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Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied, in ways big and small. Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. We found some who aren't.
By Solomon Howard, St. Petersburg High
Myth No. 1
Academic Team doesn’t exist
This is a very important myth to debunk, though I really wish it didn’t need to be. Yet so many times when I’m asked what I’m doing on Thursday and I say “Academic Team,” people respond, “What?” Yes, it’s real and it’s spectacular. The team usually practices once a week and competes once every three weeks. Competitions consist of three rounds of questions of increasing point value. Four team members play at one time. The first team to ring in gets the question (you’re allowed to interrupt the questioner), and points are deducted for incorrect responses.
Myth No. 2
Academic Team deals with trivia, like Jeopardy!
Actually, the team is not misnamed. The questions deal with academic subjects, almost any material taught in high school. This can range from complicated physics to art history and everything in between. Don’t worry, however, if you’re terrible at math or literature or something else. As long as you’re strong in at least one significant area, you should be able to get into a lot of rounds. You just won’t be able to use your intense reserve of Black Eyed Peas knowledge, sorry.
Myth No. 3
The team is exclusively male
Not quite. From personal observation, I’d say the percentage of guys is about 65 percent. So yes, it is a healthy majority but not overwhelming. Here’s recruiting call No. 1 from me: We need more girls. So ladies, if you have some free time and want a fun academic activity (not an oxymoron), please consider joining your school’s A-Team.
Myth No. 4
Since you’ve never heard of it, it can’t be a big deal.
Wrong. Every member of the top three county teams gets a cash award from the district (ranging from $25 to $500 depending on the level of competition reached). Then if you as a player are chosen to be on your county’s all-star team, you get the big bucks as well as a trip to state competition. The Commissioner’s Academic Challenge (ooh, fancy) is held at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Participants get free three-day park hopper passes, as well as three free days at the hotel and a gift card to pay for food. Top-three finishers even get rings. This is recruiting call No. 2: Straight bribery/merit pay. If this isn’t an incentive to play and perform well, I don’t know what is. Another thing: The Florida High School Athletic Association runs the State Academic Team tournament. For more information, check out academic-challenge.org/cac.
Myth No. 5
But I could never make the team!
You probably could. Different teams have all sorts of arrangements. At my school, the people with the top scores at practices play in the competitions. Other schools put in every team member. Some schools hardly have the four people to fill a table. Also, this is a team sport in many ways. Since there are quite a few multisubject questions, you often collaborate with your team on figuring out answers. Coaches usually field people for their specialties; they like to have a balanced knowledge base at the table. This means that even on a merit-play team, you only have to be good at one or two subjects to play. So a final recruiting call: Give it a try. There’s a lot about the sport to like, and it can make you feel really great about what you know.
Solomon Howard, a St. Petersburg High IB junior, has participated in State Academic Team tournaments three times.