Note: A significant amount of inspiration and ideas for this article came from this discussion on the HSQB Forums. Please read this as well.
The most difficult period in any Quizbowl player’s career is undoubtedly their first few months.
Each year, there is at least one person who thinks they’re hot stuff because they’re an overachiever in the IB program who watches Jeopardy! religiously. Then the first day of Quizbowl practice arrives, and they realize that they can’t answer a single question! They panic and feel depressed. They never want to play Quizbowl again. I was one of these people in the ninth grade, except for one VERY IMPORTANT difference: My failures made me even more eager to play Quizbowl than ever before. Once you screw something up badly, you should be motivated to make sure that it never happens again.
For the 99% of you that aren’t overconfident and don’t worship Alex Trebek, this article still applies to you; KEEP READING. This article isn’t so much my Quizbowl autobiography as it is a guide to keep you motivated through the dawn of what is sure to be an incredible Quizbowl career.
You don’t need to be a genius to be good at or enjoy Quizbowl. All you need is an appreciation for the game, dedication, and the will to improve. Likewise, just because you’re really good at game show trivia, have a photographic memory, and have a 90 average doesn’t mean you’ll be amazing at Quizbowl. Quizbowl is a whole new world that demands much, much more.
After the first couple of practices, some people decide to quit because they feel they’re not very good at Quizbowl. Don’t let this be you. Nobody should never expect to be any good at something they’ve just attempted for the first time. This is ESPECIALLY true for Quizbowl; NOBODY is a natural who can answer ten tossups at their first practice. Everybody who is good at the game has worked hard to achieve their success, and so must you. Quizbowl, like many other activities, has a rather steep learning curve; it’s quite difficult at first, but it is extremely rewarding and enjoyable once you get a feel for the game. Just because you can’t answer anything at the first few practices doesn’t mean you won’t be a phenomenal player in the future.
If everybody was simply good at the game automatically, then what would be the point of playing? Quizbowl is about learning and learning to love learning. Even if you score a lot of points and win a lot of games, if you didn’t learn facts or learn to love learning, you haven’t accomplished much. At the end of the day, the real winners of Quizbowl aren’t the ones who win the most games, but those who have learnt the most and have developed into life-long learners eager to soak in more knowledge.
Don’t treat Quizbowl as a test you would write in school; it’s not supposed to be anything like that. Quizbowl is meant to be fun, learning the topics you’re interested in, and nobody is expecting you to get all the questions right. For some reason people have the perception they have to be able to get every single tossup by the last clue. This is not true, as a fairly good player will get three questions out of twenty in a competitive game. Likewise, bonuses parts are meant to be very difficult to achieve 30 points on. The average senior experienced team achieves 15 points-per-bonus, so you’re clearly not expected to get anywhere close to everything.
The most important thing to do after a negative experience is to learn from it. To me, failure is the driving force that motivates me to improve. After I realized I couldn’t answer many questions, I was so focused and dedicated to making myself a better player, that I became one. Don’t wallow and mope in your sadness; channel the energy into improving. At one point in your Quizbowl career, no matter how good you end up to be, you WILL get destroyed by another team and have a poor individual performance at a tournament. Don’t let these put you down. Instead, use them as opportunities to grow and develop from. See this discussion thread for more on this topic.
Although I always tell you to “work harder”, don’t treat Quizbowl as work; Quizbowl is meant to be fun! Yes, you also learn facts and develop overall skills as a person, but you also need to enjoy yourself in order to attain maximum benefits from the game. Quizbowl should also be a social experience; bring your friends, and open up to make new ones. As intimidating as we may seem, the seniors are very kind, courteous people.
All the advice I’ve given in this article is not at all restricted to Quizbowl alone; it can be extrapolated to life in general. Let’s not lie to ourselves: life is tough. You WILL experience failure at some point in your life. You WILL feel depressed and feel unable to go on at some point in your life. However, it’s easy to gain benefits and develop as a person from these negative experiences if you follow my advice.
Quizbowl has greatly shaped my life; I wouldn’t be the motivated, engaged, knowledge-seeking person I am today if it wasn’t for Quizbowl.
In conclusion, never give up, never stop having fun, and you will become a great Quizbowl player.
~ Ted Gan