[eDebate] some comments re tournament rounds structure

Matt Schnall mschnall
Thu Oct 23 09:40:33 CDT 2008

Math police here.  133% of 6 is 8.  Not more than 8.  Going from 5 to 8 
would be adding 60%.  Put another way, when you go down by 25%, you 
need to go up by 33% to make it up (because it is 33% of a smaller 
number).  Imagine how Wall Street feels.

It should therefore be accurate that 6 "long" (33% longer) rounds occupy the 
same amount of time as 8 "short" rounds.  If this is the the appropriate 
comparison, it would still be important to ask whether the pre-round prep 
and post-round disclosure that have been added to those six rounds are 
more valuable, less valuable or equally valuable when compared with having 
two additional rounds.  Educational value is not necessarily proportional to 
time spent.  The comparison also will not necessarily come out the same for 
teams that have different resources to access or different approaches that 
accentuate or diminish the importance of pre-round preparation.   

I'm not in touch enough with current practice to have a sense of how those 
comparisons would resolve, but a few comments indicate that at least some 
people might prefer a reasonable limitation on the pre- and post-round 
activities rather than fewer rounds.  That is particularly true of the elimination 
round schedule, where there is a discrepancy between the experiences of 
clearing and non-clearing teams.  As Ross points out, non-clearing teams 
can learn a lot from watching the elim debates.  But those teams derive at 
most a limited and diffuse educational benefit from additional pre-round 
preparation and many/most of them are not even present for post-round 
critiques (particularly when decisions take a long time).

-- Matt

Ross wrote:
> The following are not meant to be exhaustive of the subject, but merit 
> consideration.
> 1) Debates now take 33% more time to conduct than they did when the 
> 8-round format was popularized (they have 33% more valuable content if 
> you think pre-round prep, judge decisions that include careful 
> inspection of evidence, and post-round discussion of the decision are of 
> educational value), yet going from 6 to 8 prelims subtracts only 25%. 
> Or, going from 5 to 8 adds 33%. 6 prelims now is what 8 used to be.
> 2) Stefan: let's just stop the tournament after semis since finals makes 
> next to no difference to the Copeland?
> 3) Banquets are rare, but they matter. Our activity lacks good social 
> time, good celebratory time. We honor a national coach of the year. That 
> ceremony is meaningful, and not just for the person who wins it. The 
> words spoken in praise resound and reflect on the efforts of all 
> coaches. The words inspire and celebrate. "Just words"??
> 4) Audiences matter. Most of us learned a lot from watching elims we 
> were not good enough to be in. Excessive prelim schedules and late night 
> elim rounds result in tiny elim audiences. Stefan says only 7 people 
> participate in the final round. That does not sound good to me. I 
> envision big audiences for doubles in classrooms that are well suited to 
> debate (as opposed to early morning cramped hotel rooms with a few 
> people watching, half of whom fall asleep in the neg block). I envision 
> relatively well rested people watching the Monday elims all of which 
> have known starting times.
> 5) High quality elims matter. Especially when there is an audience. It 
> helps the audience learn more, and helps the competitors. The final 
> round should be the best round in the tournament. If not, why do we even 
> use elims to determine the winner? S
> 6) We will have at least 40 teams in elims, 30% or so of the tournament.
> 7) There really seem to be two leaders as alts: this year's Shirley of 
> 6/doubles and the alt of 8/octas. The 8/octas was rejected 
> overwhelmingly by the community at Ga. State and at Kentucky not so long 
> ago: people clamorred for an extra elim round and all but forced it on 
> those tournaments. Maybe folks are ready to rethink that. Good for us. 
> Let's think. 7 rounds has problems of scheduling with a banquet and 
> severe unfairness in side assignment.
> 8) Surprised no one has commented on the rules regarding elim judge 
> decision time and post-round discussion time.
> 9) Total quality of the experience is not solely a function of the 
> quantity of debates you are in.
> 10) Judges and coaches matter. A lot. What do we ask of them? What is a 
> fair demand?
> -- 
> Ross K. Smith
> Director of Debate
> Wake Forest University
> 336-251-2076 (c)
> 336-758-5268 (o)
> http://groups.wfu.edu/debate/
> http://www.DebateScoop.org
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Matthew D. Schnall
Boston, Massachusetts
mschnall at gmx.net

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