Now that the season is officially over (or, at least, you have a significant break before NFL Nationals), no one would blame you for wanting to take a break. But we know lots of you out there are HARDCORE and will want to use all your newfound summer free time to improve your debate performance. Here are 5 easy strategies for ensuring you come back to your next competitive season ready for total dominance.
Here are the 5 things you need to do to improve your debate performance over the summer.
1. Go to Camp-
This is the top of the list because it combines the rest of these tips, and so much more. At camp you will hone your skills, get personalized feedback from top debaters, get a jump on research, build cases, engage in practice debates, and so much more. It’s also a great way to build contacts and even earn scholarships, if debating in college interests you. Many college coaches recruit directly from the camps where they work.
If there is any way you can possibly swing it, attending debate camp will be the best investment you can make. It’s also a ton of fun.
We know camp can be expensive, so we’ve prepared a list of camps that offer low-cost tuition and/or scholarships.
Before you go, make sure to also read our guide to getting the most out of debate camp.
Camp is fun and educational!
2. Do Background Research
Background research is the kind where you’re doing more than hunting for a specific card—you’re actively educating yourself about all of the contours of a subject, so you can talk about it confidently and intelligently. It cannot be emphasized enough how much this will help you with debate.
If you do CX, you’re lucky enough to already know what next year’s topic will be. Start familiarizing yourself in advance! A few suggestions for places to begin for 2014-2015:
- What natural resources come from oceans? Can we get these from any other sources? Why do we need these resources? What would happen if supply was interrupted?
- What processes are involved in extracting these resources?
- What, specifically, threatens these resources? Is the problem confined to one area, or is it globally diffuse? What actors are the biggest offenders?
- What exploration/development is being done for military purposes? (This is helpful to know for T debates)
- What domestic and international political issues pertain to ocean exploration/development? Who favors what, and why?
- What is the “cutting edge” of science and technology relating to oceans? What are scientists and researchers looking into?
If you do LD or PF, you can still take this time to educate yourself about subject areas or concepts that come up often. Some ideas:
- Climate change- How big of a problem is it? What responses/solutions to it have been suggested? What are likely consequences of these responses? What are the likely consequences of inaction?
- Free trade- Who does it help? Who does it hurt? What are some arguments for/against free trade? For/against protectionism?
- American intervention into foreign conflicts- What global “hotspots” potentially require attention? What is going on there? How might American intervention help or hurt? What are some ethical/philosophical arguments for/against the concept of intervention, as opposed to isolationism? How does the concept of sovereignty play in? What are some historical examples of successful/unsuccessful interventions?
- Utilitarianism vs. deontology as paradigms for decision-making.
- How should we define “justice”?
- Basic tenets of economics and political science/civics.
If you think, I’m sure you can come up with lots more general “idea areas” that debates often touch on. Make a list of these, and start reading anything you can about them. You never know when some example you read will turn out to be the best one to win the debate!
I shouldn’t even have to tell you this, but if you like reading kritiks, you should also go pick up some key works by your favorite author.
Summer is the perfect time for research.
3. Do Daily Drills
Don’t let your well-honed public speaking skills fade over the summer! You don’t want to spend your first few tournaments getting “warmed up.” Instead, make a commitment to yourself to do speaking drills out loud daily (or near daily) throughout the summer. This will help you develop the calm, clear, confident voice that is ideal for debate.
This is particularly important for those of you who like to speak quickly. If speed is your thing, you might find it useful to keep a spreadsheet recording the number of cards you read per minute during each drill session, so you can track your progress.
Even if you prefer not to talk fast, drills are super helpful. If you want to be pro-status, record yourself doing them and go back later and listen. Do you sound good? Clear? Confident? Persuasive? Engaging?
As you build your summer drills plan, check out our guide to the best drills and how to do them.
Doing regular drills will keep your speaking voice “in shape” for the season.
4. Update Your Backfiles
All good debaters know that it’s better to have more recent evidence. When you read old evidence, it’s hard to know if it’s still applicable to the current situation. As factors shift and new knowledge becomes available, conclusions are liable to change. Having new cards is a good way to combat this risk.
So, pull out those files you find yourself going back to over and over—the broad, conceptual ones. Stuff like “economic growth,” “environment,” “terrorism,” etc. Then, go cut new cards for both sides. Try to find articles from 2013 or later. You should be looking for well-warranted, recent evidence making claims you frequently find yourself needing to defend in debates. Make sure you cover both sides!
To be certain you’re getting the best evidence possible, read our guide to cutting great cards.
Keep your backfile game tight.
5. Reflect on Your Strengths and Weakness, & Make an Action Plan
This one requires some honest self-assessment. Figure out what skills and issues you are best at… and which you are worst at. Then, make a plan for correcting what you can, emphasizing your strengths, and combatting your weaknesses.
Not sure how to do it? Read our detailed guide to conducting a useful self-assessment.
Come up with a work plan, then stick to it.
If you take the time to do all 5 of these things, we guarantee you will be fantastically prepared, confident, and ready to take on all challengers come next season. So what are you waiting for? Get to it!
Can’t get enough? Check out 8 more tips on having a productive summer