There are many ways to form teams. Every church/team/individual situation is different.
- You can put similar ages with each other, or mix ages
- You can put similar experience levels with each other, or mix experience levels
- You can put same genders with each other, or mix genders
Forming teams in an incredibly personal and program-specific activity. There is no magic formula or "right" way to do it.
You will have quizzers of all abilities and motivations. Your job is to challenge them at whatever level they want to be challenged at. You should have the best quizzers set goals and hold them to their goals. For other quizzers you should encourage mastery of a few verses, slowly adding more.
Encouraging quizzers to reach new levels: Great West and Internationals
Many quizzers will take to the competition very quickly, and will self-motivate for more and more excellence in their quizzing. To help them reach possible goals of Great West and Internationals, you should be encouraging material mastery foremost. This means being able to quote the entire material, by reference. This means quoting hundreds of verses a week in review. This means quoting forwards and backwards (verse 1, verse 2, verse 3......verse 3, verse 2, verse 1). This means aiming for word-perfect quoting, every time (even all the little small, seemingly inconsequential words)!
Essay: Thoughts on Coaching by Lillian Peterson
Before forming a team strategy, outline what your goals are as individuals and as a team. Do your priorities lie with your team placement, or with individuals on your team? There is no wrong answer, but everybody on your team needs to be on board before you arrive at the quiz meet. This is to avoid awkward situations between team members, and also to avoid that time-out before question twenty to make a hasty decision about which is more important—to win the quiz no matter the cost, or to protect someone's average. Here is an example about what I mean.
It's question twenty and you're down by thirty points. Two of your team members have gotten a question, and in order to tie the quiz and have a shot at first place, your third team member needs to get that third person bonus. However, you also have a quizzer on your team who is trying for Internationals and could really use twenty more points to boost their score. You need to go to the meet prepared with your priorities so you can make an easy decision about whether you want to try for that third person bonus and potentially win the quiz to advance, or have an individual quizzer pick up the points for their average.
Now on to actual strategy tips for teams who want to win.
First, and most importantly, strategy is completely useless for a team who comes ill-equipped. Make sure you are doing your part to help your team, and encourage your teammates throughout the weeks in between meets. Sharpen your sword for battle!
Secondly, figure out what you're good at and STICK TO THAT. There is an excellent article on timing, that you can find under "The Grand Secret." Figure out how much of the question you need to get most of the questions right. Only under severe circumstances should you jump outside of this strategy. If your opponents are jumping at an unsafe pace, it will be their downfall more times than not. Since questions are such a gamble as far as how early they will be key, it can be tempting to start jumping faster when you see other teams succeeding under that strategy. But if you figure out the pace at which you perform the best and you stick to that pace, you will excel.
Coaching at Practices
Be present for your team. Let this be their night to have your attention. Things will go much better for you if they view you as a mentor and a friend as well as a coach. Something I found to be helpful this year was to show up an hour and a half early to the practices and invite them to join me. I'd buy them dinner and let them quote to me, or if there were lists they wanted to practice I would help them with those. I think this was good for a number of reasons.
1) First and most importantly, it shows them how much you care about them and want them to succeed. It helps to take you from just a coach to a mentor and a friend. I think my girls felt valued and loved from this time together, which is so awesome and so important.
2) Secondly, if you're just showing up to practice and watching them quiz, you don't always have a good idea of how much they know. If you take the one-on-one time with them, you can really figure out what kind of work they've done and help them put that work into action. Also, they're aware of how much easier it will be for you to tell how much studying they've done, which I think encourages them to put a little more work in during the week.
3) You can really find out what they are good at and encourage them in those ways. This year I had a quizzer who couldn't pull out references very quickly even though she knew the material very well, but I could tell she had put a lot of work in. After listening to her quote I was able to tell that she is very intuitive. I would give her phrases and she could complete them, even if it wasn't a key phrase, because she was so in tune with her own intuition. So I encouraged her to work on INTs and MAs, because I thought she could really excel at those, and she did. It is not something I would have noticed if I had simply watched her quiz. I would have never known how well she knew the material otherwise, and would have assumed that her errors on QTs and references were due to lack of study.
