What's the difference between Audrey and Katherine Hepburn?

Guest article by Greg House

I hope the title caught your attention, because Bible Quizzing often reminds me of the challenges facing a director in a movie - matching a script to an actress/actor is like helping quizzers adjust to question writing styles to have a great “performance.” Each quizzer certainly has a question writer(s) they prefer due to their individual abilities. Each director tries to match up the style of an actress with a script so that the performance is flawless. Audrey’s acting exudes a quiet, inner-strength in a classic European manner, winning the day through her quiet charm. Whereas, Katherine is a master of American style and strength, both “sensitive” and “take charge” in the same movie or scene. Imagine Audrey in “The African Queen,” or Katherine in “Roman Holiday” - what a mess! Unfortunately, in Bible Quiz, a coach (director) cannot control the script writer (question writer), but they can help their actors/actresses (quizzers) to adapt their personality to a certain writing style toward proven success.

It starts with the dedication of the coach to learning what kind of questions to practice over, and when to do it. When do you practice, for how long, and over whose questions, to prepare for a competition? How can you help your quizzer to learn patterns that will allow them to take advantage of the writers’ style and win games?

My team, having been on the West Coast, was not very familiar with Brian Gibbons style, but we were headed to our very first Friendship Classic last January. I purchased Brian’s practice questions but asked him to deliver them via e-mail. I printed the sets for use as intended, but I used the question file to study his writing style. I placed each question type into it’s own category (quotation, quotation completion, scripture text, multiple part questions, multiple part answer, combinations of both, statement and question, etc.). From there I was able to look them over on the computer and make notes about how he wrote each type - which were dead-on hits based on a predictable pattern Brian follows, and which were possible minefields (changing wording style or reading rhythm between questions of the same opening remarks). I used the sets as he sent them to see what the quizzers were having problems with, making notes about each quizzer’s response to Brian’s style. I then showed the quizzers what to be aggressive on and what to watch out for. Each quizzer has different strengths and weaknesses. The job of a coach is to point out for each quizzer how his strengths can be used for success in a certain style, and how he can adapt his style to limit errors (sometimes that means avoiding a certain question type altogether). For Brian’s questions, David Dorey limited his mistakes by leaving multiple part questions alone, not trying to hit 30’s, and answering re-reads. Ricky Haney moved in on most types of 20’s and 10’s because he adapted better to Brian’s style. Kent Piacenti also had question types that had “don’t hit me” written all over them. We were successful because each quizzer learned their role for that tournament, and came away with the first place trophy.

At National Finals Kent was instructed not to touch the multiple part questions that were not reference questions. Because of the unpredictability of the multiple part questions, we used this strategy to keep Kent’s mistakes to a minimum. In 23 rounds at National Finals Kent hit only 1 multiple part question that wasn’t a reference question (he lucked out and finally guessed his way to the completion, but it was a sharp reminder of why he wasn’t to hit that type of question. Kent went on to set a scoring record because he learned to minimize his mistakes and use his strengths (concordance knowledge, etc.) to master the 6 questions he needed each game - he never quizzed out backward.

As a coach you must do those things to help your quizzers do what they cannot do on their own - hone their skills through discussion and practice, practice, practice. Never let a missed or questionable completion go by without discussing it. Always offer constructive comments and keep track of their improved performance on each question type. And, when that competition is over, guess what? - you get to start all over again.

I have always believed that goals in quizzing are separate, yet interdependent. Meeting lifestyle goals (memorizing and applying Scripture, strengthening relationships) are often interdependent upon competition goals (learning how to hit, complete questions, win games). Many young people are disappointed without seeing personal achievement at the quiz table - not necessarily winning, but being able to play the game well within their own division. Successful lifestyle goals are the key to improving your team’s chances at competitive goals, and achieving competitive goals helps keep many teens interested in learning and growing in the Scripture. As a coach you need to decide, with the help of your quizzers and pastors, what level you want to achieve and how much work you are willing to do to achieve it.

I would encourage you to take on this task as coaches. Show your quizzers that you are as dedicated to their quizzing success as they are. Help them to understand that adapting to different question styles can be a learning experience which they can take from competition to competition and ultimately to the competition that is life - Oh the places they can go!