Many clubs are starting up their meetings this time of year. While early meetings will sort out fees, a tournament schedule, and other administrative tasks, the majority of the time will be spent practicing on questions.
Clubs can have different attitudes toward practice questions. Some clubs meet quite infrequently and get enough playtime through the welcome package provided by SchoolReach. Some clubs limit buzzer time in favour of studying or writing material. Many, however, quickly burn through the supplied questions in a few practices.
Firstly, it is worth considering not using the introductory package (of roughly 12 packs) during practice. When I was in high school, we saved them for arranged matches between other local clubs; we’d taxi over for an afternoon against another school and play 3 or 4 of the packs. I’m sure other schools do this as well, and if you don’t, you may want to find a fellow school that would also agree to not use the introductory package intramurally in exchange for mini-tournaments.
Once the welcome package is exhausted, most teams resort to old SchoolReach questions. Unfortunately, this method works because of a history of repeated questions and topics. The potential repetition also favours established teams with a large archive and hinders any new teams trying to move up the ranks. A diet of old questions with careful attention to “pet” topics is probably good enough to get past regionals.
Even a decent SchoolReach archive can be depleted, especially for players in their fourth year of practices. Digging up questions more than a decade old tends not to be very useful, both because of the lost relevancy of current event topics and because writing trends change over time. Most good teams know about this, but for new practice material, go to the quizbowl packet archive. Even if you can’t figure out the quizbowl format, you can get away with reading all the question types on the buzzer. The archive covers the spectrum from middle school novice sets to university national championships, so take the time to find something right for your level. A high school team starting up for the year is recommended to try the SCOP sets or the Ladue sets. Like with old Reach questions, be careful about the relevancy of questions before 2008 or so. With over 400 tournaments each containing roughly 10 packs, the quizbowl archive provides more than enough material for a high school team.
Of course, there is also the option to create your own material. Some clubs see value in writing questions as a way to practice: not only does it require you to look up information, but you must also find out what information about a topic is important for clues and how relevant that topic is for a question. A question that simply asks “who was born on [date]?” is useless to a player; the writer must find facts that will give a player a reasonable opportunity to buzz. Practice writing doesn’t need to actually end up played at the buzzer, though a few schools put that effort to use as independent tournaments, especially south of the border.
Hopefully I have provided some options for getting your practice material started up for the year. Please don’t ask me about old SchoolReach questions, because I don’t have any and they are not supposed to be distributed.
Finally, an early reminder that the UTS tournament is happening on the weekend of October 27. I intend to go for staffing and reporting updates, and I hope to see many teams there. Get practicing!