Tips for Nationals #6: Don’t Go it Alone

Going to nationals can be isolating at times. During the regular season you have your club and/or people you know well from your region competing with you at tournaments. You build up a support system, help each other out, and make each other stronger. When you qualify for nationals in debate, you’re lucky if one of your friends or someone from your club also qualified. Many times, this doesn’t happen and you may feel like you are going alone.

Don’t let this happen. Instead, reach our to others and work together. The easiest way to start is reaching out to the other people in your region that qualified. Try to set up debate rounds, share research, tear apart each other’s cases, and then build them back up. If you can, get in contact with other people outside of your region through social media. When I was competing, we used to go to the online forum,  Homeschool Debate. People aren’t as active there as they used to be, but it might be a place to start. Also, you can check out other forms of social media and see if you are at least connected with someone who knows a person going to nationals.

Sometimes there is an attitude of secrecy when it comes to debate, you don’t want to show your cards for risk of giving away something. However, this philosophy is not healthy. First, because, at nationals, it is unlikely you will debate against the person you worked with. Second, because a case that has never seen the light of day has never truly been tested. We talked about this more in our first post. Find support to help you and work together to become better.

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Tips for Nationals #5: Dress to Impress

Posted by Natalie 

By this point, you already know that you need to dress up for tournaments. After all, it is literally a rule you are required to follow. But sometimes just throwing on a thrift store suit and calling it good isn’t enough. 

In our textbook, 101: An Introduction to Team Policy Debate, we talk about rhetorical strategies, including developing ethos through dress:

“An audience will be more likely to be persuaded by you if they think you are credible…We all wish that looks didn’t matter, but unfortunately people judge a person after only a few seconds of seeing them and how you dress can be their first impression of you.”

So first and foremost, make sure your suits fit. A suit that is too big or too tight can make you look younger and inexperienced. Here is guide for you guys out there. Even an inexpensive thrift store suit can look great if it fits well. Here is a guide for girls that is also pretty good. If your suit doesn’t fit properly, getting it tailored is a option and you can most likely find one that is not terribly expensive.

Even if you can’t tailor your suit, there are other steps you can take to look professional. Be aware of color. Pick shirts and ties that are complimentary and not bright or clashing. Wear jewelry that adds to a look but doesn’t stand out too much. Wear shoes that compliment your suit. Also, make sure your clothes aren’t wrinkled. If you don’t have an iron, steam your clothes in the shower for a bit.

Make sure your hair looks presentable. Get a haircut if you need one and do your hair in the morning  (whatever that process means to you).

Establishing credibility is one of the most important steps you can take and how you dress can do that before you even open your mouth. Looking your best isn’t shallow, it is a rhetorical strategy that makes others listen to you and makes you more confident. 

Tips for Nationals #4: Embrace Your Inner Sleeping Beauty

Posted by Natalie 

Your body is a machine and it works best when running at full capacity. If you are not getting enough rest,  your body will not function at peak performance. So even though it might be tempting to stay up late researching or practicing, you need your sleep.

The average teenager need 8-10 hours of sleep a night. Your bodies are still developing and so they need more time to recuperate and absorb everything you did that day. You shouldn’t try and get more than the recommended amount of sleep, but your memory will be stronger and your brain will be sharper if you get enough sleep. Once you get to the tournament, the ideal amount of sleep probably won’t be possible, but adrenaline can’t do its job if you already have a sleep deficit coming into nationals.

Tips for Nationals #3: Speak to Anyone with a Heartbeat 

Posted by Natalie

For those of you going to nationals in speech, I hope you are already practicing multiple times a day. You have less than two weeks left so forensics should be your top priority right now. However, if you are not practicing in front of a person, you are not effectively practicing. We perform differently depending on the context. You know this; you know that how you perform in competition is different than how you perform in your living room. The same is true for practicing. You practice differently when you do it for yourself than if you do it in front of a person and speaking in front of a person gets a lot closer to how you speak in competition. Remember, how you practice is how you perform.

I know, it is sometimes uncomfortable to give you speech to your mom and eventually you feel like you are torturing your siblings by asking them to watch the same speech everyday, but sometimes you have to do it. When I competed in college, I would have Bryan watch all six of my speeches everyday for weeks.

In our first tip, I joked about giving your speech to a random stranger. This is only a slight exaggeration. Find anyone willing to watch your speech and give it to them. If your family literally starts hiding from you whenever you walk past, move on to friends. Also, get together or Skype with other people going to nationals and give your speeches to each other. You may still get tired of hearing them, but at least it is a mutually beneficial relationship.

Bottom line: Give your speech a lot. Give it well. And give it for a person.

