[eDebate] My first debate tournament

NEIL BERCH berchnorto
Mon Oct 22 16:23:04 CDT 2007

Hi, Darren!  I don't know who you are, but I want to second both your thoughts and those of Chris Langone.  First, our region is lucky to have coaches like Chris who reach out to debaters from other schools.  I hope you'll give this another try.

That said, I was going to post to the Northeast regional listserve on this, but I was going to wait until late tonight (after classes, family stuff, etc.).  Among directors of debate, I'm pretty sure I saw more novice rounds at West Point than anyone.  I saw a wide range of abilities, skills, command of evidence, etc.  I saw at least two (and maybe three) teams that I thought belonged in JV (meaning that they would hold their own there, not that they would go 5-1 there).  I understand why, especially at this tournament, it is important for teams to win and rack up sweepstakes points.  The fact that there are 5 outrounds in novice makes this very tempting.  And I support our regional and nearby colleagues in their attempts to win sweepstakes championships with programs that compete well in all divisions.

The point I have made consistently is that the long-term health of novice debate in the East requires thinking about retention issues as they relate to other people's programs as well.  I have made the case in the abstract, but "Darren" (a pseudonym--wouldn't it be sort of funny if the person that Chris is encouraging online is one of Chris's own debaters?!) makes it in a concrete fashion.  Many of us have said that if you keep people in novice too long you stifle their development.  I've given up worrying about that for other programs.  This other point, though is one that also impacts successful programs.  If we continually scare off new folks, there may not be doubles in novice next time (Sam, Chris, Matt, the rest of the Cornell coaches, and the Cornell debaters saved that for you this time).  I'm not even arguing that sweepstakes points shouldn't be important.  I'm arguing that overly aggressive pursuit of them (and I don't think that entering teams in novice at West Point is overly aggressive; I understand how the game is played, though there's no reason to expect "Darren" to) in the short-term has an impact on your pursuit of points in the long-term.

For multiple reasons, I hope that some of these folks will be in JV rounds soon.  It's good for everyone!
--Neil Berch
West Virginia University
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Darren Surch<mailto:darren.surch at gmail.com> 
  To: edebate at www.ndtceda.com<mailto:edebate at www.ndtceda.com> 
  Sent: Monday, October 22, 2007 4:27 PM
  Subject: [eDebate] My first debate tournament

  I probably shouldn't be posting on here since I am not an experienced debater and West Point was actually the very first tournament that I had attended and I am guessing my last one.  I had fun when I was debating other people of my level and learning the ropes together, but in two rounds I debated these teams that were clearly in the wrong division, threw all this jargon at me that they knew I clearly did not know what it meant and for the most part were pounding their chest because of their superiority to my partner and me in this round.  

  I am not sure of all the rules, but I have been involved in competitive athletics my entire childhood and although their are times when a team is clearly superior to another team, most times the winning coach will put is his reserves, but you will never see the varsity team playing against the JV or Freshman squad and usually those athletes that are superior are moved up to the Varsity squad because it is better for all those involved.  

  I suggest you examine what is going on and if winning is really that important.  One of my judges was very sympathetic to this and I may return because of him, but if I have to be thrown in to get slaughtered again, there is no way that I will ever come back.  The community should examine this practice.  I know the community is probably more worried about your open debaters, but I am hoping that our voices can be heard as well.  As a community, you need to send a message to those teams that are doing this, I am not sure how, but there has to be way. 
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