Outreach for schools that play "bad" formats

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A Very Long Math Tossup
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Outreach for schools that play "bad" formats

Post by A Very Long Math Tossup » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:16 am

Hey, I'm on the University of Colorado's team, and were trying to grow our high school circuit. CO is mostly dominated by Knowledge Bowl (AUK questions), but we've had some success hosting NAQT state championships the last two years. We're planning on hosting more tournaments next season, and we'll be reaching out to a lot of schools that only play Knowledge Bowl, and trying to convince them to play quizbowl.

We're trying to promote pyramidal quizbowl to schools who have only played bad formats; here's what we have so far:
  • Quizbowl is played nationally
  • Pyramidal quizbowl is the main college format, and the one played by "elite" universities (ivies, MIT, Caltech, Stanford, Chicago, Berkeley, etc)
  • We're trying to make sure that teams have a good experience their first time (Jordan Boyd-Graber has done an absolutely incredible job directing our tournaments).
Does anyone have any advice on convincing schools to try pyramidal/"good" qb?
Matt Mitchell
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Re: Outreach for schools that play "bad" formats

Post by cchiego » Wed Apr 19, 2017 2:46 am

matt2718 wrote: Does anyone have any advice on convincing schools to try pyramidal/"good" qb?
That's awesome that y'all are going to try to do this! CO is definitely ripe for hosting more pyramidal tournaments given the many teams who play KB. Definitely search through this forum (especially in the theory section and such) for more advice on outreach to teams on non-pyramidal formats.

I will say though based on past experiences around the country that several of those points that you make are likely not going to be very effective in terms of outreach:
matt2718 wrote: Re: Outreach for schools that play "bad" formats
Be very, very careful about invoking the "good/bad" distinction too soon in doing outreach. While I think the distinction is useful in generally describing better and worse practices, telling someone that what they've been doing for years is "bad' is likely going to lead to a defensive, negative reaction. "Good" quizbowl is very convincing in and of itself for many coaches and players, so your goal should be to stress the positive aspects of pyramidal questions and get teams to pyramidal tournaments rather than label KB bad (and as someone who had to suffer through 3 years of these questions as the only thing my school would play in high school, I am very familiar with how awful the AUK questions are). Just explaining the logic of pyramidal questions by itself should help people understand.
matt2718 wrote: [*] Quizbowl is played nationally
Saying that something is the "national" format is the surest way to provoke a negative response from those who are used to a "local" format. This is especially going to be the case in Colorado where THE AUK began and is firmly enmeshed with the local educational establishment. Arguments that rely on saying "but other states do this" will be met with arguments along the lines of "we have unique educational needs here and Academic Hallmarks has been meeting those unique Colorado needs for longer than you've been living, thank you very much." Trying to argue against this point-by-point will likely get you nowhere.
matt2718 wrote: [*] Pyramidal quizbowl is the main college format, and the one played by "elite" universities (ivies, MIT, Caltech, Stanford, Chicago, Berkeley, etc)
This is almost certainly going to be perceived by a great many people as elitist. Not that many students end up going to those kinds of universities in the first place and again they're essentially foreign institutions. You can certainly mention that all the top universities have pyramidal quizbowl teams, but making it a big point is likely not going to be very convincing. Instead, you might want to say that this is what UC Boulder and other local universities play and that you've enjoyed it immensely (maybe get some people who played KB in HS to "testify" to how much they've enjoyed quizbowl?).
matt2718 wrote: [*] We're trying to make sure that teams have a good experience their first time (Jordan Boyd-Graber has done an absolutely incredible job directing our tournaments).
Now this is an excellent point and the foundation for what I think would be a more productive form of outreach. You want to present pyramidal quizbowl by example as a positive learning experience for everyone that provides teams of all skill levels with a better experience all-around. Make sure that whatever tournaments you run and any new tournaments that you can help organize are well-advertised, well-organized, and well-run. Get to know coaches and talk with them personally in the course of running those tournaments and make sure they have a good time.

Your first goal should be trying to see which coaches in the state know about quizbowl or might be interested in learning more about it. The teams who have attended SSNCT and HSNCT in the past (or this year) would be an excellent foundation. In addition to contacting current KB schools (which should be fairly easy as most schools' websites will have them), you should look for areas of the state that are currently underserved by Knowledge Bowl--certain rural districts and urban districts as well as private schools might be good places to look at. Knowledge Bowl gets a ton of PR already and most schools are already familiar with it, so it might be helpful to have a CO-specific repository of information on quizbowl compared to KB as well.

