to keeping new players interested. I would urge other circuits to try to find time in the autumn for another novice event, because we've had consistent success with this.
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Re: Logistical Barriers to Starting Successful Collegiate Quizbowl Teams

Post by High Dependency Unit »

I’ve recently been thinking about starting a thread about supporting quiz bowl at smaller colleges, based on my experiences at Bowdoin thus far, but it probably applies better here and I’ve tried to reply/add to Chris’s points as much as possible.

(Issue #1): The best thing that happened to me when starting the Bowdoin team was meeting another very excited freshman while tabling at the club fair – things are astronomically easier when you have multiple people on board and can combine connections, expertise, etc, something especially important when you need every active member you can get. The timing of the entering freshman list definitely makes it difficult to find people going to certain schools, but I also want to address the thoroughness of it: I’m not sure how the data is collected, but there a lot of players not on it, including me in 2017 (I don’t know how). We have to do everything we can to get everyone on this list.

Small colleges are not that different from small high schools – people do a lot of things because they have the opportunity to, as much of what happens at the school wouldn’t run otherwise. Players on our team have missed tournaments due to commitments for pep band, frisbee tournaments, regattas, outdoor leadership training, etc. I get ~40 signups at our club fair and then maybe 10-15 show up to a meeting, and even fewer stick around. You have to work to get people to show up, and you take who you can get.

(Issue #2): I agree that it’s a poor decision to run novice tournaments early in the fall. We, for example, have our club fair in mid-September, and wouldn’t be able to bring novices to a tournament before October – and when we were founded, we weren’t able to attend any tournaments until the spring. The addition of FST (and successors) to the spring schedule is helpful in that regard but it would be nice to have strictly-novice events in both the fall and spring.

The added issue of starting a team at a small college is that very few people have quiz bowl experience, and are thus more likely to struggle in categories like literature, fine arts, RMPSS, etc., even at the Fall and (especially) EFT difficulty levels. Many players on my team have been discouraged by struggles at very competitive New England tournaments and would certainly be more likely to stick with/get hooked on the game at a more casual, easier event. But this also gets into issue #4 a bit.

(Issue #3): I can’t comment on finances, since our student activities funding has been fantastic. This is often the case at liberal arts colleges, and can be a saving grace for those programs.

(Issue #4): There absolutely need to be more resources on developing quiz bowl skills, but I think the buzzer is just as important as the non-buzzer skills in this regard. Obviously a lot of people could use help with their leadership skills, managing transitions, travel, etc. but most of that (beyond maybe sharing the new contact info with other teams) is not unique to quiz bowl. Understanding quiz bowl organization is something that needs to be passed down, though, and the more we can easily break down how the calendar works, how to know which tournaments are best for you, etc., the better. Ophir’s quiz bowl calendar website is certainly helpful in that regard but it’s not a full solution.

Resources for improving and help with encouraging players to approve is just as important, though. Teams are certainly less likely to stay active on the circuit, and will certainly play fewer events, if they can’t score, and programs don’t necessarily have the institutional knowledge or motivation to know how to improve, just as they don’t necessarily have the non-buzzer skills. We have to be able to give motivated players the resources to improve, just as we need to give teams logistical & leadership knowledge. I know I can pass down the latter, but if the rest of the team stays stagnant in skill level, I won’t be surprised if it folds after I leave, and improving a team can often be a struggle. Workshops (at the regional level – the vulnerable teams are generally not the ones at nationals) would be helpful, but just as helpful would be giving that dedicated player the knowledge they need to not necessarily make their team a powerhouse, but keep the capable enough where they want to stick around on the circuit.

I want to add one final point about HS outreach that should not be missed when we talk about starting collegiate teams, and it’s that college teams are most likely to start up when they get talented (at least to a degree), experienced, and motivated players, and are best-sustained by continuing to receive experienced & motivated players. Continuing to expand the high school circuit, and instilling a love of the game within high school players, will pay dividends to the college circuit down the road, particularly when those efforts are focused in the right region. The best way to start teams at SUNY will be by improving the circuit in New York, just as I’ve realized a more-thriving Boston circuit and any existence of a Maine circuit would do wonders for who we get in a given year as well. This is of course a longer-term approach, but having a larger pool of already-interested players to draw from would be huge for a lot of quiz bowl programs, mine included.
Michael Borecki
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Re: Logistical Barriers to Starting Successful Collegiate Quizbowl Teams

Post by cchiego »

