Reread all your evidence. You already have a mountain of evidence. I know this because you are Ethos users. That generally means you like research and you love debate. READ all of your evidence. Look for ideas you might have missed. Look for that card you overlooked earlier in the season. Look for evidence that cross-applies to other cases. Get all of your current evidence in good order.
Use your common sense. Many debaters assume that they have to find the one argument or the one strategy the affirmative team hasn’t heard yet. This is silliness. Debate is about the back and forth of ideas and arguments. Sometimes, your best arguments and your best rounds will come from those common sense arguments that everyone has heard before. Take those arguments, strengthen your links, update the evidence, and give the judge more impacts! This also might be the time to evaluate whether that super-cool kritik you found on the internet is actually going to be useful in a round or is just adding weight to your poor back. Use it or lose it.
Along that line of thought, work on your impacts. For instance, think of the lead wheel weight case. The case mandates steel which is all imported. We currently have a huge lead recycling market in the US (plus it is a side product of many mines so it gives another source of income for the industry). By simply banning lead wheel weights to solve a fairly small environmental issue that is slowly going away anyway, we lower the income from mines, cause the discard of the lead that comes out of those mines, give an income loss to our recycling industry, move the business overseas, add lead to our landfills. We have job loss, corporate income tax loss, more lead in our water table, and a reliance on foreign products where we don’t have as much control over what is actually in them (melamine added to food products as “filler,” cadmium in jewelry, etc.). What happens when we have less coming in in corporate taxes? Either the taxpayer (you and me) takes up the slack or we have budget cuts. Budget cuts mean secondary job loss. It is a spiral. Think through your disadvantages and explode them. Think of a good argument as a giant squid and it has many tentacles with which to grab you and those tentacles have many suction cups with which to hold you. A good argument impacted out will be like that giant squid. Don’t settle for shallow argumentation. Make that affirmative team work.
Generics rock. The generics will be what saves you when you get in a round and realize the aff team has changed their case. Strengthen all of your generics and work on getting multiple impacts that will carry you through the round. The same argument could have a jobs impact, an economy impact, a trade impact, a tax impact. None of those are new arguments if they all stem from the argument you introduced in the 1NC. They are just impacts to your argument. Make the aff work. Some good generics to have handy would be federalism (always valid to ask if the federal government should be doing this), increased regulations bad (there are great harm scenarios with great impacts to increasing regulations), decreased regulations bad (same thing – decreasing regulations can have some unintended consequences), bans (banning any single item can have pretty big consequences on an industry and that works like the giant squid), international concern (this is your soft power generics), and theory blocks.
Work on topicality arguments. You are going to nats – let’s not have lame topicality arguments. Having well put together topicality arguments is as good as having good generics. These will see your through the squirrels or through a case you haven’t heard yet.
Don’t panic over squirrels. You will be just fine if you don’t have specific evidence against a case. Just take a deep breath and flow that case. Go over the 1AC. Try to categorize the case type. Does it increase regulations? Does it decrease them? Does it have the feds doing something that states traditionally do? Does it thumb its nose at international concerns? Stop and think. Your partner should ask lots of questions of the 1AC. Use that time and 3 minutes of your prep time and really think it through. You will absolutely do fine if you are familiar with your evidence, have good generics, have good topicality arguments, and you keep your wits about you.
Affirmatives, update your backup. I know many of you are updating your 1AC, but think about your backup. You know that argument you killed way back in the second tournament of the season and nobody in your region brought it up again? Well, that argument is likely to appear again at nats only it will be stronger, newer, and with better evidence. If you haven’t revisited it since January, you may find yourself struggling to answer it. Go over all the arguments that have been run against you, even if you think you have them beaten, and make sure your evidence is recent and covers the argument. You’ll be glad you did.
Ethics. We’ve said a lot about this over the course of the season. We have also heard from many concerned coaches in other regions saying they are seeing more and more evidence issues this year. As you go through your evidence, verify the source and the citation. Check to make sure you are using the evidence within the original author’s meaning and intent. Make sure your dates are correct and that you have all the words in the quotation. Make sure nothing has been paraphrased. Make sure that multiple quotations have not been strung together as one. Make sure that your analysis is distinct from the quotation. Yes, we have seen all this and more in both negative briefs and affirmatives this year. If you are using traded briefs, you don’t know how many hands that brief or those cards have been through. Check the entire brief – even if it is from someone you trust. This might seem silly unless you are one of the handful of people that gets to have that personal discussion with the tournament director, your parents, and the parents of the other team. Nothing unsettles your day like that and it happens every year. Be above reproach.
Sleep. If you want to run a marathon, play an important concert, land a job at interview, or in some other way perform at your maximum, like a professional, you must be well rested. Nationals is a multi-day experience with plenty of temptations to lose sleep before, due to pressure, and during, due to hundreds of people. You are there for a specific purpose and can chill, tweet, and eat junk food at 1am some other time. You need to go into nationals well-rested and peak the last day, if you’re in it to win it.
Get your heart right. Dealing with the spiritual aspects of competition is one of the great lessons of debate. As you near intense competition you can forget why you are doing it and get lost in the moment. The hallmark of wisdom is to never get lost in any moment, but always keep your principles so that they guide you through the tough times. Focus on what God wants you to learn from this experience and how you will deal with defeat (everyone but the champ loses at some point).