[eDebate] On 7 Round Tournaments

Ralph Paone ralph.paone
Fri Oct 9 12:22:06 CDT 2009

In the spirit of ranks that nobody will ever respond to (Hi Whit and D-Lo)..

I suppose this post is a reaction to a trend I've noticed on e-Debate
regarding tournament safety and some things that I noticed over the weekend
while at the Clay.

My overall point (the short version) is this:  Debate is good. Shortening
tournament length decrease Debate, and that is bad (part 1).  If we are
going to make smaller schedules the norm, we should reevaluate the structure
of the prelims (part 2).

Part I - Against Shortening Tournament Length

There seems to be a trend towards having fewer prelim rounds at
tournaments.  A number of arguments are given in support of this claim, but
few are very well explained. Among them are....     Perhaps the best
argument that I've heard for having fewer rounds is that debaters will be
less tired at the end of the tournament, resulting in better elim day
debates for those involved and less fatigue for all debaters returning home
to the school work they have put off for the past couple days or weeks. In
its strongest articulation, the argument for shortening tournament length
has focused on the need to improve the general tournament atmosphere, making
debate tournaments more habitable for all.  Those who began the movement for
shorter tournament -- those to whom I am indebted to and far less wise than
-- seemed to notice a troubling tide of over-exhaustion, isolation, and
general grumpiness at tournaments.  Although I am in general supportive of
measures that make tournaments more inviting and community-building, I am
not yet convinced that shortening tournament length is the appropriate
response, and I hope that other solutions will continue to be experimented

On face, the argument that we should shorten debate tournaments because
people get too tired just seems silly.  I'm sure, for example, that
basketball players get extremely tired during the course of a regular season
game and even more exhausted during a play-off series or a long trip on the
road.  The solution to this fatigue, however, is not to shorten the length
of quarters or the number of games being played during the season.  Instead,
coaches encourage their players to live a lifestyle off the court that
enables them to adequately handle the stress of the game.  Debaters are not
just exhausted after a tournament because they had an 8th debate, they are
exhausted because they've been working on little sleep for days/weeks before
the tournament, and often up late enjoying themselves each night of the
tournament.  Neither of those problems are eliminated by having one less
debate. Some might argue that the shorter schedule puts less stress on
coaches.  Admittedly, I do not know a lot about being a coach, and am
perhaps ignorant and in need of a schooling. In my opinion, having 1 fewer
debate does little to alleviate coach fatigue except for the coaches of
doubles teams who do not have to stay up late preparing for doubles.  I
don't know what about having one fewer debate causes coaches who stay up all
night cutting cards (you know who you are) to suddenly decide that they
shouldn't do that and should instead go to sleep.  Similar to student
fatigue, coach fatigue seems a "problem" of personal decisions made by
individual coaches and the ethos of competition that courses through the
debate community. * From a debater perspective, I'd much rather have another
debate than feel marginally less tired Tuesdays after tournaments. I'm sure
those who could have cleared 5-3 but didn't because they were 4-3 would
agree with me on this*. I have never heard a good answer to the argument
that shortening tournament length denies the majority of teams an extra
debate in the name of preserving the energy levels of the select few
debating on elim day.

I am also curious where the data for the 'we're so tired please don't make
us debate another round' argument is coming from.  Have any tournaments
provided participants with a survey of whether or not they would rather
debate an additional round or feel less tired on Monday/Tuesday?  I would be
curious to hear thoughts on this, as I might be in the minority.  In any
case, it would be interesting if tournaments began posing these sorts of
questions to the participants (judges, debaters, and coaches alike).

Part II - Revising Prelim Structure for the Short Schedule

If we're going to be shortening tournaments, I think it is absolutely
paramount that tab rooms alter the prelim structure to reflect this change.
I enjoyed my time in Kentucky this past weekend, but the notion of having 4
preset rounds in a 7 round tournament is *PATENTLY ABSURD*.  There is simply
not enough time in the three following rounds to effectively derive the top
32 teams via rigorous competition.  This is particularly troubling given
that most critics are still getting used to the 100 pt scale.  Speaker
points are more important than ever, but the norms dictating what certain
points mean are less certain than ever.

This problem is probably solved by beginning to power-match debates after 2
or 3 rounds, and I hope that such a practice is adopted for future large
national tournaments that decide to shorten their schedules. (I am aware of
course that many smaller tournament already pair prelims like this; I think
that Wake did last year?)..

As a side note, I think it sort of sucks that teams can go 5-2 at a
tournament and still not clear, but maybe there's not much to be done about

Responses and clarifications would be extremely appreciated,

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