Scholars vie for recognition

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A mental workout: RBHS Quiz Bowl scholars concentrate on practicing for the Quiz Bowl tournament and improving their mental fortitude. Members of Quiz Bowl study up on different topics ranging from Renaissance art to literature to mathematic relationships. In a competition, the scholars buzz in to answer the question, read by the judge, before the other team. Although it does not use the same skillset as an athletic sport, Quiz Bowl scholars still have rigorous training sessions for their competitions, such as the next one this Saturday, Oct. 27.

Raj Satpathy

A mental workout: RBHS Quiz Bowl scholars concentrate on practicing for the Quiz Bowl tournament and improving their mental fortitude. Members of Quiz Bowl study up on different topics ranging from Renaissance art to literature to mathematic relationships. In a competition, the scholars buzz in to answer the question, read by the judge, before the other team. Although it does not use the same skillset as an athletic sport, Quiz Bowl scholars still have rigorous training sessions for their competitions, such as the next one this Saturday, Oct. 27.

A man strides alone across the gym floor. With a basketball bouncing up and down by his side, he approaches the hoop. Sweat steadily seeps downwards onto his forehead; his hair is drenched with perspiration. Exuding a calm and quiet focus, he lines up the shot. As the ball leaves his hand, his long hours of practice guarantee that it will be nothing but net.

What people fail to realize is that some sports are just as intense that don’t take place on a court: academic teams.

Senior Daniel James said it’s not because anyone dislikes academia. The lower profile of academic teams is because they are not even considered in the same realm as sports teams. In fact, for the most part, this other category doesn’t include any physical activity.

The long hours, the intensity, the single-minded devotion displayed by the players — all are the same — yet people do not think competitive academic teams and sports teams are on the same level of intensity, if not in physical exertion.

“I know that all the clubs take a lot of work, and I respect the amount of effort that go into all the competitions,” James said. “At the same time, though, I don’t think that they can measure up to the amount of practice and discipline that you need to be good in sports.”

RBHS hosts academic teams including Quiz Bowl, Model UN, Science Olympiad and the Debate Team. Quiz Bowl is a competition in which RBHS’ team has dominated quite handily over the last few years, reaching state twice and even going to nationals last year.

While it doesn’t involve the labor that physical competitions require, it requires an enormous amount of mental preparation in order to excel.

Junior Salah Daghlas, a Quiz Bowl scholar, said complex cerebral training is necessary for competition.

“There are multiple subjects that we have to study: arts, science, history, that kind of stuff. To get ready for the competition, we just have to memorize tons and tons of information about whichever subject we choose to specialize in,” Daghlas said. “You have to study a lot and you have to practice a lot in order to be good.”

While both academic and physical sports share similarities, senior tennis player and Quiz Bowl scholar Vikram Arun believes there is one advantage academic teams have over physical sports. Both types of teams need to practice to excel, but academic teams can often prepare for their competitions simply by attending school and doing well in class.

“In tennis, I have to spend two hours outside every day during the spring, plus off-season training,” Arun said. “Academic things, like Quiz Bowl, are tied in with school, meaning that if you are a good student and take hard classes, you can get good at it.”

The core classes the state of Missouri requires all students to take every year contribute to the success of academic teams. Physical activity, on the other hand, is not a compulsory class students must take.

Jim Meyer, the foreign language chair, who, along with Dan Ware, a social studies teacher, heads RBHS’ Model UN team, talked about the extraordinary amount of hours athletes have to put into their sport.

“In sports, you are necessarily putting in many more hours than we do. I think that dedication should be properly recognized,” Meyer said. “Even for athletes who don’t excel, there’s something to be said for working that much.”

Much like conventional sports teams, academics must foster a cooperative environment among themselves. Like basketball, football or any other sport, the mental warriors of RBHS’ academic clubs depend on each other for success. Adam Zaghouani, co-captain of Science Olympiad, explained the importance of teamwork.

“Teamwork is essential in Science Olympiad because, in the end, what matters is the collective success of the team and the resulting progression from local competitions to state and possibly national competitions,” Zaghouani said. “What defines [the] team is not the hard work and intelligence of an individual; rather, its the cooperation, communication and overall success of constitutive members.”

Perhaps the most similar quality shared by academia and conventional sports teams is the passion of competition.

Though there might not be as much actual sweat involved as there is on the athletic courts, both teams are vying for the same thing in the end: the win.

“It’s a different type of intensity, but it hurts just as much to lose in a game and it feels just as good to win,” Meyer said. “Losing sucks.”

Of course, both physical and mental sports have their merits. One is more appropriate for those who enjoy the thrill of using their brains to defeat opposition, while the other is better suited for those who enjoy destroying the other team using dexterity and brawn.

In the end, though, it is impossible to choose which of the two is more important.

“In a way, each has their strong points. Sports keep you fit and healthy while academic clubs promote good grades and studiousness,” Arun said. “It’s hard to say which one is better because everyone looks at it differently.”

By Raj Satpathy