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What's the matter with Kansas City? 
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Joined: Tue Jul 25, 2006
Posts: 4134
Location: Columbia, MO
Post What's the matter with Kansas City?
So in my other thread, I opened with a bunch of much-deserved praise for how phenomenally impressed I am by the general Missouri circuit in the 2 years since I moved away. Now, it's time to key in on one area that I am quite disappointed by, which is my hometown of Kansas City.

From my playing career at North Kansas City to my MOQBA career trying to organize tournaments, there has been no greater frustration than my endlessly stymied efforts to convince Kansas City to throw off its chains and join the ranks of the respectable quizbowl circuits. When I was playing, Kansas City was in the now-astounding to believe position of being the pre-eminent circuit in Missouri. Liberty, Savannah, and North Kansas City were almost always the best teams in the state. There were at least a dozen tournaments that could attract 24-32 teams handily, plus an extensive conference championship called the Quads for the local Suburban Conference, and teams from Oklahoma, Iowa, and Arkansas who would regularly make the drive up to play these events. What was the problem? All of these tournaments were run on bad questions, which I won't mince words about if any coach wants to come here and try to defend. They were not pyramidal, usually one sentence long, and routinely written by awful companies like Questions Galore, Questions Unlimited, The Question Bank, Patrick's Press, etc. The incredible successes of teams who take pyramidal quizbowl seriously have already done more than I ever could say to prove just how inferior bad quizbowl is. North Kansas City and Savannah were the only teams that knew much about being connected to the national circuit, except Savannah had bought in to the ASCN at the time which was also a bad tournament driven out by NAQT and PACE, and my coach at NKC understood that his team wouldn't be nationally competitive and then didn't think to take them. Every other team was only interested in either the local tournaments or the MSHSAA title. Once I came along, I was the only person in the state lucky enough to have a coach who understood just how superior pyramidal quizbowl was, and who was willing to take us to nationals with the goal of trying to win. Savannah at least made the switch over to playing pyramidal quizbowl, and NKC continued to do the same, but Liberty fell off the map, and the only other attempts to convince Kansas City teams to get out of their bubble and come see just how far behind the rest of the state they are has been achieved in fits and starts.

What is most distressing to me is how there has actually been good quizbowl in Kansas City, in very tiny amounts, since 2007, and how it has barely grown since then. In 2007 and 2011 I was involved in trying to run good tournaments at NKC, only to have bad weather strike and see both events have lots of dropouts. Liberty was finagled into hosting a large tournament around 2009 that ended up getting endless complaints about the question length and difficulty which I think scared them off from trying to do anything similar. Savannah has occasionally hosted an NAQT event which also was up against reportedly endless complaining about the difficulty of standard IS sets. Teams like St. Pius have occasionally been known to make the trip out to Columbia just to see what's happening in other parts of the state, and a few Kansas City teams like Park Hill South use their district bids to register for the HSNCT,predictably don't make the playoffs, and seem to not be interested in doing the regular season work to improve and do better at nationals the next time (which would require traveling to Columbia regularly). There are even plenty of vacuums now - a large number of the local Kansas City tournaments that used to help define it being a great circuit has disappeared, so at this point Kansas City has officially become a quizbowl backwater. Again, I will not mince words on this for anybody arguing - all you need to know is that the only KC teams that ever show any interest in doing well nationally make multiple trips to central Missouri and St. Louis every year.

The single biggest problem holding Kansas City back is that there were no local tournament hosts who would ensure that the circuit was saturated with good events. In Columbia, I forced Mizzou to host 5 tournaments some years when we were just getting our foothold. The only way to truly convince people to change their ways is to host many tournaments for them to attend, and because Kansas City is just so far behind the curve, when I tried to work with local hosts it was incredibly difficult to get them to commit to trying this out just to see what happens. Currently, North Kansas City and Fort Osage appear to really be doing god's work by each hosting 2 or 3 tournaments, but they can't do this alone. If you are from a team in Kansas City that wants to take itself seriously as a quizbowl team, there is no getting around it - you need to help bring Kansas City up to par with the rest of Missouri. And if you want to host good tournaments, you need to offer more than 5 rounds on easy questions.

