[eDebate] Framing the conversation - Mananging time at tournaments

Veronica Guevara veronica_m_barreto
Thu Oct 23 11:48:45 CDT 2008

I appreciate a lot of what Gordon has to say here. I largely agree with a lot of it.  Yes, as we get older we need and want more sleep and the tournament experience has become increasingly grueling but this isn't driven by the amount of rounds.  It's driven by debate, its practitioners and the competitive nature of the beast.
You can have 6, 7 or 8 rounds and the following things will still be true at the end of the weekend:
(1) Debaters/coaches will be exhausted from staying up late until ridiculous hours of the morning and waking up far earlier than they ever would for class for 3 days straight.  It's been a long time since just updates were good enough, I knew many a person who would stay up until after the Lexis Nexis reset at 2 AM to do their updates -- that's insanity -- I knew and most importantly, they knew it was insanity, but folks do what they do.  Socializing/"networking" take up the rest of the evening.  These are personal choices people make about how they spend their time at tournaments.  No tournament change will mandate folks to go to bed so that they're better debaters and judges.  What incentive does a hired critic have to cut the party early to get a good 6-8 hours before judging in the morning.  
(2) Few debaters will voluntarily see elims. I'm with Crowe on this one...I don't get it, I just don't get it.  I'd get up at any time to see Corey Stoughton and Lesley Wexler kick ass.  There was a whole lot I couldn't follow as a frosh, but it was awesome to see. Still, debaters aren't motivated to go.  No matter how early or late folks get back to the hotel, Sunday night those who don't debate on Monday will be up and around until all hours as will the critics on those panels
I read Ross's post last night just before I went to bed and I was truly moved.  A debate world where folks are well rested, debating at their best and making decisions with all cognitive faculties in place. One where we put aside competitive concerns to save the human spirit or what's left of it in debate, anyways, where we expand the pedagogical mission past the debate rounds themselves.
It's sad, but I just think that the alt here no solve-o.  There's even a risk that 6 rounds makes it worse as each round represents more of the tournament results, there's zero room for error.  You can usually give up 2 debates off the top to some circumstances:  One as your A draw in presets and another that's a bad bounce (could beat that team but you're better on the other side of the debate, a rough critic or critic that's not best suited for this particular side/strat, etc).  That means most teams are 4-2 going into it -- now there's no room for error, at all, for the rest of the tournament.  You can come back from 2 losses when there are 8 rounds. If you're in the 0-2 or 1-2 bracket (and sometimes ok teams end up there --I've seen many a team that I've rooted for come out of the 0-2 or 1-2 bracket to go 5-3) then your tournament is feeling pretty much over before Day 2 and that's a very ugly debate world to debate in. 
It's not just hard for debaters but its really difficult for coaches who are trying to keep folks motivated through the entire gauntlet.  When your teams act like/feel like their tournament is over before the 2nd day, it makes for a longer, more exhausting, more stressful, weekend on the whole (longer than 6 hours at a tournament would feel).
I'm not a fan of 7 round tournaments (side equalization problems, the flip is always a clusterf@&*$, etc) but I would take 7 rounds ANY day before 6.  It's a cost consideration, it's an education question, it's a squad morale issue.
We may not have caught up to our ideals here and mandating more rest, less work with less rounds will just give more people time to obsess about rounds that happened or will happen or won't happen, which is just insane, and for the less competitively driven, it will mean more time socializing, staying up, and otherwise affecting their decision making abilities the next day.  We run ourselves into the ground at tournaments less out of necessity and more out of a masochistic urge to leave ourselves spent at the end of the weekend -- the number of debates is irrelevant to that question.  I'm down for reform on this issue but I think we're making some pretty radical "mindset shift" args here, and well, those never really solve.

Veronica M. Guevara
Weber State University
Department of Communication
1605 University Circle
Ogden, UT 84408

Date: Thu, 23 Oct 2008 08:59:36 -0700From: stables at usc.eduTo: edebate at ndtceda.com; ceda-l at ndtceda.comSubject: [eDebate] Framing the conversation - Mananging time at tournaments

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 Stables, Ph.D.Director of Debate and ForensicsAnnenberg School for CommunicationUniversity of Southern CaliforniaOffice: 213 740 2759               Fax: 213 740 3913http://usctrojandebate.com
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