Our elite Mastership Sourcebooks for NCFCA and Stoa will release soon! Check them out here!

Ethos XL was quite an adventure! Thanks for those who participated in what we described as an “experimental online club.” As with any experiment, there were failures and successes.


The following lessons likely apply to all coaching, not just online clubs. They also have guided our XL 2.0 plans.

The core lesson: Coaches must develop relationships to succeed, and relationships are built on interaction, which require case substance.

Ok, what does that even mean? Let’s start with the CONs.

Con 1: Weak Club-Time Participation

By the final week, only a core 30% of students could be reliably expected to come. One of the key reasons for this is that many students did not expect to be coached, by instead expected to be fed arguments by coaches. But another reason is that the online format lends itself better to classes than interactive coaching, when you have large groups. We learned to use as many breakout rooms as possible, but even here faced some challenges.

What we’re doing about it in XL 2.0:

  • Any group time will be in small groups that sign up together and attend together.
  • Even greater emphasis on private sessions, which are customized on individual goals.

Con 2: Secretive People

Many of the debaters came to learn. Others came to get extra margins for their own victories. If you know anything about Ethos, you know that we aren’t terribly interested in the latter. Great coaching is two-way communication, but many students would clam up about their ideas and arguments when discussing in the group.

While some used XL as their only club, most attendees had a “main” club and gave lipservice to brief assignments but weren’t interested in completing any.

What we’re doing about it in XL 2.0:

  • Smaller groups that sign up together will commit to sharing information with each other. If the group wants to manage brief assignments, the coach will help run a true evidence ring.
  • People who want to rely on secrecy and surprise to get the best of their opponents are strongly discouraged from signing up for Ethos coaching. We are only interested in helping students overcome obstacles to persuasion by researching and thinking more deeply, and taking positions worth sharing with audiences.

Con 3: Preferred Coaches

Different students preferred different coaches. One batch of students would ask each week who was going to coach, and determine whether to attend or not based on who was going to lead. This makes sense, given the wide variety of personalities. At Ethos we believe people should be coached by coaches they hope to imitate.

What we’re doing about it in XL 2.0:

  • Your coach is your coach for the year.

Con 4: Some Did Not Use Private Sessions

Several debaters did not use the six private coaching sessions that came with XL. Most who did use the sessions ended up using more like 10–12 (we just tossed in more, because this was so valuable). This was where the most growth happened, because the learning was individualized and debaters felt safe to share the depths of their ideas.

What we’re doing about it in XL 2.0:

  • Private sessions are the cornerstone of 2.0, and you don’t have to “save” your sessions throughout the year.

Now for the PROs.

PRO 1: Private Sessions

With most private sessions, we started by identifying goals for students. This is always a cooperative conversation between coach and student, but frames the objectives for the year and the basis of future coaching. Here are a few example goals:

  • “Adaptive strategies, on the fly. Want to 1. Be extremely knowledgeable on the topic, and 2. Try adapting many times without relying on a brief but letting the brief support my arguments.”
  • “Break at a tournament for the first time.”
  • “Be capable of winning nationals.”
  • “Learn how to speak well as myself, not some persona. I want to communicate directly and sincerely, and improve that style for my whole life.”

PRO 2: Practice Debate Rounds

Ethos practice rounds almost always take one of two formats, which we are surprised to find most people don’t use in their local clubs that often:

  1. Debate vs. Coach – you can grow rapidly when you have a chance to imitate a coach’s style and argumentation, and really see “less is more” strategies in action. Ethos coaches took both sides of all resolutions plus some parli rounds and went at it with students, debriefing afterwards.
  2. Stop-Start – just debating rounds over and over is like practicing a song over and over, continuing to mess up the tough parts. In stop-starts we don’t always make it through a round, but we redo key techniques until we taste and feel getting the tough part right.

PRO 3: Relationships

Ethos coaches became the go-to coaches for many students, receiving dozens of calls during any tournament whether for advice, debriefing, a shoulder to cry on, motivation, parli prep, or brainstorming. We noticed that these students were either one hundred percenters in class attendance, or the heaviest users of private coaching.

PRO 4: Real Improvement

From Wyly Walker’s 2nd place nationals finish, to Noah Farley’s consistent advancement to outrounds, from Noah Howard’s 1st place speaker award to Carter/Glienke breaking at nationals, many Ethos XL students smashed through barriers holding them back and really matured. That’s what it’s all about. Here are a few testimonials.

Ethos XL gave me the fundamentals I needed to start a new debate form and the private coaching was absolutely invaluable!

Wyly Walker

Ethos XL was great for my partner and I because we didn’t have any other teams in the area to work with. It was great to have an online club format to share research and cases with people across the country. The private coaching sessions with Ty and Isaiah were invaluable. We wouldn’t have made it to NITOC, or as far at NITOC as we did without that help.

Abi Carter

Introducing XL 2.0

Head on over to get individual or club coaching for next season.

See the 2016-17 Online Club

%d bloggers like this: