[eDebate] Suggestions for small schools to stay competitve

Anne Canavan anne.canavan
Tue Apr 11 12:26:23 CDT 2006

In the last several months there have been some on again, off again
discussions of the role of small schools in policy debate and how they avoid
being crushed by larger schools.  As a coach from a small university, and a
competitor from a small program, here are some things that worked for us,
and some new suggestions that might work in the future.

1) Write your own cases!  A team that develops and writes their own cases
(and neg strategy) knows their material forward and backward, and it gives
competitors ownership of the activity.  This is also great as a squad
because you may have several different aff cases on one squad which makes
you a bit less predictable.  Is it a lot more research in the beginning?
Yes.  Is it worth it? Yes.

2) Don't disclose.  (I know this is going to get people unhappy, but hear me
out.)  Small schools which develop their own cases are generally better off
if they don't disclose before the round.  Frequently these squads have fewer
coaches/GAs than larger schools, and if you disclose your team runs the risk
of debating the other team's coach instead of the other team.
Also, disclosing gives away a vital strategic advantage to writing your own
case-- if you're going to disclose, why not just run a camp case?  Now, the
manners part-- I encourage my teams to politely say it is not our squad
policy to disclose due to the limited size of our coaching staff.
Furhtermore, we do not ask others to disclose, as that would be unethical in
my view given our stance.

3) Evidence share-  Camp evidence is great stuff, if for no other reason
than it gives you a basis to build your own research off of.  Try to find
other small programs in your area and arrange an evidence swap (for example
a set of WDI evidence for a set of ADI).  This is one way of maximizing what
you get for your maoney as well as building good relations with other teams.

4) Small schools only tournaments-  I have never tried/seen this in policy
debate, but Transylvania in KY does it for parli and speech,a nd it was a
fantastic experience.  It would be a good way for small schools to go to
more tournaments, but with the advantage they get to build their confidence
up, since the larger teams that tend to dominate tournaments would not be
present.  It would also encourage fraternity among smaller schools, etc.

5) Teaching tournaments- Maybe a tournament that only has 3 or 4 rounds, but
has built in time for long critiques... maybe even between speeches.  The
idea would be more instructional than competitive, and would expose students
to a broader range of critics, and different perspectives on debate.

I know there are more fantastic ideas out there, we only need to think of
them and then (the hard part) put them into action.

Anne M. Canavan
Instructor, Assistant Speech and Debate Coach
Tennessee Technological University
931 529 0300
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