I began recording my debate rounds during my junior year of high school. For most of the year, I attempted to record every debate I was in at a national level tournament. I did this for personal gain; I found that recording my rounds was a great resource for self-improvement. Having recordings of my debates enabled me to sit down and reflect on my debates, improving my rebuttal redos and allowing me to observe small things like gestures and posture or filler words that I should eliminate from my speeches.
Recordings of my rounds proved to be the most valuable when I came out of a round where I was unsure about the decision or what happened in the round. I could sit down and see if I really did extend that argument or if my opponent had actually answered that pre-standard. Many judges allowed me to record their RFDs, which was a valuable tool for communicating what happened in the round to my coach.
In my senior year, I started to post these rounds online. I did this for a couple reasons. First, I felt that I had reached a level of national competitiveness where my rounds were worth uploading for others to see. My benchmark for this was reaching outrounds at TOC tournaments or hitting really good debaters. Second, I thought it would be a good way to increase the accessibility to the national circuit.
I had always thought that the most valuable educational resource I had access to as a debater was video recordings of debate rounds. They allowed me to have a glimpse of what national circuit debate was like and witness rounds at the highest level, rounds which I was not able to witness in person. Additionally, watching rounds from the current topic allowed me to see how debates were playing out with common issues and prepare accordingly.
Instructors at camps often use videos of debate rounds to illustrate certain lessons by breaking down the round. The ability to pause and rewind is critical and not something you can do even when you are fortunate enough to be there for the actual round. Recordings of debates can also be used for a number of self-directed drills, such as flowing and refutation drills.
There are quite a few rounds online, which seems to solve the concern about having videos of rounds to do flowing drills and such. However, there has been a decline in the recording and uploading of debate rounds since I was a debater. I find this odd, as technology has only improved and recording technology is cheaper and more available than ever.
Almost every laptop or smartphone has the ability to make an audio recording, which is sufficient for debaters who wish to record their rounds for personal purposes. A high definition camcorder can be easily had, brand new, for under $200. YouTube and Vimeo are two of the most popular video hosting services which offer free hosting of high definition content.
If you do decide to record your rounds, consider a couple things. First, ALWAYS ask for permission from both your opponent and the judge. Specify whether you intend to use the recording for personal reasons or whether you might upload it online. Maybe you’re not sure whether you want to upload the round and will decide based on your performance in the round. That’s okay; the idea is that you should get explicit consent from everyone involved. Your opponent might even be interested in obtaining a copy of the recording. Second, I suggest that you always attempt to film RFDs. Unfortunately, many of the rounds online lack recordings of RFDs, which detracts from our understanding of the round. Of course, many judges will not be okay with their RFD being recorded and/or uploaded online. That’s fine; just ask. If someone’s not cool with it, don’t make a fuss about it and move on.
Every debater should record his or her rounds. It is a powerful educational tool for yourself and for others. We all like to talk about what we can do to improve access to debate and the national circuit, and I think that recording and uploading rounds is one of the best ways that debaters can do something to improve access.
Amyn Kassam participated in LD debate for four years at Dulles High School. He attends the University of Texas at Austin where he studies philosophy and anthropology. He has worked at camps such as NDF and TDC.