Everything You Need to Know on How to Run Your Preseason Recaps

In my year as a National Cyber League (NCL) student coach, I always told my team during the practice before Preseason to make sure they wrote down the methodologies and tools they were using, as well as any challenges they had difficulties figuring out and what they tried to do that didn’t work. I highly recommend every team do this for a few reasons:

  1. If they come across similar challenges in the future, they won’t have to re-learn how they solved it. They have their own personal guide at their finger tips.
  2. If one player understands a challenge and writes down their methodologies, they’ll be able to help other players who didn’t understand the challenge.
  3. The odds that they’ll actually remember the exact challenges they didn’t understand by the time the next practice comes around is incredibly low. If they didn’t understand it, they’ll have a hard time describing it anyway without having anything about it written down. College students are incredibly busy; they don’t have the time or energy to remember every single challenge off the top of their heads when they have 20 credits worth of classes they’re taking and remembering information for at the same time.

Without this information written down, you really won’t have any basis for running your recaps unless your players somehow have the memory capacity of elephants.

I generally liked to start out our recap sessions a little more lighthearted by seeing how everyone felt about Preseason. I usually ask what they felt the difficulty was like, what bracket they think they’ll place in, and what their favorite challenges were. After everyone has had a chance to share, this is where I’ll start getting into questions anyone might have.

Keep in mind, you should not be going over every single challenge from the competition, only the ones your players have specific questions about. If you’re going over challenges that everyone understood, they really won’t be learning anything new and you’ll be wasting time that you could be using to learn new skills.

With every player that asks a question, I’ll ask these two questions:

  1. What methodologies did you use to try to find the answer?
  2. Why do you think that methodology didn’t work?

Now they may not always have answers to these questions. Sometimes they won’t even have tried anything because the challenge was so foreign to them that they didn’t know where to start, and that’s perfectly fine. Or they’ll think they knew exactly what to do but it ended up not working out, so they’ll have no idea why their methodology didn’t work.

This is now where I give other players an opportunity to teach their peers. Mostly so I wasn’t the only one talking the whole time, but also because I was still learning too so I didn’t always know how to answer every question. I’ll ask if anyone was able to figure out that challenge and see if they are willing to share their methodologies with the group. I find that this helps players learn how to speak about technical topics in a way that beginners can understand more easily, as well as giving them a little boost of confidence in knowing that they were able to complete a challenge that other people found difficult and getting to share that knowledge. The Player Ambassadors have found that peer learning is more effective than lecture style teaching, where one person serves as the source for all knowledge. This gives you an additional leg up in the Team Game because teammates learn to rely on the entire group, rather than one individual, and it encourages collaboration.

My one major no-no for any type of recaps is telling your players the answers, especially without giving methodologies. Really you shouldn’t be giving answers at all, so try to avoid it anyway, but your players will not learn anything by just being given the answers. It’s why the Cyber Skyline Slack channel that opens after the Games end is called “No Answers Only Methodologies,” because no one learns anything by just being handed an answer with zero explanation. You may learn the answer for that one question, but you have no idea how to solve a similar challenge in the future and you’ll never see that same challenge again, so knowing the answer to it after the fact really doesn’t mean much.

Now if you have time at the end of your session after everyone has asked all of their questions, this is a good time to let your players talk about their methodologies for the challenges that no one had any questions on. There are so many different ways to solve a single challenge, and it’s important to learn different methodologies than your own because what works one time may not work the next, so it’s always good to have a few different ways to solve something under your belt.

Keep in mind, you can also use these recap methods for recapping after the Individual and Team Games as well.

That’s all I have for running your recap sessions. Enjoy your recaps, have fun with the rest of the competition, and happy hacking!


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