High Dependency Unit wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:58 pm
The added issue of starting a team at a small college is that very few people have quiz bowl experience, and are thus more likely to struggle in categories like literature, fine arts, RMPSS, etc., even at the Fall and (especially) EFT difficulty levels. Many players on my team have been discouraged by struggles at very competitive New England tournaments and would certainly be more likely to stick with/get hooked on the game at a more casual, easier event. But this also gets into issue #4 a bit.
This is an important point of view that too often isn't represented on the forums or Discord. I'm glad to see it brought up and hope that others from smaller teams chime in. I also think it's important to note that there can be big differences in the health of teams started by one or two dedicated players. If there's just one player putting up a high PPG but only 1 or 2 other players regularly attending and barely putting up any points, then that's probably a warning sign that the roots are fairly shallow and the community ought to be concerned (I say this in part because I've seen people claim that everything is fine-and-dandy so long as a school had a team of some kind, even if there's warning signs such as lots of HS players choosing not to join that club and play in college; the phenomenon of poor club leadership definitely deserves more discussion). In contrast, bringing 2-3 teams repeatedly and seeing other players start to improve is usually a good sign.
High Dependency Unit wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:58 pm
Resources for improving and help with encouraging players to approve is just as important, though. Teams are certainly less likely to stay active on the circuit, and will certainly play fewer events, if they can’t score, and programs don’t necessarily have the institutional knowledge or motivation to know how to improve, just as they don’t necessarily have the non-buzzer skills. We have to be able to give motivated players the resources to improve, just as we need to give teams logistical & leadership knowledge. I know I can pass down the latter, but if the rest of the team stays stagnant in skill level, I won’t be surprised if it folds after I leave, and improving a team can often be a struggle. Workshops (at the regional level – the vulnerable teams are generally not the ones at nationals) would be helpful, but just as helpful would be giving that dedicated player the knowledge they need to not necessarily make their team a powerhouse, but keep the capable enough where they want to stick around on the circuit.
Advice on techniques for improving at quizbowl is widely available and there's plenty of advice on the college game specifically too (moreso in the archives of this board than on other web pages, but things like How to Get Good at This Game remain classics). The real issue is motivation: why should someone invest time in improving at quizbowl in college? The answer may seem obvious to some (particularly those who are actively involved on boards like this!), but it's the key question at the collegiate level when quizbowl participation isn't really going to burnish your resume and the institutional rewards for doing well at quizbowl are much lower than compared to high school. Based on what I've seen in the last decade and my own experiences, there's no substitute for having a group of 4-5 dedicated players (one "trap" can be when there's only one dedicated player who puts up 100+ PPG and basically crowds out everyone else) who want to improve together--and that's difficult to find. It sounds like your experience at Bowdoin was greatly improved just by finding one other person who was strongly interested. And I think this is where having skilled team leadership can make more HS players want to stay active in college and could also attract new players who might be motivated to improve as well simply by providing a better experience as an organization (nobody wants to be part of a disorganized group that can't get funding, doesn't consistently hold practices, never knows how they're getting to a tournament, etc.).
High Dependency Unit wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:58 pm
I want to add one final point about HS outreach that should not be missed when we talk about starting collegiate teams, and it’s that college teams are most likely to start up when they get talented (at least to a degree), experienced, and motivated players, and are best-sustained by continuing to receive experienced & motivated players. Continuing to expand the high school circuit, and instilling a love of the game within high school players, will pay dividends to the college circuit down the road, particularly when those efforts are focused in the right region. The best way to start teams at SUNY will be by improving the circuit in New York, just as I’ve realized a more-thriving Boston circuit and any existence of a Maine circuit would do wonders for who we get in a given year as well. This is of course a longer-term approach, but having a larger pool of already-interested players to draw from would be huge for a lot of quiz bowl programs, mine included.
All of this is entirely true and is why, if you haven't already, everyone reading this should do everything they can to foster a wider and deeper high school circuit wherever they live (and right now as school begins again is the best time for outreach!).
High Dependency Unit wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:58 pm
Workshops (at the regional level – the vulnerable teams are generally not the ones at nationals) would be helpful
I was thinking that workshops should be focused at HS Nationals since that's where you see the biggest overlap between the college and HS game in terms of personnel and where you can get to more potential college players before they depart for college. Instead of yet another side tournament (or ten), why not have a workshop on "starting a new team in college," a panel on "making the transition from HS to College Quizbowl," and perhaps even meetups for current and potential future players at various colleges to get to know each other?
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Re: Logistical Barriers to Starting Successful Collegiate Quizbowl Teams

