Photo courtesy of Danae Argyropoulou.
(Left to right) Joon Shin, Danny Johns, Beryl Van Ness and Madison Papp show off one of the Hoover Scholars Bowl team’s many trophies.
Scholars Bowl is not just useless trivia. Coach Joshua Rutsky of the Hoover High School Scholars Bowl team and Coach Todd Parker of the Spain Park High School team have seen that proven many times.
“We provide a framework that allows students to connect subjects from five or six different classes and build new knowledge from that,” said Rutsky.
For example, Rutsky explained, a player who understands architecture would understand both the history and physics of architecture as well as certain styles of architecture. He or she might then recognize the relationship between the literary structure of 18th century novels and symmetrical Palladian architecture.
Parker sees Scholars Bowl as a way for students to develop an interest in the pursuit of knowledge.
“I didn’t know anything about opera until I began studying this year with the Scholar’s Bowl team, and now I want to know more about it,” he said. “The more you learn, the richer life can be.”
Scholars Bowl also helps students build character by teaching them to work hard and avoid being selfish in a team setting, Parker said.
Recent Hoover High School graduate Beryl Van Ness, who will begin studying studio art at the University of Central Florida this fall, believes that her experience in Scholars Bowl throughout high school helped prepare her for college, even though she is not sure what she will be doing.
“Learning how to pull a group together, motivate people to do their best and have fun at the same time was a really valuable experience,” she said. “I think it’s something that every kid needs to do in high school, at least in some form.”
In a Scholars Bowl match, two teams of four players compete to answer toss-up questions as early as possible while still getting the correct answer. Most matches include 20 questions. If a team answers correctly, they receive points and an opportunity to answer a three-part bonus question.
Because questions can cover any subject, Scholars Bowl team members usually specialize in particular subjects.
“Generally speaking, a strong team is going to have one specialist in literature, one in history, one who’s strong in the sciences, and one person who picks up everything else,” said Rutsky. “Each player has to complement the rest of the team.”
Hoover High School senior Joon Shin specializes in science and music. Moving from Berry Middle School to Hoover High School, Shin found the Scholars Bowl team to be an opportunity to join a close group of friends.
“It’s like a family,” he said, explaining that older students act as mentors to new students and freshmen on the team.
As coaches, Rutsky and Parker lead Scholars Bowl classes and practices, oversee fundraising, organize transportation to tournaments, make sure the team’s equipment is in good condition, maintain updated practice material and recruit new members. Spain Park’s team was new last year, while Hoover High School has had a Scholars Bowl class for several years.
“If we are going to compete with some of the other top-notch schools in the state, meeting a few times after school each week is not going to allow us to be competitive,” said Parker.
With consistently strong teams and high expectations for the season that began in August, the Scholars Bowl teams of Hoover High School and Spain Park respect each other while participating in a friendly rivalry.
“Of the 10 most recent state championships, seven of them went to Hoover City Schools with Spain Park having two,” said Rutsky. “So it’s very much a Hoover-dominated sport.”
Rutsky said he was impressed with the Spain Park team and called them the “odds-on favorites” to be state champions this year. Since Spain Park’s team had no seniors last year, their entire team will be returning.
On the other hand, Parker called Hoover High School’s Scholars Bowl team the “premier program in Alabama.”
“This guy is Scholars Bowl,” he said of Rutsky. “Even though we have rival schools, we have a good friendship and a lot of respect for each other.”
Ultimately, Parker said, both teams are doing their best to have fun and represent the entire school system.