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Here are a few ideas for coaches that I regularly employ in club.

  • Most importantly, over-reliance on evidence will not a winning argument make. The primary source of winning arguments is the use of one’s brain. Start with thinking, THEN look at your evidence.
  • Force debaters to run a maximum of 4 LINES of argument as neg, using shell and extend
  • Encourage them to filter all arguments through a negative philosophy and weed out ones that are superfluous
  • Teach values (goals, objectives, whatever you want to call a value framework) in policy debate to help prioritize arguments through a weighing mechanism
  • Tell them to only run arguments they think judges would want to give them the round on (i.e. funding is probably not a round-winner in most cases, but significant plan text problems or a big DA can be)
  • Always get them to impact and weigh their arguments (arguments that have simply-linked impacts are often more persuasive: i.e. “taxpayers pay an extra 3% per paycheck” is a pretty real impact, applies to the judge and doesn’t take much explanation, but “US loses soft power” is more vague, takes more explaining, and likely less compelling unless the debater fully understands the argument and is able to convey it simply in one sentence!). They also need to show WHY that argument OUTWEIGHS all opponent arguments or defeats the case. If this cannot be articulated, then the argument should not be run.
  • Pay attention to ballot trends (look for things like “topicality argument was boring and a waste of time,” “wish you had explained the disadvantage more because you really had a good point”)
  • Get debaters to always focus on the WARRANTS rather than the CONCLUSIONS of evidence. Why did the author conclude that? The debate should focus on this level—the reasons for and against conclusions, not the conclusions themselves.
  • Have debaters time themselves to practice good time management so they can allocate more time for arguments that are more important.
  • Do start/stop rounds and stop the speaker when they start making an argument that you think isn’t a winning argument, ask them why they are running that and how they plan to win the entire round on it.
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