NOTE: This is a 10,000+ word comprehensive guide to all aspects of running a tournament, started by Chris Chiego and expanded by the rest of our staff. This guide remains a work in progress. Please let us know if any topic is insufficiently explained or missing.
How to Run a Quizbowl Tournament: A Guide
Chris Chiego and the SoCalQuizBowl.org staff
[Updated 5/1/21; more updates to come]
Should our school run a tournament?
Usually, running a tournament is a win for everyone involved. Tournaments help develop the local circuit and provide income for the host school. More tournaments help more schools and more players have a chance to get involved both in attending tournaments and running the tournaments.
The key question to ask is can you run a good quizbowl tournament? Tournaments that drag on well beyond their scheduled end time until late in the evening after numerous delays, frustrate or confuse teams with unclear procedures or rules, and/or feature untrained moderators who seemingly never encountered quizbowl questions before are wastes of money for teams in attendance. Such events will hurt your school’s reputation if you try to host a tournament again and may well make some schools think that quizbowl tournaments are not worthwhile. A well-run tournament, on the other hand, can flower into a yearly cash cow and a cornerstone of a team’s identity that allows more students to both play quizbowl and participate in the production of the tournament. Even a small tournament plants the seed for future bigger tournaments and can be a good way for new hosts to get experience without having to undergo a trial by fire with dozens of teams at a time.
This document will help you run an efficient, on-time tournament. It is designed to be exhaustive, so not everything on it may apply to your specific hosting situation. Some of these suggestions may seem like a lot of work, but putting in the work BEFORE the tournament is the best way to ensure that the tournament itself runs like clockwork. Running a tournament is a significant undertaking, but with the right preparations you’ll find that it’s quite rewarding.
I also recommend taking a look at the extremely helpful Berkeley TD guide. This guide served me well for several years, but I’ve found that it doesn’t encompass a number of important areas like PR, contingencies, and logistics as much as I would like. I would also recommend looking at the “Common Tournament-Directing Mistakes” article on the QBwiki for a shorter overview of some of the key points of TDing (this might be your best bet if you are short on time).With the aid of these guides, any new TD should be able to put on a world-class tournament.
One important rule of thumb: if you have questions about anything, ask someone before the tournament rather than trying to figure out things on the fly. Experienced TDs and other quizbowl veterans will likely be happy to share their experiences and offer pointers that will likely help you be aware of problems that could come up and how you can address them in advance. If you don’t know anyone in your area, try contacting some of the major quizbowl organizations like NAQT or PACE or check out some of the posts on the hsquizbowl.org forums.
Outline of this document by the timeframe before, during, and after the tournament:
3 Months Before Tournament
1 Month Before Tournament
2 Weeks Before Tournament
1 Week Before Tournament
Special Subsection: Drawing Up Brackets and Schedules
1 Day Before Tournament
Morning of Tournament
Pre-Tournament Meeting and Contingencies
After Last Playoff Round
Potential In-Tournament Contingencies
3+ Months Before Your Tournament
Decide on a Date
You should announce on the date for your tournament as far in advance as reasonably possible for two reasons: 1. It helps give other teams a chance to plan on attending your tournament and 2. Your date may very well be taken by another school if you wait too long. Usually, date claims start in earnest at the beginning of summer and many are announced on the hsquizbowl forums in the appropriate regional subforum date-claim thread. (For Southern California specifically, date claims often begin informally in the “SoCal Quiz Bowl” Facebook group; your region may have a similar Facebook group, Discord, or listserv in which such claims are announced.)
There will be conflicts with whatever date you choose. Standardized tests are always something to account for when scheduling. Also be sure to look at local district schedules, especially around holiday breaks. Some schools may be on year-round systems, others may have unusual holidays. Players will almost certainly have conflicts with all kinds of other activities from band to mock trial to orchestra to cross country. Do your best to be aware of these conflicts and try to find a date that mitigates their effect (particularly on your own team, since it’s likely your team will be providing the majority of the staffers!). But in the end you have to pick a date, acknowledge potential conflicts (though do your best to plan around them), and stick with it unless circumstances dramatically change (e.g. a national pandemic breaks out).
Perhaps more importantly, you should make sure that you’re not hosting on a weekend that another host in the area traditionally hosts their tournament on. There is almost always a traditional right of refusal for a school that hosted on that date/weekend the year before. Talk to other schools and coordinate, but recognize that established hosts have inherent credibility (especially if they were good hosts) and work around those dates.
In short: Pick a date, acknowledge any conflicts, and stick with it.
Secure a Venue
This goes hand-in-hand with securing a date. Your school might have conflicts—a major debate tournament, a major football game, etc.—that make hosting a tournament on otherwise ideal days a bad idea. Know this before you select a date.
Figuring out how room reservations work at your school can also be quite confusing. Some schools are fairly laid-back and will let you use the whole school for a minimal janitorial charge or for free. Some can try to charge as much as $100 a room in some buildings but, strangely, other locations are free. Some will let you book well in advance; others won’t get back to you as a matter of policy until days before your event (!!). You should be upfront with the registered teams about the possibility of having to call the tournament off if you are at such a school that will not let you confirm until close to the date OR figure out a backup venue to host.
Then there’s the red tape—basically, all the bureaucratic requirements that regulate having an event that involves other people on your campus. The amount of red tape varies wildly from location to location. Some go to the extremes of requiring every student who participates in the tournament to sign a lengthy liability form with parental approval; others don’t care too much and leave you be. My advice is to try to find a powerful person who supports the idea of the tournament and that person can help reduce the amount of red tape or at least figure out how to do so as painlessly as possible. If you’re trying to set up a long-term hosting situation where you host every year, it makes sense to do things the “right” way.
But in some places the red tape is so onerous that it’s essentially impossible to host a tournament in accordance with all the rules. In that case, see if you can co-host at another institution that’s a bit more accommodating. If that doesn’t work, see what other extracurriculars at your school traditionally do. There may be a laissez-faire form of regulation in which the authorities don’t ask questions about why you need 18 rooms for “extra studying” all Saturday for instance. Figure out what the policies and practices at your institution are like before you announce a tournament.
In short: Make sure you have the rooms that you will use for the tournament reserved as early as possible. Be aware of and do your best to work around red tape.
Decide on a Question Set
There are two major sources for good quizbowl questions: housewrites and sets from the major question-writing company NAQT. Housewrites—tournaments written by other teams or groups of players—are usually good bargains in terms of the costs to use them, but can be of widely varying quality. Often, housewrites end up being harder than the advertised difficulty. You can find housewrites open for mirrors in this forum. Check the dates of availability very carefully though to ensure that your tournament will occur after the set is finished being written. You should also make sure that the difficulty of the questions is appropriate for your field. Some housewrites have reputations for being quite challenging while others are designed for newer players and teams (SCOP question sets are usually a good choice for novice teams and circuits). Read the announcements for each set carefully and see if you can look at past examples of sets from the same writers to see how challenging and well-written they are.
