Q&A With Black Tent #1 Captain Sara Shmueli
Can you give a timeline of your tenting season?
We bought our tent over winter break and collected our pallets the day we got back from winter break from under the Bryan Center. We took an "entry trivia test" on Thursday (1/10) and found out we got a black tenting spot on Friday (1/11) morning. At 12:00 p.m. on Saturday (1/12), we set our tent in K-Ville. It was a mad dash to claim your space in K-Ville. We'd been out there since early that morning to secure a spot for our tent next to the sidewalk. The line monitors did a minute countdown to 12:00 p.m. and every quickly threw down tarps, cardboard, and pallets to claim their space in K-Ville. After setting up the tent that day, tenting began that Saturday (1/12) at 11:00 p.m. This season is a "short season," meaning the home game against Carolina is in February, rather than March, so tenting is also about a month long. The last day of tenting is Thursday (2/14).
How did you get to be tent #1 again?
In order to be a top tent, you need to black tent. As I said before, all 70 spots for black tenting were filled from the start. As long as you make your checks, then there needs to be a way to determine the order of the 70 tents that began on day one. Order of entrance is determined by a composite score based on three components: attendance at sporting events, spirit points, and a trivia test on Duke Basketball history. We were Tent #1 for the last two years, meaning we were the top black tent for two straight years based on this ordering criteria. As the tent captain, I'm responsible for coordinating the schedule for all 12 members of the tent to make sure we have enough people there at all times. I also have to keep everyone on the same page with attending the different sporting events and studying for trivia.
How did you organize your tenting schedule?
I have everyone share their Google Calendar with me, so I can see when people are busy. I then create a Google Calendar shared with everyone in the tent with tenting shifts, attendance events, and grace (when no one has to be in the tent).
How did you study for the black tent test?
I mentioned before that we had to take an "entry test" just to get a spot in K-Ville as a black tent. There are 70 spots reserved and I believe over 150 groups registered to black tent. Studying for that was relatively easy because it just took watching all the games and learning everything about them (who played well, final scores, records broken), reading relevant articles about the season, and knowing the roster. This test wasn't as critical to us because we knew we'd probably be able to secure a spot as a black tent.
However, the final trivia test, which is used to determine the ordering of black tents, was much more important to us. For both trivia tests, we made a Google Doc with all sorts of information which we divided up amongst the group. Our Google Doc for the final trivia test is over 70 pages long. It's a compilation of facts from Wikipedia, books, articles, documentaries, @dukembb social media, and YouTube videos. Our study guide was about 50 pages last year, but we continued learning and adding facts. The study guide covers anything from our national championships to the history of K-Ville to notable players and games over the years. Since we'd already divided up the information the previous year -- and 10 of the 12 people from last year returned -- it was relatively easy to split up the info and learn a little more.
How long has your group tented together?
I've black tented all four years at Duke, and have been Tents #3, #4, #1, and #1, respectively. My freshman year, I joined a group of juniors, who'd tented before together, with a few of my freshmen friends, Elise Fernandez and Ajile Owens. We stayed together the following year as well. When they graduated, Elise, Ajile, and I continued the tradition of tenting together but the roles had shifted and now we were recruiting a group of 12. This year, our group is 10 of the 12 people in Tent #1 last year, so we've mostly stayed together.
Best memory of tenting this season?
This year, spirit points are added bonus points to your tent's score. Two of the categories are tent name and tent decorations. Last year, our tent laid super low - no tent name, no tent Instagram, no tent decor - but this year we've been the complete opposite of that and went really all out. A highlight of this year has been coming up with our tent's theme. We chose the name Cameron Outdoor Stadium after bouncing around a lot of ideas in our GroupMe. The first week of tenting, we spent a lot of time in K-Ville together making our decorations and it was super fun to work together as a group and see everything come together. Erin laser cut wood signs for us. One sign says Cameron Outdoor Stadium and looks just like the real one outside Cameron Indoor. We also have a Zion Dunk Count sign which has been exciting to keep up with this season. We painted our porch to look like Coach K Court and made banners and jerseys to hang on the outside of our tent, just like in the rafters in Cameron.
How did you come up with the name for your tent?
We weren't planning on coming up with a tent name or decorating our tent, but this year a new component of tent ordering is based on "spirit points." Tent name and tent decorations are two of the categories. In our GroupMe, we brainstormed a bunch of ideas and voted as a group on our favorite as well as one that we thought we could decorate well.
Worst memory of tenting this season? Challenges of tenting?
The email with our final tent number (i.e. announcing we were tent 1) came out when I was in class giving a presentation. I turned my phone on airplane mode because I was nervous for the presentation and didn't want to see the result before presenting. During that hour and a half in class, our GroupMe blew up with everyone asking what tent number we were because it came to my email. Everyone was super stressed for a bit until my friend realized she had my login info to my email saved on her computer and she logged on my email to check the number and shared a screenshot with our group.
Best game you've been to as a tent this year?
The best home game this spring was definitely the Virginia game. We started waiting in line during the Syracuse game on Monday night and the UVA game was Saturday, which was pretty insane. But, watching UVA go from 16-0 to 16-1 at home was definitely worth the wait!
Why do you tent?
From the moment I knew I was coming to Duke early decision, I knew I wanted to be a part of such a unique tradition surrounding Duke Basketball. At the last three Carolina games, the atmosphere has been unlike anything I've ever been a part of -- everyone is painted Duke blue, as the most enthusiastic and unified sixth man in all of college sports. However, tenting is an incredible experience and I've quickly learned that tenting is about so much more than attending the Carolina game. I've tented with people over the years who I'd never even met until the first night of tenting started. Being able to not only meet new people but also come together to work towards being a top tent is such an exciting experience.
*Sara Shmueli interviewed by Michaela Towfighi