A Summer Debate Calendar by Stephen Babb

Summer might be vacation time for mere mortals, but it’s something else entirely for high school debaters.
Sure, a little time off might we well-deserved, and it’s certainly preferable to burning out half-way through your junior or senior year. But there’s plenty of room in the average daily planner to make this off-season count for something.

Here are a few item to pencil in to your to-do lists.

Reading

If you thought the first task was debate camp, you might be making the same mistake most debaters make (more on that later). Whether you plan on spending most of your break traveling the globe or relaxing closer to home, catching up on relevant reading is one of the easiest and productive tasks to take with you.

That doesn’t mean researching all of the potential topics for next season (although that’s an admirable endeavor). It means digging deeper into the philosophy, political theory and current-event knowledge that make even the smartest debaters still smarter. Maybe it’s not the most exciting summer past-time, but it’s well worth the improved lexicon and nuanced understanding you’ll infuse into your debating.

Camp

Camp isn’t an option for every debater, but it’s a worthwhile investment whenever possible. Beyond the obvious skill development, each week you can spend at camp is another opportunity to build connections in a like-minded network of great people. Debate camp is sort of like learning a new language through immersion–the intense exposure to key concepts and aptitudes yields long-lasting benefits.

Practice

Almost every debater who’s been to summer camp leaves wishing that they had the opportunity to do more practice rounds and get more feedback. In reality, that’s almost always a possibility even when you’re not at camp, even if it takes a little extra effort and initiative. Reach out to debaters in your community and remember that community can be a virtual entity as well. Without the burden of school assignments as prevalent as it will be in September, take advantage of that extra time to improve technique and stay sharp.

Team

This will mean something different to everyone, and that’s OK. Some are already a part of big teams, or at least particularly devoted teams. Others work with smaller or teams or teams with mixed levels of commitment. Still others don’t even have that to work with.

The summer can be a perfect opportunity to increase team cooperation, even if that means jump-starting something that has felt somewhat dormant. When else will you have the chance to really build a team, from the ground up or otherwise?

Debaters who find a way to reach out and work with others are almost always in a much better position to succeed, to say nothing of the value associated with teamwork itself.

Write

It’s not enough to be an avid reader when so much of your job involves communication. That’s a two-way street that requires you to speak, write arguments and articulate those arguments coherently.

There’s almost always something of lasting value you could be writing, whether that’s a framework story you plan to use on occasion or a set of responses to the newest trend. If you can improve your written argument, you can improve the arguments you make in-round.

  • Aansh Shah

    I am a debater from New York and I was looking into debate camp. I wanted to attend VBI debate camp, except it is too far for my parents. Do you have any suggestions for camps that are closer? Thanks in advance!

  • I am a debater from Oklahoma, meaning more classical and a limited amount of styles which I debate against. I follow this page constantly, always checking and looking for new tips and tricks that could help. The issue is that I don't like the standard National Curcuit style for issues that you yourself point out (ie arguments with no impact, and focus on argumentation at the expense of communication), but at the same time, our classical style also has issues (ie lack contention level debate, lack of topical debate and being too focused on "who's running Locke better"). I would like to learn about the styles that get bids to the TOC because it encourages better argumentation and allows me to combat people who like to run kritiques, disads, plans, etc, but it is difficult to attend bid tournaments, out-of-state tournaments (other than Nationals), or out-of-state camps. What is your suggestion for an inexpierenced debater who wants the remain classical in the sense that he wants to focus on the framework and prioritize good communication of arguments over argumentation itself, but at the same time, move towards a style that doesn't lose focus on topic specific arguments, good warrants, and contention-level debates? Are there good websites or books that you suggest or would you suggest actually trying to attend national level tournaments and out-of-state camps? (By the way, big fan of yours.)

    • Lawrence, I think a lot of people find themselves in situations very similar to what you're describing. Local and national circuits alike have their own kinds of baggage, along with their unique benefits. I think having the chance to experience both to some degree is certainly ideal, at least whenever possible.In terms of fitting your style to more or less incorporate the best of both worlds, I think attending a broader array of tournaments and going to camp are your best bets. That can be easier said than done depending on how your team works, what your schedule looks like and all the other logistics involved. I think it also helps to watch rounds online (e.g. rounds from TOC)… especially if you really spend time studying what's happening in those rounds.Feel free to shoot me an email, and I'd be more than happy to talk to you some more about this. You can reach me at babb@victorybriefs.com.