Most of you have already had your first tournament of the year at this point.
You are either the triumphant team coming home after doing work in the outrounds, or you’re questioning the very purpose of subjecting yourself to debate.
Been there, done that.
It’s time to use this experience to boost yourself up for the next tournament. There are several crucial things you can learn right now.
Using this tournament as a tool
You’ve now learned who your main competition might be this year. Sometimes teams you wouldn’t expect to do well rise up in a new year and get to out rounds.
You know what cases people are running, at least for now.
You have room to improve. Who did you lose to and why? And if you won the tournament, you still have work to do.
I’ll try my best to cover all the ways you can use this tournament to improve your performance.
1. Areas of improvement for speaking
Analyze your ballots and see what the judge says about your speaking. Look at what the judges dropped your points for.
I made an online google sheet for tracking your speaker points after tournaments. It can keep up to 10 tournaments’ speaker points, and show you color coded stats, averages, and graphs that help you visualize how to improve.
You can find that by clicking here.
Once you put your information in the spreadsheet, click on the links that are provided: they take you to articles on this website that will help with each category of speaking.
The key to improving your speaking is to be intentional about it. Read articles, take notes on things you need to specifically improve, take that list to the next tournament. Practice at home. Simply reading stuff or thinking “oh, I need to improve my presence” will not help you.
2. Prepping for cases
Assemble a list of cases.
Get a brief and strategy against each case.
Ask other debaters/coaches for feedback, improve your strategy.
Find arguments that weren’t run against them the last tournament, but are viable.
Rule of thumb: you should have at least one killer argument against every case.
This killer argument serves two purposes.
- Gives you confidence in-round. If you feel like you win the round with that argument, you’ll speak better.
- Ensures that you can focus on one issue that the judge is likely to vote on. You can now pour all your energy into developing it.
You can develop killer arguments by coming up with catchphrases. Or come up with what I like to call “potent snippets”, basically ways of explaining or emphasizing the argument that will stick out in the judge’s mind.
These snippets are when you use multiple tips from this website at once. Move aside from the lectern, use a slower voice, say it in a more conversational and honest tone.
All that to say—there’s no reason not to be prepped for every case by next tournament.
3. Edit briefs that are lame
I see a lot of people that go to a tournament, lose a few rounds, then go home sad.
But they don’t edit the brief that caused them to lose. They just hope next time it’ll work.
Sure, maybe your judge was a weirdo. But even more likely, your strategy isn’t working out, buddy boy.
Remove arguments that contradict, or unnecessary evidence that won’t be useful. Create a more cohesive strategy. If possible, plan out the outline of your first and second constructive.
4. Work on your case.
I find it appalling how many people don’t work on their affirmative case much after the first tournament.
All four years I debated, I would go back and change my 1AC and affirmative brief after every single tournament. I’d find new evidence to contradict new arguments that popped up, prescript new responses to arguments we were losing to, and spike out other arguments in the 1AC.
I’d get rid of advantages that judges didn’t like, and substituted them for further development on another point.
Read the “Affirmative spikes” section of this post I wrote, it contains many ideas for how you can improve your 1AC.
Here’s a (not all-inclusive) list of things to do for your affirmative case after a tournament.
- Go on Google, click search tools, click Any Time, then choose something like “last month”. Search for issues regarding your case. This will give you recent evidence about your case. Add this to your affirmative brief so you can always stay on top of quickly developing issues.
- Rewrite parts of your 1AC, make it clearer. Add spikes as needed to invalidate common negative arguments.
- Give practice 1AR’s or 2AR’s against a group of the hardest arguments you have hit. See what responses can be removed to still beat the argument.
- Identify new arguments that popped up.
- Brainstorm responses to new arguments.
- Research those responses.
- Prescript responses and practice them with an audio/video recording to whittle down on time it takes.
5. Get motivated
I get it, you’re sad that you lost. Or, you’re happy that you won. But it’s time to harness these emotions and put them to work for you.
If you’re sad, realize that you have the ability to change that. Prepping will help you avoid that same sadness again.
If you’re happy, realize that if you don’t prep, you might be the sad person at the end of the next tournament.
Stop blaming your judges for your losses. I know from experience that some judge’s decisions are just completely irreconcilable with how the round actually went. But you know what? The reality is, 90% of the time, you had a way to win that round. You just need to find it.
Blaming your judges isn’t productive because it creates bitterness, and if you’re wrong, it means you’ll lose next tournament too.
At the last tournament I attended, I witnessed a 15 year old give one of the best 2AC speeches I’ve ever seen. It was nearly technically perfect.
They lost the round.
He spoke eloquently, but about the wrong issues. He wasn’t direct enough to the judge about how bad the negative arguments were. So yes, his speech was brilliant. But that speech belonged in a different round.
Thinking critically about your rounds will leave you with that kind of powerful insight.
It’s time to pull yourself up off the ground and work hard. If you put in the work, you’ll see definite improvement in your next tournament.
And remember, you can’t always win.
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