Tips for Nationals #2: Cast a Broad Net

Posted by Bryan

This one is for the debaters in the crowd. So you made it to nationals, and now you’re facing competition from all over the country. If you’re lucky, you might have a caselist of what some of the people from other regions are running, but it’s probably incomplete or they might run a new case (but not if they follow Tip #1!). You sit down on your computer, fire up Google, grab a cup of coffee, and prepare for a long night of researching against each specific case. Before you know it, it’s 2am, your eyelids are drooping, you have only found evidence for five cases, and you’re in serious danger of waking up the next morning with the imprint of a keyboard on your face. There must be a better way!

Well, there is. Specific evidence is fantastic, and you should get it when at all possible, but you have two weeks left to prepare and a huge topic. No matter how much you research, you’ll probably face multiple cases at nationals you’ve never even thought of. That’s where generic arguments come in. Try to find arguments that will apply to a large number of cases. For example, if the affirmative has a “hard line” policy (i.e. taking action against China), you could have some cards that say hard line policies will backfire and lead to all kinds of bad things. You could do the same for soft line. Boom! Between those two arguments, you have a solid argument against any case they can run. Find a few arguments like that, and no matter what they throw at you, you’ll have something to say. Of course, case-specific evidence is best, but that’s not always possible. Always have some generic arguments ready, just in case.

As we explain in our upcoming book 101: An Introduction to Team Policy Debate:

“Generic arguments, especially generic disadvantages, are key to your success as a negative. There is no way you will be able to think of and prepare for every possible affirmative case out there. This is especially true in the NCFCA because resolutions tend to be incredibly broad. Generic arguments help level the playing field; they give you something to run even if you’ve never heard of their case before. Generics also give you a kind of ‘home turf.’ If you run a certain position a lot, you will learn it so thoroughly that you can easily predict and refute arguments against it, giving you an area of the round where you’re playing offense, not defense.”

In addition to the examples I gave earlier, here are a couple other generic arguments I ran when I debated China in college:

Increasing trade with China will strengthen the CCCP (Communist Party) and lead to human rights abuses.

Decreasing trade with China weakens the CCP and threatens collapse of the Chinese government (Note on this: In reality, if there was any risk of collapse, China would go to war with India, Japan, and/or Taiwan. That should be fairly easy to find cards for, since basically, every expert agrees on this.)

Increasing relations with China would cause Taiwan or Japan to build or buy a nuke and destabilize the region.

Decreasing relations with China would cause a trade war.

Tips for Nationals #1: Don’t Shake Things Up

Posted by Natalie

As time ticks ever closer to nationals, the pressure can build. You have your eyes focused on the prize and can taste victory in your mouth. Or maybe that metallic taste is just the nerves. Either way, you would do anything to be standing on that podium at the end of the week. This kind of pressure can lead you to do crazy things, like staying up till 4 am researching or running your speech for a random stranger that just knocked on your door to sell magazines. However, no matter the temptation, don’t follow that siren’s call and shake things up.

For speech: lock down any changes. The only time you should change your script is if you are running over time. This allows you to solidify your memory, refine your delivery, and hone your blocking.

For debate: pick a case and stick with it. You’re better off running a solid case that you know in and out, so you can anticipate the arguments, instead of picking a new case in the hopes of catching people off guard. If you haven’t run a case before, you won’t know what they will bring up and you could be the one left surprised.

Trust what got you there in the first place and polish everything.

A New Chapter

Posted by Natalie 

When I graduated high school over six years ago, I thought my journey with NCFCA speech and debate was over. I helped out at my old club when I could, but as the weight of a college schedule and the competitiveness of college forensics began to absorb my schedule, that involvement became less and less frequent. Then, several years ago, our desire to get involved again pushed my husband (Bryan) and I to publish a soucebook and that was how Olympus was born. The sourcebook was short lived as our schedules were once again overtaken, this time by graduate school stress. However, now that both of us have graduated, we are ready and excited to hop into the world of NCFCA speech and debate and this time, we have help as my brother Christopher is bringing his years of debate experience to the team.

The three of us are dedicated to providing the best possible resources to new and experienced NCFCA forensicators at an affordable price. As we slowly grow our company, we plan on expanding the resources we publish, but right now we are starting where we all began our careers: in debate. We hope that you will check out our upcoming publications and contact us if you want to be notified when they go on sale.

However, we also understand that right now is an exciting time. The regular season is over and right now you are either looking forward in anticipation to next year, or in crazy preparation for nationals. With that in mind, starting tomorrow, we will be sharing two weeks of tips leading up to nationals. Some will come from our upcoming Team Policy textbook, others will be from our decades of experience. Also, if you need any last minute coaching let us know. Our hope is that we can offer a little assistance as you get ready for the next chapter.