School's Out For Summer – Debate Isn't…

For most of you all the debate season has come to its conclusion and with school winding down (or completed for seniors) you all have an abundance of free time on your hands.   While taking a break is definitely important to keep you sane and avoid burning out from debate, this time off can also be used to refine your debate skills.

A basis for this post comes from an email Naveen Ramachandrappa sent me before my junior year of college.  For those of you who don’t know who Naveen is, as a debater he was basically everything that was great about this activity.  He debated for UGA, was the hardest working debater I have ever met and was meticulous about how and what he did.  He produced this which is a PDF outlining how to create a debate template a must for cutting cards if you don’t already have one.

Improvements in debate happen at the margin, disproportionately, and often long-term.  It is the combination of the little things that makes people better at debate”- Naveen

We all want to see the hard work we do translate into something tangible immediately.  Despite that, you cannot get infatuated with immediate improvement and drastic changes in your results.  If you work hard you will get better, it might be a slow progression or it could be a rapid spurt but you will get better.  There is no debate HGH that you can take that will drastically improve your skills, getting better is a function of the hard work you put in over the years.  It also means if you focus on the little things, all those little things will lead to big changes in how you do.

I like breaking down things into an hourly rate of sorts.  Assuming you have around 40-50 days before you head off to your debate institutes, if you just spent 1 hour a day working on debate that’s 40-50 hrs of prep work you wouldn’t have previously done.  Bump it to 2 hrs a day and you’re looking at 80-100 hrs of work on debate with little to no serious infringements on your other plans.  If you sleep for a generous 8 hrs of the day from the other 16 other hours you are awake you need to find 1 or 2 a day to do debate work.  Everyone spending their time reading this can commit 1/16th or 1/8th of their time to improvement.

Things to focus on in the summer

1.) Speaking Drills– sounds simple enough, 10 mins a day or more, don’t just focus on speed, focus on clarity, and just sounding good in general.  You should mix up what you read, this will familiarize yourself with the misc files in your tubs that you might not normally read but could come in handy.

2.) Organize your tubs– Basic enough?  Throw out files you won’t use again and keep and reorganize stuff you will use.  There are always files you meant to reorganize but never had the time to.  When you get back from debate camp you should only have to worry about adding NEW files not fixing up old ones

3.) Write your own theory blocks– Yes you’ve had that conditionality bad block that’s been passed down to you and that process cps good block too, but do you really get the arguments? Using the DRG and other resources which are readily available redo those blocks.  Antonucci is right (it pains me to agree with him) when in one of his posts he talks about how theory args are really theory blips.  There used to be debaters like Brett Wallace, Greenstein, who would crush people on stuff because they didn’t just regurgitate a block they knew the args well.  A good example of this is ‘s laziest poster Scott Phillips.  Round 8 of the NDT in 2006 he busted a new version of his aff that had the US implement Sanctions on China cause of Tibet.  Kansas decided to PIC out of implementing sanctions and threatened to do it, with a trade da net benefit.  Having limited responses to this Scott and Cyrus proceeded to wax Kansas on PICs bad.  New aff, topically relevant and supported in the lit pic, yet the aff wins.  After the debate Matt Cormack debater for Kansas said “For 6 mins that bastard (scott) actually had me convinced PICs were bad, I kind of felt bad for the aff.”  Read up on edebate and others places about the States CP and its theoretical legitimacy especially if you plan on ever winning on the aff.

4.) Work on an impact defense file– How are those Indo Pak takeouts from 2001 doing?  No risk of terrorism from 1999?  US-Russian relations strong from 2004?  What files are those in again?  Organize, redo and combine all your impact defense into one big file.  Matthew Pesce can attest to how in depth this file can get as the list we made was 3 pages long, but you’ll always have the cards and know where they are.

5.) Write a big core file– Does your hege file still consist of Khalizad 95, some Layne(not Kirshon) cards and the ferguson card?  This big core file should include a vast array of resources.  If you’re a lexis only person focus on improving your use of other resources, the library is place with books, consider visiting one.  You all know which of your files kind of sucks, so rewrite those.

6.) Fill in big picture holes from your squads files. Free trade file blows? Write a new one, don’t have a clue what wipeout, spark, and alife are? Looks like you have something to cut some cards on.

7.) Start reading topic literature- use resources like planetdebate which have free files, search amazon or library databases for books poverty related.  Absorb what you can about the topic

8.) Make a MISC file- if in the process of cutting stuff and reading stuff you find something interesting but not directly applicable throw it into the misc file and give it a header like “potential homeless aff / cp”  that way you can revisit it without asking yourself where XYZ article was from

“Its strange that work I did during the treaties topic, the summer after treaties, and the summer after Indians would make the difference, but it did.  It was not really proportional either.  I spent a lot of time on all of it and it only really mattered for one debate…but that’s really what it takes to win big debates.  It is probably only 10 hours of work a week that separates the 3-5 teams from the 5-3 teams, but it is about 30 to 50 that separates 5-3 from 6-2 and 7-1.” – Naveen

This is often tedious and occasionally dull work I’ll admit.  You might never need or use some files you do, but how fulfilling is it when in a huge debate you do need it?  It makes all the time spent on other stuff worth it.

2 thoughts on “School's Out For Summer – Debate Isn't…

  1. Bill Batterman

    This is fantastic advice. The only thing that I’ll add is that it helps a lot to keep yourself organized, whether in a notebook or an electronic file. As you think of things to do/work on, write them down (even if you can’t actually do them right away). If you come across something you should read, a good site for research, or a good idea for an argument, write it down. Then at some point in the future when you’re hitting a wall or getting bored with what you’re doing, open up your notebook or file and pick something from it to do. I have accumulated thousands of articles and little “to do” projects over the years… I keep them all in a sub-folder of my “Current Projects” folder called “Long-Term”. I might never get to all of them, but if I want to spend a few minutes doing some debate work I’ll never lack for something to do.

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