Academic Team: The Time I Will Never Forget
When I was in seventh grade, I had just moved to California and I was starting in a new school. New places and new faces were all around me. Later in the year, I joined the school’s academic team at my mom’s urging. At the time, I didn’t know just how much I would become a part of it and how far I would go with it. That year, I didn’t participate much, but I gained the insatiable passion that lead me to join as soon as it started the following year. I wanted to make it my one thing that I would be remembered for at my middle school, since I was an eighth grader and I hadn’t really made myself known. I later found out just how big the academic team would become, and how much I grew.
When it started in my eighth grade year, I immediately had an edge since I had experience from the previous year. I combined my previous knowledge along with honing my reflexes in order to be the first to answer the question. We had buzzers that would signal the judges if someone knew the answer, and it had a button to do so. However, you also had to be faster than the other team, too. I was slowly growing in skill within academic team, but academic team almost ended before anything could get going. The previous coach was no longer going to run academic team, and that meant we wouldn’t be able to continue with academic team. So I got to talking with one of the assistant coaches about who would be our new coach and I had an idea. It was a slightly crazy idea, but I was so determined to get academic team to continue on that I went with it. The person who I thought of as a new coach was not a teacher or a staff member, but someone close to me. I chose my own mom as the new coach of academic team, since she has shown how effective of a leader she is numerous times. I was at the time thinking that we would do pretty good, but not super well. However, destiny decided to prove me wrong.
The assistant coach agreed with the decision (which made me feel good) and soon enough, my mom was running the show for academic team. Since she was coach, I was able to practice much more intensely at home, even practicing while at breakfast and dinner on school days and every once in a while on the weekends. I practiced for a long time, eventually becoming the captain, or lead player, for our “A” team. We had made four teams to compete in an upcoming NAQT-qualified tournament that was close to us. The winner would go to the National Tournament that was to be held in Atlanta, Georgia. Our school had never won the local tournament, as there was a math and science academy that always won called Mesa Verde. Our teams we had created were labeled as Teams A, B, C, and D, with skill determining the members of each team. The A team was the best of our entire academic team, and at the bottom was the D team. However, that doesn’t mean our D team was a pushover either. They were quite good, but not as skilled as the A team was. So, I was kind of the best player on the entire team for our school, since I had not only the best stats from other mini tournaments, but I also specialized in more areas than most of the team. However, the challenge was on to try and win this qualifier tournament. And it wasn’t going to be easy.
When the day of the qualifier tournament arrived, all of us were both excited as well as nervous. My mom was keeping everyone calm with positive conversation, but I still felt edgy. After meeting up at our school, we packed our things and went to the tournament. Upon arrival, we immediately saw the teams we dreaded to face; nearby were the teams from Mesa Verde, and they had a lot of their heavy hitting players stacked on their teams. Just seeing them made some of us really nervous. In spite of this tension, we decided to calm our nerves with some practice. We went through packet after packet to make sure we were at our 100% best. Then, the tournament began.
We went through match after match, each filled with a series of 20 questions. You had 10 seconds to answer and they were followed by a three part bonus if a team got it correct. We came close to losing on several occasions, but we managed to keep a winning streak throughout. Halfway through, we could hear nervous chatter from upcoming teams, because we essentially made ourselves a big representation by being undefeated. We continued on, pulling win after win. Finally, the tournament had reached the final match, where every other team that didn’t make it gets to watch the two final teams go head to head in a heated contest. We were one of the final teams to make it there. However, our opponents were the #1 team from Mesa Verde, which was the one we saw earlier stacked with their heaviest hitting players. They had equal status to our undefeated streak, as they have always won the qualifier tournament, and have done so for at least 4 years. No one stood a chance against them. But here we were, in the belly of the beast and only one way out. Winning.
We sat at our designated area, as did Mesa Verde. When both teams were ready, the onslaught of questions began. I was insanely nervous, and my adrenaline was pumping. The hardest thing is you can’t see your current score or theirs, so you were left in the dark as to how well you were doing. The only time we knew was when it was halftime, where the coaches talked with the teams and enforced strategies, as well as give them a score update. At the time, my mom said that it was a close game, but that we were 5 to 10 points behind them. I was surprised, since Mesa Verde usually won by a landslide victory in the past. Determined to win, we resumed with the match. It was as if I had been going on autopilot after that. I just answered question after question, beating Mesa Verde to the buzzer and singlehandedly carrying the team. When the questions were over, they said good game and that it was a close match. Everyone in the audience got on their feet and went wild, and I thought it was because Mesa Verde won. That was, until my mom ran up to me and said that we won. I was ecstatic, and so was my team. We saw that there was only a 15 point difference in the scores, and that we were the champions of the tournament. After that, everything just flew by for me. But I knew one thing. We beat the old champions, and that we were going to the National Tournament. That was just as fun, but that’s a story for another time.