Starting a Quiz Bowl Team

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Founding a team from scratch at your high school can seem like a daunting task. Following a structured plan will ensure you are prepared at each step. Going out of order can lead to stumbling blocks. You must have comprehensive knowledge of the game to be persuasive in recruitment and you should have multiple interested club members and an interested advisor before approaching your school administration.

1) Learn as much as you can about the game.

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The first step is to gain a thorough understanding of the rules of the game, the local tournaments, and how to hold practices.

The AQBL rulebook, used at all of our events, can be found at this link. Some tournaments may use the NAQT or PACE rulesets, which are similar to ours, but are geared for in-person rather than online play.

You can find upcoming AQBL tournaments on this page. The COVID-19 pandemic has led all tournaments, including all AQBL events, to be held online for the foreseeable future. You may want to reach out to existing teams in your area to learn what tournaments they have attended or plan to attend.

Team practices can be held in person—if your school is holding in-person classes and allows after-school activities—through the Buzzin.live website accessed through players’ cell phones. This allows for the maximum degree of social distancing your classroom allows. Alternatively, practices can be held remotely on a chat channel using a communication platform such as Zoom or Discord. Team members hear the questions over a voice call and buzz in by typing “buzz” in the chat.

2) Find teammates.

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Find teammates before searching for a faculty adviser and speaking to your school administration, since being able to present a sizeable number of interested students adds credibility to your proposal. Some schools will also not consider funding a club until a sizeable number of players have expressed interest. Pitch the game to students with varied interests and remember that GPA is not everything: the President of the AQBL was a C student, and one of the administrators was his high school’s Salutatorian. Enthusiasm and a willingness to study win out in the long run.

Advertise your club wherever you can: word of mouth seems to work best, but you can also put up posters, post on social media, or ask teachers to let you pitch the club to your peers. You can also look for people who did well in other academic competitions in Middle School or at some other level.

Finding teammates is a process that goes club to club: sometimes, it’s incredibly easy, and you’ll be overwhelmed with interest; other times, you’ll struggle to find a single other player. But if that’s the case, don’t give up: it’s hard work, and the payoff is huge. Just keep trying!

3.) Find a faculty adviser.

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While many teams succeed without a faculty adviser, and they are not required by the AQBL, an adviser can coach the team and provide a classroom in which to practice. An adviser is generally necessary to secure funding from your school. Approach enthusiastic and well-liked teachers who are not already inundated with obligations: in some cases, one of your teachers might even be a former player themselves.

Coaches’ duties vary based on the school, with some clubs being coach-led, and some being almost entirely run by students with minimal faculty involvement. At every school, the duties of the coach will always include working with the Administration on field-trip forms, funding, and equipment acquisition, as well as arranging for transportation to and from events. Luckily, at AQBL events, the responsibilities are significantly reduced.

Coaches also guide their players’ development and handle disputes between teammates. Sometimes, they take the lead on running practices, making team assignments, handling tournament registration, and so on; other times, club presidents handle these tasks.

We also wrote an in-depth guide to coaching here.

4.) Seek Administrative Approval.

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If a teacher agrees to advise your club, you can make your club official. Schools vary in the amount of documentation they require for this process. Remember that you’re making a pitch, and you should treat it like you’re pitching an idea to investors. When you approach your school principal or other official for the first time, bring a document explaining your plan to organize practices and compete in tournaments.

In particular, be sure to:

  • Give a very quick overview of what Quizbowl is;
  • Explain what the club will do, what it will compete in, and where it will practice;
  • Indicate the number of students interested;
  • Lay out, in addition to official status, how much funding you are asking for to start the club, and then how much on a yearly basis. Startup costs include funding for buzzers, practice material, and supplies; continuing costs are tournament fees, transportation costs, and so on.
  • Thank them for their time!

The Administration will surely ask a lot of questions, so be prepared.

Some schools will offer you funding; some will not. Some will give your coach a stipend; others will not. Regardless of the outcome, though, you can still compete in AQBL events, but you’ll have to self-fund and recruitment will be significantly more difficult. A little bit of institutional support goes a long way.

5.) Get in touch with other teams and the AQBL.

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Other schools in your state almost certainly have Quizbowl teams. Most of them would be happy to hear from you: people in Quizbowl generally love to talk about it. Reach out and introduce yourself as a new team. You can also arrange joint practices or play against each other just for fun.

You should also contact the AQBL so we know your team exists. We’ll keep you in the loop about all sorts of upcoming events. Shoot an email over to Nick@aqbleague.com.

6.) Attend your first tournament!

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All AQBL-sponsored events are listed on this page. We can’t wait for you to sign up!

Once you have a team, see our articles on Developing As A Team and Improving As A Player to take your skills to the next level. At your first event, you’ll probably lose quite a lot: everyone does. Remember that all those teams you play against at your first tournament started right where you are once as well.