I have a lot of responding and clarifying regarding Julia’s thoughtful post, so pardon the length.
Couch's Kingbird wrote: For the sake of brevity I’ll address two of the points Eric made. Firstly, I’ve personally never heard that “college quiz bowl is too hard” be a reason for “good,” involved players to quit. To scale and play well at Nationals, we (as in good high school players) practice on hard questions. Simple as that- there’s no way else we can scale. The players I know practice on questions ranging from sets ranging from ACF Fall to EFT to MUT.
I’ve definitely seen elite high school players leave the game because they don’t want to scale up to “regular level” college quizbowl. I’ve seen it with my own team. I don’t think it’s a secret that there are a lot of good high school quizbowlers who would like to continue playing on regular minus and high school level questions forever. In the 20 years I’ve been involved in college quizbowl, I’ve seen countless players dominate on DII questions for their first few years and the decide to leave the game because they don’t want to go any further. Many more don’t even go that far.
Is it the biggest reason good high school players leave the game? Probably not, but it’s a reason. I’m not saying this is a character flaw or something. Regular difficulty isn’t for everyone. And I’m open to reexamining difficulty levels (and I’m definitely for more control on question length). But it’s also not necessarily the college game’s fault if someone decides they want to quit because ACF Fall/NAQT DII is as far as they want to go in terms of difficulty.
Couch's Kingbird wrote: Secondly, this is a perception I’ve gradually noticed while lurking around- that high schoolers have a coach which do everything for them, and high schoolers are somehow not as capable of running their team. The vast majority of teams I know are very student oriented out of necessity- coaches often don’t have the time to devote to “take care of red tape” and logistics or the like. On Darien for instance, the players often are the ones to fill in trip paperwork, make sure all of the players fill in permission slips and the like, register for tournaments, organize transportation to tournaments, etc.- our adviser does help with logistics (stuff like booking hotel rooms and flights), but is mainly there because our school requires a teacher to attend tournaments with the team. In short: yes, high schoolers do know how to run a team and often do run teams independently (for all extents and purposes), and the perception that high schoolers lack the ability to manage a team logistically is counterproductive at best.
I definitely didn’t say high schoolers/college freshmen inherently lack the ability to manage a team, so I’d like to make that clear. What I am saying is that the high school game doesn’t necessarily develop the leadership skills needed to run a college quizbowl team. Those skills can be learned from scratch (I know I did), but it is a barrier to entry to be sure.
I know that there are many, many high schoolers who do a ton of work for their teams on the logistics side. I think it’s awesome that you all do that kind of work for your team. Dealing with red tape and logistics is a major life skill. It’s one of the most valuable things I learned in college quizbowl. Believe me, I’ve seen tons of high school quizbowlers who accomplish things that boggle my mind on the logistics end of things.
But it definitely goes the other way too, in which the coaches do almost all of the logistical work. Nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s nice not having to worry about the red tape. But when some of these players get to college, they don’t have any experience with those kind of logistical/leadership skills. For instance, I’ve had to explain how to book a hotel to new college players before. It sounds trivial, but it can be daunting! I almost quit college quizbowl when all of the logistical work suddenly fell on my shoulders due to attrition.
Couch's Kingbird wrote: The biggest reason I’ve heard cited for quitting before college, however, is the insular and even toxic nature of the college quiz bowl circuit. I experienced this first hand at my first college tournament, when someone interrupted the opening meeting to ask a question (a fair point but rudely brought up) and was promptly called a “douche” by other moderators.
That’s pretty crappy and not acceptable behavior. I don’t remember seeing anything that outrageous recently at tournaments I’ve been to. I personally try to be welcoming to new players and teams. I don’t really see as big an insularity problem in the Southeast. Maybe it’s me with rose-colored glasses, but the teams in our region seem to be pretty friendly, open to new players and teams, and, well, not too insular. Of course, I remember lots of people making fun of our circuit for not being as competitive as the Ivy Leagues and whatnot, so I’ve definitely been on the receiving end of the insularity thing too.