The major pyramidal question writing company of NAQT writes many question sets of generally solid quality overall each year. You can contact NAQT about hosting a tournament using their questions here. Note that NAQT offers questions at a variety of difficulty levels, with “IS” sets being the typically most-difficult for High Schools (outside of national competitions), “IS-A” being more introductory High School level, and “MS” being more appropriate for Middle School or potentially very novice HS players. At this time, be very skeptical of any other question-writing company, even if they claim that their questions are “pyramidal” (ask for samples to see and ask around to see if other schools have experience with them).
Writing your own questions is NOT recommended for almost every team out there unless you’re already a national powerhouse with the in-house ability and drive to write and edit a superb question set. Writing a full tournament takes a ton of work and you will almost certainly need a great deal of outside help to get it off the ground. Stick to the available sets and you’ll save everyone much grief.
In some areas of the country, all the NAQT sets may be reserved very early in the year and house-writes—especially the good ones—can be snapped up quickly. Be sure to make sure you can host with the question set you want before you announce your tournament.
In short: Choose a reputable question provider well in advance.
Announce Your Tournament
To get other teams to come to your tournaments, you need to make sure they know that it’s happening. There are three main ways to do this: emails, posting on the quizbowl forum, and in-person contacts.
Hopefully you have acquired the email contacts of other coaches or contacts in your region; if that’s the case, it’s pretty easy to send out emails. Personalized messages are better than mass emails or bcc’ing, especially if you’re a new team that might not have a recognized email address. Make sure your email includes your intent to host, the date, the question source, and the expected field size. If you don’t have emails of other nearby teams, ask the hosts of other tournaments in your area very, very nicely for contact info. Note that the host may have spent much time and effort tracking down those emails, so they’ll probably want you to do some legwork to get other new teams or some other equivalent service in return.
Snail mail is, in some parts of the country (typically more rural areas), just as, if not more, effective than emails. Regardless of your location, snail mail invites are a useful complement to emails and are usually worth the postage price, especially if you send them out at the start of the year and take advantage of the ability to include additional info about starting up a team or multiple tournaments that you’re hosting. Postcards might be a good bargain too for a lower price. I’ve personally found that email is generally more effective, but if you want a bigger field go for the snail mail option too.
Posting on the quizbowl forums is the easiest way to get teams that are already aware of the quizbowl circuit and anyone who might be googling for tournaments in your area. Simply sign up if you haven’t already for an account and post in this forum. Look at other recent tournament posts for a good idea of things to include in your tournament announcement. You can then update your announcement with field updates and other relevant information as the date of the tournament draws near to help keep everyone on the same page. (For Southern California specifically, you will also want to post a copy of this announcement to the “SoCal Quiz Bowl” Facebook group.)
Personal contacts are far and away the most effective way to get teams to come. If you attend another quizbowl tournament in the area before your tournament, ask that host if you can announce your team’s tournament. If you are a member of an academic league of some kind, try to announce your tournament at league meetings and talk with other coaches. If you don’t have quizbowl tournaments in your area, try related competitions like AcaDec, Science Bowl, or other academic competitions too. Personal chats are MUCH more effective than just making broad announcements, so get to know the coaches at other schools.
If you still can’t rustle up enough teams directly, you can try phone calls, particularly if the schools have existing academic teams of some kind. Find a coach’s contact information online or call the school and ask for the academic team coach’s contact info (or the principal or activities director if there is no coach), then pitch your tournament to them via voicemail or after school is out for the day.
In short: Make sure other people know about the tournament you’re hosting via emails, forum posts, and personal contact.
Start Thinking about Staff
A tournament won’t run unless it has enough staffers and it won’t run well unless it has enough competent staffers. The challenge of finding enough competent staffers to make an event run well is often severely underrated by new tournament hosts, so you need to make this a priority from the start. All it takes is one slow moderator to potentially hold up a tournament for hours. You will need to train a sufficient number of moderators and scorekeepers before your event and this takes time. Thus, starting training at least 2 months out from the tournament is highly recommended.
Who should you start training for staffers? Your own team members for one are the basic building blocks, so make sure you start having people rotate reading in practice and having your team give polite but honest feedback to the reader. Parents may be willing to read as well, but often require considerable amounts of training and feedback. Other teachers who might be willing to help almost always need training. Beta Club, national honor society, etc. members might be able to read if you give them sufficient training. The common link in all of this is your readers need to be trained (and this is especially true if you are running an online event, since those often involve more complex procedures and platforms than). You should also look to local college team players or other freelance moderators like alumni to come staff, but it’s worth inquiring about each potential moderator’s experience upfront and, if they are relatively unexperienced or just rusty, strongly encourage them to come to a training session or team practice to read.
Not everyone can be an amazing quizbowl moderator, but with enough training most people can become good moderators. In general, a good moderator reads loudly and clearly, is familiar with general quiz bowl rules and protocol, and can finish a full packet of quiz bowl questions in 30 minutes or less (for online events, add another 5-10 minutes or so since those take longer). Training mostly entails getting people to read questions in match-like settings like at your team’s practice over and over again and modify their actions in accordance with feedback from the players (i.e. too quiet, too slow, doesn’t enunciate enough, etc.) and in having them review the rules of the game in enough detail to handle most situations that might come up in matches. Familiarity with common words that come up in quizbowl and reading pronunciation guides at match speed also comes from repetition and practice. Here’s a good guide to moderator improvement from PACE.
At a minimum to make a tournament run, you will need one moderator in each game room plus one person for the whole tournament to enter stats after each round (number of rooms + 1). Ideally, you will have a moderator and a scorekeeper in each room and you, the TD, should be separate from the statskeeper (2*number of rooms + 2). However, many tournaments do not have this luxury of extra staff, so you the TD will often end up entering stats or reading while also directing the tournament. Try to avoid this if at all possible though and instead have a surplus of potential staffers that you can use.
You should include a moderator discount in your tournament fee schedule so that schools who are coming can bring their competent staffers and get a discount. This discount is usually around $20 (or as high as $30-40 for some online events), but you can vary it depending on how many staffers you think you’ll need. Note that good freelance moderators do not usually work for free; you should at least pay for their lunch and transportation costs.
The same fact applies to buzzer systems. Naturally, your team will probably not own enough buzzer systems to run an entire quiz bowl tournament by yourselves. Therefore, you should also include a buzzer discount in your fee schedule for your tournament–this discount is usually around $5-10 per working buzzer system.
You should also be training scorekeepers and staffers other than moderators. Scorekeepers—especially competent scorekeepers—can help decent readers go faster. Get some of your C and D teamers keeping score during practice to help train them.
You will also need someone to enter statistics during the tournament (a “statskeeper”). You may want to look into using some existing templates on Google Sheets that involve pre-formatted scoresheets that can automatically update scores from across the tournament; search on the HSquizbowl forums for some links to those since there are a number of new ones. You should also download Yellowfruit or SQBS to enter stats into it throughout the tournament and generate stats outputs that can be posted online. Yellowfruit has a good guide to it here. NAQT has a guide to working with SQBS as well. Experience working with these programs is the best teacher here. A slow statskeeper can severely handicap a tournament, so don’t skimp on this important area. SQBS features a sizable learning curve–do NOT wait until the day of the tournament before learning how to use the program.
