Tips for Nationals #11: Don’t Psych Yourself Out

Posted by Bryan

I’ll admit, this is one I never learned in high school or college myself. I wish that I had because I probably would have been more successful at national championships if I had realized that it is just like any other tournament. The fact that you qualified to nationals means that you’re already one of the best debaters or speakers in the country. Trust in that. At least theoretically, you are about as good as any other competitor at the tournament.

My college coach used to say that the winner of a debate round is the person who thinks less. That’s true for speech too. That sounds counter intuitive, but it’s true. Forensics is all about preparation. If you are prepared, you really don’t have to think much in round, just repeat the same arguments or speech that you have been using for several tournaments. Our brains do funny things in high-pressure situations. Stress makes us make stupid decisions, over analyze scenarios, and generally makes us forget everything we already know. Don’t let your brain get too involved. Of course you need to think in order to win, but don’t reinvent the wheel now that you’ve qualified to nationals.

My debate career ended in the double-octafinals at the national championship against a competitor from Rice University that I should have beat pretty easily. Because I forgot this tip, I tried to win on a highly technical argument when all I needed to say was that his arguments didn’t respond to my case. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Trust your instincts, trust your preparation, because those are what got you to nationals.

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