You're going to meet with a lot of pushback and not many people will be enthusiastic about embracing pyramidal questions. But, a few likely will! It might be only 3-4 out of 80+ emails that you send, but you'll almost certainly get some interest. Take what you can get and be persistent but polite in terms of advertising tournaments and outreach. I'm sure that many others in the quizbowl community would be more than happy to help y'all out too along the way. Best of luck!
Chris C.
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Re: Outreach for schools that play "bad" formats

Post by A Very Long Math Tossup » Wed Apr 19, 2017 3:39 am

Thanks so much, Chris. We've been trying to do this without telling schools that they're doing it wrong (I only use the term "bad quizbowl" within the established community). You make a great point about big-name schools being perceived as elitist; I didn't even consider this. We'll try to play up the fact that CU and other universities play it.
In reference to the "national format" problem, we'll probably back off of that (after taking a look at this Kansas thread, I realized how much it could backfire). However, mentioning the fact that teams could qualify for HSNCT/NSC generated some interest this year, so we'll probably keep that.

Great suggestion with the CO-specific repository. Our eventual goal is to set up some sort of quiz bowl alliance in the vein of MOQBA/NorCal/GPQB. Do you have any advice on this?

Again, thank you. It's going to be rough, but the CO circuit has a ton of potential, and we're very committed to growing it.
Matt Mitchell
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Re: Outreach for schools that play "bad" formats

Post by Deviant Insider » Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:37 am

Chris makes a lot of good points. I'll add that a lot of outreach in cases like this should be personal. Talk to and/or email coaches who return to your tournaments, and ask them if they are interested in talking to other coaches they know about your tournament. Also ask them if they are willing to host pyramidal tournaments or convert their conference. Additionally, CU has a lot of students who played AUK when they were in high school, and it would help if you could get some of those students to contact their former coaches and their former teammates who are still in high school to encourage them along the same lines.

Also keep in mind that PACE has an outreach fund, and we would love to see more good quizbowl in Colorado.

Improvement can take a long time. When I started coaching in 1994, there were already a handful of people pushing for good quizbowl in Illinois. It took 15 years until about half of the tournaments were good. (It would have taken longer than that if not for U of I.) It might not take you as long because quizbowl is in immensely better shape nationally than it was in 1994, but in quizbowl inertia is a fundamental force that is difficult to overcome.
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Re: Outreach for schools that play "bad" formats

Post by dwd500 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 9:50 am

I grew up on a pretty bad format: Kentucky's Governor's Cup was all I knew existed back when I graduated in 1996.

When I first took on sponsorship of our Middle School team here at Washington (MO) eleven years ago, the only tournament we would enter all year was a middle-of-the-week after-school tournament that ran on questions very similar to Governor's Cup (one-liners, left turns, the works). We'd also play the KMO. When I first tried my hand at hosting, I ran it pretty close to a Governor's Cup format, complete with individual test events. This was all we knew for about 4-5 years.

Let me tell you why I changed.

The first event that we attended that used pyramidal questions was an event at Tuscumbia in 2011. To prep, I pulled up the sample packet from NAQT's website and read it at practice. The kids REALLY enjoyed it, much more so than the Patrick's Press weekly mailers I'd been using. What I got out of it was this - the kids like the style more, and everybody leaves a tournament knowing more stuff than when they arrived that morning, including the best players. That wasn't true under the other stuff. They then wanted to find more stuff to go to - we ended up qualifying for and going to MSNCT that year, and it's snowballed on from that point.

For a coach, that underlined bit is invaluable. That's what every decent coach is trying to do - teach more stuff, expanding kids' horizons, etc. To couple that with the fairness that stems from the format is a very good selling tool.
David Dennis
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Re: Outreach for schools that play "bad" formats

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:35 pm

what's a good response to "our school doesn't take quizbowl very seriously", an excuse you do hear from schools who don't want to change what format they play
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Re: Outreach for schools that play "bad" formats

Post by Golran » Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:59 pm

One thing I would aim to avoid, like others have said, is calling the game they play "bad" because it's not necessarily bad, it's just a different game. If the team already plays format X, suggest to them, you like playing X, you'll love Quiz Bowl - it's another way to test similar skills and is an amazing academic outlet just like X. Basically talk up quiz bowl and the similarities it has to their game, don't start with superiority. They might like the game they play and that's alright.
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Re: Outreach for schools that play "bad" formats

Post by ValenciaQBowl » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:33 pm

After years of failing to get coaches in the greater Orlando area to show any interest in my invitations to set up a tournament for their high school teams (really, I would say "Free tournament and I'll provide lunch and awards" and they still didn't care!), this past year I asked coaches if I could attend one of their practices. Actually, I started with one coach whose high school is less than two miles from my particular Valencia campus and from which we get a lot of students.

