[eDebate] On 7 Round Tournaments

Stefan Bauschard stefan.bauschard
Mon Oct 19 20:18:23 CDT 2009

I don't necessarily think that 8 rounds is a response to a by-gone era were
we could run all the doubles on Monday and be done by 7pm.

In fact, I remember the time (probably about 7-8 years ago) when GSU and KY
transitioned from octos to doubles in response to the growing number of
teams entered in the tournaments.  It is quite clear in my mind because they
had meetings about this on day 2, asked people to offer up hotel rooms for
the extra rounds on Monday, etc.

In fact, I'm pretty sure that for a long time only Wake,  NW, and UNI (which
was the large season opener at the time) cleared to a field of 32 that was
expected to run/finish all the elims in one day.   Perhaps some of those
nights were quite late, but everyone survived.  If my memory serves me
correctly, the tournaments would end around 1 am, not 4am.  4am finishes are
what triggered the revolt and that is fair.

With tournaments becoming even larger, clearing to doubles is no longer a
debate.  Debates are late (now very late (4am)), so we try to cut things on
the other send -- sustain the doubles and cut the prelims.

Is this a good idea?

I agree that 7 is bad.  I didn't make GSU ,but thought it was odd that no
one was complaining when they were leaving the building at 11pm on Sunday --
far later than I ever left GSU on a Sunday.  In this world, most tournament
participants have a very late evening, whereas in the Monday doubles world
it is only those who are in the late elims that have to stay up very late.

I do see two big problems with 6:

(a) As discussed, two fewer debates, so point variance on the 100 scale is
more problematic;
(b) No H-H.  H-Ls are pretty good for seeding, but as Scotty P pointed out,
they stink for having better"/equivalent" debates in the prelims.  If a
tournament with 140 teams has only 6 rounds, and all the rounds are H-L (I
don't see a good arg for a H-H in a 6 round tournament), then all the
debates except those int eh middle of the H-L will be mis-matches, with both
sides gaining a lot less from the experience.  At least with 8 rounds you
can have a H-H and the variation in the H-L starts to dissipate in rounds 7
and 8.

So, I think 8 is certainly better than 7 (no real gain) and better than 6.
I also think 4 am stinks (though I don't think 1am is so bad) .  So, what's
the solution -- eliminate the culprits.

The culprits are pretty easily identified -- decisions that take way too
long and there is too much pre-round prep.

Pre-round prep should be cut to 30 minutes -- fewer teams have to move
significant numbers of tubs, scouting information is widespread and advanced
preparation is easier, elim brackets are released the night before so you
can project who you are debating and you can start preparing for the next
debate as soon as your debate is finished,

Post-round decision time should be cut to 45 minutes in prelims and an hour
in elims. Perhaps this is too radical, but paperless evidence can be looked
at much faster in a debate because it's all on one document and deciding
debates shouldn't REQUIRE an hour more than the debate itself. In a world of
"inifnite prep,"I guess I don't care how long people take, but in a world
where taking 2.5 hours to decide a debate is resulting in significantly
fewer debates then it stinks. There is some marginal gains as some decisions
start to approach "perfection," but I don't think it's worth it if it is
causing a lot of debates to get cut.

And, does the extra time make decisions that much better?  Are there fewer
2-1 and 3-2 decisions because people now take more time to figure out what
"actually" happened?  At the very least, it's much easier to quantify the
educational loss of two debates than the competitive perfection of 5
additional hours of decision time across 5 debates on Monday.

Finally, I do think that a lot of the complaining about late Monday nights
has been given too much credibility --

(A) As pointed out, it impacts few people.  The debaters it impacts get to
be the champions of the tournament and are considered for the Copeland -- a
trophy given to the very best debate team in America.  The judges it impacts
are usually either people who volunteer/want to judge the debate, or are
people who usually could have taken a good nap before the debate started.
And how many prelims are these highly preferred judges who are judging the
finalsof the majors judging?  Certainly no more half, and often just 1 or 2.

