Elise Matton, Debate Coach at Albuquerque Academy since 2016
Email chain: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note pre-NYC Bronx: This is the first bid tournament I've judged since last season, and while I worked on a lot of debate over the summer, it was mostly administrative content for my team. This means:
1) it's also my first tournament on the Sept/Oct res, so I won't be 100% up-to-date on key strats for the topic (don't assume background knowledge, and allott a bit more time for things like analytical warrants or overviews at the top of any positions you want to go for)
2) My ear/pen will be rusty from lack of especially fast rounds recently. You can definitely still feel comfortable spreading, but my upper brightline for speed/clarity may be a bit lower as I adjust back, especially if I have you in any of the first few prelims. Happy to unmute with "clear" and/or "slow" to help you find that brightline and adjust accordingly, especially in the first minute or so of you speaking. Thanks!
Things to Note
· Speed is fine generally so long as it's not used to excessively prohibit interaction with your arguments. I do think there is a way to spread and still demonstrate strong speaking ability (varying volume, pacing, tone etc) and will probably reward you for it if you're doing both well. Go slower/clearer/or otherwise give vocal emphasis on taglines and key issues such as plan text or aff advocacy, CP texts, alts, ROB/ROJ, counter-interps, etc. Don't start at your max speed but build up to it instead. If you are one of the particularly fast teams in the circuit, I recommend you slow down SLIGHTLY in front of me.
· Put me on the email chain (email@example.com) but know I don't like rounds that REQUIRE me to read the doc while you're speaking (or ideally at all). I flow off what I hear, not what I read, and I believe that your delivery and performance are important aspects of this activity and you have the burden of clearly articulating your points well enough that I theoretically shouldn't need to look at the docs at all for anything other than ev checking when it's requested.
· The most impressive debaters to me are ones who can handle intense high level technical debates, but who can make it accessible to a wide variety of audiences.
· Tech>truth GENERALLY, BUT- Just because an argument is dropped doesn't necessarily mean I'll give you 100% weight on it if the warrants aren't there or it is absurdly blippy. I also have and will vote for teams that may be less technically proficient but still make valid warranted claims even if they aren't done formatted in a "Tech" manner. Ex: if you run some kind of obscure theory argument against a less technical team, but they make arguments about why this strategy is harmful and you should lose for it, I will treat that like an RVI even if they don't call it an RVI. Etc.
· Use my occasional facial expression as cues. You’ll probably notice me either nodding occasionally or looking quizzically from time to time- if something sounds confusing or I’m not following you’ll be able to tell and can and should probably spend a few more seconds re-explaining that argument in another way (don't dwell on this if it happens, use the cue to help you!) Note the nodding doesn't mean I necessarily agree with a point, just following it and think you're explaining it well. If you find this distracting please say so pre-round and I’ll make an effort not to do so.
· Use Content warnings if discussing anything that could make the space less safe for anyone within it. Use them as needed and be willing to adapt for opponents or judges in the room.
Role as a Judge
Debate is incredible because it is student-driven, but I don't think that means I abandon my role as an educator or an adult in the space when I am in the back of the room making my decision. I believe that good debaters should be able to adapt to multiple audiences. Does this mean completely altering EVERYTHING you do to adapt to a certain judge (K judge, anti-spreading judge, lay judge, etc etc)? No, but it does mean thinking concretely about how you can filter your strategy/argument/approach through a specific lens for that person.
HOW I MAKE MY RFD: At the end of the last negative speech I usually mark the key areas I could see myself voting and then weigh that against what happens in the 2AR to make my decision. My favorite 2NR/2AR’s are ones that directly lay out and tell me the possible places in the round I could vote for them and how/why. 2NR/2AR’s that are essentially a list of possible RFDs for me are my favorite because not only do they make my work easier, but it clearly shows me how well you understood and interpreted the round.
Part of me really loves the meta aspect of T and theory, and part of me loathes the semantics and lack of substance it can produce. I see T and Theory as a needing to exist in debate as protective measures, but I also have a fairly high threshold. Reasonability tends to ring true to me for the Aff on T, but don’t be afraid to force them to prove or meet that interpretation, especially if it is a stretch, and I can be easily persuaded into competing interps. For theory, I don’t have a problem with conditional arguments but do when a neg strat is almost entirely dependent on running an absurd amount of offcase arguments as a time skew that prevents any substantive discussion of arguments. This kind of strat also assumes I’ll vote on something simply because it was “flowed through”, when really I still have to examine the weight of that argument, which in almost all of these cases is insubstantial. At the end of the day, don’t be afraid to use theory- it’s there for a reason for when you need it, but the key word in that is the “need” part. If you’re going to run it, please spend time in the standards and voters debate so I can weigh it effectively.
