Debate, like any other sport, has an off-season, and that off-season is summer. No competition happens, no preparation for tournaments occurs, and hopefully lots of sleeping takes place. But just like any other sport, what you do (or do not do) in the off-season affects how you prepare, perform, and place in the regular season.
Most debaters who have competed in more than one tournament season probably have little habits here and there of ways to stay intellectual active during the summer, knowing that it will only benefit them when tournament season rolls around again. But for those experienced debaters who prefer to use the off-season as a time to switch off anything related to debate, and for debaters who have just come out of your first season of competition, this post is for you.
Though it sounds cheeky, just because you stop debating (or competing in extemporaneous, as well) does not mean news stops happening. Major issues and minor stories are always being reported from all over the world, and the value of keeping ones self aware of world, national, and local events cannot be overstated. Before you watch TV, switch to a news channel for five-to-ten minutes. Before checking Facebook, open GoogleNews and browse headlines/read a few articles that catch your attention. Follow BBC, Reuters, or The Wall Street Journal on Twitter so headlines appear on your feed whenever you check Twitter. Really, it’s super easy to stay on top of the news. But you have to choose to and want to do it.
Additionally, read. Research. Learn. Be curious. It is problematic if someone has zero desire to initiate attaining knowledge on any topic every day. During the summer, it literally does not matter at all if what you are learning about has relevance to political issues or not. If it does, it can have direct connections to possible debates you will have in the coming season. If it does not, it can have direct connections to possible debates you will have where anecdotal or personal information can sway a judge to vote for you because of a human connection you made rather than just an intellectual connection. Always learn, always gain more information, and always process that information in a way that will benefit you later in debate, in critical thinking, and any area of life in which cognitive effort is required. …which is almost every area of life.
Also, on a side note, be sure to check the Ethos Facebook, Twitter, and blog during the summer. All of these will be full with information, resources, and tips to improve your debates.
Enjoy the summer, and learn all you can!