Tips For Competing As A Small School

The October issue of Rostrum—the National Forensic League’s monthly magazine—features an excellent article written by Josh Brown of Homewood-Flossmoor High School about competing in policy debate as a “small school” (pdf). It echoes much of the advice provided by Dr. David Cheshier in a 2002 Rostrum article, “How Very Small Debate Programs Can Achieve National Success” (pdf). Both articles are worthwhile reading regardless of the size of one’s program.

2 thoughts on “Tips For Competing As A Small School

  1. leewesley

    While I think the spirit of this article is quite good I think there are a number of strategic elements to being a small school which should be highlighted.

    1. Surprise- while this is especially true at larger national tournaments, its true that at any tournament a small, rural program can surprise the hell out of an established one. Use the hubris of teenagers to ones advantage and craft positions that your opponents will underestimate. I can't tell you how many times the bad 1nc link fakeout worked against larger programs.

    2. Get em off the blocks- I think its important to remember that much of the institutional advantage that larger programs have comes before the 1ar. After the block all the paid college debater's research in the world isnt going to help them. Take advantage of this by writing your own positions. Even if you're going to go for politics/states (or spanos in my case) write other 1 of a kind arguments to throw them off their game.

    3. You will lose card wars unless you are hella prepped out. That being said- winning card wars against giant programs is even more satisfying.

    4. Use the community- this was talked about in the article in regards to discussing debate with your peers and other coaches at tournaments but it also works in a more material way. I have found that many debator and coaches from large programs really like seeing smaller programs succeed and if they are friends they will happily throw you some uniqueness updates before that crucial octos round.

    I think at the end of the day debate is a more satisfying experience in a small program. I think one should keep in mind that in larger schools debaters often have to worry about whether they will slip to being the D team and not go to the next tournament- or be kicked to LD or Public Forum if they dont perform. One really should enjoy being a scrappy 4 person debate squad from Missoula or Hanover or Brandon.

  2. MisaelG911

    I really enjoyed the comments Josh made about psychology. I think that "repping-out" sometimes happens, but much less than people think it does. The issue is definitely more about how you carry yourself. When a team from a smaller school goes into a round terrified of the other team that has a ton of bids or is trained to think that defeat has already happened when they see that team name on the pairing next to theirs, it's going to show in cross-examination and your speeches. That's what makes it easier for a judge to vote you down, not your school name.

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