Reflections On The 2006 Science Bowl

The following are emails sent during February 2006, after the Science Bowl.

Jonny Kalow emailed the following to the rest of the team.

"Hey everybody,

Our science bowl teams yesterday essentially got owned, both teams played a total of 4 rounds each, with neither team making it to the tiebreakers or to double elimination. A Team lost to Philips Andover and Lexington; B team lost to Westborough and Cambridge Rindge+Latin. Lincoln Sudbury won apparently, and I think BU did a terrible job in a number of places, but we're not going to forget about that and blame them later.

Basically, I'm pretty depressed at our miserable performance yesterday, and I have come to the conclusion that we need to do something about our increasingly pathetic science team. Overall, I realize that I've pretty much spent the last 3 to 4 years of my life preparing and practicing for the science bowl, only to watch our team get progressively worse. Obviously, there were a number of factors involved in our smashing destruction yesterday, but there are a few points that stand out of line, in particular several areas in which we have improved over the last year (where we were actually more successful)
1) Over the past year, our buzzing has gotten faster
2) We have learned much more in basically everything
3) We have filled pretty much all of the gaps we had last year (with the exception of all-around lightning-fast math and physiology)
4) We have fixed the imbalanced nature of our buzzing that happened at competition last year

Looking at these improvements, it is hard to believe that our team would be so incredibly worse than last years, especially considering we only lost 1 senior who was although very solid and helpful, was not the key to our semi-domination last year.

Because of this seeming paradox, I have come up with another list of the reasons why we lost:
1) Too much unnecessary overlap of knowledge- although we tried to focus on subjects, I think that we over-covered subjects like chemistry, earth science, and astronomy, and we did not get the depth of knowledge we needed on biology and physics
2) Undisciplined, Uncontrolled buzzing- Probably our biggest problem yesterday, we had too much buzzing before the answers were clear or when we really didn't have the question together (I probably did this the most, but it definitely happened with everybody except Jong). Going back to our big overlaps in knowledge, we still had people buzzing in subjects that they maybe shouldn't have
3) Lack of direction- Basically, I get the feeling that our numerous practices haven't really given us an overall buzzing improvement, that without any discipline or direction, our buzzing went nowhere fast. The overwhelming reason why we lost the rounds we did were dumb buzzes that gave the games away; as Richie said a few times, we basically shot ourselves in the foot (or head)

In retrospect, although the games we lost were close, in general we didn't even come close to being good enough to win. I think that a lot of our decline was to blame for our inability to see our own weaknesses in advance, that our teams, although full of smart people, were not well constructed well, and our practices just did a shoddy job of making us fast at buzzing. Seeing that our problems lay in our lack of direction and discipline, I have come to the conclusion that our science team really needs a long-term coach who can make the time commitments to come to our practices, understand the game and the kids, and then use their knowledge to guide teams in the futures. This not only applies to science bowl, but also for competitions like Olympiad, where a long-term memory of success in events can go a long way towards winning every year.

I definitely do not want to get rid of Dr. Gibson and Fang, because they are very helpful and offer us a great deal of support, but when we get down to it, we really need a coach who can or will learn how to coach us. After Dave left, I just assumed that our science team could get along fine without a real coach, but now after 2 years, I realize that this is not working out as well as I would like, and unless we do something about it, our science team is probably going to never return to what it used to be like. I remember a few years ago reading on Steven Xu's website, that although we were losing Dave, the science team would hopefully "bounce back" like it had always done in the past. However, now I get the feeling that the continual success that the science team had for those 11 or so years straight, was rooted in Dave; that his experience and his knowledge was what the science team going strong year after year, and that now there is nobody left to make us the best we can be.

So I dunno how we can get a coach who can devote his or her time to our team as much as Dave did, so hopefully some of you out there knows someone or is someone who can make this team make a comeback (For example, I know that Seth Newburg was for a while interested in coaching at least stuff like Olympiad, but he quickly disappeared, and I know Fang is really enthusiastic about the science team, but there is only so much that he can do at this point)

In the meantime, lets cram for ocean and hope we can make a statement to L-S on who's boss.

Jonny Kalow"

Rich Ellis emailed the following to the rest of the team.