In short: Start training your moderators and other staffers as soon as you decide to host a tournament.
Figure out Finances
Hopefully your school has some kind of account that you can have participating schools at your tournament make checks out to. Checks and cash tend to be the most prevalent forms of payment, though Venmo is increasingly used as well. Schools vary widely in how they want you to process payment, so check with your own school to find out the details. Decide also if you want to require teams to send in payment in advance or pay the morning of the tournament. Paying in advance can be a big hassle for some teams, especially new ones, but it does increase the likelihood of all registered teams showing up. Some hosts offer a discount to teams that sign up early. It’s up to you to choose what you’ll do in accordance with local norms and customs.
In short: Make sure you have a place to stash your cash
1 Month Before Tournament
Now that you’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to crank things up to full gear during this period.
Send out another reminder to all your target teams about the tournament. Do this via sending out a reminder email to all teams on your contact list that have not signed up, updating your tournament post on the forums with a current field, and contacting coaches you really want to target via phone. Be nice, but don’t be afraid to be persistent until you get a solid response out of teams as to whether or not they’ll come. Sometimes you’ll find out that your contact is out-of-date at the school; politely ask for the updated contact if that is the case.
Respond to Registrations and Expressions of Interest as they come in. A registration is a hard commitment that a school will bring X number of teams, buzzers, and staffers. An expression of interest is anything besides that, usually a request for more information or a negotiation about the price. Respond to both, but simply treat teams as not registered until they make a firm commitment. It may help to respond to any vague contacts like “X school has 2 teams to send if possible” with a clarification request like “Great! Can you confirm that X school is registering 2 teams for our event on [date]?” to make sure that everyone’s on the same page.
Confirm that you have enough staff for the field size. At this point, you probably won’t have too many firm registrations from teams, but you can start to get an idea of how many teams are interested. Remember that “interest” is not the same as “registration.” Keep the field cap for your tournament low unless you get sufficient staff and only raise it (you can keep a waitlist) once you confirm enough staffers and rooms (and buzzers).
Take care of prizes and trophies. Call around and compare prices or ask for a recommendation from an established tournament host. You shouldn’t spend more than 5% of your tournament’s income on prizes, but you should have prizes of some kind. Plaques are pretty cool-looking and medals are nice for individuals–you can either purchase trophies from a local trophy shop, or through an online seller such as Crown Awards. You can also just get books instead of trophies if you’re trying to save cash (this is much more common for college events than HS ones), but it looks better for quizbowl if you have at least 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place trophies. You can use $1 books or bargain books as individual prizes. Make sure the books are interesting though and useful for quizbowl (not castoff textbooks or technical manuals).
Optional but quite useful: Set up a Google Spreadsheet to keep things organized. This allows you and the other tournament organizers to stay on the same page and helps if several different people are checking your team’s email account. I recommend having all the teams listed, whether or not the team has confirmed that they are coming, how many teams, how many buzzers, and how many staffers they are bringing. I also like to include a section for notes, noting in particular whether or not a team is reliable about actually showing up at tournaments or if it’s a new team that may need some extra hand-holding and attention by staffers in communications and at the tournament.
2 Weeks Before Tournament
Double-check your room confirmations directly with the people in charge. See if you can get a phone number to call the morning of the tournament in case the rooms are locked. Yes, this happens. If you have a phone number to a person (the principal, custodian, maintenance staff, etc.) who can get doors open immediately, you will save everyone much time and grief in the event that someone forgets to unlock the doors.
Send out reminders to teams that showed interest. They need to formally commit to registering if they’re planning on showing up. This should be self-explanatory, but do not expect teams to show up unless they confirm with you explicitly that they are, indeed, coming. If the team is fairly new to quizbowl, make sure that they get some sample questions, know about the format that will be used, and get a copy of the rules. Speaking of which…
Confirm the rules you will be using. The most common kinds of rules are the NAQT and ACF rules. Popular variants include NAQT rules without timing and modifications of the timing for giving an answer after buzzing in (i.e. 3-5 seconds instead of NAQT’s original 2 seconds). You can do your own rules too if you have a particular local format or something like that, but it’s recommend to just use one of the national standards. Make sure all teams are aware of the rules well in advance too, especially new teams.
Confirm the questions you will be using. Make sure that your question source is ready to send you the questions. Note that sometimes the packets come with certain kinds of questions that you might not want to use. Sometimes you might want to eliminate the math computation questions from NAQT packets for instances. Sometimes you might not want the pop culture questions sullying an academic tournament. Whatever you choose is up to you, but note that some question sources will not allow you to change their questions around at all, so pay attention to what the policy is of wherever you source your packet from. DO NOT cut the packets or questions down in size or cut out bonuses outside of extraordinary circumstances (for instance, some online events don’t read bonuses in the prelims to save time in otherwise very long online events). Teams are paying good money to play these questions and if you don’t think your readers can finish a standard packet of 20 questions (with bonuses) in half an hour or so, then you should reconsider hosting the event.
Make sure again that you have enough staffers and buzzers. If not, perhaps due to staff and buzzers dropping and more teams adding without buzzers, then you should tell your currently registered teams about this and see if they can come up with extra staff or buzzers. This is another benefit of keeping a waitlist and avoiding expanding your field too early—you can gauge interest without having to commit to allowing teams into the tournament before you can confirm enough staffers and buzzers.
Back to Top
1 Week Before Tournament
Make sure you have enough buzzers and readers for the field size. Once again, this is why you should not expand your field unless you can confirm that you have enough equipment and staffers. If, due to drops and people backing out, you have to cut the field size, apologize to all teams for it and ask them to see if they can make up the difference in staffers and reach out yet again to the community. Staffers are the limiting reagent for every quizbowl event and you cannot run an event unless you have a competent staff member for every room, at minimum. Remember, you need one buzzer, one room, one reader, and maybe a scorekeeper for every two teams UNLESS you have a bye in your schedule. Which brings me to perhaps the most important point at this time…
Send out a final logistics and roster email to all teams that have registered. This email should have everything that the teams need to find the tournament site in the morning and when they should be arriving. Also include the TD’s phone number for people to call should they get lost en route or have any last-minute issues. This email should also be an opportunity for you to ask for 1. The team’s roster (to help make sure you know if their best players, for instance, are in attendance or if it’s a bunch of newbies; this is important for seeding purposes) 2. The coach’s or whoever will be driving on the morning of the tournament’s phone number (in case the team isn’t there by the time the tournament is supposed to start). You can also email teams individually to confirm their cost at this point or just wait until the morning of the tournament. I like to send this email out the Monday before a tournament. You probably want to stop taking registrations for new sign-ups at this point too unless you really have more room and want the added hassle of re-doing your schedules. Speaking of which…..
Start Drawing up Brackets and Schedules
This deserves plenty of discussion in and of itself. For the mechanics of actually drawing up schedules (i.e. what teams play in what room at what time), I’ll direct you to the Berkeley TD guide which has an excellent discussion of the mechanics of how to set up these things as well as a good PACE article. What I will do here is instead give some guidance on how to design the brackets to ensure the best possible tournament experience.
