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~~CORRECTION: I had previously erroneously reported that the negative review from an alumni was from someone who was not at the tournament the whole time. In fact, the alumni WAS at the tournament the whole time. Apologies~~

Back in March I posted about the Vector Fun Tournament, a tournament we ran as a national pilot to test out all kinds of different things to do at a tournament. Well, different in homeschool circles though none of the things we did are “new” to debate leagues.

The tournament was a smashing success and brought fabulous debaters from R8, R6, R9, and California together with a superior slate of well-trained (by video) judges for a great weekend of growth and fun.

Two notes before the results:

  1. Not everything we did is actually a recommended approach. Such as goofy team names. Very difficult to tab! We did it for fun but won’t be doing it again. Thanks to the tab team for putting up with this.
  2. Some things need to be thought through better, such as a better explanation of self-timing (ALL the debaters should be timing, counting DOWN, to ensure correct time), or a few guidelines for judges mingling with students (nothing negative happened, but one judge hijacked a team for over an hour to talk to them and some expressed liability concerns about where such things should happen).

This coming year we are hosting at least two Fun Tournaments that will be open to the country. The first, on October 28/29 will be a limited prep tournament: parli (6 rounds + outrounds), extemp, impromptu, and duo impromptu. The second, November 19, will be a one day speech tournament. Both in Northern Virginia.

At the end of the tournament we made a poll of the serious innovations we tried and polled all competitors and parents for feedback

This is the unedited feedback, minus two names redacted by request. All names are used with permission as you can see on the right column.

  • There were 29 reviews, ranking each item on a scale of 1 (worst) to 5 (best)
    • The overall tournament had only 1 negative review, by an alumni (alumni and judges were not specifically polled, so there is no comparison)
    • The overall tournament had 1 neutral review and 1 unmarked
    • There were 26 reviews that ranked the tournament as better or best, compared to other tournaments
  • All Features of the tournament averaged “positive” (better than other tournaments) reviews
    • No Nametags and Simplified Ballots (no speaker points addition, just 1 – 30, write a number) were the least positive, at average 3.6
    • All other tournament features were rated at or over a 4
    • Lightning Fast Awards and Posting Results As they Occur were the top two favorite features
  • You can see this, and all other data, by opening the Excel spreadsheet above

Lessons Learned/Summary Comments from Isaiah (tournament director):

  1. Challenge Matching was my favorite. It made so much sense because everyone knows that the seeding is imperfect, especially if top seed has to hit the top 3-3 speakers, who are often quite good and maybe had some rough rounds or flukes. What was unexpected was all but one challenge was won by the challenged, not the challenger, in quarterfinals (parli, policy, and LD!).
  2. Self-Timing needs to be explained better to debaters, that it is a countDOWN and all debaters (not just the one speaking) keep track.
  3. Judge Criticism was the most valuable part of this tournament because it allowed students to improve from round to round.
  4. The Results Wall that was kept updated throughout the tournament had frequent visitors, including many parents, who enjoyed analyzing who hit who and why powermatches were the way they were and so on. Very popular. It also meant I didn’t have to announce breaks (yay! timesaver) because everyone already knew. I love that this focused off of the winning/competition, which is what we’re about.
  5. Lightning Fast Awards Ceremonies are great, but it was probably not worth yelling out the exact speaker points and such for every single person. It still took under 10 minutes, but could have taken even less. Again, I appreciate not focusing on the winning/competition. Some people would have liked the longer awards ceremony which also includes a chance for photo ops, but the VAST majority preferred lightning fast.
  6. No Nametags was a mixed bag. Some liked and some really didn’t. I personally don’t like to wear nice clothes and then ruin it with a nametag, but some judges and parents really didn’t like the difficulty of keeping track. I’m thinking next time I make it optional 😉
  7. Parli is GREAT for judges and debaters. It also does not require debate experience. One of the top parli debaters was someone who had never done debate except for parli at a warmup and then this tournament. That we ran official tournament prep rooms (optional to attend) with educated people from community + debate coaches leading them was potentially a factor for the success of the parli track.
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