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.