"Now onto thoughts, I wanted to say how proud I am of all of you. Even though we lost, I did see a ton of improvement. the week.

Unlike Jonny, I don't see repetition of knowledge as a bad thing since it allows teammates to cover for each other if they aren't doing well. I do agree, that focusing is where its at though. I know I started doing much better once I was given a freer reign to buzz on bio questions.

Thins to study better for next year that I know -
maybe taxonomy if you failed there
Fast math,
general breadth of knowledge

As for the coach thing, its a lot about finding A person for the job. Dave kept coaching for 11 years. VERY few people are willing to give that much of themselves to something. I don't really thing Fang is our man either, as he seems not to understand what we are about. Skills to look for in no particular order: general knowledge about science, willing to listen as well as teach (Fang seems to lack here), ability to motivate and show up to evening practices and to correct mistakes.


Ian Bullock emailed the following to the rest of the team.

"THIS YEAR: Our A team lost by a slight amount to the 2nd and 3rd place teams. It was clear in both rounds that it could have gone the other way, just as Philips went on to beat Lex A. There is a lot of luck involved and we made some mistakes, so we lost. But in the end i feel like we showed that we were on the same level with the top teams, and I am thus fairly satisfied.

BUZZING: The top teams can buzz fast, but we shouldn't be completely afraid of that and outbuzz ourselves. I think we buzzed slightly too fast and ended up hurting ourselves a lot on incorrect interrupts. In future years i think people should be just slightly more careful because incorrect interrupts really can screw you over.

PRACTICES: I disagree with Ethan about buzzing practices being a waste of time. I think we buzzed the fastest of any team there, although we screwed up some stuff as a result of us buzzing a little too fast. More studying is of course a good idea as well.

COACHES: As far as a coach, I think we should look for someone who will not try to control the team, because having a nice student run organization is good, but who has a lot of science knowledge. What Dave contributed the most was his explanations of various science concepts. He also added a little bit of buzzing strategy, and his motivational speeches were certainly better than anything I could manage, at the least. I think he did add a little bit of extra pressure towards competition time as well.

- Ian"

Gabe Bronk emailed the following to the rest of the team.

"Stuff I learned from buzzing practice and science bowl:
1. Interrupt if you know that you know the subject well. If there is only one way that the answer could be stated, you should interrupt even before the choices are read. Do not, however, buzz in before the actual question is finished. I did not see the top three teams compete, but as for the teams I did see, they did not make any amazing buzzes before the question was finished, so there is no reason for us to buzz in that early either. This point was made clear when our team buzzed in and said cellulose before the question was finished, and the question turned out to be asking about what is put in jam, and they weren't talking about jam for bulimics.
2. As Rich, Ian and others were saying, CHALLENGE CHALLENGE, CHALLENGE. Both teams assumed that the question makers were correct when they said that the span of time called Precambrian is an era; we thought we were just confused. Whenever something doesn't sound perfectly correct, challenge it, because that cost us the match. Never assume that the question makers knew what they were talking about."

Fang Xu, the team coach, emailed the following to the rest of the team.

"Hi Team,

It is extremely important leaning from experience. I have no doubt that all member of the team has an extremely high IQ. But having high IQ is not the only factor to win a competition. Do you know what is EQ? EQ stands for emotional quotion. In the science bowl, I found out the NNHS team need more control and adjustment on emotions. I have seen the trend that the team A buzzing too fast in the first 2 games so I had suggested to slow down a little bit. After that at the third game against Andovor, our team buzzed
at a even faster speed and we lost 100 against 102 in which, 24 points are interrupt penalties!

Personally, I disagree that we lost to the 2nd and 3rd place team was just by chance. After we won the 2 other weak teams by big difference of scores, our team puffed with pride under the regards of people in whole room including myself. So I would say, if Andover and Lexington team had a chance, that because they did not meet Newton North at the first round, in that case, we would certainly pay much more attention.

Lexington team has 2 coaches from the school. I have some insight about some senior students did not like been "under control" and quit the team. After a team reorganization and having coaches supported by the school, look at the result! I think before you decide either want or not having a coach control the team, you should first choose between your goal: Just having fun or win the competition. Of cause, having fun and win the competition is the best situation but then you certainly need a coach to control the team!


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