Overview: I have been the Head Coach at Scottsdale Preparatory Academy since founding the team in 2013. I have been fortunate to coach dozens of students both at the AZ-local level and on the national circuit, but believe this activity (regardless of event) is first and foremost about "seeking the truth" through deep reading, active listening, clear thinking, and finally honest speaking. Your goal should not be to only be able to convince people with insular prior experience and expertise in S&D; good communication is good communication and should be about being able to reach anyone. As a coach, I also have the privilege/challenge of training lots of new parent/community judges who are scared to judge for the first time. My honest belief is that if you've "read a book before, watched a movie before, listened intently to a lecture before, and had a conversation with someone who disagreed with you" then you have sufficient life experience to become a good speech and debate judge (assuming they also learn the event rules/format, give feedback, and keep asking questions to keep improving).
Congressional Debate: Congressional Debate will forever be one of my favorite events. Your job is to be the whole package: convincing speaker, solid researcher, active questioner, and get into the collegial role play (without wandering too far into excessive, unnecessary motions).
- Speeches: There is no specific speaking position that is prone to do better or worse than others for me. I've seen and coached dozens of students who were primarily constructive speakers who liked speaking in early cycles on each bill. Thoroughly researched and original constructive speeches are vital for inviting good debate to follow. Others preferred (and were successful) at being a mix of late-constructive-speaker with some refutation (I welcome direct refutation as long as it is deeper than "Rep XX says YY and I disagree", offer an analysis of their claims/warrants/impacts). Others preferred to be a late cycle ("crystalization") speaker with greater emphasis on "weighing" and clarifying the overall issues brought up in the debate (please know that just giving a laundry list of previous speaker names, what they said, and whether you agree/disagree is not a crystalization; I was already here to hear their speeches, you still need to offer unique research and original analysis, even if it is analysis of their analysis). Any of those three speaker positions can do well or can do poorly depending on the speaker/speech. All three of them have an important role to play in Congressional Debate. In all 3 speaking positions, evidence is necessary.
- Decorum/Speech Length: The NSDA rule is that speeches have a time limit of 3 minutes, but does not specify a penalty for those who abuse the speech length. My belief is that exceeding the time limit is un-collegial (privileging one's own speech over those of others), shows a lack of decorum, and disrespects the rules. Many tournaments/leagues have begun offering a 10 second grace period (with the idea of letting a speaker finish their sentence/thought). If you are competing at that allows such a grace period, know that your goal should still be to give a 3:00 speech and not 3:10 speeches. Exceeding 3:10 is frankly rude (I've been horror-struck to see speeches go to 3:17, 3:26, 3:42, etc.), particularly when your PO is giving you several warnings.
- Presiding: I have trained many students to preside (and even been fortunate to coach a student who Presided in the Finals at Nationals), and know how incredibly difficult it is to lead your peers. I have judged many POs who have been ranked in my Top 1-3 or Top 6, and also judged POs who have been in the bottom 25% of my Parli ballot. I know how difficult POing is and wish to reward a truly great PO, but the bar for leadership is still quite high and getting elected is not a guarantee that you're going to earn a good rank. POing takes practice both inside and outside of tournaments.
- Mentorship/Civility: In some ways I am grateful that there isn't a novice division of Congressional Debate because it means that new students or competitors from teams who are new to Congress will hopefully get to see some good models from experienced students in the room which they can learn from and emulate. If you are an experienced Congressional Debater, you already have a sizable competitive advantage over these students learning the ropes; they are not a threat to you. Build them up, invite them to discuss the docket with you before the round, encourage them to come to the next Congress (its in your best interest for Congress to grow across the State and Nation). Bludging a new congressional debater to death or being condescending just makes them never want to do the activity again, and makes judges less inclined to vote for you (even if you give solid speeches). This activity is about more than winning rounds; "speaking with good purpose" should be about more than giving quality speeches.
Public Forum Debate: Despite having a background in debate, I wish teams would emphasize the "Public" nature of Public Forum Debate. I competed in Public Forum Debate shortly after it was founded, and remember that part of the rationale for creating it was that debate was getting too far removed from the public and becoming increasingly insular If this community exists to only persuade those who have been specially trained to think in a specific way, then this activity fails at its goal of being relevant in the real world.
Speak clearly, medium slowly, persuasively, and be grounded in thorough research (in all speeches, not just the constructives). Unsubstantiated claims, or rebuttal/summary/final focus speeches that keep re-hashing your side while ignoring the opposition's side, are not rewarded. Even though I am coach, you are inevitably far more broadly and deeply read on this specific topic. Your job is to teach me just like it would be to teach any judge. I should leave feeling like I've learned something about the world, or think about the topic in a slightly new way.
Lincoln Douglas Debate: Please allow me to give you the respect of speaking honestly. I have coached lots of Novice LD through the basics of traditional LD, and past that I admit my limitations. I am essentially non-responsive to kritikal arguments and spreading. I acknowledge that you are significantly more thoroughly read on the topic than I am and likely will ever be. Use that knowledge responsibly and teach me. I should leave the round feeling like I as the judge learned something new about the world (or I should think about something in a new way), because you slowly taught it to the audience. Make it obvious your side is winning.
Policy Debate: If a tournament is in dire straits and desperate enough that I am judging a round of policy debate, then God rest both of our souls. Firstly, consider what I've said above about Congress, PF, and LD. If judging policy debate, I will basically adopt a "policy maker" paradigm, and your job is to (slowly, like a real policymaker would) convince me that the policy plan put forward is or isn't the better option. If I can't understand you, then I don't write it down and it didn't happen. You will have more success with stock arguments: topicality, advantages/disadvantages, maybe counterplans. If you're willing to meet me where I'm at, I'll give you a fair listening. I understand the need for progressive/kritikal arguments to exist in this form of academic debate, but they will most likely not help you win my vote.