[eDebate] The "Entourage" Rule and Part-Time Coaches

Anjali Vats avats
Fri Apr 7 02:10:35 CDT 2006

I wanted to write to voice my opinion about the ?entourage? rule and its effects.  I?ll start by saying that I agree wholeheartedly with the posts written by Scott, Charles, Stefan and Lupo and think that they are right on.  I also think there is a bit more to be said on the issue of young coaches.  The long and short of it is that I think this rule severely and unfairly limits the involvement of anyone that does not coach full time.  I don?t think that the repercussions of the rule were particularly well thought out and certainly don?t feel like it is in keeping with the inclusive spirit of the debate community.  I can honestly say I have never felt so unwelcome in the debate community as I do with the passage of this rule.  Hopefully, there can be constructive debate about a solution to what many people seem to perceive as a problem.  


I have been in law school for the past three years and for two of those years I have coached debate part-time.  I can?t say that coaching was a wise move in terms of time commitment or money.  The thing is, I don?t coach because of the money or because it doesn?t take much time.  I coach because I love cutting cards, judging debates and watching my kids win.  I have to say that the NDT and CEDA Nationals are the culmination of that effort for me, and I would guess, many others.  Being punished by being denied the opportunity to help my team at the NDT because of some arbitrary cutoff that only two people can cut cards reeks of unfairness and exclusion.  I fear that the new rule will severely limit the number of part-time coaches that are (1) hired and (2) come to the NDT.  In my opinion, that would be a great tragedy.  I?m also afraid that the passage of the rule signifies a trend.  If similar rules start cropping up at every tournament, then it will be a certainty that those of us on the fringe of the debate community, in terms of time spent, will simply be excluded from the process.


In addition, the rule is very unlikely to be effective in eliminating the so-called "large school" advantage.  If I were at a large school, I would simply compensate by sticking to the letter of law but effectually circumventing it in other ways.  For example, larger schools will still have more resources to hire more folks to cut cards in the months leading up to the NDT.  They will still have more bodies cranking before even if those individuals aren?t at the NDT proper.  Moreover, those schools will have a greater incentive to make poor quality arguments.  There is no reason that, instead of going for depth, these schools will choose to run a new, one-hit wonder affirmative in every debate and a new, bad disad in every negative round.  Instead of making it strategic to break good arguments selectively, the rule would create an incentive to simply read more arguments to force the two coaches that were there for every school to spread their resources too thin?  In effect, I don?t think that the rule fixes any problem but merely changes the way in which the game is played while simultaneously excluding people from being a part of the debate community. 


The rule also seems to ignore the reality of the debate community.  The fact is that having more researchers does not guarantee you victory at the NDT.  Moreover, limiting the number of coaches will not solve the problem.  For example, even if this rule is taken seriously and Will and Dave are the only ?registered? card cutters for MSU, they will STILL outwork everyone.  And Charles WILL stay up for 96 straight hours and give Will and Dave a run for their money.  And so will Aaron Hardy, who let me point out was practically the ONLY one cutting cards for Whitman this year, and had two teams in the Octas of the NDT.  No, that?s not an argument in favor of the rule.  It is rather proof that debate is about being smart, committed and hardworking.  The same people that were going to succeed before this rule will succeed after; they will just have to do so with a lot fewer of their old teammates around and with a way grumpier attitude.  It also proves that this rule isn?t going to do much other than exclude a bunch of folks that love debate and love the NDT.  Again, I fear that most of those people will be part-time coaches and alums that don?t go to many tournaments and look forward to the NDT in particular.

It?s also important to remember that isn?t always advantageous to be a large school.  Running a larger program requires better organization and better communication.  Just having more bodies does not mean that a program is able to mobilize those bodies.  If this rule is really intended to level the playing field, it isn?t going to fix anything.  


I think there is one more argument that hasn?t been elaborated on that bears mentioning.  Scotty P. is exactly right that just because you go to a big school doesn?t mean everyone runs the same arguments.  In a world in which the debate community is allowing people to engage in different and diverse forms of debate, it is a virtual necessity to have different types of coaches.  Limiting the number of coaches to two only means that argument quality and diversity will suffer in yet another way, more judges will fall asleep in rounds and everyone will have a lot less fun.


My suggestion is to get rid of, at least, the coach restrictions.  And if this rule doesn?t change and there is no reasonable defense of its efficacy, show up with your coaches and see what happens.  I can?t remember the last time that I recommended circumvention, but I?m going to do it here.  And frankly, I?ll bet everyone?s thinking it even if they?re not saying it.  Everyone that has said as much is right, there is no enforcement for this rule.  Publicizing violations is not going to change anything.  I will bet money that no one is going to throw 5 or 10 or 15 teams out of the NDT.  More importantly, I think there was something about debate being ?for the kids? and I don?t get the feeling that the kids had much say in this.  I will retract everything I said about circumvention if a referendum of the debate community demonstrates that there really is popular support for this rule.  I just can?t believe that there is.

If people are actually looking for constructive solutions to inequity problems in debate, I have a two additional suggestions.  First, figure out why the inequity is happening.  For what it?s worth, I really don?t think it?s a question of number of coaches, I think it?s a question of quality of coaches.  The schools with the best coaches and the best debaters win.  There is a reason, as Galloway said in his NDT ballot, that people pref MSU judges -- they?re good.  And there?s a reason that people pref other judges that tend to win -- they?re also good.  It?s no secret that the best programs tend to attract the best coaches.  Second, address that problem.  If the issue really is distribution of good coaches, then let?s find a way to remedy the problem.  My suggestion is this, set up a centralized database of available coaches.  I wonder if some of the problem isn?t one of accessibility -- debate jobs are often not publicized and the community runs largely on personal connections.  Though the arrangement might not help the smallest of the smallest schools that don?t have the resources to hire coaches, it might help create a mechanism for distributing the wealth?  I know it?s not a perfect solution, but it?s something.  

The existing rule will result in a community of only folks that can afford to put 110% of themselves into debate all of the time.  It would be unfortunately to effectually ban those people that wish to remain a part of the debate community but also maintain other lives.  Keep in mind that the people that will likely be excluded are the ones that were least likely to be cognizant of the rule being passed at the NDT Business Committee Meeting?  

On a side note, I think it is odd that virtually no one has come out in support of this rule.  I understand it passed already, but it seems like someone should respond to sheer outrage it seems to be evoking in people?

**NOTE: This post is not meant to represent the views of either MSU or Kansas.  Just my two cents, for what it?s worth.  Also, please forgive any redundancy with past posts...

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