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This is a discussion with sibling TP partners Ethan and Lexi. Though they claim they aren’t exactly a model partnership, they were willing to share a few thoughts on the pros and cons of being paired with a sibling in debate. You’ll notice they talk a lot about how tough it was to mesh sibling dynamics, different experience levels, and different work ethics. Partnerships aren’t easy–but they’re worth it.

What’s the best thing about being paired with a sibling?

Lexi: It’s super convenient. When I was partnered with someone else, I had to take a train for an hour and a half to her house so we could work on our case together (or we wouldn’t really work on it at all cough). Being partnered with Ethan, we can talk about debate while we’re making lunch, or if I have an idea, I can just barge into his room and tell him. When he would drive me to my dance classes, we would do drills together, and you aren’t able to do that when you’re partnered with someone else.

Ethan: That’s difficult. There are a lot of things. Among them are the fact that we can easily do drills, that we can be honest with each other, that we can read ballots together, and that we can coordinate our outfits really easily. But maybe the most fun thing I enjoyed about partnering with a sibling is that I can rant with Lexi since we have basically the same opinions on everything. 🙂 

What’s the hardest thing?

Lexi: Ethan can be super duper hard on me because he doesn’t have to worry about hurting my feelings. 🙂 He would be really straight up and tell me what he thought. Our closeness meant that there was a lot of transparency, and it was sometimes difficult to deal with. Being partnered with a sibling who has been more successful/is more talented than you is also difficult, because if you don’t do well, then people/Ethan blame it on you (which might be true). I struggled a lot with confidence and worrying about what other people thought of me.

Ethan: The hardest thing would probably be that we both don’t have the same level of “respect” (whether artificial or not) for each other. For example, if I were working with a non-sibling, I may not be as harsh with them. Or I might listen and take their opinion into consideration more than a sibling because that’s just what we do. 😀 

What are your partner’s greatest strengths?

Lexi: Ethan is really good at everything…his speaking, researching, rhetoric, etc., but I think his strongest asset is probably his research. He can find out case-destroying arguments in 20 minutes of researching. Our brief format is pretty beautiful too, if I might say so myself. 🙂 

Ethan: Surprisingly, Lexi’s very easy to correct. I know that sounds really egotistical for me to say that, but she isn’t belligerent and listens to corrections. She also wants to learn and get better, so drive and motivation are other strengths of hers.

How do your strengths and weaknesses balance each other out?

Lexi: Ethan and I both agreed that I was better at line-by-line refutation, and Ethan was better at big picture arguments/boiling the round down to the main arguments. Oddly enough, that changed when we switched speaker positions. I worked on finding bigger picture arguments, and I was able to have pretty succinct 1NRs with three alliterative main points. Ethan got better at line-by-line refutation, so that worked when he switched to 2N. I’m also definitely better at flowing, but ironically, Ethan is better at organization. I’m not quite sure how that happens…

Ethan: My weakness is definitely being too headstrong, and Lexi helps to tone that down. She’ll tell me if I’m talking too fast, or she’ll bring up the normal arguments when I bring up the whacky ones.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced this year and how did you overcome it?

Lexi: The biggest challenge would have to be Ethan being nicer to me…I don’t think he ever figured it out, to be honest. 😀 JK, I think he got slightly better. Our last tournament, we didn’t fight at all. That shouldn’t have been a big goal for us, but it was…We got better at communicating. After rounds, when we would do our “debriefing”, Ethan had to work on giving me criticism SANDWICHES–positive feedback, not just critiques 🙂 and I had to get better at accepting criticism. Overall, I don’t really regret partnering with Ethan (although during the season I sometimes did 🙂 ).

Ethan: Biggest challenge. Hm. Probably figuring out speaker positions! We switched mid-season and it was tough for Lexi to adapt. She didn’t like being 1N because she was afraid she wouldn’t have a good enough case shell. But she’s better than she thinks she is, so she didn’t actually have that hard of a time with the switch. Maybe what was more worrisome was the fact that we overheard some debaters saying that we “would’ve won that outround if Lexi wasn’t 2N,” and that really hurt Lexi, so I think if there was an element of rebellion that made her not want to switch. But eventually, with practicing and increased confidence, she thrived in the spot.

