You’ve made it, you’re coming up on the tournament season, and you’re now at that spot where you are in your hotel room stressing yourself out about what comes next. I want to give you a few quick words of encouragement to have on hand going into that tournament. 

Number One: Chill Out 

I mean it. I know that this tournament means everything to you: it’s your senior year; you have a new partner; you have something to prove. This can build up to a lot of pressure and cause extraordinary stress. If you want to perform your best at this tournament, then you need to resist that urge. Multiple scientific studies have shown that people lose mental capacity when stressed out – something that should terrify you in a mental competition. Figure out what you can do to calm yourself down without losing focus. For me, it was walking outside with music and having tea/coffee in a thermos at each tournament to sip on. These little things can drastically improve your performance if they let you calm down and refocus. Figure out what will let you calm down, and do that when you feel stressed. That ten-minute walk could dramatically improve your next performance. 

Number Two: Take Care of Your Body 

Speech and debate students have a weird obsession with degrading their bodies and bragging about it. Don’t fall into that trap. I want you to do all the fun things, go to the late-night dinner runs, and enjoy your time with friends. However, remember as a student that your primary goal is your tournament performance. If it’s Friday night, get some sleep and save the fun for the ballot party. Likewise, make sure you consume at least the required amount of water and eat real food. Caffeine is phenomenal, but don’t consume it to the point that you’re not taking in enough fuel and compromising your body. You get the picture; you can’t perform your best if you don’t take care of yourself. Make smart choices. 

Number Three: Adopt an Overcoming Mindset 

I’m going to be honest, tournaments are hard. There were a multitude of times that things would happen to throw me off track during competition. It’s easy to get thrown off and then have a bad performance because of it: friend drama, overtimes, speeches that are just on the line.  My challenge to you this season is to see whatever abnormal challenge you are facing as a chance to excel, not as a roadblock.  You can’t get rid of it, so focus on how to overcome it. If you take on the mindset of seeing each challenge as an opportunity to succeed, you’ll grow your life skills and equip yourself to soar at your tournament. 

Number Four: Set Realistic Goals 

The last tip is one of my favorites. Too many people go into tournaments with the difficult goal of winning, or my personal favorite, “to do well”. As a result, many people walk away seeing how they could have performed better or what they wish they had obtained. The simple solution to this is setting realistic performance-based goals. The night before every tournament I would sit down with a notebook and set specific goals for each of my events. The key here is to make goals that will be a reach but are accomplishable, you do this, but base them on your performance. I would make goals like “use at least 11 sources per extemp speech” or “deliver each informative room without speaking quickly in the conclusion” on top of my placement goals for each tournament. This will let you evaluate your performance holistically and see your success rather than the gap between you and your ideal tournament. 

I know that getting back into the tournament swing can be a lot. The whole team here at Ethos is rooting for you – we can’t wait to see what you accomplish!


Luke is a fresh speech and debate graduate currently pursuing a double major at Dallas Baptist University. As a high school student, he competed in five speech and debate leagues experiencing success in Lincoln Douglas, Team Policy and Limited Prep formats. During this time, he honed his coaching skills by serving as the head coach at his local debate club, as well as working with multiple online debate organizations to coach both debate styles and practically all speech events (with an emphasis on Platforms and Limited Prep speaking).

Currently he competes on his college debate and mock trial teams, teaches debate at a local academy, and works in numerous capacities. When not cutting cards, reading case law or working on school, you’ll find Luke reading a good book, taking a long walk or conducting a loan signing.

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