A brief foreword on what brackets are. Almost every good quizbowl tournament involves grouping teams in brackets of some kind. Ideally, the initial brackets will all be balanced, that is, will be roughly equal in terms of the numbers of good and bad teams so that no team should play a harder schedule, in theory, than any other team. Of course, this probably won’t happen exactly in practice, but it is incumbent on the tournament director to do one’s best effort to seed the brackets evenly with the information available. A rebracketed tournament involves two (or more) series of brackets: one set of balanced initial brackets and then a playoff set of new brackets based on grouping teams by how well they did in the morning (with only one or two of the playoff brackets, the ones with the top teams, being still in contention for the championship). Teams are then ranked first by bracket (i.e. the top teams in the top bracket are guaranteed as the top 5-6 teams in the tournament) and then within bracket, allowing you to get a nice final ranking of all the teams in the tournament.
How Rebracketing Works
The philosophy of rebracketed tournaments is more competitive games for all teams. In general, you want to have two sets of round-robin brackets: a “seeded” round robin (RR) between teams of varying abilities in the morning and a rebracketed playoff RR in the afternoon where teams of similar abilities play each other. The ideal here is to finish 4-6 rounds before lunch, rebracket during lunch, then play 4-6 afternoon rebracketed rounds after lunch. This gives teams a morning competition against teams of all skill levels and then afternoon competition against their closest competitors, giving the 0-5 teams a fighting chance at winning a game or two and the top teams a chance to play most of the other top teams at the tournament.
For example, suppose you have 18 teams. Then you can divide them into 3 initial brackets of 6 teams each, with each bracket containing roughly the same number of teams of each skill level (e.g. if you have 5 nationals-caliber teams, you should spread them out with 1-2 in each bracket and not put 3 of them in the same bracket). The top two teams from each initial bracket (usually judged by win-loss record first, then by points per game to break ties) then go to the “Championship” or “Top” rebracket, the next two in each prelim bracket go to the “Middle” or “First Consolation” rebracket, and the bottom two go to the “Lower” or “Second Consolation” rebracket.
Here is an example from a 16-team tournament: there are two roughly equal 8-team brackets in the morning, then they are divided into four 4-team brackets for the playoffs based on the morning records. Note the two 3-way ties after the prelim rounds: one for 2nd place in bracket A, and one for 1st place in bracket B. You need to have a policy in place of how you will break these ties–if teams played the same opponents, average points per game is usually good. If teams played different opponents, use points-per-bonus. In this 16-team tournament example, ties were broken by average points-per games because the teams that were tied played the same opponents. In the rebracket page of this example, only the teams in bracket “A” are still in contention for the championship.
Two Championship Brackets Option
If your tournament is larger than 18 teams, you might want to consider having two championship brackets with balanced seedings within them (i.e. balance both brackets with equal numbers of comparable teams from the morning rounds) and then have the winners of the two championship brackets play each other for the championship. This is often called cross-bracketing and you can extend this so that all teams in the two brackets play their partner in the opposing bracket for final placement. This can be tricky, however, because balancing the two championship brackets so that they average about even in team skill can be difficult. Here is an example of cross-bracketing in the playoffs from Triton Winter 2012: note the two championship brackets (i.e. teams in these two brackets are still in the running for the championship) and that the winners of each of those brackets, La Jolla B and Canyon Crest, then played each other in the final of the tournament while the second-place teams in each bracket, Irvine A and NoHo A, played for 3rd. Some tournaments go further and add “superplayoffs” with the top two teams from each championship bracket playing a final round-robin.
Other Variants: Single-Elim Playoffs and the Card System
If your tournament is really big—like 36+ teams big—you might be okay running a single-elimination playoff, especially if you know you’re going to lose some moderators in the afternoon. Running the rebrackets if at all possible though is recommended because single-elim gives teams fewer games and doesn’t match teams against teams of similar skill levels necessarily. Double-elimination playoffs are an interesting idea, but also involve many extra rounds and logistical headaches.
Some people like to try to run a card system in the prelims in which teams are power-matched against other teams of similar win-loss records each round. In my experience, this turns out to be horribly inefficient, prone to mishaps, and doesn’t work well for only 4-5 rounds. Not recommended UNLESS: 1. you have a huge tournament and you’re willing to run 7-8 rounds on the card system before starting the playoffs 2. You have a bunch of new or novice teams and have no earthly idea how to seed them. Still not recommended except for highly competent hosts.
How to draw up your brackets. If you have a clunky number of teams, try to make sure that at the very least the number of rounds in the prelims is the same for all teams. For instance, if you have 17 teams, it makes more sense to have two brackets of six teams and one of five since all of the brackets get to play five rounds then and get out at the same time (though note that the five team bracket will only get four games and a bye for each team). If you do have a bracket with fewer teams than other brackets, make sure you avoid putting the worst teams at the tournament in those bye-containing brackets–that is, make sure that you’re not giving the teams in the bye-bracket an easier schedule than the other brackets.
Note that if you are stuck with a smaller number of rooms and readers than you would like and higher demand from teams wanting to play, it is possible to help alleviate your problems by running odd-number brackets and purposefully incorporating byes. For instance, a 5 team prelim bracket only requires two rooms and two mods while a 6 team bracket requires three rooms and three mods. If you’re limited to only, say, 12 rooms, you could run a 24 team tournament without any byes (4 brackets of 6 teams each) or you could run a 35 team tournament with byes (7 brackets of 5 teams each). Keep in mind though that more byes means more restless teams who will probably expect a lower entry fee to compensate for playing fewer games.
How to Place Teams in Brackets. Once you figure out what your brackets are going to look like, you need to start “seeding” the teams in the prelim brackets. Remember, you want each of your preliminary groups to be as balanced as possibly in terms of team quality—don’t put all the top teams into the same bracket and try to make sure that each bracket has about the same number of strong, medium, and weak teams. This can be difficult for tournaments if you have lots of unknown teams, but do your best to balance anyways.
If you don’t know the relative strength of each team (and be sure to consult the rosters that each team sends in beforehand when seeding; if a team is missing its star player, that team should be seeded accordingly to the level of the players who are actually attending), consult previous statistics if possible and ask people who might know or have seen these teams play before. Try to balance “known” quantities with unknown (i.e. only put one “unknown” team with little experience in each bracket to minimize the possibility, like I’ve experienced before, of putting a good unknown team in with several good known teams). Also, be sure to emphasize to teams that they should play their best teams in order from A to B to C etc. if at all possible to avoid upsetting the balances. Nothing is more annoying than when a team decides, as a joke, to put their best player on their “C” team; feel free to strongly discourage this since it results in a worse experience for everyone else.
Once you have all your brackets seeded, you should draw up the schedules for each bracket. The Berkeley site has an excellent overview of how to do that. I personally like to simply have unspecific numbers-only paper schedules in the morning with the numbers for the teams in each prelim bracket on top with a blank next to them and then just the numbers in each room on the schedule for each round. That allows you to pass out the same paper schedule to all teams; all you have to do then is tell them (usually via a chalkboard) what bracket they’re in, what teams the numbers in that bracket correspond to, and what rooms are Room1 and Room2 etc. for that bracket. I also like adding the rebracketing schedule at the bottom of that too, to be filled in by the team at the rebracketing meeting during the tournament. Check out this example to see what I mean.
