“When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” -- JA Riis
The most productive, uninterrupted time to work on debate is during the Summer. It is also the most challenging time to work. Without the organization and pressure supplied by the debate season it can be difficult to maintain a consistent work effort.
As the quote above suggests, it is important to remember that success is the gradual accumulation of hard work. When you deliver a 2AR that wins a tournament, you aren't just relying on your prep time in the debate. You're relying on your effort before the tournament, the season and camp.
To help maximize this valuable time, consider using the next two weeks to do some of the following --
1) Draw a list of goals. A few things to keep in mind;
- Put team-oriented goals first. Your goal is always to win the tournament, not first speaker. If you focus on winning rounds then speaker points will come in time.
- Not all goals are tangible, and many of the best ones aren't. Some are simply small affirmations, like "I will be better at research when I go to sleep than when I woke up."
- The sky is the limit but the road there is long and difficult - don't skip steps. If you've never had a winning record at a particular tournament, your immediate goal is to improve. Winning the tournament is an excellent goal that you should never give up on, but focusing on that milestone alone can make you feel dejected when you lose. Set realistic goals that represent an achievable challenge.
2) Get your team organized. Whether you're on a small squad where it's only you and your partner or a large squad and are unsure of who your partner will be, team-building during the summertime is very important.
I've always had a theory that what separates good teams from great teams is the ability to lean on your partner and your teammates during crunch time. When everything starts to go crazy, knowing how to behave with a friend (or how to ask forgiveness in weaker moments) is very important. I believe this was a crucial ingredient in the success of Northwestern FS, Emory IW...and the list goes on.
This doesn't have to be debate-related stuff! Just get to know each other. Go out to eat or catch a movie, or just schedule a few hours at the library to talk about your goals for the team and how to organize things.
While debate-related assignments are somewhat specific to your experience level and the type of debate you participate in, I know one certain to improve while being a great team captain and helping your younger teammates: JUDGE!
I always considered this my "secret weapon" in college debate. I had the incredible fortune of judging great high school debaters while helping to coach an excellent group of kids. It helped immensely. My two most successful moments in college debate came after I had judged the weekend before. Judging helps you see "the big picture," simplify complex argument developments, develop new ideas, sharpen your flow and most importantly it helps build a better team the right way; by helping each other to become your best.
3) Become an expert/bookworm. Topic knowledge is incredibly important. Debaters who have read about several areas of the topic develop several skills their naturally-talented peers lack. They can slice through non-sense, they sound great in cross-x and they organize and frame the debate far more effectively.
Here's a few tips for getting to know the topic:
- Debate Central's topic overview
- Debate Central's master topic links
- Debate Central's topic current events page (updated over a dozen times a week)
NOTE: All these can be found in http://debate-central.org/cross-examination-topic/
- Sign up for Google Reader. This requires a google account, but not much expertise. Google reader assembles all the articles written by selected publications and puts it into a simple collection of folders.
Google Reader is an INCREDIBLY effective way to keep up with politics evidence (see: Roll Call, The HIll, Politico, etc) as well as other items of debate and personal interest.
- Look for PDFs. Most professional publications put their large briefs in PDF files. To narrow your search results on google to only PDFs, type "filetype: PDF" at the end of your search. It will only bring up URLs that link to PDFs.
4. Watch what institutes put out. Several institutes are very generous and post their work on their website as they go. This often includes lectures, assignment lists and other helpful debate information. Since high school debate involves the use of LOTS of camp evidence, you can get a jump on what your opponents will say.
More importantly, if you know where your opponents attended camp, you'll know what files they have in their tub. Reading an affirmative their camp didn't discuss or writing answers to all the arguments their camp produced is a surefire investment in success.
Dartmouth publishes their's @ http://ddw.wikispaces.com/
Georgetown's is @ http://georgetowndebateseminar.wikispaces.com/
I will update this to include the information at Michigan and other institutes as I get it.
5. Last but not least...post on Debate Central!!
This summer I'm blessed to get to work with a great group of seniors for seven weeks at Michigan. I'll be doing lots of work on this topic and am available to help with whatever you need free of charge.
Please don't be shy! There's no such thing as a dumb question. I needed LOTS of help in H.S. and resources like this didn't exist at the time. I'm always happy to help and I check this forum very frequently.