Academic Decathlon Goes Online

By Emmett Bassen-Alexander

This year, due to Covid-19, Academic Decathlon is switching from being in-person to online. Academic Decathlon is a competition where students take tests on ten different subjects. Seven of the ten tests are related to one core theme, while the other three are speech, interview, and essay. Students at each school participating form a team of nine and represent their school in a statewide competition, and if they win that they go to a national competition. The team is split up into different groups based on GPA so that students of all academic backgrounds can compete. Students can win medals based off of their performance. Additionally, alternates can compete as individuals that aren’t in the competition, so they can still have a chance to prove their ability and win medals.

Normally, the students participating would meet after school one day a week for two hours, usually in the evening. They would study the various topics to get a general idea of what the tests would have on them. The evening sessions also provided an opportunity to practice interviews, speeches, and to bond as a team. Then, come early March, nine students and alternates would go to a place and take the tests that they had been studying for. The tests are very difficult, and require knowledge of a lot of trivia, so a 50% is considered a very good score. They would take all their tests, at the end the winners would win, and there would be an awards ceremony. However, this year, the setup is very different.

This year, there are major structural differences in how both the meetings and the actual Decathlon are set up. Mr. Revkin, one of the coaches for the EGHS team, said “This year is certainly like no other. The biggest difference is that we used to have face to face meetings where students could collaborate, discuss, have snacks, and generally have a good time. Now we are doing everything on Google Meet, which, although it might provide better focus for some people, reduces the amount of personalization.” David Amirsadri, a senior who has been doing Aca Deca for his entire high school career, said “AcaDeca feels much quieter and more independent this time around. Obviously, it would be kind of awkward to collaborate through a google meet. I feel like I am more independent and focused on learning the material this year than I was in years past.” He also commented on the changed team dynamic. He said, “There is a sense of loss when it comes to bonding as a team. I don’t feel like we’re quite as unified as a group this year as in years past.” 

Obviously, going all virtual is a big change this time around, and how the actual competition will change is up in air. Mr Revkin said “I don’t really know what to expect for the competition itself since every school is handling these new times a little differently.” 

Ultimately, Covid has caused a number of changes to how things like Academic Decathlon have to be done. We will see how all of these changes pan out in the end.