Team Bracket Assignments and Schedule:
|Round||Room 1||Room 2||Room 3||Room 4|
The reason why I like this non-specific schedule is simple: If you try to write up each team’s exact schedule on the morning of the tournament and individualize it for each team, you may struggle if teams don’t show up and things have to change. Here, all you have to do is change the number that a team is assigned to. Note too that it’s fairly easy to make this schedule account for a bye if, say, a team drops at the last minute (see below for more on that)–every time another team is supposed to play that team, they just have a bye instead.
Finally, before you finalize your schedule, have several other people look over the schedule and make sure it makes sense. Nothing can derail a tournament faster than finding an error on the schedule in the first few rounds.
Day Before Tournament
Monitor your email carefully up until now and account for any last-minute drops or expressions of potential dropping. The 24 hours before an event are a prime time for last-minute “oops we forgot” emails. If you have a team that’s known to drop, it doesn’t hurt to call or contact the coach and make sure that they’re still planning on coming too.
Print out copies of the questions (if you’re running a paper tournament and not using laptops), scoresheets (if you’re not using some kind of online scoresheets), blank schedules, rules, etc. Yeah, it can cost a pretty penny, but better to do it now than to have to send someone to Kinko’s during the tournament. Also print out signs to the tournament to help direct teams to the tournament rooms (very useful if you have a confusing building setup–definitely invest in this is you’re hosting in a maze-like structure like many academic buildings). Finally, print out invoices to give teams a receipt of how much they paid since some schools need this to get reimbursed. If you’re running a laptop-only tournament, make sure you have emailed the packets to all the readers and the readers have received them OR make sure you have flashdrives (note the plural in case one gets lost) ready with the packets on them.
A WORD ABOUT QUESTION SECURITY:
Unfortunately, cheating occasionally happens in quizbowl. It’s quite rare, but it has happened before. The TD should be the only person who has access to the questions before sending them directly to the readers on the day of the event; do not have them sent to a team email account where multiple people can access them and do not trust anyone who is playing the tournament with the questions for whatever reason.
Pick up trophies, if you ordered them. Or make sure to hit up a good bargain books section for prizes if you haven’t already. Make sure someone has them or that these are loaded in your car since you really don’t want to forget them and send someone to Barnes and Noble during lunch to frantically try to buy things.
Prepare contingency schedules for anywhere from -4 to +2 teams. I’ve had situations where teams who never sent a single email just showed up and one where schools showed up assuming they could split into multiple extra teams (they hadn’t realized you needed to register additional teams from each school). I’ve had other schools who confirmed with me the night before the tournament that they were coming not show up with no warning and others who had confirmed on Friday drop at 2 AM the morning of the tournament. Have contingency schedules ready (and file them away when you’re done for future events). This will pay off far more often than it should. Again, this is why I don’t like writing the names of specific teams on the printed schedules before the tournament–by the morning of the tournament, you may end up having to make changes, rendering your printed schedules outdated.
Make sure you have phone numbers from all the staffers so you can call them and possibly send people to wake them up if they sleep through their alarms.
Make sure you have SQBS installed on the statskeeping computer and all of the teams’ rosters pre-entered. This will make things much easier.
Back to Top
Day of the Tournament
2 Hours Before Tournament Start Time
Bring a printer to the tournament or have one available on-site. This will make dealing with any last-minute changes much easier and will give you a nice cushion in case there is an error on your schedule so that you can quickly print out new ones. It will also allow you to print out stats updates for teams so they can see how they are doing between rounds, though it’s also pretty easy to just post those online as well.
Make sure the game rooms are unlocked. If they aren’t, this is why getting a phone number of someone to unlock it beforehand and getting there early is key!
Set up your tournament HQ. Make sure it is clearly marked so that staffers will find it and teams will stay at a respectful distance from it. Ideally, it will be a private room separate from the main auditorium where the teams will be for the pre-tournament meeting. Keep all of the questions and all the extra scoresheets and schedules in the HQ room. This is the location where staffers will send their scoresheets after each round and where the tournament director will hang out during the tournament along with the stats-entering person.
Set up the registration area in the main auditorium/meeting room. Place signs so that teams know where to go to check in and then go outside and make sure there are signs leading teams from where they are parking to the check-in site. Simple courtesies like this can really help tournaments run smoother since the last thing you want is a situation where teams are wandering around a campus before a tournament, unable to find the meeting site.
In the main meeting room, start writing the schedule assignments up on the board and prepare to distribute the schedule to teams as they check in. If you have an unspecific schedule (i.e. numbers instead of team names), start writing up, for each bracket, the bracket name, the teams in that bracket and what numbers they correspond to (i.e. team 1 in bracket A is Quizbowl Academy A, team 2 in bracket A is BuzzerBeater School B, etc.), and the room numbers for that bracket (i.e. Room1 for bracket A is 201, Room2 for Bracket A is 204, etc.). If you don’t want to write this on a board, you can post it on a projector or simply hand it out to all the teams as they come in on a separate sheet. Remember, you can also have the brackets pre-filled with the specific names of schools.
1 Hour Before Tournament Start Time
This is when your staffers should start coming in. You should be keeping track of them and calling up any who haven’t showed in time. As they come in, assign them to do the following jobs:
1. Money Person. This person should handle the $$ as teams come in. This is also why it helps to draw up the costs each team needs to pay before the tournament starts so conflicts can be settled over email rather than clogging up the line on the morning. Make sure the person handling the $$ is trustworthy!
2. Registration Person. This person should make sure to keep track of which teams have checked in. I like highlighting the team’s name on the google doc since then everyone looking at the tournament spreadsheet can see that the team has signed in. You can often combine this position with the money person too, but having both as separate positions at registration can speed things up. The registration person should also handle giving out schedules and any other information to teams as they check in.
3. Buzzer Master. This person is in charge of keeping track of the buzzers that schools will bring with them. The buzzer master should either put the location of each buzzer up on the board as the buzzers get sent off to the game rooms (preferred, so everyone can see where they are and it doesn’t get lost) or keep track of where the buzzers go on a sheet of paper. This person should NOT leave the registration area until all rooms have been outfitted with a buzzer system (any extra systems should be sent back to the HQ room). Keeping track of where the buzzers go is key since at the end of the tournament you need to be able to tell teams where to go to get their buzzers rather than having them run all over the place looking for their systems. Do not forget to keep track of buzzers; more than one team’s tournament experience has been ruined due spending hours searching for their missing buzzers after an event ended.
A BRIEF WORD ON BUZZERS
There’s been a disturbing trend in quizbowl of teams bringing broken buzzers to tournaments and trying to claim a discount. A buzzer should not be considered “working” unless there are at least 4 buzzers on each side that consistently work. If you have those annoying phone-cord buzzers that always fall out or you have a buzzer that works “most of the time”, that’s NOT a working buzzer. A broken buzzer can disrupt a tournament and make teams angry, so reiterate to all teams that their buzzers need to work or else the team will forfeit the buzzer discount. It’s fine to bring a semi-broken buzzer as a back-up option (7 buzzers is better than slap bowl, for instance), but don’t allow it for a discount if it don’t fully work. Make sure that, as the buzzers are set up, the people setting up the buzzers check them to make sure that they work.
