Jan 15, 2010

1-2-3 Chill

Debaters, you know the drill: in the van, exhausted, driving back to your school parking lot in the waning hours of the evening, your team celebrates the successes and commiserates over the failures. And there's a whole lotta judge hatin' goin' on.

Which is fine, to a degree. We all have to process. We all have to purge ourselves from time to time, to vent the aggression that we'd stored up for the week previous, trying to get our "edge." As a coach, I've endured my fair share of Ride Home Rants, and I've never condemned anyone for expressing their true feelings.

But I offer you a better way: a way to reduce your anxiety at the outset. A philosophy of relaxation, a balance between competitive fire and reflective calm, in three easy steps. Call it 1-2-3 Chill.

Your goal is to break to octas, semis, or what have you. Realistically, you're going to have to end with a 5-1 record, unless you can squeak in with a 4-2. So aim for 5-1.

One of your rounds, almost guaranteed, is going to be a loss. You're going to hit your circuit's third-year champion, the one who ought to be in grad school already, finishing up her degree in deontology, but instead has stuck around to clean up for year number four. Or you're going to get That One Crazy Judge whose paradigm is "distempered." Or you're going to drop the only contention that can sink your incredible Aff case. Whichever way, you're going to lose one round, and lose it badly. No biggie. You've got five to win.

Two of your rounds, almost guaranteed, are going to be wins, because you're on fire, and your competition, fresh up from Novice, is a gasoline-soaked rag.

Three rounds can go either way. They're going to be close, and if you come out thinking you're winning--or losing--you're probably wrong.

It's your job to do everything in your power to rope in the judge for these three rounds. You control your own destiny. These three rounds will determine your success.

So, as you drive up to the tournament, relax: you can lose one round without losing your dignity. And if you bomb your first round, relax: you can lose one round without losing the tournament. You still have five rounds. Two are yours. Three are gonna be close.

Look around you. Inhale. Exhale.

And chill your way to the elimination round.

Your van ride home will be a much more pleasant experience, even if you fare poorly--because you'll know that it's not your judge's fault, or your opponent's fault: you didn't win your three critical rounds.

But you will next time.


Anonymous said...

This sounds like a great method, and I'll teach it to my students, but I doubt it will take the sting out of some things. When you have an extemp judge who thinks Georgia is only a state and wonders what Russia has to do with it, there might not be anything you can do to help the student relax.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to thank you for this! Yesterday at the tournament in Maine, I lost my first two rounds, won 3, 4, and then got into the semi-finals, then moved onto finals, then won! This helped me stay relaxed throughout my 3rd, 4th, and semi-final round. Obviously not the finals, but that's a different story! Thanks so much for all your help!

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, well... yeah. That's going to happen. I won't claim this is a panacea, and it's probably not useful for the champ debater who goes 9-0 at every tournament and has two TOC bids by October. That said, I think this approach--in general--squares with my philosophy that winning isn't the only desirable outcome, but that it should follow from one's motivation and purpose.

As for the crazy judge phenomenon... the best a competitor can hope for is to get a good sense of who their judge is through an authentic conversation. (Asking "what's your paradigm?" is a cheap shortcut. Asking "How's it going?" is a better start, and the conversation will find a natural course toward "So, how long have you been judging?" or "So, what do you like to see in a round?") It won't eliminate the problem, but it's better than debating unaware.

enfinoui, well done! And as for natural nervousness--it's never going to disappear completely, especially in a final round. But as you know, it doesn't have to keep you from success. You learn how to harness it, how to channel nervous energy into winning energy.

rockrgirl said...

The problem is, I never debate people who are very bad unless it is a small tournament more than once. I always go 3/0 and then have issues after due to power matching. What do you suggest for tournaments like Stanford, where there really are only curcuit kids? Then again, at a good tournament, there are no lay judge issues usually. Out of curiosity, how do you give speaker points for spread rounds? Many judges give based on case construction, but there are still those traditional judges who give based on speech. @anonymous I'd say that they wouldn't qualify as an extemp judge with that issue. Seems more like an interp judge to me. Then again, I know debaters who had a judge who said that they lost because 'they conflicted with the resolution' on neg.

Jim Anderson said...

rockrgirl, I guess it depends on what you think is holding you back. Is it a matter of preparation or training? Is it a lack of experience at the elite level? A crisis of confidence or attack of nerves? Is it a problem with speed? Rebuttals / impacts? Familiarity with various philosophies or kritiks? There are strategies for dealing with any of these.

As far as my own judging goes, I'll downgrade the spread style if it interferes with the debater's efforts to communicate clearly and effectively. It's not speed per se that's the problem; it's the removal of the skills of eloquence, gestures, eye contact, and the like, that separates mere argumentation from oration. That's why judges reserve the right to award the dreaded "low point win."

Call me a traditionalist, but they are called "speaker points," and not "case construction points." Especially since so many teams have jointly-written cases these days.

I think the cross-examination is really when a good LDer shines. A strong case is important, and a solid rebuttal is essential, but a great C/X is a work of art.

Anonymous said...

i really need some help with the alternative arguement. is there a official document or quote that says economic sanctions are the ABSOLUTE last step before war?

Anonymous said...

anonymous above me, im not judge, but the resolution doesn't say anything about providing an alternative. Although that might sound like a cheap cop out, any experienced judge should agree. If you feel pressured by your opponent to provide an alternative, you could always say diplomacy.