Focus on Statistics: The Active Statperson as Co-Tournament Director

Author: Donald Taylor

Level: Advanced

This article was originally published through PACE’s now-defunct Freelance Quizbowl University program.

The first part of this special Focus on Statistics double feature focuses on the many duties a statperson can perform in addition to just keeping statistics. The second part, which can be viewed here, contains a downloadable guide to using the popular statistics program SQBS.

Introduction

In its most basic form, doing statistics involves entering data from games into a program and generating standings and web reports. This in and of itself is vital to the ability of any tournament to function, especially if statistics-based tiebreakers are used. However, I contend that a statperson is in a position to also double as a co-tournament director during the tournament itself, due to the nature of the position of statperson and what it entails.

Many people prefer not to work as a statperson because they find the position boring. These people are not taking advantage of the full potential of the position. An active statperson does a number of things that keep him/her fully engaged in the running of the tournament and make the tournament run smoothly.

This article will cover:

  • Why the statperson should serve as a communications hub
  • How the statperson can help coordinate staff
  • How the statperson can streamline protest resolutions
  • How the statperson can help minimize the effects of unexpected problems

The Statperson as Communications Central

Because the tournament director is usually reading a match, that person cannot always communicate pertinent information to everyone else involved in the tournament. He/she does not always know what is happening in rooms other than his/her own. The statperson is in a unique position to offer a second opinion to the tournament director, because he/she best knows the state of the tournament.

The statperson, because he/she is in communication with every game room, can ultimately spread the tournament director’s final decisions to staff and/or teams, or take input from other staff and relay it to the tournament director. This connectivity extends to information concerning lunch breaks, playoffs, finals, and cleanup, just to name a few things. The tournament director must often take his/her focus off the tournament as a whole to focus on just one room; an active statperson is the one with a broader focus on the entire tournament.

Example

I served as statperson for almost every tournament at the University of Illinois in the 2008-9 academic year. At those tournaments, I communicated statistical information and other important information via AIM and email. This way, I could relay information while entering stats and with minimal interruption during an actual match.

The Statperson as Staff Coordinator

One of the big things that affects the pace of a tournament is the variance in moderator speed. One slow room in Round One leads to two or three slow rooms in Round Two, and it just snowballs from there. The only person who knows which moderators are having trouble is the statperson. He/she can tell, because that moderator (or his/her scorekeeper) is among the last to get scoresheets to the stat room by several minutes. When this happens, the statperson should tell the offending staffers to pick up the pace, and possibly see who can step in if it gets too bad.

Example

I directed the 2008 EFT mirror at the University of Illinois. After one reader no-showed, I put in a reader I didn’t initially want, but had little choice at the time. After a disastrous beginning, one high school coach volunteered to read, and did so. I was reading elsewhere, and was unaware of the problem until it was brought to my attention. A statperson is in an excellent position to handle this kind of staffing issue, because his/her attention does not need to be on the questions and the teams playing during any round.

The Statperson’s Role in Protests

There are times that a protest or four must be resolved, and at those times the tournament director is typically otherwise pre-occupied. The statperson should be the person that gathers the relevant information concerning the protest from both the moderator and the teams involved, assures each team that the staff will make a fair resolution, and directs the teams to go to their next game room. The statperson relays the pertinent information to the tournament director at first convenience.

Tournaments may have a designated off-site person to call in case of protests, in which case the statperson can call that person, and the tournament is only slightly delayed when the statperson notifies the tournament director that there was a protest and that it is being resolved. In other cases, the statperson may have Internet access and may be able to gather factual evidence supporting one side or the other; this too will streamline the protest resolution process. In any case, the statperson should be the one to seek out both teams involved once the protest is resolved, and effectively communicate the ruling to each of them. For these reasons, a statperson is an ideal person to have on a tournament’s protest committee.

Example

At large tournaments with a number of logistical complexities, using the statperson as the protest coordinator is the only effective way to resolve protests. For instance, at the 2009 PACE NSC, I was one of four statpersons responsible for two different brackets. In case of a protest, I was to call the TD and relay the information, wait for a call back, and relay the details to the teams involved.

The Statperson as Problem Solver

In some cases, crazy stuff happens that no one can anticipate. Because the statperson is the center of communications, he/she is usually among the first to know about these things, and can thus begin to formulate a plan for dealing with them while waiting for the tournament director to become able to take over. An experienced statperson may be able to handle minor unexpected problems autonomously, and the tournament director may not even know those issues existed until being told after the tournament. A statperson with a good rapport with the tournament director may even be assigned to oversee one section of a tournament while the tournament director concentrates his/her energies elsewhere.

A statperson should not leave his/her room for any protracted period of time, but is in a position to issue orders to other, more mobile staff that can actually do any necessary legwork. This way, the statperson is available to handle any and all issues as they are brought up, while other staff are doing whatever needs to be done to counteract them.

Example

On Day 2 of 2009 ACF Nationals, I was the statperson/tournament director for the second and third brackets, which were taking place in a second building. Because of the way buzzers were distributed, initially not all of the top bracket games had fully working sets, and the affected teams refused to play without buzzers. After the games in progress were finished, Matt Weiner, the tournament director, called me and told me to get buzzers over to the other building. I then asked moderators if they had working sets, and if so, told them to get those sets to specific rooms. One other reader asked whether we should continue with round 2 for the teams waiting. Due to potential issues with question security and keeping the tournament running at the same “pace,” I held off starting round two until the other round one games were done, and had the staffers distribute this information to the teams waiting. In the post-tournament discussion, I fully owned up to this decision, and do not regret making it.

Summary

As you can tell, many of my nuggets of wisdom are driven by personal experience and observation. I initially despised being asked to do stats, but came to become quite proficient in doing it, and realized the usefulness of having an experienced statperson working with the tournament director to make sure everything goes smoothly.

  • The statperson is the one member of the tournament staff that interacts with staff from every game room, and thus is in a prime position to serve as the communications hub.
  • The statperson is the only one that knows what is going on throughout the tournament, and can thus make staff-related decisions such as replacing staff or moving them to different rooms.
  • The statperson should play a central role in protest resolution, including gathering initial information from all involved parties, calling the protest director and/or doing Internet research in order to quickly obtain a resolution, and communicating the protest ruling to both teams.
  • The statperson should be ready and able to deal with any unexpected problems that arise during the tournament; combating these problems makes the tournament director’s life easier. A statperson with a good working relationship with the tournament director may operate autonomously and have direct control over one or more brackets of a larger tournament.
  • The position of statperson is what the statperson makes of it. A largely inactive statperson will find the position boring and potentially hinder the tournament, while an active statperson can greatly improve every organizational aspect of the tournament and have fun doing it.

About the Author: Donald Taylor has run statistics for a large number of tournaments, including several run by the University of Illinois as well as the 2009 ACF Nationals and PACE NSC. He is widely regarded as one of the best statpeople in the game.