4. Gophers. These are staffers who should immediately be assigned to set up a room and a buzzer system as they come in. Have them hang around the HQ or auditorium unless they’re out setting things up OR checking on things for you. If you get extra staffers, send them to go check to make sure that the rooms are set up or help other people set up buzzers. If you’re short on gophers, you can sometimes have teams go set up their own buzzers too, but ideally tournament staffers should be assigned to this point.
5. PR people. If you have any extroverted tournament staff available, have them go chat with the coaches and teams, especially any new teams. Make sure they feel comfortable and perhaps give them some literature on quizbowl resources. This is amazingly easy to do and can be the difference between a one-time attendee and a devoted, long-term customer. You can also use this time to check-in with established teams and perhaps encourage them to talk to the new teams sitting next to them.
Always schedule a pre-tournament meeting for all teams in the main auditorium/registration area so that you can answer any questions and ensure that all teams are present and on the same page. This meeting will usually happen about 15 minutes before the tournament itself begins. If most of your teams are new to quizbowl, use this time to run a brief demonstration of how quizbowl works. Go over the rules quickly, but clearly. Make sure people know powers, negs, overtime procedures, and the rules for rebracketing and making the playoffs (if it’s based solely on standing in prelim brackets, if PPB is a tiebreaker, etc.).
After the meeting is over and all the teams have arrived (or you’ve dealt with the ones that haven’t arrived), send teams to their first round rooms and then send in the mods to those rooms.
Make sure the moderators know what they’re supposed to do. During this time, you may also want to have a moderator meeting in the HQ room for your moderators to go over the rules again and answer any of their questions. Tell the moderators that they’re expected to return their scoresheet to the HQ room at the end of every round. If you’re doing anything weird like not reading all the packets in the normal order, make sure the moderators know about this!
There are several ways you can distribute packets to your moderators. Many tournaments simply hand their moderators all of the packets for the whole tournament beforehand. However, while this method is straightforward, it is not necessarily recommended.
If you have printed your packets on paper (i.e. “paper tournaments”), you can simply give your moderators one packet at a time, per round. Every time a moderator returns to your HQ room with their scoresheet, you will exchange their old packet for a new one. This method is useful because it guarantees that no moderator will accidentally read the wrong packet for a particular round (which can be catastrophic from a scheduling perspective). If you are distributing all of your packets digitally (i.e. “laptop tournaments”), you can still do this by using password-protected packets, wherein the moderators get the password to open the next round packet only after they finish the round beforehand. Passwords can get lost though, so it’s your call as to how you want to set things up.
If one of the teams hasn’t shown up yet:
Call their cell phone contact (you did ask for that, right?). If they do respond and say they will be there soon, that’s cool. If you have a bye round in the bracket that team is in, you can assign them the bye round their first round (again, this is easy if you have non-specific schedules). Or you can tell them the matches will start on time and they should run to their room ASAP (tell them what room to go to) to start playing whenever they get there.
If no response, don’t delay the tournament any more than necessary. Assign them the bye round in the first round if you can in the hopes that they’ll show up. If there are no bye rounds, then that team will become a bye round for other teams (or the other teams can just have fun racking up points against empty chairs). If that team was going to be in a bracket with a bye already, see if you can swap that team with a team from another bracket that didn’t have a bye (ideally, a team that’s at the level of the dropped team). At all costs, you want to avoid having two byes in a bracket or having one bracket be significantly smaller than other brackets. If the team that you thought dropped eventually shows up, you can put them in a bye room and have them play all the teams that would be on their byes. Or, you can just tell them that showing up an hour late drops them from the tournament. Your call.
If more than one team hasn’t shown up yet:
If both teams are in the same bracket, then see if you can swap one of those teams with a team in another bracket. You do NOT want double-byes in one bracket. If this means your brackets are screwed up too much, hopefully you have a backup unspecific bracket you can print out and then start reassigning teams. This is, after all, why you made up those contingency schedules, right?
If a moderator hasn’t shown up yet:
Call their number. If no response, then you may be able to personally sub for them. If you are already committed to reading already, then explain the situation to the assembled teams and ask for a volunteer to read. Ideally, you’ll get a coach to read (though try to avoid having that coach read in a bracket in which their team is playing!).
If not enough working buzzers have shown up yet:
Sometimes teams forget their buzzers. Sometimes teams bring buzzers that they swear work, but don’t actually work. Hopefully you have some backup sets of buzzers; if not, you will have to play slapbowl (i.e. players slap the desks to buzz in). If you do have to play slapbowl, make sure you put an extra staffer in that slapbowl room to focus specifically on when people slap in rather than forcing the moderator to mod and try to figure out who slapped in first!
During the Prelim Rounds
If you, the TD, are reading, make sure your statkeeper–the person entering the statistics after each round into SQBS who will remain in the HQ room–knows what to do in case of emergency (i.e. how to contact you with a problem). Position yourself in a room as close to HQ as possible. Tell the teams in your room that you might have to pause the match at some points and run to the door to deal with issues.
If you, the TD, are not reading (highly recommend if you have the staff), even if you are statkeeping don’t be afraid to stop and check up on how things are going in general especially as the first round begins. Actively walk around and check on rooms (without going inside and entering, of course). You might be surprised that a room hasn’t started 5 minutes after the other rooms began because they were waiting for something or that a team has gotten lost.
Make sure the tournament is running on time. If you are using lot of inexperienced moderators, you will naturally need to apply a little elbow grease to make sure the tournament stays on time. One easy trick to keep track of your tournament’s progress: find a chalkboard or whiteboard in the HQ room, and write the intended end times for each round on the board. For instance, if your tournament begins at 9 AM and you expect each round to take 30 minutes, write this:
Round 1: 9:30 AM
Round 2: 10:00 AM
Round 3: 10:30 AM
And so on. Every time a moderator (or scorekeeper) goes to the HQ room to turn in the scoresheet for the latest round, refer to the chalkboard to check whether that moderator is staying on schedule. If a particular moderator is behind schedule (i.e. he doesn’t return to the HQ until 9:40 AM after the first round), find out why that’s happening. You’ll probably have to (gently) notify that moderator to speed up his/her rounds. If the problem persists, consider replacing that particular moderator with a faster reader after the lunch break. For more details, refer to our section on “If One Moderate is Slowing Down All the Other Rooms”.
Normally, 45 minutes to 1 hour is sufficient for lunch. Teams will generally get back 5-10 minutes late from lunch, so budget that into your planned schedule. Make sure to have your moderators tell the teams in their rooms during the last round before lunch how long lunch will run so that teams leave for lunch knowing when to be back (and where to go to–if you have extra prelim rounds, teams should go to these rooms, but if you’re rebracketing teams should go back to the main meeting room to get rebracketed seeds). If you’re running bracketed playoffs, use the lunch break to assign the playoff seeds and write/project those seeds in the main meeting room as teams return from lunch. Generally, a good rule of thumb is to budget 45 minutes for lunch and 15 minutes for dealing with seeding issues/teams coming back late/etc.
