Tips on Navigating the Debate Community as a Small School/Minoritized Debater

Updated: Mar 4

Introduction

Navigating the circuit and resources can be difficult, especially if you are new to debate. We hope to create a quick guide on how to survive this activity. There will be many academic and emotional challenges, but this article should give you some direction! Feel free to reach out to either of us if you have any additional questions.


Resources

Wikis/Docs

Use the wiki as a resource! The wiki is where people post docs, which are Word documents that were read in the round that contain analytics and evidence, as well as round reports that detail which arguments were extended in each round. Not only is there overlapping topic prep in both the high school policy and LD websites, but also more generic arguments such as popular Phil, K, Policy, and procedural positions are accessible there. Also, check Tabroom frequently for tournament postings. That way, you can look at pairings to see if there are any rounds to watch or look at docs from. Often, debaters are willing to give you docs or answer any questions, especially if their round was live-streamed.


Wikis - https://hsld.debatecoaches.org/ for LD, https://hspolicy.debatecoaches.org/ for high school policy, and https://opencaselist.paperlessdebate.com/ for college policy. To navigate it, you can follow this video by Connie Tran and Edmond Wen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjYgcYyMmJg (they also have other great videos on their channel about various introductions for debate concepts!)


Open Evidence - http://www.debatecoaches.org/resources/open-evidence-project, at policy debate camps, files are created that have evidence with critical and policy angles on the topic for that year, which are posted here. Although it doesn’t apply directly to the LD topic, you can use it as a starting point, especially since the topics can be similar (this also applies to the policy wiki)


Circuit Debater - https://ld.circuitdebater.org/w/index.php/Main_Page. This website has a lot of example cases and resources posted by previous LD debaters.


Rounds

Watch rounds online! There are tons of YouTube channels online that you can subscribe to and turn on post notifications. Although the format is different in policy debate, lots of argumentation is similar, so we have included some policy channels that we would recommend looking at.


DebateDrills - https://www.youtube.com/c/Debatedrills

Victory Briefs - https://www.youtube.com/c/VictoryBriefs

PDI - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3AY4Vq57cJjYaxVxuwC8Bg

UK TOC - https://www.youtube.com/c/KentuckyDebate

TDI - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOsQs8RKsKRsSx1v9gbJJgg/videos

NSD - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOxLewK8B6k0Pq057p-IdGA/videos

NDT - https://www.youtube.com/user/SolvencyAdvocate

CEDADebate - https://www.youtube.com/user/CEDADebate

Exodus Files - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGlg2TVox04ziEvmHRx80fA/featured


Online LD Lessons and Tutorials

Various YouTube channels and websites have explanations of debate arguments and strategies:


Podcasts: The Argument Clinic - https://soundcloud.com/the-argument-clinic-podcast, Next Off - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-next-off-victory-briefs-podcast/id1505226021, HS Impact - ​​https://hsimpact.wordpress.com/category/podcast/

YouTube Channels: Debate Boutique - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzpzvKKi6OblZ6mzdjGSHuw, My LD Coach - https://www.youtube.com/c/myLDcoach

Websites: GirlsDebate -https://www.girlsdebate.org/, HS Impact - https://hsimpact.wordpress.com/, Debate Drills Academy - https://academy.debatedrills.com/


Facebook

Consider joining the High School LD Facebook. Lots of additional resources are posted there, and it is a great place to find coaches or judges. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1066578230051150


Discord

The Debate Discord (https://discord.gg/dfReAsq935) can help access free files, practice rounds, or drill buddies. It is essentially a very large group chat organized into various channels sorted by purpose (for example, debate-library, lincoln-douglas, q-and-a etc.) However, it's important to note that many of these channels have little oversight and struggle with racism, sexism, and cyberbullying issues. We ask you to approach with caution and use it sparingly or in channels with people you trust. Interacting in these servers less frequently if you don't know most members are preferable. However, it is notable as an option because of its resources. It can provide debaters with friendships and an online practice debate platform.


Mentor Programs

Established mentorship programs allow you to connect with an older debater who can teach you about debating and provide a lot of support. Mentors are typically from your region, and they can aid you directly at tournaments you both attend--plus, nothing beats a good friend in the community! These organizations, which include W.in (this organization!) and Peptalk (https://www.peptalkdebate.org/). They feature demo rounds, practice debates with feedback, and lectures.


Drills

Staying motivated can be difficult, but setting monthly goals and working with others can help. The free coaching and mentoring services mentioned earlier can aid with drilling, but more specifically, we have some ideas below.


  • Hell 1ARs with 1NCs on the wiki - Giving a shortened 1AR to a longer 1NC for example, giving yourself 3 minutes to answer 4 or more robust positions

  • Flowing 1ARs from rounds online and giving 2NRs

  • Re-give speeches from the past

  • Write RFDs without hearing the judge's RFD in livestreamed rounds, then compare yours to the actual decision

  • Practice debates!

