Posted by Bryan
So nationals starts tomorrow. You are probably on your way, like Natalie is, or have already arrived. At this point we can’t really give you any ground-breaking advice that’s going to change the course of the tournament for you. Your speeches are memorized and blocked, your cases are printed, and (hopefully) you know your negative evidence. But there is one last piece of advice we can give you.
Be yourself. Yes, this sounds like a cliche out of a Disney movie, but it’s true. Every community, whether its the NCFCA, college debate, a political party, or a 4H club, tried to exert pressure on its members to conform to a group norm. Basically, a community tried to shape people in its own image. Don’t let it. The beauty of forensics is its diversity of opinions, backgrounds, viewpoints, and beliefs.
Let your own voice, your own personality, and your own beliefs shine through your speeches and in the hall. You have something unique to offer the forensics community, and your voice should be heard by the judge and your competitors.
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.