However, there are more problems that are completely solvable standing in the way of Kansas City modernizing. First and foremost, if you like quizbowl, and you find yourself going to UMKC or another college in Kansas City, they need a team BADLY. An old Truman State player named Kent Buxton is there for medical school and wants to have a team, but he doesn't have the time to run it by himself. This is not only because it allows you to continue having fun with quizbowl, but because Kansas City horribly needs a college who will host good tournaments come hell or high water. Columbia and St. Louis both were able to rapidly adapt because of the effort of their local college hosts.

If you are a coach in Kansas City and you find yourself wanting to run a competitive team, you also need to consider leaving the city multiple times a year. The reason that teams in St. Louis, especially the Ladue team that won nationals recently, have been able to get so much better is in part because they made the 2 hour drive out to Columbia 3 or 4 times a year to play that most prestigious events in the region. The same can definitely be said for some of the best Columbia teams like Hallsville and Rock Bridge, who went to St. Louis regularly, or for the Hannibal team that is currently winning so many of the top events in the state. Part of the reason teams in Kansas City are struggling is because so few of them understand just how much better the rest of the state is doing, and by seeing it firsthand you can actually learn what you need to do in order to become a better team. When all you see are NKC's pyramidal tournaments where very few of the questions are being powered, then that reinforces the notion that these questions are unplayably hard, and by seeing just how incorrect that notion is, you can start to make progress.

People who have friends that play quizbowl in Kansas City, this one is on you - you need to talk to your friends about how to get better at quizbowl, and convince them to pressure their coaches to take them to events like Mizzou's. When I was much younger and working hard on this problem, one of the most important things that helped get teams on board with good quizbowl was to talk to the most promising players from unserious teams and show them how to improve. I don't want to take all of the credit, but there were players who ended up being very good from Villa Duchesne, Clayton, and Ladue who I was in touch with trying to convince them to get more serious, and it paid off for them. I know that a lot of good players go to MSA, so why not keep in touch with your MSA friends and convince them to come see you at next year's Mizzou tournaments, and show them how to study for pyramidal quizbowl? Kansas City badly needs your help on this front.

The last critique I have of Kansas City is the culture of either complacency or indifference among many coaches that I have met over the years. There will always be coaches who just want a stipend, or who have bad ideas about quizbowl no matter where you look, but Kansas City has an inordinately high number of them. Lots of coaches are perfectly satisfied with the idea that they they play a few tournaments a year and they are doing just fine, with maybe a MSHSAA district title racked up, so why would they ever change things, even though their teams never win any serious tournaments? If you are a coach and you realize that you think this way, I challenge you to figure out what is the difference between your team, especially if you are in a large suburban school, and a school like Hallsville which is rural and quite small and has been home to more good players than you can shake a stick at. If you realize that all you want out of your quizbowl team is to meet for an hour a week, read some kids trivia, take them to a school 20 minutes away 5 times a year, then go home and collect your stipend, well, that's why your team isn't winning anything serious, right? Other, better quizbowl teams manage to simultaneously be more serious and more fun, and it spills over to how much more enjoyable the regular circuit is. Kansas City lacks this sense of serious engagement, and I would encourage you, as a coach, to think deeply about why exactly it is you are running this club that has such a vast potential for enriching the lives of students, yet is currently so far from that goal by the basic standards of your own state. Because don't get it twisted, if you remember when I was proselytyzing in the past I would dwell on how backwards Missouri was compared to the rest of the nation, and this is no longer the case. Missouri is home to one of the nation's most vibrant, competitive quizbowl scenes, and Kansas City is COMPLETELY missing the bus on this. Do you want to coach a team that reaches its full potential and proves that it can hold its own against any of the best teams in Columbia and St. Louis, or do you just want to continue coasting? If so, why? Are there no other teachers who might be a better fit for taking your club seriously? Think on it, then hopefully get back to me with proof that Kansas City teams can hold their own at the most prestigious, pyramidal tournaments of the year.


Sun Feb 28, 2016 3:00 pm
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Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2015
Posts: 18
Post Re: What's the matter with Kansas City?
One thing I noticed in Columbia that helped grow the programs at Rock Bridge and Hickman is middle school quiz bowl. West in Columbia is the only one of the six middle schools in the city to have a quiz bowl team (Edit: I had it pointed out to me that Lange sent a team to a tournament in November for the first time, hopefully they keep with it). Literally everyone on the A teams of both Hickman and Rock Bridge attended West (although Rock Bridge's A team doesn't really have a defined fourth player).