At his practice, I found a moment he was puttering around and asked if I could read some questions I brought along (NAQT A-set). I just read toss-ups directly to the players for about 15 minutes, and unsurprisingly they liked them a lot more than the relatively cruddy questions they use for the county competitions (they actually have players write their own questions for each other, leading to toss-ups like, "What's the second-deepest trench in the Pacific Ocean?").

This coach then helped me by e-mailing his colleagues to tell them they should let me stop by a practice, and on my own I started showing up at some of their tri-matches. When I was able to read directly to the players and get them interested, they then badgered their coaches, and this spring I finally was able to run a tournament for local teams, nearly all of whom then said they're definitely interested in doing it again next year.

So try to get to a practice and reach the players directly. A lot of the coaches are teachers who are busy parents/adults who understandably aren't going to be interested in doing anything new.
Chris Borglum
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Re: Outreach for schools that play "bad" formats

Post by dhumphreys17 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 2:03 pm

ValenciaQBowl wrote:So try to get to a practice and reach the players directly. A lot of the coaches are teachers who are busy parents/adults who understandably aren't going to be interested in doing anything new.
This. The only reason why Sacred Heart has done anything outside of its conference or Quiz Central these last three years is because we were lucky enough (1) to have a coach the past two years who was open to the idea of expanding the program, and (2) to make sure that in our search for a new coach this year, that openness was a must. For schools that do not have the advantage of having a coach willing to explore new possibilities, mentorship from the greater quizbowl community may be the most effective method to bring these teams onto the circuit.
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Re: Outreach for schools that play "bad" formats

Post by cchiego » Wed Apr 19, 2017 3:03 pm

matt2718 wrote:Thanks so much, Chris. We've been trying to do this without telling schools that they're doing it wrong (I only use the term "bad quizbowl" within the established community). You make a great point about big-name schools being perceived as elitist; I didn't even consider this. We'll try to play up the fact that CU and other universities play it.
In reference to the "national format" problem, we'll probably back off of that (after taking a look at this Kansas thread, I realized how much it could backfire). However, mentioning the fact that teams could qualify for HSNCT/NSC generated some interest this year, so we'll probably keep that.

Great suggestion with the CO-specific repository. Our eventual goal is to set up some sort of quiz bowl alliance in the vein of MOQBA/NorCal/GPQB. Do you have any advice on this?

Again, thank you. It's going to be rough, but the CO circuit has a ton of potential, and we're very committed to growing it.
Yeah, mentioning that teams can qualify for a national championship with good performances is a fine way to point out the national connections of quizbowl without infringing on local sovereignty.

A quizbowl alliance works best once you have a variety of stakeholders, so you might want to wait until you get a few more coaches or colleges (and any QB alumni who've settled in CO) onboard, but you can certainly start with a website for tournaments, comparisons of KB to QB, and in general a place for people searching "Knowledge Bowl tournaments" in Colorado to stumble across.

And like Chris Borglum pointed out, the more you can get in-person meetings with these teams, the likelier you'll spark interest in pyramidal quizbowl.
Chris C.
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Re: Outreach for schools that play "bad" formats

Post by alexdz » Thu Apr 20, 2017 3:02 pm

cchiego wrote:You want to present pyramidal quizbowl by example as a positive learning experience for everyone that provides teams of all skill levels with a better experience all-around. Make sure that whatever tournaments you run and any new tournaments that you can help organize are well-advertised, well-organized, and well-run. Get to know coaches and talk with them personally in the course of running those tournaments and make sure they have a good time.
This is probably even more important than the actual arguments for why the good quizbowl format is better. If I learned anything from years of working to develop the circuit in Missouri, it's that having a cadre of people who are both personable and professional works wonders. Your competition is probably largely nice people who run terrible-format tournaments, so you don't want your effort to fail by running good-format tournaments in a way that is perceived as "not a pleasant experience."

Taking some simple steps like making sure rooms are easy to find (use signs, arrows, hallway volunteers, etc.), food options are clear and available, and having easy to read schedules can go very, very far in convincing coaches that your tournaments are worth the effort. Not to mention, of course, giving a warm welcome, interacting with teams in meaningful ways throughout the day and being flexible and kind to new attendees. You have to create an environment where people are able to enjoy themselves - in a non-gimmicky way - outside of the course of the game.
Alex Dzurick
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