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I’ve known Koryn for two years now: from her first-ever debate camp through her first time debating at Regionals just a few weeks ago. I wanted to talk to Koryn because this year, she and her brother/TP partner Kaleb hit that turning point that always gets me excited: they moved from overwhelmed novices to confident contenders. The two of them have always had a strong desire to learn, work hard, improve–and it shows. They’ve invested a lot in debate, and I love seeing their efforts pay off. 

To all the overwhelmed debaters out there, this one is for you.

Q: How did you feel when you first started debate?

Koryn: Lost. Very lost. Lost and confused. Each time I thought I understood something, five other things would be brought up. I was starting to wonder if it could possibly get any more complicated.

Q: What’s one thing you wish you’d known when you started?

Koryn: The truth of this statement: however much work you put into debate, that is how much you will get out of it. I think the same is true for many things in life, and I really learned it this year in debate. Last year we hit a case and had the worst round of our lives (sadly, it was also the one that our mom decided to watch to see us debate for the first time). This year, after doing a lot more research, we were very prepared and I found myself actually really wanting to hit several difficult cases that I had researched. I understood what was going on in many of the rounds so much better this year, and learned so much more because I put a lot more into it.   

Q: What’s something you wish you’d done differently early on?

Koryn: I guess I wish that I had worked a little bit harder, researched a bit more, and tried to really understand debate and its core principles a bit better. In particular, I wish I had worked harder on impacting. There are many ways I could have practiced it easily, but I was too lazy. I also wish I had bothered to read through all the briefs that we bought, which I didn’t do at all and thus found myself reading some rather…. ahem….interesting and non-applicable cards in debate rounds (they were not Ethos briefs, of course). I’m sorry to say that I didn’t do that this year either, and I really wish I had. The consequences were not quite as drastic–because I did read through every card, just in-round–but it did waste prep time.

Q: What did you learn at your first tournament?

Koryn: Well, one thing was a big lesson for me: I learned that no case is invincible. As a novice team, my brother and I hit a case that we had never even heard of (the same case mentioned above) and had no brief or any evidence to use against it (or so we thought–sadly, we actually did have some evidence but we had no idea that it existed until we told a friend afterwards and he yelled at us for not using his brief). It was, as I said before, a terrible round, and the scars have only just started healing, but the main lesson came later. I timed Octas and Quarters at that tournament and both the Aff teams that I was timing were running pretty much the same case. Neg won both times, and rightly so. It taught me that every case was beatable; I just had to figure out how or else research enough to find out why.

Q: What are the top three ways you’ve grown?

Koryn: Hmmmm, probably relaxing and actually really enjoying debate is one of the biggest ones. I’ve also grown a lot in critical thinking and being able to spot the weaknesses in arguments (much to the annoyance of my family–I might be slightly harder to live with since I started debate…). And finally, my speaking is much stronger. I often feel like I’m actually communicating a point well, the way I want to communicate it, instead of the horrible struggle in my novice year of knowing what I wanted to say, but not knowing how to say it. And if I could add a fourth (just think of it as a bonus answer, you get four for the price of three!) I would say confidence. It was a weird feeling for my brother and I as we walked out of a practice tournament, the first of the year, and we realized that we actually knew what we were doing, and would never be argument-less again. We gained confidence that day, and confidence is something that helped me through the entire year, through the good rounds and the bad.

Q: When did things change?

Koryn: Well, I think the real turn in my career was when I realized how to explain my arguments instead of just reading evidence. That was when I began giving six- and seven-minute speeches as opposed to three-minute ones. I actually specifically remember where it was. It was at the first practice tournament last year. I was reading a card of evidence, and I finished it and was about to move on when I realized, “Hey, I actually know what this card is saying! Why don’t I just spend a little bit more time explaining it?”

Q: What are some weaknesses you’re still working to overcome?

Koryn: My three Greatest Debate Foes are not difficult for me to name: 1) filler words, 2) open-ended and weak cross-ex questions, and 3) time management. My brother decided right before Regionals that he wanted the position of 2A, my spot, and that he was going to give me 1A, the position I had done maybe three times in my novice year. Let me just say that I have a new and much greater respect for all you 1A speakers out there. Your job is probably ten times harder than the 2A’s (though we may deny it). I came out of that tournament with a realization of how big of an issue time management is. Those are probably the things I am going to work on the hardest next season and through the summer.

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