Encourage them in what they are good at. There are some quizzers who will get overly ambitious and try to memorize all the lists. Eventually they will discover they don't have time to do all that work, and it will result in them knowing the material half as well as they could.
Encourage your quizzers to excel in one thing, instead of trying to master the entire sport. Make sure they know one chapter perfectly before moving on to the next. Make sure they have mastered their first list before they try to start on a new one. Remind them that they don't have to do it all in order to be the best. They just have to be extremely good at one or two things, and they can clean house.
Don't be afraid to push them. (This is one area where it's pretty crucial that they look to you as a mentor and not just some adult chaperone. If they feel valued and loved by you, they will respond to criticism much better.) I have experience with a lot of quizzers who do the following: They don't prioritize studying between meets, don't put in the work that they should, and when they show up to practices and meets, they don't do well. To an adult, this seems pretty obvious, but to a lot of kids, they become frustrated when they aren't doing well, even though they haven't done the work. This is where you come in with your wisdom and experience! Don't be afraid to tell a quizzer that they aren't doing the work necessary to succeed. Don't be afraid to have a conversation with them about priorities, and about how it's okay to prioritize something ahead of quizzing, but it's not okay to have a bad attitude when there is no payoff at meets. We aren't just coaching quizzing here, people. We're coaching youth in the prime years of their development! Please don't shy away from these types of life lessons when they present themselves.
Make prayer your priority. There have been times when I've been coming into a quiz late straight from a different quiz and I have limited time to talk to my team. It's always tempting to try and talk strategy or have a pep talk, but it's really important to make prayer our priority, and I think that's a good lesson for the kids.
If you have an opportunity, you can check out your opponents if you wish, but there's not a lot of good in that unless the situation is severe, for example, if you're competing with a top team for a spot in finals. Most of the time, though, it shouldn't matter who your opponent is. Your team should know what they're good at, and they should be sticking to that no matter who they are up against. This will always serve them better than trying to steal questions from a specialty quizzer.
During the Quiz
Do not sit back for any amount of the quiz. Keep an eye on your team and make sure they are at their perfect pace that you've all decided on. Are other teams beating them to the jump? Figure out why. If it's because your team is not jumping as fast as they need to, call a time out and tell them that. If it's because the other teams are jumping too fast, call a time out and let your kids know. Encourage them and tell them they're at a good pace, and remind them that winning jumps by being careless is not the way to go. It is always tempting for a quizzer to speed up their pace if other teams are doing it too.
Are your kids making a lot of errors? Again, figure out why. If it's because they're jumping too fast, tell them that. If they've been jumping at a good pace and have simply gotten tough questions, make sure to tell them that. Quizzers get discouraged by errors very easily.
Constantly be making notes about who has gotten how many errors, who has gotten questions, and how you can get thirty point questions. 3rd, 4th and 5th person bonuses, as well as quiz-outs without error, will put you ahead.
Advanced: If you have no team errors on question sixteen and you could use some extra points, call a time-out (or talk to your quizzers about this beforehand as a strategy). Sixteen is the perfect question to error on if you don't have any team errors. It's the only question that won't cost you points AND won't cost you a question number. If you error on fourteen or fifteen, even if you don't lose points, you still lose a question that you have to sit out on. If you error on seventeen you don't lose a question number, but you are in error territory so you will always lose points. So sixteen is a great question for jumps that are faster than your agreed pace.
As much as you can, save your time-outs for after question fifteen. (Sometimes early time-outs are necessary.) This is where you will need to employ the most strategy. Your team isn't looking at a score sheet. Also, they are so focused on quizzing that they are likely not paying attention to who has erred, how to get thirty point questions, etc. So this is where you call a time out and tell them what they need to do. Make sure you have a backup plan in case something unexpected happens. There are few things worse than creating a strategy on the fly during a time out with your team.
After the Quiz
It's good to have a quick recap with your team, even if it's just for a minute. Discuss what went well, what went poorly, and if anything should be done differently in the next quiz.