I love a really good DA, especially with extensive impact comparisons. The cost/benefit aspect of the case/DA debate is particularly appealing to me. I don’t think generic DA’s are necessarily bad but good links and/or analytics are key. Be sure your impact scenario is fully developed with terminal impacts. Multiple impact scenarios are good. I'm not anti nuke war scenarios (especially when there is a really specific and good internal link chain) but there are tons more systemic level impacts too many debaters neglect.
I used to hate PICs but have seen a few really smart ones in the past few years that are making me challenge that notion. That being said I am not a fan of process CPs, but go for it if it’s key to your strat.
Love them, with some caveats. Overviews/underviews, or really clearly worded taglines are key here. I want to see *your* engagement with the literature. I ran some K’s in high school (mostly very traditional cap/biopower) but was pretty abysmal with them. They weren’t as common in my circuit so I didn’t have a ton of exposure to them. However they’ve really grown on me and I’ve learned a lot while judging them- they’re probably my favorite kind of debate to watch these days. (hint: I truly believe in education as a voter, but this can work in aff’s favor when terrible K debates happen that take away from topic education as well). Being willing to adapt your K to those unfamiliar with it, whether opponents or judge, not only helps you in terms of potential to win the ballot, but also vastly increases likelihood for real world solvency (that is if your K is one that posits real world solvency- I'm down for more discussion-based rounds as theoretical educational exercises as well). I say this because the direction I’ve decided to take my graduate school coursework in is directly because of good K debaters who have been willing to go the extra step in truly explaining these positions, regardless of the fact I wasn’t perceived as a “K judge”. I think that concept is bogus and demonstrates some of the elitism still sadly present in our activity. If you love the K, run it- however you will need to remember that I myself wasn’t a K debater and am probably not as well versed in the topic/background/author. As neg you will need to spend specific time really explaining to me the alt/role of the ballot/answers to any commodification type arguments. I’m open to lots of aff answers here as well including framework arguments focused on policymaking good, state inevitable, perms, etc.
Flash time/emailing the doc out isn’t prep time (don’t take advantage of this though). Debaters should keep track of their own time, but I also tend to time as well in case of the rare timer failure. If we are evidence sharing, know that I still think you have the burden as debaters to clearly explain your arguments, (aka don’t assume that I'll constantly use the doc or default to it- what counts is still ultimately what comes out of you mouth).
I will yell “clear” if the spread is too incoherent for me to flow, or if I need you to slow down slightly but not if otherwise (aka don’t expect me to yell it to help speaker points). If I have to say it more than twice you should probably slow down significantly. My preference while spreading is to go significantly slower/louder/clearer on the tagline and author. Don’t spread out teams that are clearly much slower than you- you don’t have to go incredibly slowly, but you should adapt slightly to make the round educational for everyone. I think spreading is a debate skill you should employ at your discretion, bearing in mind what that means for your opponents and the judge in that round. Be smart about it, but also be inclusive for whoever else is in that round with you.
I don't judge PF nearly as frequently as I do CX/LD, so I'm not as up to date on norms and trends.
Mostly when judging PF I default to util/cost-benefit analysis framing and then I evaluate clash and impacts, though the burden is on you to effectively weigh that clash and the impacts.
Final Focus should really focus on the ballot story and impact calc. Explain all the possible paths to the ballot and how you access them.
Compared to LD and CX, I find that clash gets developed much later in the round because the 2nd constructive doesn't involve any refutations (which I find bizarre from a speech structure standpoint). For this reason, I appreciate utilizing frontlining as much as possible and extending defense into summary.
Impressive speaking style = extra brownie points for PFers. Utilize vocal intonation, eye contact, gestures, and variance in vocal pacing.
Grand Crossfire can be fun when done right but horribly chaotic when done wrong. Make an effort to not have both partners trying to answer/ask questions simultaneously or I'll have a really hard time making out what's going on. Tag-team it. If Grand Crossfire ends early, I do not think that can get converted into additional prep time. It simply moves us into Final Focus early.
I have a much lower threshold for spreading in PF than I do for CX/LD. I can certainly follow it given my focus on LD and CX, but my philosophy is that PF is stylistically meant to be more accessible and open. I don't mind a rapid delivery, but I will be much less tolerant of teams that spread out opponents, especially given email chains/evidence sharing before the round is not a norm (as far as I've seen).
I am often confused by progressive PF as the structure of the event seems to limit certain things that are otherwise facilitated by CX/LD. Trying to make some of the same nuanced Theory and K debates are incredibly difficult in a debate event structured by 2-3 mins speeches. Please don't ask me to weigh in on or use my ballot to help set a precedent about things like theory, disclosure, or other CX/LD arguments that seem to be spilling into PF. I am not an involved enough member of the PF community to feel comfortable using my ballot to such ends. If any of these things appear in round, I'm happy to evaluate them, but I guess be cautious in this area.
Please feel free to ask any further questions or clarifications before/after the round- my email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any specific questions or need to run something by me.