It has become that time of evening when people sit on their porches.
Over the coming months, I will gradually phase out my involvement with the high school quizbowl circuit in Southern California in order to focus on other pursuits in my personal and professional life. I plan to ensure that a stable event calendar exists through the end of the 2017 calendar year, and there is a small possibility that I may stay and conduct outreach for the season-opening novice tournament, but afterwards, I will no longer be involved with staffing local tournaments, maintaining this website, or conducting social media on the Facebook group. Please email, private message, or otherwise contact me if you are interested in contributing to this website.
In order to facilitate a smoother, more transparent discussion of tournament scheduling, I have moved talks to a thread on the public Quizbowl Resource Center forums, instead of the private email chain that has been used traditionally.
I have outlined a small number of items which I believe are necessary for the continuation of Southern California as a self-sufficient, nationally-competitive quizbowl circuit.
1. Continue the trajectory of tournaments hosted using high-quality questions, with two competitive divisions, and supported by assertive outreach and a network of middle schools. The use of high-quality question sets is a direct corollary of the intentionally-fewer tournaments that were scheduled this year. We need to continue to have no more than three (3) tournaments in a two-month timespan, run on high-quality question sets such as NAQT sets, BHSAT, HFT, and WHAQ.
Among the greatest successes of Southern California has been the introduction of Varsity and JV divisions to regular-season tournaments. Even in 2016 – 2017 alone, this endeavour has allowed schools such as Rancho Bernardo, Del Norte, and San Dieguito to foster new talent in a competitive environment without the excesses of being in a pool with the likes of Canyon Crest A. We need to continue this practice at every possible tournament in the future, and in particular we need to be clearer about JV qualification, which has been an oversight on my part. I am in favour of a Northern California-esque system with some modifications; JV qualification would be extended to individuals who meet the following criteria:
(a) less than two (2) calendar years of high school quizbowl experience
(b) less than than two (2) tournament wins in a JV division
(c) have never scored 60 PPG or above in a JV division
(d) have never scored more than 25% of their team’s points-per-game (PPG) at a HSNCT or NSC team that placed in the top 25%
Over the past five years, Madison High School’s tremendously successful Warhawk Invitational series have almost singlehandedly created and fostered one of the nation’s strongest middle school circuits. This year, high schools such as Bishop’s, Francis Parker, Mt. Everest, and Mira Mesa have shown tremendous talent in their first- and second-year students that have gone “under the radar.” These schools are the future of Southern California. Madison, Rancho Bernardo, and Westview have firsthand experience of how effective and rewarding direct outreach can be. We need to stop with the email blasts and start establishing personal connections with students, players, teams, and coaches. Phone calls and conversations can go a long way.
Another thing, and perhaps the most important: quizbowl can be an expensive activity, and not every team or school has the funding to compete at every tournament in the current economic environment of quizbowl. We need to revamp the execution of new school discounts. If the current $80-per-team registration continues to stand, new schools need to be given a minimum of a $60 discount. The definition of “new school” needs to cover any team that has three (3) or less tournaments played in the past two (2) calendar years, and the discount needs to extend to any and all tournaments under which the school continues to be considered “new” by this definition.
2. Make strides in Orange County and Los Angeles. This has been the metaphorical centum-split-in-Tocharian of Southern California quizbowl. In theory, Los Angeles is a great place to conduct outreach, because it has a deeply-entrenched tradition of Academic Decathlon that should be a ripe for starting quizbowl teams. In practice, there has never been a strong enough force of outreach to accomplish this goal. The closest we came was the laudable efforts of the Arcadia club this year, but besides that we’ve relied on word-of-mouth and for teams to miraculously come across this website. I’ll be honest, I don’t have a clear answer for this at all, other than a happy vision of some distant future where Arcadia and North Hollywood don’t need to drive down two hours for a tournament every month.
3. Introduce the North County and Grossmont Academic Leagues to pyramidal questions. There are two ways we can do this. The first way is to continue with the status quo, in which Academic League and quizbowl are bifurcated entirely, and individualised outreach is targetted at North County schools. This has been relatively successful, but has progressed at a slow pace, particularly due to the geographic distance between the quizbowl-regular North County schools and many of the non-quizbowl-regular North County schools, which are situated closer to the 78 freeway.
The alternative is for students and coaches to come together and pressure the league to adopt a pyramidal question source such as NAQT or (as Illinois has done) reputable private contractors; this would effect the most immediate change and would reach the largest number of teams. The downside is that, if Academic League adopts NAQT, this would doubtlessly have ramifications on eligibility and question security at existing regular-season tournaments, which we’ve already seen this year with Olympian, La Jolla, Cathedral, and Scripps Ranch. The model that’s been proposed, and that I think would be the best, is the one used by the Sweetwater Academic League, in which the Varsity division uses IS-A questions and the JV and Freshman divisions use MS questions. This would provide competitive environments in which Academic League and Varsity quizbowl can both thrive.
In the past, I’ve been a strong proponent of the second option, but more recently I’ve come to question its necessity. The middle school circuit is thriving more than ever, and there’s been an optimistic reception to high school outreach this year.
4. Establish a network of coaches and alumni to carry out administrative faculties. This is the least immediate goal, and one that will take years to accomplish. The nation’s strongest circuits are all supported by quizbowlers of years past, from NCQBA and the ten thousand members of the UC Berkeley Club in Northern California to the coaches that make up Illinois’s IHSSBCA. The unusually student-centered nature of Southern California is a double-edged sword in this regard; opportunities for teams and students to host and run their own tournaments are a direct result of the paucity of coaches and alumni in the region. UC San Diego is a small club which lacks the resources to simultaneously conduct outreach, certify high-quality tournaments, and host those large tournaments. In order for Southern California to continue to exist, this responsibility will need to be diffused to other coaches and college clubs over time.