[eDebate] On 7 Round Tournaments

gregachten at berkeley.edu gregachten
Mon Oct 12 23:27:24 CDT 2009

I too have been thinking about this a great deal and spent a long time at
Kentucky talking to people about this very issue and was actually planning
on posting to edebate sometime this week so I thank Ralph for motivating
me to sit down and write this.

As many of you know I am a big advocate of 6 round tournaments. I think in
general 8 round tournaments with 5 elims on Monday are an anachronism from
a time when debates actually took 2 hours and we could start at 8 AM and
be done by 7 PM. Of course the heightened complexity of debates and the
extended decision making times that have corresponded along with the
increased demands for pre-round preparation have made this model largely
obsolete. I think there is an emerging consensus in the community that 8
round tournaments are not healthy for the community, witness that among
the major national tournaments only Harvard, CEDA and the NDT maintain 8
prelims and two of those are 4 day tournaments and Harvard only clears to
an octafinal.

However in response to the desire to shorten tournaments many directors
have decided to move to 7 rounds. After reflecting on this for some time,
I have come to believe that 7 round tournaments are the worst possible
compromise. I think they reduce the number of prelim rounds while making
the schedule net worse for the overwhelming majority of the tournament
participants. ]

In a typical 7 round tournament, the first day consists of 4 prelims,
meaning that there is no difference between a 7 and 8 round tournament.
The second day of a 7 round tournament however is MUCH worse for all of
the participants. In a typical 8 round tournament there are 4 debates,
round 6 is a lag-powered round so only 2 real power matching breaks exist.
With 7 round tournaments there are 3 prelims on day 2, all of which are
directly power matched meaning that the day is automatically already
longer. Then the final debate is not just an elim, but typically the
double octa-final. As someone who runs a lot of tabrooms I can assure you
this is the most difficult debate to place judges in and is often the most
time consuming debate to pair. Added to this is the fact that elim debates
generally take longer to decide and that there is usually an awards
ceremony before the start of the doubles. At Kentucky, our team arrived at
the school at 7:00 AM on Sunday and did leave campus until 11 PM, making
this a 16 hour day at the school. This is far worse than day 2 at 8 round
tournaments and this day effects everyone at the tournament. Day 3 is
clearly better in that there are only 4 elims, but it is really only net
better for the 7 people who are involved in the finals and even that is a
subjective claim since all of those people are far more tired than they
typically would be on elim day since day 2 was so much longer than usual.

This should not be read as an argument in favor of 8 round tournaments. My
position is clearly that as a community we need to assess how much stress
we are putting on our students and ourselves and I think that short of
placing substantial limits on decision making time the only workable
solution is the 6 round tournament. I agree with Ralph that switching to 6
rounds at makes it more likely that points will determine who clears and
who does not and that experimenting with a 100 point scale while
shortening tournaments and increasing the importance of points doesn't
make sense.

I do think that this is an issue we need to confront as a community and
discuss. If anyone is interested I have a really good frontline in favor
of 6 round tournaments, but I wanted to focus on what I feel are the
problems with 7 rounds in this post.


> 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
> with.
> 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
> that.
> Responses and clarifications would be extremely appreciated,
> -Ralph
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