Couch's Kingbird wrote: I’m all for this, but I’ve felt that it can be difficult to get involved in the community. A big part of my own high school quiz bowl experience was trying to “break into” the circuit- early on I noticed that respect and the ability to become an influential figure came from becoming a good/great player, from being a “threat” on the local circuit, etc; the best players are the most well-known and command respect, but as a result it was difficult to get involved and connected with others. The college community seems similar, if not worse; there’s a circle of very, very established players that tend to do a lot in terms of running tournaments, writing sets, etc. This goes hand in hand with the insularity the poll mentions.
I think you make some great points here, but I’d like to know more. Like, I certainly think that anyone who takes on the challenge of college quizbowl deserves respect. This includes being welcome at events, being treated with dignity and politeness, being listened to on quizbowl issues, and being allowed the opportunity to become more involved in the circuit if they want. And sometimes I think younger players make points on forums that get dismissed with too much prejudice.
But respect is also earned. People who “do a lot in terms of running tournaments, writing sets, etc.” have earned more of a say in quizbowl than an incoming freshman who hasn’t yet done these things. It’s the way of the world. So, for example, although I don’t dismiss points freshmen make regarding college question distribution or how to run a tournament, I’m going to pay more heed to Andrew Hart and Mike Bentley regarding these things because they’ve earned a ton of clout through years of work and experience. Doesn’t mean the younger folk are always wrong, doesn’t mean the more experienced folks are always right.
My experience has never been that key circuit members are difficult to get to know or work with. Of course, I started at a different time, but most members of the circuit these days seem willing to chat with those who have questions. But I’ve felt cliquishness too, so I hear you. I mean, I’ve been in quizbowl for as long as about anyone, and I often feel like an outsider.
Couch's Kingbird wrote: From the perspective of a high schooler: once we enter college we are once again the bottom of the pecking ladder. After all, we’re freshmen. We’re less acquainted with the mechanisms of the college circuit. And we’re likely (understandably) less trusted with stuff like running tournaments, writing questions, editing, etc.
But at the same time, there’s this perception of high schoolers that Eric’s post (even if unintentionally) highlights- that somehow high schoolers are not “leaders.” That somehow we are disconnected from the community, that we don’t learn or care about how to run a team or a tournament, that we are unwilling to push ourselves to play harder questions or take steps to be more involved in the community.
I probably was a little too blunt originally. I didn’t mean to say that, if you quit quizbowl because you don’t feel like starting a team at your college that you aren’t a “leader.” Like I said, I almost near quit college quizbowl when the onus of leadership of South Carolina’s program suddenly shifted to me. Nothing wrong with that. But, at the same time, had I quit at that time, it would not have been the fault of college quizbowl. It would have been due to my conscious decision that I didn’t feel like doing the work necessary to keep a team going.
Couch's Kingbird wrote:I’m one of those high schoolers who want to make a change, but with that perception and the insularity it’s hard to see how I can get more involved and truly make a difference. I’ve seen the many positive sides of college quiz bowl and appreciate the love of the game quiz bowlers share, but I’ve also been dismayed by the insularity and sometimes disorganization of the circuit (for instance, of the high school level tournaments I’ve been to, many of the worst run have been by college teams). From the view of an outsider: College players, especially the established ones, need to be more open to what “outsiders” like high schoolers/college freshmen notice about the community, as well as be more willing to allow those players to become more involved at every level of the community- even if they’re new or not necessarily the strongest player on their team.
I hope you do decide to stick around and make positive changes to the circuit. Indeed, the very problem you describe looks like a potential opportunity for you to make a difference. I agree that shoddily run tournaments are a turnoff. You can make a difference by putting together a well-run tournament. You can make a difference by telling folks who run shoddy tournaments what they can do to improve. And you don’t need to be a great player to do any of these things. Like Bruce said, one person’s positive contributions can be a huge boon for an entire region.
One thing: is college quizbowl actively preventing or discouraging people from becoming involved? This would be news to me. What examples are there of this happening?
University of South Carolina Alum