  • Speaking drills

  • Pen in mouth - put a pen in your mouth and try to speak clearly (for clarity and enunciation)

  • Spreading a document backwards (helps with speed)

  • Inserting a word with 3 or more syllables between every word and spreading through it! Also known as “word insertion” (helps clarity)

Prep

Dealing with prep situations can be daunting, especially as someone who doesn't have any teammates or ways to connect with other people in the community. Luckily, there are ways to succeed as a debater with limited resources without needing to spend exorbitant amounts of money on coaching or finding teammates.


Groups

Independent prep groups are becoming more and more common, with a surge of popularity in both official programs and independent groups. While different programs work better for different people, before spending thousands of dollars, it is strongly recommended that you ask other people on the team about their experience, as websites can be misleading. Even if you don't know anyone, people are usually willing to share information or their experiences with you about this.


Some numbers to aid in determining if a program is reasonable are that the cost of drills per hour typically ranges from $20-45. The $20-35 range consists of younger coaches, and the $40-45 range is typically collegiate coaches or champions. However, many coaches are often willing to negotiate lower, especially if needed.


It is important to note though that prep groups do not need a coach at all, you can just work with your friends or other independent debaters you know.


Utilizing Prep and Preparation

Steal stuff from the wiki! In an ideal world, everyone would have the time to prep every position using cards and analytics that they write. However, unfortunately, this is not the reality. When taking cards from other people, you should always re-highlight evidence or go to the article and cut it yourself, so you understand what it says. Though, in a pinch, you can always check who your opponent has previously debated pre-round to grab some responses.


Being in communication with your teammates is also very useful. If you make it clear what assignments everyone is supposed to take and generally when it is supposed to be done, it both ensures that everything that needs to be prepped is being prepped, and it is a lot easier to hold people accountable that way.



Tournaments

Logistics

Signing up for tournaments is another obstacle that small school debaters have to overcome. It is essential to act as professionally as possible and be very on top of registration. It can be very easy to get stuck on the waitlist or be unable to go. For example, you should ensure that you carefully read the Tabroom page, so you can send in your fees or other forms on time. This is also essential to making sure you meet the criteria to attend, as tournaments can have additional forms or steps for independent debaters.


Housing and Transport

When it comes to tournament related costs, for hiring judging, you can usually post on the Facebook page. If you need reduced payment, you should ask around, as many community members are willing to judge for less if necessary. In addition, there are scholarship funds that you can apply to that help cover these costs. Finally, if you email tournaments, they will be likely to waive the entry fine, and/or the school fine, especially if you’re just a few people.


Many smaller school debaters whose programs don’t regularly support them struggle with housing or transportation. One way to attend these in-person tournaments is by emailing a nearby school that is providing their debaters with transport and seeing if they would be willing to let you hitch a ride. But, make sure you speak with your school officials and debate representatives to ensure you are allowed - this also goes with sharing a room. Post on Facebook groups and gauge who would be willing to host you, or contact the tournament to drop/lessen entry fees to make paying for housing more feasible. If none of these options work, generally starting a GoFundMe at the beginning of the season to cover costs or speaking with tournament directors directly can help.


Dealing with Discrimination

Unfortunately, debate struggles with many issues of discrimination. How to best handle this situation has been highly contested, however, this article will primarily focus on finding emotional support. Firstly, W.in is an excellent resource for finding some comfort in a debate space with frequent instances of sexism. There are plenty of other resources and activities we have to help you feel more at home in this space. Also, you can reach out to other women in the debate space - most are more than willing to give advice!


For Black debaters, this space can be exhausting in multiple ways, especially if you exist at the intersection of multiple minoritized groups. Thankfully, many Black debaters in the past have graciously created numerous group chats, coaching opportunities, and mentoring services for free! Feel free to reach out to Black debate members for this support, and many note on their wiki’s how to contact them.


Self Care

Rest and self-care are vital in dealing with these issues. Make sure you’re getting enough rest and food - it isn’t “cool” to not take care of yourself, and a “grind” mentality can be motivating but not at the expense of your mental health. Keep things in perspective: debate is a great place to learn and grow, but you shouldn’t neglect taking some time to get some fresh air and sleep. Additionally, documenting taxing experiences can be beneficial - consider journaling or even posting your experiences anonymously on Speaking Up Safely. Beyond Resolved is another excellent program where you can find more resources and emotional support.


Conclusion

Just as there are obstacles in this activity, there are plenty of widely available resources for your benefit. Though navigating them all can be difficult, we hope this article can provide small school debaters and minoritized debaters with a cohesive game plan to maximize your success and well-being. Also, feel free to contact us if you have other resources that you think should be added. By no means should this become a “to-do list” but rather, find and pick which resources best suit your needs and interests; and as always: happy debating!


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