(B) No solvency for sickness -- Many people stay up until all hours of the
night at these tournaments, regardless as to whether or not they are
debating or judging. Maybe 1 of the 7 people involved in the final round
would get a couple hours more sleep if we don't have a late Monday elim.  We
are eliminating 50+ (7 rounds) or 100+ (6 rounds) debates for this? 99% of
the people who don't get enough sleep (6-7 hours) at debate tournaments stay
up very late socializing and/or cutting cards till all hours of the morning.

(C) Really?  Debaters who participate in late elims are incredibly ambitious
and competitive people.  Once their debate ends many will spend many late
nights in the law firm or starting their own businesses.  Their lack of
sleep in these situations will be insignificant compared to the number of
times they were up late debating in a late elim at a major.

I do think we all agree that we only have 3 days to hold a tournament, so --

a) What's a reasonable amount of decision-making time?
b) How late are most people willing to stay on the prelim days?
c) How late is way too late for a final round to be held?
d) What's the educational gain of two more debates for 200 more people (100
2 person teams)?
d) Is it better to have more rounds or longer decisions?

 -- Do longer decisions make the decisions better?
 -- Are longer decisions more educational?

Personally, I just find eliminating a bunch of prelims a high price to pay
for decisions that take 2.5 hours instead of one hour.

On Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 3:37 PM, Kuswa, Kevin <kkuswa at richmond.edu> wrote:

> Hi all,
> 7 rounds in the current structure does not work very well for the majority
> of the tournament.  Ralph's post was dead on.
> 8 prelims with travel and debate on different days at the beginning is the
> superior schedule if done right.  Maybe not national, but our tournament
> approaches 100 teams and Wayne and UNI all have 8 rounds.
> Add that to NDT, Harvard, and CEDA Nationals and there are still a number
> of tournaments (I'm sure I am missing some) that are 8 rounds, including
> some District tournaments.
> 7 rounds is a terrible compromise--Greg is right on about that--but I am
> not sure 6 really solves the problem (especially given the arguments that
> more debates are generally better, we do come to tournaments to debate, and
> the majority of participants do not compete after out-rounds begin).
> Our compromise to the long day on Monday will be to only clear 16 teams in
> each of 3 divisions instead of the "exactly half" rule that the ADA
> encourages (but does not mandate).
> There is an important place for 6-round regional tournaments and that makes
> up a bulk of our schedule, but the national (or larger regional) tournaments
> looking to have the full prelim experience and a reasonable day of elims for
> all the competitors can still do well with the 8 round prelim format.
> At the Spider tournament, we had 8 prelims (or 7 and a teach-in for
> novices) for almost 100 teams and 5 elims on Monday--but not just "5 elims
> overall"--five elims in Open and in Novice and 4 elims in JV.  For the
> second elim round we used 60 judges and more than half the teams at the
> tournament were able to compete on the third day.  The tournament was over
> by 10:00 or 11:00 at night on Monday.  There are improvements we can make
> (we plan to release the full bracket Sunday night as well as the specific
> judges needed in the morning -- in addition to limiting the elims to 16
> teams per division unless a division gets bigger than 40).
> Thanks to Ralph and Greg for their posts and I hope the conversation
> continues on this.
> Sincerely,
> Kevin
> ________________________________________
> From: edebate-bounces at ndtceda.com [edebate-bounces at ndtceda.com] On Behalf
> Of gregachten at berkeley.edu [gregachten at berkeley.edu]
> Sent: Tuesday, October 13, 2009 12:27 AM
> To: Ralph Paone
> Cc: edebate at ndtceda.com
> Subject: Re: [eDebate] On 7 Round Tournaments
> 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.
> Greg
> > 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
> > _______________________________________________
> > eDebate mailing list
> > eDebate at www.ndtceda.com
> > http://www.ndtceda.com/mailman/listinfo/edebate
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Stefan Bauschard

President & Co-Founder, PlanetDebate.com
Debate Coach, Harvard Debate
Director of Debate, Lakeland Schools
Director of Development & Operations, NFL National Tournament 2011

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