By Bab Hamar
In my opinion, Matt West has become a household name in the world of bible quizzing over the last few years. I have seen him quizmaster in many different tournaments including different invitationals and also AACS state championships. He also worked in the American Association of Christian Schools Bible Quiz national competition and spent hours guiding the Florida Quizzing Association. Recently, Matt has decided to start building quiz leagues in other places than just Florida. I know that he has interests in Georgia and South Carolina and I have heard that he may get involved in more quizzing up north. His involvement in Bible Quiz and his love for God’s Word and God’s young people make him the number one person that I wanted you to either meet or to get to know better. Recently, Matt joined me for an interview concerning several things in your world of biblequizzing. I hope you enjoy.
Was last year’s quizzing the best year of quizzing you’ve ever seen?
I think Quizzing is getting better ever year. Last year seemed to be a year of superb teams, whereas the preceding year was great individual quizzing. Because the volume of verses went up by about 60%, a great individual could not dominate to the same degree. There were great quizzers to be sure, but they were flanked by better overall teams last year. I, also, think the depth of teams is great. I remember when an AACS champiosnhip came down to three teams you could have named a month earlier. Now, not only are there 7-10 states that are competitive every year, many of those state champions had to work just to get there. Also, ACSI Bible Quizzing is progressing also. This depth helps feed itself, so I don’t think we’ll revert any time soon.
After experiencing an awesome national competition firsthand and being involved in numerous quizzes last year, who do you see as the top five contenders next year? (feel free to name a team from Florida–we won’t be too upset)
Well, I think the defending AACS champs must always be named when considering potential winners for the upcoming year. I, also, think Texas (Capital City) and New York (Old Paths) will be right there again. Florida who was the real #4 state last year, will probably be represented by a different school, but I think they will be around again. Finally, I expect Colorado to bounce back and have a great year. Also, don’t be surprised if some team comes from nowhere to invade those top teams and give them a run for their money.
From your point of view do you see 8 or 10 quizzers separating themselves as the Top 10 next year?
This is a very hard question. Inevitably, at any tournament, someone will be ranked first and someone else will be ranked #11. The difference between those two quizzers is the first predictor of the tournament quality. The smaller the gap, the better the tournament. The recognition of great individuals has done great things. It has set a standard and now everyone who is #11 at some tournament strives harder. I remember in FQA when we went from recognizing the top 3 each month to putting the top 20 on the website, people began striving to move up on that list and the individual quality continued to go up.
There is a down side, also. Much like basketball, there are quizzers that achieve great personal stats, but they never achieve anything with their team. I can remember one quizzer from way back when I quizzed that had decent stats, but no matter how the teams were split, his team won. He knew how to have everyone get the most out of himself. He, also, would be slower to jump when the reference came at the beginning as he knew his teammates with less material had an equal shot on those. This was the best quizzer I have ever seen, but he never won a highest quizzer award in high school. Of course his teams won every major tournament he was in, save one. I think some quizzers recently have begun to recognize this, but the potential for individual awards can skew their judgment sometimes.
I think every year there are about 25 quizzers in August who could be the best quizzer come April. Every month, 1-2 of those drop off. By the time April comes, the top 10 remain and someone wins usually the highest quizzer award. I do think that those top 10-15 in April are usually a given, but how they distribute depends on a variety of factors. It has been a while since that someone came from a championship team in a tournament where the award has been given. In a tournament like AACS, however, where no such award exists, more often than not, the best quizzer’s team will win. So who was the best quizzer on the day when someone else won the championship?
The great thing recently has been that those 10 are coming from all over. States that previously did not have a great quizzer have seen the light at national competitions and come back ready to be as good as that person. Last year, for example, the top 10 quizzers at SCQANIT came from 9 different states (with Florida as the only repeat state). This has again perpetuated itself where great quizzers can now be seen all over and a state runner-up can still have a great individual to shoot for. This also helps improve the depth we are seeing.
Why could someone like you have so much zeal about Bible Quiz? What motivates you to be so involved? Is it that rewarding?
It is hard to believe but when I was in High School there was only one tournament (AACS) and in Florida, we had to sign up at FACCS to be able to go. It was so hard for me to be motivated any time before March, because there was no immediate goal in sight. I want to always have an immediate goal in sight. If we can give that to every lazy student, like myself, we can have more of them committed to memorize Scripture and that is the best reward.
You have recently started a good-size tournament called the Midseason invitational in Atlanta. What is the date for that, does it appear there will be a good turnout this year, and is there potential here for a bigtime tourney?
Once again, I want to give the immediate goal. I think the concept was overdue. Many teams have big tournaments at the end of the year (January – April), but noone gives a yardstick in the middle of the year. If you are pushed later, the amount of work you can do to improve is not as great as when you’ve only made it half way through the material. We were blessed to have 14 teams last year. Fortunately, one of those was the winner of the Athens tournament and the other was Athens themselves, who won AACS. I think they would have done well regardless of our tournament, but it does give our event a little more weight. When other teams heard the quality of the teams that were there, they were more anxious to sign up. We hope to have 20 teams this year and have an even better quality.
What is the purpose of your being involved in Atlanta and South Carolina and who can be involved?
Frankly, I believe in our system and philosophy. Because other teams are wanting to get involved and I am crazy enough to drive 8 hours each way three times a month, I figured we’d take what we have to those teams. If it helps more students memorize Scripture, that is what we are all about. I don’t see any one else out there with our system, and noone is close to our philosophy.
I have heard that you are introducing elementary quizzing in your new leagues. How will that change quizzing in the south? (there are many elementary quizzes up north!)
Elementary quizzing is as old as High School quizzing, but not as organized and not without flaws. Previously, it was split into two factions. One, the offshoot of the high school league existing, which wasn’t geared toward their age group, or Two, something geared towards kids in a given ministry, which didn’t reach many potential groups. I tried to take the best of both systems. I decided that we’d alter the rules, structure, and schedule enough so that it would benefit children in that age group. Next, I decided to make it over a portion of the Upper School material and hit the same ministries, so they would see themselves as a part of something bigger and think it was “cool.”
I think we can see phenominal growth in elementary. The key is to keep the material and traveling both shorter.
Thanks for the interview and I look forward to talking with again soon!
Matt will be working firsthand with BibleQuizzer this year. We look forward to hearing from him in the near future. Until next time this is Bob Hamar. Remember go to the Comments part of the site and let me know how you liked the interview.