[eDebate] Framing the conversation - Mananging time at tournaments

Stefan Bauschard stefan.bauschard
Thu Oct 23 11:31:31 CDT 2008

In a way, debating (including preparing, coaching, judging, deciding,
explaining, listening) for 20+ hours a day for three days on the weekend
seems odd.

However, consider for a minute the entire amount of time devoted to
preparing for debates for the entire season.  Imagine a debater or coach
that puts in 500 hours of preparation over the season (some obviously put in
a lot more and some less).  When does such preparation occur? It occurs late
at night after a full-day of class or work. It occurs in downtime between
classes and late at night. It occurs on "free weekends."  It occurs after
the kids go to bed and you've finished your day job. Basically, being
involved in debate requires most to sustain incredibly long days many days
of the week through at least 7 months of the year.

I think this has a few implications:

1) To many, most tournament days aren't that much longer than many days.
Think of how many debaters have left the debate office at 3am.  This is less
"abnormal" than it may appear.
2) People have a hard-time "recovering" after the tournament not just
because the tournament is long but because they have struggled all week to
prepare for the tournament.  This is probably why they get sick as much as
anything else. Many people simply put (almost) everything they have into
preparing for a given tournament, so when it is over they are wiped-out.
3) When there are fewer debates, people are involved in more preparation/per
debate -- less stuff gets used.  Some of the more emphatic cases for 8 are
made by a younger generation -- maybe they just want to debate as much as
they can given how much time they have invested in preparation.
4) When people put so much into preparing, it is not surprising that they
also invest so much time in judging and explaining decisions.  In a debate
where you take a long time to decide, I think it is natural for you to want
to talk about the details of your evaluation with the debaters.  If you are
a debater who cut 1K cards before a tournament, is is natural for you to
want the judge to carefully consider them.

I'm trying to take sides in 6 v. 8, but only pointing out that the tiresome
nature of tournaments is not that removed from the tiresome nature of the
activity -- it is simply consistent with it.  Even starting in HS, we have
lab for 12-14 hours a day.  It's not that big of a jump for a day of a major
national tournament to be 20 hours.

On Thu, Oct 23, 2008 at 10:59 AM, Gordon Stables <stables at usc.edu> wrote:

>  Will opened this conversation by asking folks to look at tournament
> schedules. I understand why the Wake change to six prelims is a big part of
> this conversation, but as Vik, Aaron and others have mentioned this
> conversation also needs to be about the importance of looking for innovation
> across tournament schedules.
> Our default tournament model is requiring more and more time over the three
> days of competition. If you disagree I would ask you to consider when you
> leave for a tournament in the morning and when you return at the end of the
> day. This is in addition to the late-night work that Stefan spoke about. Our
> days are growing longer. This is a real concern and there isn't a single
> answer to the problem. We do ourselves a disservice to say that this was a
> problem at one tournament.
> What is great is that there isn't any requirement or need for a one-size
> fits all solution. Much as Kevin and Ross can run tournaments differently ?
> we need to be encouraging tournaments to run in innovative ways that best
> serve their participants.
> I think we all appreciate our collective hesitation to change and I saw it
> up close when we moved the Nichols tournament from 8 to 7 prelims a few
> years ago. I also saw it this summer when Jon and I spent a great deal of
> time trying to finally move the Cali swing away from New Years Eve.
> Change is hard, but there is a need for our community to reflect  on how
> the changing nature of our competition rounds (including its pre and post
> round time) are changing our tournament experiences.
> The number of rounds is one important element. So is pre-round prep, judge
> decision time, and oral critique time.  The speech time in rounds aren't any
> longer, but the expansion of time in these other areas has taken place and
> one place where we need to look when deciding how tournaments should be
> managed. I know we at the Nichols this year will be looking closely at how
> long it takes rounds to be started, decided and announced.
> Folks are welcome to provide Ross feedback to his tournament, but this
> question is so much larger. The folks at Wake always do a lot to make their
> schedule work, but we need to look at every one of our calendars and ask how
> we can improve on providing an educational and competitive experience that
> isn't also unreasonable. As satisfying as it is to say "sleep is
> unnecessary" that isn't a productive part of this conversation. It is far
> more productive to emphasize the importance of a certain quality in our
> debates or our experiences.
> I encourage folks to share their perspectives on how these days can work
> better. Ross is suggesting a different schedule, Dallas has talked about
> adjusting post-round decisions and Kevin argues for another schedule
> altogether. Please share your perspectives and experiences. There is no
> single motion to pass or fail. This is all about having a conversation about
> improving tournament practice across the board.
> We have a lot more to talk about as a community, but this is an important
> start.
> (Don't also forget to look back and read Gary's email about MPJ. Time to
> talk about that soon as well.)
> Gordon
> Gordon Stables, Ph.D.
> Director of Debate and Forensics
> Annenberg School for Communication
> University of Southern California
> Office: 213 740 2759               Fax: 213 740 3913
> http://usctrojandebate.com
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Stefan Bauschard

President & Co-Founder, PlanetDebate.com
Director of Debate, Lakeland Schools
Debate Coach, Harvard Debate

(c) 781-775-0433
(fx) 617-588-0283
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