Today Archer competed in his first Quiz Bowl tournament with others in his fourth grade Pinnacle group. They've had some practice in class, but live competition is always different. My hope was simply that he would answer some questions, contribute to his team, and win at least one game before the elimination rounds in the afternoon.
Schools did not field teams. Instead, students were assigned to teams once they got to the tournament. Archer ended up on a team of students he didn't know, like everyone else in the tournament. Two brackets were formed with eight teams each, made up of five students who competed four at a time.
The competition had been rescheduled from last week because the high school students and teachers who act as judges, timers, and coaches were unavailable on the original date. The usual perils of a volunteer-run operation pertained -- folks had varying levels of ability and professionalism. Lengthy second-round games caused all the remaining rounds to be cut by half. Noel, who spent the whole day at the tournament, experienced some of the frustration of the sports parent anxious that the game be administered fairly. But of course we appreciate the efforts of everyone to make it a great day for the contestants.
And what a day it was for Archer! His teammates named him captain of Team Kangaroo (Noel told me that when the question of who should be captain was raised, everybody pointed at Archer). His team dominated the early rounds that determined seeding for the elimination portion, resulting in a number 1 seed. Only one of his team's games was still competitive entering the last round (that one was won on the last question); all the others were decided before the last round began due to Team Kangeroo's insurmountable lead. Archer was the king of math computation questions, but also rolled through categories on baseball team names and forming plurals. Best of all, as captain he was very good at asking his teammates for their input during the non-buzzer rounds. In the end his team won their bracket and got to stand on the dais while "We Are The Champions" played. Archer grinned, waved, and pumped his fist like he was on top of the world.
We were thrilled that he experienced such success the first time playing outside of his school. One of the high schoolers serving as coach for another team remarked to Noel that Archer would be a monster player in a few years. I can certainly see how that might be the case. He has some strengths already under his belt; doing well will motivate him to seek expertise in other areas.
It was interesting and a little heartbreaking to see him among the other kids, so clearly different and out of place among their conversations and horseplay, spinning and humming to himself, having to make an effort to stay focused and moderate his impulses, prefacing his answers with "I think the answer is ..." and "I'm just going to say ..." instead of blurting out words or phrases like his teammates. But what can happen with a competition like this is that he can gain the respect of others for a special skill, and others might want him included in what they do because of it. That's the start to a connection, a social group. As long as something like that exists for him, he will continue to grow in the areas where he experiences the biggest challenges. And there will be the potential for friends, for kids who will assist and protect him in the jungles of the school system, something that gives me hope.