Responding to a Contest

For every contest there should be a response. Sometimes it is a detailed rebuttal of arguments presented by the other team, a passionate discourse on proper interpretation of the rules. Sometimes, it’s a simple, “we agree.”

Contests usually boil down to a dispute over one (or more) of three things:

  1. The facts, or what the quizzer actually said.
  2. The rules, or how they are applied in a given scenario.
  3. The judgment, or collective opinions of the officials. These are often somewhat subjective.

Disputing the facts seems like it shouldn’t be too big of a deal. Unfortunately, people’s hearing tends to become very selective in quiz games. Now, I rarely accuse people of cheating, and I don’t plan to start today, but subconsciously we all have a tendency to hear what we want. Rarely is there a good way to solve this issue as it ultimately comes down to what the judges hear. My best advice is to be as honest as possible. Also, rely on your quizzers if you’re not sure what you heard.

Rules interpretation is a sticky wicket. Some rules are pretty straightforward (“the quizmaster reads the questions”). Most require some form of interpretation, and a few require a doctorate of jurisprudence. The first thing here is to understand that rules are absolute within the context of the game. Just because we don’t like a rule, or feel that applying a rule in a certain situation is unfair, we don’t have license to throw it out or ignore it. The rules are there, for better or for worse, to govern the game. Officials, quizzers, and coaches are all bound by those rules.

To properly interpret the rules, it helps to occasionally read them straight through. As you do this, you tend to see how rules impact other rules and how the context helps interpret individual rules. From there, you do the best you can. I would advise against trying to twist the rules for your own gain. It may yield a short-term benefit, but it may damage your reputation as a coach.

Do the best you can to explain how the rules apply to the situation and be done with it. Fancy maneuvering seldom helps your cause. Be clear, and trust the officials to do their part.

Judgment calls are the most crazy-making part of quiz. Learn this lesson well: unless your quizzer says exactly what’s on the page, your team is subject to the judgment of the officials. Most of the time, most of them get it right. If they don’t, you can contest, but don’t assume you’re going to get it. The best defense against judgment calls is to say exactly the answer, no more or less.

To respond to contests that are judgment calls, you need to give the judges a good reason why your team is right. If you can’t come up with one, don’t bother. For the most part, think about why judges ruled the way they did, and reinforce that. In a response situation, the burden is on the other team to prove their case. Your job is to tell the judges why they got it right the first time.

Above all, don’t lie. Don’t stretch the truth. Don’t obfuscate. If you know the other team is right, just agree with them and move on. Often the response coaches choose to give in that situation is “no rebuttal.” I prefer to go a step further. If you outright agree with the contest, it demonstrates your honesty and sense of fair play. Next time, a close call may go your way just because you did the right thing.

A few general tips for responding to contests:

  • Keep it simple. Responses don’t usually require too much explanation. -Don’t lose your cool, even in intense situations where rules are being violated by either the other team or officials. Rise above.
  • Sometimes the other team’s contest doesn’t make any sense; try your best to respond to what they say and leave it up to the officials. Chances are that if you can’t understand it, neither can they.
  • When the other team is right, just agree. It’s the nice thing to do.
  • Don’t give a “buggity-boo” rebuttal…that is, stand up and attempt to confuse the judges into voting your way. Respect your officials, opponents, quizzers, and self more than that.
  • Remember that sometimes you get a bad call. The next time, you might get one you don’t deserve. These things tend to even out.