A NOTE ON SELLING LUNCH
I strongly discourage selling lunch yourself. You usually have to peel off several staffers to deal solely with setting up lunch orders, getting the food, figuring out who has what food, etc. and you usually won’t make that much money or save that much time. Similarly, snack stands don’t usually make much money either and tend to have their own distractions and issues. Not recommended UNLESS the tournament site is super-far away from restaurants.
If you have a statkeeper, check to see how far behind he/she is at the start of lunch. If things look like they’re going too slow, stop everything and put your best stat-entering person in there to make sure things get entered on time. More on this below in the contingencies section.
You and the person you have designated to enter stats during lunch (if that is a separate person) should be in the tournament HQ at all times during lunch. Usually you can send one of your other staffers out to pick up your own lunch for you. If you planned ahead, you can order pizza or sandwiches for your whole staff and send a few staffers out to pick it up. If your staff is eating together, make sure to use the lunch break to talk about any issues that may have come up with teams, questions, or other staffers.
During the Playoff Rounds
Before the playoff rounds start, you’ll usually need to have a rebracketing meeting to let teams know who they’ll be playing in the afternoon and what the schedule for the afternoon will be. Ideally, this meeting will happen right after lunch, but sometimes if will have to be a bit later.
The most important thing at this stage is to fairly determine the winner of the tournament. As such, you need to prioritize the championship/upper bracket(s).
If you, the TD, are reading, you absolutely need to read for a top-level bracket unless you are a particularly bad or slow reader. Do not spend more than a few seconds on any issues unless 1) the issue directly affects placement in the championship bracket(s), 2) the issue directly affects whether the tournament finishes on time, or 3) you are waiting for one or both teams to show up and have the time to deal with it.
If you, the TD, are not reading, you have a little more flexibility in dealing with issues, but again, anything that could affect the standings at the top needs to be your first priority.
Make sure the tournament is still running on time. While you will have a bit more flexibility with the “consolation” brackets, it is imperative that your tournament’s championship brackets run on schedule, especially if you intend on running multiple final rounds or superplayoffs. Remember to reuse the chalkboard trick.
After the Last Playoff Round Concludes
Direct all moderators to pack up their rooms. This generally entails: 1) packing up the buzzer system and returning it to the buzzer master; 2) setting chairs and desks back to the position they were in at the beginning of the day; 3) throwing away trash and bringing any extra paper or left-behind belongings to tournament HQ.
Host an awards ceremony recognizing the top teams. If you are hosting a final, make sure to mention who is in the final and award the relevant trophies immediately after the final. At the beginning of the awards ceremony, make sure to thank all teams for coming, especially the new ones. Give teams a chance to briefly announce upcoming tournaments that they are hosting. If you are recognizing high individual scoring performances, do individual awards after the team awards.
Host a final game or games if necessary and feasible. The generally accepted rule for finals is:
TWO SEPARATE CHAMPIONSHIP BRACKETS: one-game final between winners; or semifinal games between bracket winners and the second-place teams from the opposing bracket, followed by one-game final between semifinal winners
TWO TEAMS TIED FOR TOP RECORD: one-game final
THREE OR FOUR TEAMS TIED FOR TOP RECORD: seed teams by points per game or points per bonus, then play semifinal games (top seed gets a bye if three teams) followed by a one-game final
ONE TEAM ONE GAME AHEAD OF SECOND PLACE: best two-out-of-three finals format, with the team with the better record having already “won” one game (essentially, the team with the worse record has to win two finals games to win)
ONE TEAM MULTIPLE GAMES AHEAD OF SECOND PLACE: either declare the team with the best record the outright winner (ACF format) or follow the one-team-one-game-ahead-of-second-place rule (NAQT format)
Ideally, you will know by the middle of the last round which of these scenarios is most likely, and you can begin to plan accordingly once the scoresheets from the last round come in.
After the Tournament Concludes
Check each game room to make sure that everything has been picked up and that the room is in the same condition as it was at the beginning of the day. Once every game room has been double-checked, clean up tournament HQ.
Get the SQBS file and all appropriate .html reports from your statkeeper. Within 24 hours of tournament conclusion, upload the reports to the Quizbowl Resource Database. Alternatively, have your statkeeper do it.
Send a final e-mail out to all participating teams thanking them for participating, notifying them of final order of finish, directing them to the link at which final tournament stats can be viewed, and soliciting feedback. Ideally, you should do this no later than the Monday following the tournament.
Possible In-Tournament Contingencies and How to Deal With Them
Let’s face it. Even the best-run tournament with excellent questions, excellent staff, and perfect game rooms is going to run into problems. One of the most important jobs of a TD is to promptly and properly deal with these issues as they come up. Some contingencies are so rare and unexpected that the only guide is to use your best judgment and the judgment of more senior staffers. Others occur commonly enough that almost every TD who has directed enough tournaments has run into them at one time or another. I treat the most common pre-tournament contingencies in the “Pre-Tournament Meeting” section above. This section treats the most common contingencies occurring during the tournament itself.
If A Protest Cannot Be Resolved by the Teams and Moderator
This is by far the most common contingency you will face as a tournament director. Most protests are resolved when either one team concedes the protest or the protest is rendered moot by the result of the game. Occasionally, though, protests affect the game result and the teams and moderator cannot resolve the protest by themselves.
You need to immediately estimate how much time it will take you to resolve the protest. This includes the time needed to both decide whether to uphold or reject the protest and play any necessary replacement questions. If the protest can be resolved quickly, resolve it. Otherwise, get all the necessary facts from the two teams and the moderator, tell all parties to move on to the next round, and tell the two teams to come find you at the next break (usually lunch or the end of the playoffs) for a resolution.
Facts you need include: what was answered (and in protests involving prompts, in what order) by whom at what point in the question, the number possible points under protest, and what the moderator did/saw/heard.
If the protest is factual, consult reliable resources to rule on the protest. Generally, an online source that you would consider reliable enough to write questions from is a source reliable enough to consult about protests. You need to determine whether the answer given is equivalent to the answer listed, and/or whether the question text resulted in multiple or no correct answers. Once you have made this determination, consult the rules to determine what points need to be added or subtracted, and whether any replacement questions must be played.
If the protest is procedural, consult the rules to determine whether the protest is admissible and, if so, what the proper resolution is. Almost all admissible procedural protests come from the moderator doing something wrong and the teams and moderator not being able to agree on what the proper solution is.
Clearly announce your ruling and any necessary explanations to both teams, preferably in the presence of one or more tournament staff. If replacement or tiebreaker questions must be played as a result of the ruling, play those immediately.
It almost always helps to have an unofficial “protest committee” comprised of one other staffer with good knowledge of the rules and one other staffer with good knowledge in the factual area of the protest, so that you can have any confusing rules or sources interpreted by people who know what they’re doing.
If the Wrong Teams Play Each Other
Usually, this happens because one team reads the schedule incorrectly and the moderator doesn’t properly check to make sure that the correct teams are in the correct room before starting. Almost always, this mistake will get caught when the team that’s actually supposed to be in the room shows up after the round with the wrong teams is started.
