There are plenty of things you do to improve your debate performance: hours of research, speaking drills, practice rounds, rebuttal re-dos. But you might be missing out on a key resource that is built right into the tournament: watching out-rounds after you’ve been eliminated. Today, we’re going to talk about why it’s important. We’ll also link you to some great debates, for your immediate viewing pleasure.
If you aren’t in an out-round, it should be obvious that there is something you can learn from the teams who are. Why would you give up the opportunity to scope out your competitors and figure out what they’re doing better than you? Even if you believe you “deserved” to be in a particular round, the simple fact is, you didn’t get there. Figure out why by identifying what your competition is doing better. Determine what they’re doing well, and adapt those behaviors to suit your needs.
Plus, watching a round as an observer gives you the ability to evaluate the strength of the round’s arguments from a neutral perspective, divorced from the stress of pulling files and writing answers. Most debaters feel vehement that they are making persuasive arguments during the heat of their debates, but often they aren’t actually communicating as clearly as they think. Taking a step back and evaluating the quality of an argument from a listener’s perspective can really reveal the truth. Maybe a strategy you thought was excellent when you deployed it seems non-responsive and silly when you see it as a neutral observer. Or, maybe there is an awesome response to a common argument that you haven’t even thought of yet. All of this can be incredibly valuable in your future debates, because you will have already identified which arguments seem strongest (and weakest), without your opinions being colored by pressure to win the debate.
Have a seat and learn from debaters in the elims
Watching debates is also great for a number of other reasons. Is your flow game a little weak? Have trouble keeping up with fast debates? There’s no better way to fix that than to simply sit down and flow some rounds. You have to train your ear and your pen; by practicing, you will improve quickly. Always lose to the same position? Go watch a team that’s defending against that argument, and see how they handle it. Don’t understand kritik or performance debate? Ask your coach to help you find the most critical match-up on the pairing, and go sit in.
Remember: debate is a game that you must improve at by practice and observation, just like anything else. No one expects to become an amazing musician without listening to great music written by others. No one excels at sports without studying the technique of the best athletes. So, resist the temptation to spend out-rounds wandering the halls or lounging by the concession stand. Instead, go observe some debates. Soon, instead of watching those out-rounds, you’ll be in them!
Want to get started with watching some debates right now? Here are links to some video archives:
College policy videos:
This year’s (2014) CEDA final round hosted on YouTube, courtesy Debate Stream (more great debate videos in user profile)
Various rounds from 2007-2014 courtesy Binghamton University
Various rounds from 2011-2013 courtesy CEDA
High school policy videos:
Various ToC rounds courtesy Tournament of Champions
Various rounds from the Glenbrooks tournament courtesy of SchoolTube
High school LD videos:
ToC rounds courtesy of the Tournament of Champions
Laird Lewis Invitational Tournament rounds hosted on YouTube
LD Showcase hosted on YouTube, courtesy of the National Speech & Debate Association
Various LD rounds courtesy of Speech Videos
High school PF videos:
2012 Harvard Round Robin Final round hosted on YouTube
2007 NFL Final round courtesy of SchoolTube
2007 Glenbrooks Final round courtesy of SchoolTube
Many videos of ALL EVENTS hosted on the National Speech & Debate Association website
Various rounds in all events courtesy of University of Vermont Lawrence Debate Union