While I am a true believer that 90 percent of debate tournament success comes in pre tournament preparation (good research, practice speeches, effective organization and block writing etc) the remaining 10 percent is obviously vital to your win/loss record and shiny speaker awards.
This post is designed to help you be at your best for those 3 or so days you are at the tournament.
1.) Sleep- Sleep is the most valuable commodity at debate tournaments. Most people don’t usually get enough of it and it shows. Your goal should be to get 7ish hours of sleep a night. Your most important debate rounds are usually at the end of the day so your energy and focus needs to be there 12 or so hours after waking up. If you feel so inclined to pull an all nighter (not saying I recommend it) I would do it the night before you leave for a tournament so the night you get to the tournament you can get to sleep at a decent time. In general there are two types of people who don’t get enough sleep at tournaments
A) People who are up late card cutting/blocking/highlighting- While your intentions are noble you are hurting yourself immensely, the benefit of blocking X cards or highlighting misc updates versus another hour of sleep are huge. At 7am when you are on your way to the prelims you’re not going to be ecstatic about what you did last night, but groggy and sleepy.
B) The people who are fooling around in the hallways- you all are categorized by slamming doors after midnight into those locks that you leave out so you can get back into your rooms. I won’t talk much about you all, I don’t expect to see you all debating on elim day and neither should you.
2.) Bring decent snack food- Often lines are really long for getting food and even then you’re likely to get some fried greasiness of something. While I fully enjoy the benefits of fried greasy sustenance they do not always go great when mixed with debating. Powerbars, some type of granola, fruit etc are all easy to put in your bag, not too messy and quick. I don’t think that red bulls or other energy drinks are particularly great for you while you’re debating but that is obviously more person dependent. A safe bet is a big bottle of water, or Gatorade/powerade. I really haven’t ever read anything scientific about carbonated beverages and speaking but let’s be honest the caffeine doses in diet coke are so negligible that if it could possibly hurt your speaking why risk it?
3.) Bring 3-4 timers. 2 for you, one for the judge, and one for the other team. Always have 2 timers while you are speaking as a team. Timer snafus (btw spell check definitely fixed that) happen all the time, you don’t want to be another causality. Keep your timers safe, there are always klepto timer people at tournaments. Writing your name on a timer is not enough; having a name on it just means they know who they stole it from.
4.) Have a copy of the judge philosophies on your computer or phone. The philosophies are available at debatecoaches.org or if you have an iphone there is an app called idebate that has a timer and all of the judge philosophies + a timer.
5.) Practice speaking in the morning before you go to the tournament- while this might make you wake up 10-15 mins earlier to do some speaking drills, the benefits of not sounding like a word that rhymes with mass definitely outweighs.