Post by High Dependency Unit »

cchiego wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 4:28 pm
High Dependency Unit wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:58 pm
Workshops (at the regional level – the vulnerable teams are generally not the ones at nationals) would be helpful
I was thinking that workshops should be focused at HS Nationals since that's where you see the biggest overlap between the college and HS game in terms of personnel and where you can get to more potential college players before they depart for college. Instead of yet another side tournament (or ten), why not have a workshop on "starting a new team in college," a panel on "making the transition from HS to College Quizbowl," and perhaps even meetups for current and potential future players at various colleges to get to know each other?
That's fair, and I could see that working especially well at HSNCT in terms of the number of players who aren't 100% plugged in to the entire community and NAQT's obvious financial interest in a larger collegiate circuit.
Michael Borecki
Middlesex Middle '13,
Darien (co-captain) '17,
Bowdoin College (club president) '21
NHBB Regional Coordinator
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Re: Logistical Barriers to Starting Successful Collegiate Quizbowl Teams

Post by Santa Claus »

As someone else who has been thinking about the problems with quiz bowl at small colleges, I'd like to second a lot of what Michael has been saying, as well as offer some comments of my own.
High Dependency Unit wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:58 pm
(Issue #1): The best thing that happened to me when starting the Bowdoin team was meeting another very excited freshman while tabling at the club fair – things are astronomically easier when you have multiple people on board and can combine connections, expertise, etc, something especially important when you need every active member you can get.
Part of this was my natural tendencies, but I found myself shouldering a lot of the responsibilities of running the club and dealing with school administration rather than training others. Obviously this isn't a sustainable practice, but I feel like it's a surprisingly easy trap to fall into. Throughout my college career the majority of my team was fairly new to quiz bowl, and knowing that I could handle the logistics side of things on my own (albeit with some difficulty) I always felt reticent to introduce them to what I viewed as the less glamorous side of quiz bowl. Even months into the semester, I was always afraid that people would flee at the sight of responsibilities, despite them having demonstrated that they enjoyed the activity enough to deal with the slightly difficult tasks like "checking logistics on the forums" or "talking to the student budgetary committee."

After talking with teammates after the fact, I realize that I could have been having them take more of an active position in the team. The biggest example of this was in writing for packet submission tournaments, which I often limited to just members of the A team but would have been a great way to introduce writing to the rest of the team. For me, this is one of the biggest benefits of things like packet submission - the majority of players will only ever write questions for ACF Fall and Regionals, if at all. Not everyone is on a team like Penn or Maryland that consistently puts out a housewrite that everyone can contribute to - people in smaller programs lack a similar way to get prominence in writing, or transition to larger projects. All the arguments for abolishing this requirement seem to ignore that without this sort of system, there's a huge swathe of the quiz bowl community that simply never will get the ability to write, regardless of whether they want to.
(Issue #3): I can’t comment on finances, since our student activities funding has been fantastic. This is often the case at liberal arts colleges, and can be a saving grace for those programs.
Ditto.
(Issue #4): There absolutely need to be more resources on developing quiz bowl skills, but I think the buzzer is just as important as the non-buzzer skills in this regard. Obviously a lot of people could use help with their leadership skills, managing transitions, travel, etc. but most of that (beyond maybe sharing the new contact info with other teams) is not unique to quiz bowl. Understanding quiz bowl organization is something that needs to be passed down, though, and the more we can easily break down how the calendar works, how to know which tournaments are best for you, etc., the better. Ophir’s quiz bowl calendar website is certainly helpful in that regard but it’s not a full solution.

Resources for improving and help with encouraging players to approve is just as important, though. Teams are certainly less likely to stay active on the circuit, and will certainly play fewer events, if they can’t score, and programs don’t necessarily have the institutional knowledge or motivation to know how to improve, just as they don’t necessarily have the non-buzzer skills. We have to be able to give motivated players the resources to improve, just as we need to give teams logistical & leadership knowledge. I know I can pass down the latter, but if the rest of the team stays stagnant in skill level, I won’t be surprised if it folds after I leave, and improving a team can often be a struggle. Workshops (at the regional level – the vulnerable teams are generally not the ones at nationals) would be helpful, but just as helpful would be giving that dedicated player the knowledge they need to not necessarily make their team a powerhouse, but keep the capable enough where they want to stick around on the circuit.
Something I've thought for a while is that there is likely a large contingent of people, often at smaller schools, who are "stuck" where they are in quiz bowl through no fault of their own. Concepts like knowing that you need to study to get good, or that people even do study for quiz bowl, aren't necessarily obvious to people who aren't plugged into the circuit, and that's only harder at schools that don't necessarily have the size to mentor their novices. I'm potentially biased about this because of the aforementioned problems with within my team, but I feel like I've seen this in other teams as well.

I think there are some pretty minor things that clubs and tournament directors could incorporate that would help a lot with this sort of thing - for instance, why don't tournaments give "best new player awards"? You have to get rosters any tournament, just ask if they're new to quiz bowl when you get them. It's this sort of thing that encourages people to improve, or to find out how to improve, because sometimes it can be hard to know exactly what your teammates want if they don't directly tell you.
Kevin Wang
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