How did you determine speaker positions?

Lexi: At the beginning of the year, I was 2A and 2N, because I liked closing out the rounds, but I switched to 1N in the middle of the season because Ethan decided it was better if he closed out the negative rounds. Being 1N pushed me to make arguments faster, because I didn’t have the relaxation of waiting till the 2NC. It also helped me think more big picture, so even though I was very adamantly against the switch at the time (because I was forced into it…), I guess it was better for me in the end.

Ethan: We had a hard time with this one. Originally I was the 1N because I wanted to do shell and extend and be able to make our shell for the round. But I realized that sometimes our interpretations of arguments were different and she didn’t respond to the Aff responses like I wanted to. So we decided to switch so that she was 1N and I closed out the round. That was very beneficial for both of us, and we did very well with the switch. Her 1NRs were killer. 🙂 As for Aff, I was 1A the whole season because I wrote the case and wanted to give the cross-ex answers, and also the 1AR in the heat of the round. That worked out well and Lexi has gotten better at 2AR impacting.

Who does what outside the round?

Lexi: One of the biggest reasons we struggled as a partnership was probably because I didn’t do much work outside of the rounds. Ethan did a lot more of the research, but we would do some drills together, and we would both file our debate box together.

Ethan: Lexi goes on Instagram and I do research. Just kidding. 😀 She’s worked on the Aff backup for the case both times so that she knows the 2AC responses. I’ve worked on the 1AC. I usually write most of the briefs and we occasionally drill by practicing a whole round but switching positions. I also like to drill her 2ACs moot court style so she practices backing up everything that she says in her 2AC.

What were your goals this year?

Lexi: Our goals weren’t the most modelesque from an Ethos perspective. 🙂 We both just wanted to do as well as we could and get as far as we could. Of course, we also wanted to work well together as a team. We never really talked about our goals, though; we just kind of understood that we both wanted to do well in competition.

Ethan: Our goal was to get to Finals at a tournament and also to get to nationals. I thought if you got one you’d get the other, but no can do. 😀

How well did you achieve them?

Lexi: From a competitive perspective, we did pretty well. We got to finals once, which was more than we had ever expected, and we broke at one of the biggest TP tournaments this season. About working well as a team, I think we definitely got better as the season went on, but it was extremely rocky at times.

Ethan: We did get to Finals (actually, at the one tournament I called we’d win, though we didn’t win). We didn’t break at Regionals and were two AL slots away from Nationals. 🙂

Were your goals different than your partner’s?

Lexi: Not really.

Ethan: I think we had the same goals. I had different personal goals (I wanted to write a brief every week, which I pretty much did), but the same competitive goals.

How did they conflict?

Lexi: Like I said, we had pretty uniform “goals”, but I think our expectations/reactions differed more. For example, when we got 2nd place at our first finals, Ethan was very upset about us losing, and I was just happy to have been there. He expected me to be more disappointed when we didn’t win our outrounds, and I think it was because he wanted me to have higher expectations, so he took me not being sad as apathy or indifference. Although I was generally disappointed when we lost an outround, I just didn’t let it affect me as much. 🙂

Ethan: Lexi didn’t write too many briefs this year. I won’t say the number of briefs I wrote vs how many she wrote because she hates when I compare numbers, but I definitely did more work. I think she didn’t have goals set for brief writing, so that’s why there was a slight disparity.

How did you balance different objectives/techniques/levels of experience/etc.?

Lexi: In terms of objectives/techniques, I think we both just had to unify our approach to a certain argument or case (meta debate, using evidence or not, agreeing to Aff’s standard or not, etc.). With differences in experience/skill, I had to push myself harder to do well, and Ethan had to lower his expectations for me.

Ethan: We kinda just worked through it, it wasn’t a huge deal. If I can mention one regret, it’s that I think I was often too condescending about how I had more competitive success than she did in the past. I wish I would’ve just accepted that I have a great partner and that we’re working together to better not only our communication skills, but also our relationship. TP is a very difficult road to walk, with anyone. But I am very very glad I got to share the experiences I did with Lexi. There’s no one I’d rather walk that road with. 🙂 

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