Immediately move the incorrect team out of the room and into the room it should be in. Notify the moderators in the two rooms affected to read a backup packet. Note which four teams have heard the backup packet.
If Someone Reads the Wrong Packet
This happens even with experienced moderators if they read the schedule wrong or if someone in the tournament HQ hands out the wrong packet by accident.
If the incorrectly read packet is from a round heard earlier in the day, one or both teams will remark on this by the time the game gets to tossup 3. Usually the moderator will go to tournament HQ for the correct packet as soon as the mistake is pointed out, and you shouldn’t need to do anything.
If the wrong packet is scheduled to be used in a future round, make a note of the teams that heard the packet and the rooms they will be playing in when that packet is scheduled to be heard. Note that you may not be able to do the second of these things until you have re-bracketed. When that round happens, instruct either all moderators, or just the moderators in the room(s) in which those teams are playing, to use a backup packet.
If the wrong packet is scheduled to be used in the finals or as a backup packet, make a note of the teams that heard the packet. You don’t need to do anything unless one of the teams that heard the wrong packet is in the finals or needs to hear a backup packet due to a second issue.
If One Moderator is Slowing Down All the Other Rooms
The first thing that you ought to do is check to make sure that everything is all right with that room. It might not be an issue of the moderator being slow; it could be that the room has a particularly unwieldy buzzer system or that one team showed up five minutes late to round one and the moderator hasn’t been able to make up the time. Next, try to gently encourage the moderator to go faster and ask if he or she needs any assistance. For instance, coaches are often happy to keep score for one game involving their team if it means that the tournament goes faster, or you may have extra staff in tournament HQ that you can spare to scorekeep or to spare the moderator for a round.
Do not replace the moderator unless you have an equally or more qualified replacement. If you must replace the moderator, thank him or her, politely explain that the tournament needs to go faster, and ask if he or she would be okay with scorekeeping or doing something else necessary to the tournament. If the slow moderator is a coach, make sure to note that his or her team will still receive the moderator discount.
If you cannot replace the moderator (or if replacing the moderator would result in an even slower tournament), and the moderator is unresponsive to encouragement and/or assistance, there isn’t a whole lot you can do. The best thing is to start planning playoff contingency schedules and room assignments. Generally, the very top and very bottom of the tournament produce the fastest games, so you want to move this moderator to the lowest playoff bracket to minimize the time it takes to complete a round.
If One Bracket is Far Slower than the Other Brackets
You or your statkeeper should start noticing this around the second or third round of bracketed play. First, make sure that it is not just one moderator slowing down the rest of the bracket; if it is, you can start immediately with the fixes for “one moderator is slowing down all the other rooms.”
If the entire bracket is slow, your priority is getting everyone out to lunch/out of the tournament somewhat on time, so that it doesn’t affect the other brackets too much. Unless you are extremely unlucky or are running a lot of rounds until the next break, your slowest bracket shouldn’t be more than about a full round behind the fastest bracket by the break. You can then take fast moderators from the fastest brackets and move them into the slow bracket for the last round before the break. Instruct them to take over – in the middle of the packet if need be – and read at the fastest speed they and the teams are comfortable with. Depending on how slow the bracket is, this will usually save about 20 minutes.
If You Have a Team Threaten to Leave After Lunch
The first thing that you have to remember is that some teams, especially new to quizbowl teams who don’t quite understand the point of quizbowl, can get extremely frustrated by not really knowing a lot of the answers and getting blown out in most of their games. You need to reassure these teams that there are several other teams who had the same problems in other brackets, and the afternoon games will be more competitive and more fun games against teams of roughly similar skill.
The other thing that happens a lot is that new teams assume that since they didn’t make the championship bracket, the tournament is over for them. Again, you need to reassure them that the afternoon games will be more competitive and more fun.
If the team is not in the championship bracket and needs to leave due to other time commitments (e.g., school dances, athletic events, several-hour drive back), see if there is a playoff consolation bracket that is smaller and plays fewer games than the others. If there is one, offer to put that team in that bracket so they have to play fewer games. For instance, if you have one consolation bracket of six and one of five, offer to put the team in the bracket of five with a fifth-round bye, and encourage them to stay until they absolutely have to leave.
If the team is threatening to leave because of a real or perceived issue with the questions, talk to the coach and/or players about the problems they feel they are having. If the coach is reasonable, the team can usually be convinced to at least stick around to try one or two afternoon rounds. If the coach is not being reasonable, talk to him or her politely. Don’t apologize about the questions (unless they are truly horrendous), but don’t argue too much with the coach about them, either. You’re not going to win that battle. If you can’t convince the coach to stay, make a note of the team’s or coach’s problem and be prepared to discuss it later, when everyone is more rational.
If Your Statkeeper Is Behind or Incompetent
The solution to this problem depends on two factors: how much time you have before you need the stats, and how much work it will take to get the stats correctly finished.
If you catch the problem early and the only issue is speed, check every scoresheet that comes in and total up anything that wasn’t filled in by the moderator or scorekeeper. Read the teams, score, and individual stats aloud to the statkeeper to save even more time.
If you catch the problem early and the statkeeper has multiple issues, see if you can replace the statkeeper with a scorekeeper who might do a more accurate job. If you absolutely cannot replace the statkeeper, figure out which of your staff is the fastest moderator who is also capable of doing stats (this might be you), and put that person in charge of statkeeping. Make sure the staff knows to take the scoresheets to a different room. Then follow “if you catch the problem late and the only issue is speed” solutions once you get to a break.
If you catch the problem late and the only issue is speed, immediately print out the standings. Check your schedule against the games that haven’t been entered, identify the games most likely to affect the final standings, and give those scoresheets to your statkeeper to enter first. Replace your statkeeper with your best statkeeper as soon as that person comes in with his or her final scoresheet.
If there is a major problem that would require far more time than you have to fix (e.g., untimely computer crash with mostly unsaved stats, statkeeper entering some games multiple times and others not at all), you need to prioritize what stats are most important. In order, these are: win-loss records for each team, total points for any teams possibly involved in within-bracket tiebreakers, points per bonus for any teams possibly involved in across-bracket tiebreakers, individual stats. By minimizing the number of things you need to get immediately, you can effectively plan to re-seed in the shortest time possible.
Ideally, this is happening over lunch and you can call in all the staff from your school, minus a few people to go pick up lunch, to help. Delegate staffers or groups of staffers to reconstruct every bracket from scratch. The easiest way to do this is to make a handmade table on the back of a schedule or scoresheet, with rows being teams and columns being rounds. Write the score of each team in each round in the appropriate box, and circle the score if the team won. With a competent staff and a calculator, this will give you win-loss record and total points of each team in about five minutes. Once you have within-bracket standings, you can figure out what ties (if any) need to be broken by points per bonus, and then you need to find only the relevant scoresheets. You can do individual stats the same way – tell each group of bracket reconstructors to note anyone in their bracket whom they think could end up in the top scorers based on reputation and/or a brief look at the scoresheets. Then make a similar table and use some kind of mark to indicate if the player only played a half-game or not at all that round.