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This is my first post here… My name is Daniel Pugh and I’m one of the guys fortunate enough to have Isaiah as my debate coach. It’s hard to believe that the debate year is over halfway over. Hopefully you’re having a successful year and learning from all your debate rounds. After going to two qualifiers and the Massachusetts National Open, I have some thoughts on what to do when outrounds roll around. The key thing to remember is that it’s still a debate round. We have a saying in Vector that “debate is debate is debate”. Keep that in mind. It’s just another round!

1. Congrats, you broke! You’ve worked hard and it’s paying off. When a player scores a touchdown in football, the coaches tell him to act like he’s been in the end zone before. The same theory applies to debate. Keep your emotions under control. Act professional. You should mentally prepare for your opponents. You’ve earned the opportunity to be in outrounds. It doesn’t matter if you’re 6-0 or 3-3 at this point, you broke. Focus on the next round. Don’t try to debate semis during your octas round. Take it one round at a time. I think this is especially true at national opens, when everyone wants to pick up a slot. Focus on one round at a time.

2. The coin toss. As you get ready for the toss, talk to your partner about whether you should go aff or neg. I was talking to Isaiah and Daniel Watson (who was extremely successful in NCFCA when he debated) and I told them that people are afraid of going neg. They were shocked. Neg has some advantages. Under this resolution, there aren’t unbeatable cases (and I’m not saying this to insult your case). If you’re prepared, think long and hard about picking neg. If you lose the toss (or are locked to the side you don’t like), the round isn’t over. I think some people lose the round after they lose the toss because they don’t think they can win on neg. This is absolutely the wrong mindset. You still get to debate the other team. Forget about the toss and move on.

3. Crowd factor. You’re now in the round. And suddenly you realize that people are watching you. This can be an advantage, even if everyone is rooting for the other team. Use some humor. Tense crowds make everything tense. You should be using humor in your rounds before outrounds, so this shouldn’t be too much of an adjustment. In finals against End Delegated Rulemaking at the last qualifier, Kelly Deibler made jokes about Congress being the opposite of progress and Jack Leetun said he was delegating his arguments into two voters. It loosened the crowd up and made us interested in what they had to say. The second thing to do with the crowd is to find your friends in the crowd and never look at that spot during your speeches. I learned this lesson in my first year when I was in finals and one of my friends was rolling in laughter during my 2AC (which focused on national security and economic security). It almost broke my concentration. Between whispering and sticky notes, there are always funny notes in the audience. When you’re behind the podium, you’re not interested in your friends’ facial expressions. Look at the judges.

4. Asking judges’ philosophies. We had a nice conversation about this in club. If you ask the judging philosophies, you better speak to their philosophies (otherwise they’ll be frustrated with your apparent hearing problem). Having that info might be important or it might not. My partner and I know who most of the parents are in our region, so we don’t need to find out who are community judges, who are parents, and who are alumni. As of a couple months ago, when we had this discussion in club, we decided not to ask. We’d rather just debate and make our arguments clear than try to cater our arguments to the preferences of three different judges.

4. Debate! Just do it. If you’re aff, do your thing on aff. It’s not rocket science. You’re still going to give the responses you gave during a prelim round. If you’re neg, do your neg thing. Hopefully you’ve prepared for the aff case, but that goes back to pre-tourny prep. The one thing you might do on neg is consider running an argument that might get one judge, but not all three. Topicality is a great example. Maybe all three judges won’t like topicality, but you can win one judge with Topicality. You want to make sure to run other arguments, of course. Unfortunately the opposite is true. If you’re running a counterplan, you run the risk of losing a judge who votes you down because he/she hates CPs. So how do you decide what to do? For the most part, just do what you planned on doing during prelims.

5. Who are the nerds in the corner? If you come to R-9 tournaments, you probably wonder why there are about seven debaters huddled together with flowpads and evidence during speech finals. That’s a finals prep group. If you debated in semis, then you know that if you break to finals there are two teams you might hit. Use speech finals as prep time (if you’re not doing a bunch of speeches). At the very least, go over your arguments and try to figure out what you want to run. Before finals at the Vector qualifier, Isaiah ran finals prep for us. We spent half the time on one team and about half on the other team. Our prep group consisted of: both teams from our semis bracket, the ESA experts in our club (for the reform ESA Section 9 case), the delegated rulemaking experts, and a couple other advanced debaters who could help us with arguments. It got rather hectic at times, but we came up with good arguments. You can tell the difference between speakers who are prepared for finals and people who are unprepared. Be prepared. Even if you don’t win, you’ve represented yourselves well.

Do your thing one round at a time. Prep hard. Debate well.

If you didn’t break, you can relax or you can go watch rounds. I didn’t break at the Massachusetts Open, but I learned so much in outrounds. I watched several excellent teams (Bozarth/Voell, Creed/Min, Bode/Voell, Dhanie-Beepat/Kim, and Baumgardner/Nelson). I learned something from each team I watched. Sometimes it’s helpful to watch a debate and take the best of the teams you watch. Use it in rounds and in life!

Good luck at your next tournament and do well  in outrounds!

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