Finding fun in finding the right answer

It may not be the most well-known sport in Louisa County High School, but that doesn’t stop the members of the Lions’ scholastic bowl team from enjoying themselves.

“You just like being right about things, you know?” said senior Jacob Robey, who’s been on the team since his freshman year. “When there’s an obscure piece of trivia that people don’t know and you get [the question] right, it feels good when they look at you and they’re like ‘What? How did you know that?’”

Scholastic bowl is an academics-based competition where teams of four members face off in a three-round competition with questions covering a variety of subjects from math to history to politics to popular culture. The first and final rounds consist of 15 toss-up questions, with teams attempting to buzz in and get the answers faster than their opponents. Correct answers are worth 10 points apiece. Players can buzz in as the question is being read, but incorrect answers are met with a five-point penalty.

In between the two toss-up rounds is the directed questions round. This round consists of 20 questions, 10 directed at each team. The teams can confer on their answer, something they cannot do in the toss-up rounds. The team captain gives the answer, or designates another member of the team to do so. If a team gets the answer wrong, the other team is given a chance to answer.

While teams can only have four members competing during any given round, they are allowed to substitute players between rounds. Louisa has nine players on their team this year, which is average for them, but a smaller number compared to other schools in the Jefferson District.

“It’s not the easiest thing to coach,” said Thomas Jordan, the team’s coach. “In softball or football, you have plays and things like that, and in this we’re just trying to cover everything that might have information.”

Practices, Jordan says, tend to consist of him asking team members questions to help them learn as much as possible. They will also break off into teams to simulate competitions to prepare. He uses the scores from those practice matches to determine who will start at the next real one.

“The team has a pretty good sense of camaraderie,” said Ginny Helmandollar, another member of the team said. “We’re all friends with each and we all doing this thing and it’s fun and I don’t think all of us take it super seriously.”

The Lions play each district team three times throughout the year-long season with competitions held on Wednesdays. All of the teams attend the competitions and each plays three games in a quasi-round-robin style of play. 

Jefferson District competitions can be tough, as Albemarle, Western Albemarle, Charlottesville and Monticello tend to have larger teams and are very competitive.

“They’re fun, but you have to go in with the right attitude,” Robey said. “We face a lot of teams who practice a lot more than us. We try to take it seriously, but it’s not a life-or-death situation.”

The Lions have found success outside of the district in the post-season, finishing third in Region 4B for the past several years. In addition to that, the Lions have also competed on the televised ‘Battle of the Brains,’ which airs on CBS 6 out of Richmond, and will compete on ‘It’s Academic’ next spring, on Charlottesville’s NBC 29. They’ve appeared on both shows during five of their last six seasons.

“I believe the students enjoy the experience,” Jordan said. “They normally talk about how fast the competition seems to go, and they usually are quite a bit more nervous with the cameras around. The formats are slightly different than district play, but still follow the basic multi round, generally high school level trivia theme of our VHSL competitions.”

The Lions’ next competition is at Albemarle High School on Dec. 4. Matches begin at 6 p.m.