Two school years ago (my freshman year) Columbia restructured the school districts. Now West sends all of its students exclusively to Hickman. Since this change happened Hickman has continued to grow its program with underclassmen, while every student Rock Bridge has who has attended a tournament this year is a junior or senior- someone who either attended West and was on the team or who has multiple friends in their classes who did quiz bowl at West. Rock Bridge has a single sophomore who began attending practices about a month ago and hasn't gone to a tournament. We have no freshman at all in our program. Rock Bridge quiz bowl appears likely to go dormant after the class of 2017 graduates. I'm quite confident if West still sent students to Rock Bridge we would have plenty of underclassmen.

I personally had made it a goal for myself to try to start quiz bowl teams at Jeff and Gentry, the two feeder middle schools for Rock Bridge, but I didn't know any of the teachers and didn't really know how to go about trying to get a team started at a school I didn't really have a connection to (if any of you guys have any ideas how I could do this please send me a direct message).

For further evidence of how much a good middle school program helps develop a high school program, look at Washington. Washington emerged from relative quiz bowl obscurity to become one of the best teams in the state on the back of middle school success. My eighth grade year West went to one tournament and at that tournament we got second to Washington. They absolutely dominated us in the finals. I think (but I may be wrong) that that teams was the first team of the Washington middle school dynasty. Next year Washington returns all of their A team players and all of their players in general except one. I'd say it's likely based on their results this year and their continued improvement throughout the last few years that next year they will be a team that can crack into a trophy position at the HSNCT and a top 30ish position at the NSC, and I'd venture to say they have a solid possibility at hitting a top 8 finish in one of them next year. All on the backs of a middle school team.

I know Charlie's post is about developing a circuit over developing a single team, and I'd like to end this anecdote by connecting it back to Charlie's goal of developing a circuit; any middle school coach reading this, don't think that the struggles of the high school circuit can't be alleviated through your efforts. Everything Charlie said applies to you in the middle school ranks too.


Last edited by Nathan Rock Bridge on Tue Mar 01, 2016 12:29 am, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Feb 29, 2016 5:44 pm
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Joined: Wed Nov 01, 2006
Posts: 1880
Location: St. Louis, MO
Post Re: What's the matter with Kansas City?
Before we all start talking out of turn and make a mess may I point out these are not issues some of us take lightly and have not been working on for years albeit with intense frustration? And that it is far easier to Monday Morning quarterback than it is to do on a week by week, school by school basis? I know Charlie knows what he speaks of, even if I don't agree with this presentation and think it's unbelievably counterproductive. I am very proud of our state's trajectory and I think we have a road forward, just everyone have a little patience please?


Mon Feb 29, 2016 9:03 pm
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Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2015
Posts: 18
Post Re: What's the matter with Kansas City?
scphilli wrote:
Before we all start talking out of turn and make a mess may I point out these are not issues some of us take lightly and have not been working on for years albeit with intense frustration? And that it is far easier to Monday Morning quarterback than it is to do on a week by week, school by school basis? I know Charlie knows what he speaks of, even if I don't agree with this presentation and think it's unbelievably counterproductive. I am very proud of our state's trajectory and I think we have a road forward, just everyone have a little patience please?


I may have sounded a bit more critical than I actually am on the matter. I personally have looked at past packets used in Missouri and past results from Missouri at national tournaments, and I am quite happy to be playing in this age over even five years ago. I basically just wanted to point out how important middle school quiz bowl is.


Mon Feb 29, 2016 9:24 pm
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Joined: Wed Nov 01, 2006
Posts: 1880
Location: St. Louis, MO
Post Re: What's the matter with Kansas City?
Nathan Rock Bridge wrote:
scphilli wrote:
Before we all start talking out of turn and make a mess may I point out these are not issues some of us take lightly and have not been working on for years albeit with intense frustration? And that it is far easier to Monday Morning quarterback than it is to do on a week by week, school by school basis? I know Charlie knows what he speaks of, even if I don't agree with this presentation and think it's unbelievably counterproductive. I am very proud of our state's trajectory and I think we have a road forward, just everyone have a little patience please?


I may have sounded a bit more critical than I actually am on the matter. I personally have looked at past packets used in Missouri and past results from Missouri at national tournaments, and I am quite happy to be playing in this age over even five years ago. I basically just wanted to point out how important middle school quiz bowl is.


Understood and it is but until you work in the trenches and understand what it means to even have that (Middle school qb in Stl proper is borderline impossible with all the private high schools.), you really do not have any idea what it is you are talking about.


Mon Feb 29, 2016 9:29 pm
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