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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 8:33 pm 
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Hi guys. This is my first year of debate coaching, and although I'm an alumni, I'm trying to figure out how to effectively coach a winning club. Any suggestions/comments would be appreciated.
Thanks!


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 9:29 pm 
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DebateCoach94 wrote:
Hi guys. This is my first year of debate coaching, and although I'm an alumni, I'm trying to figure out how to effectively coach a winning club. Any suggestions/comments would be appreciated.
Thanks!


Well the first obligatory thing I have to say stop worrying about WINNING.
If you teach the right skills, the kids work hard, they perform to the best of their ability and you coach to the best of your ability they still might not WIN so then what?

OK so I'll get off the soapbox and assume you understand all that and just worded your question poorly.

Many factors go into determining whether or not you will have a winning club and we would need a lot more info to see where best to focus your coaching efforts.

Is this a new club or established club? How are students coming in genuine interest or parents dragging them?

As a coach your job is to come up with a game plan (teach basics, prepare for debates, expose to live debate rounds, provide feedback, teach areas identified as weaknesses, etc, etc.) then execute that game plan.

There are volumes I suppose dedicated to the subject.

Maybe focus your question better so we can focus a better answer.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 4:40 am 
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Absolutely. Thank you so much for responding. There are a few problems I'm facing:

First, some of the students actually don't want to do debate, but their parents force them to. How can I kindle the students' interest so that they themselves enjoy and want to do debate? Is this just a thing that takes time or is there something I'm doing wrong?

Second, this is a fairly new club, so trying to teach the parents is another challenge. So far, I've been recruiting the parents as timers, so they can observe the debate and speech rounds. Any suggestions on specific things I should discuss with the parents?

Third, I schedule specific times for us as a club to watch videos of different national ranked speakers and debaters. I also point out helpful hints for my debaters (filler words, annoying habits, clear and precise points, etc.) and discuss the importance aspects of debate (stock issues and the importance, logical fallacies and the way to identify them, etc.). What else should I be discussing for first year debaters?

Thank you so much! :)


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 5:13 pm 
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Even if you don't actually use it as a textbook, it might be a good idea to just look at the table of contents of a few debate textbooks to see what sorts of things they cover. I loosely based some of our club's discussions on Christy Shipe's debate textbook, and that seemed to work pretty well.

Oh, and an absolute essential that must be covered that a lot of people ignore... make sure your students know exactly what's going to happen at a tournament. They should know what to expect and do from about a week before the tournament (prepping, printing, and organizing) to the tournament itself (what to do outside of rounds, in round etiquette, dealing with breaking/not breaking it) to several days after the tournament (analyzing ballots, integrating critiques, etc.). That will make their tournament infinitely better. I know that I felt much better about my first tournament because... if nothing else, I knew exactly how to what I was supposed to be doing when I walked into a competition room. So please, please, please make sure everyone at your club knows how tournaments work.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2012 12:34 am 
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DebateCoach94 wrote:
Absolutely. Thank you so much for responding. There are a few problems I'm facing:

First, some of the students actually don't want to do debate, but their parents force them to. How can I kindle the students' interest so that they themselves enjoy and want to do debate? Is this just a thing that takes time or is there something I'm doing wrong?

Second, this is a fairly new club, so trying to teach the parents is another challenge. So far, I've been recruiting the parents as timers, so they can observe the debate and speech rounds. Any suggestions on specific things I should discuss with the parents?

Third, I schedule specific times for us as a club to watch videos of different national ranked speakers and debaters. I also point out helpful hints for my debaters (filler words, annoying habits, clear and precise points, etc.) and discuss the importance aspects of debate (stock issues and the importance, logical fallacies and the way to identify them, etc.). What else should I be discussing for first year debaters?

Thank you so much! :)


It is always hard when kids don't want to be there and the parents are making them come but if you think about it for most kids unless you are 16 and have a car if your parents are not interested you would not be there. Getting students interested does take time, try and have them do as many practice rounds as possible so they are comfortable with the process, once they get over those concerns the will at least feel comfortable and not so nervous. You can always try and make things fun with different activities jeopardy quizzes, silly rounds (pick a fun topic, use short times and let them have fun).

Parents will really get up to speed after their first tournament once they see everything first hand and are armed with a little knowledge. Parents sound like they are committed (which is not always the case) just make sure they stay involved and they should start judging as well, it helps them understand what judges are looking for. For speeches I had parents everyday pick a random topic give their kid 2 mins prep time, give a 5 min speech and 3 mins feedback every day. It's only ten minutes of homework but it forces them to get used to getting up, thinking and speaking everyday.

As much as students hate it and you want to do something different following the outline from a textbook is not a bad idea whether it is Christy Shipe or Vance Trefethen find something easy to follow and use, I'd probably make them get the book as a resource. While videos are OK, live rounds are best the season is in full swing now so most of this stuff won't really apply until next year. Finally really push the kids to go to a debate camp it will help a lot.

Good luck and keep asking questions that is also a great way for you to improve if you are not sure about specific exercises, drills, techniques for teaching.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2012 12:53 am 
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My club ended up doing well because we DIDN'T have a lot of coaching. In fact, we received barely any coaching. I always laugh at kids who are like "yeah my only bad year was my novice year, but that doesn't count because I didn't get any coaching" because our club's best year was arguably the year we were all novices (that year, every team broke at least once with either 5-1/6-0 or won an outround... and the first seed at nationals was a novice team from our club) and had zero coaching.

Basically, we got thrown into NCFCA with the bare minimum -- we didn't even know you had to give the other team your case in the 1AC. You figure it out pretty fast. More importantly, your arguments become YOURS. You're not running CAF because your coach tells you it's good and you're not really sure why but it sounds good to you. You're running CAF because you know it's right. Your 2AC responses are your own. You found neg articles yourself. And the theory you run isn't theory you run because some random coach told you to run it. It's theory you run because you believe it's right. Most of the bad theory that happens in our region is run because coaches tell their kids to run it and the kids just dogmatically follow the advice.

Why does this matter? Because your coach won't be able to help you when someone pulls a new squirrel. Or when someone runs a CP that you weren't ready for. Being spoon-fed only gets you so far. And sadly, spoon-feeding is all too common in NCFCA.

Once you get the excitement, the passion, the fuel, the rest follows. It makes sense to go to a debate camp and get coaching on more advanced strategy and theory. I'm not saying all coaching is bad at all levels. But for novices, the key is to get them excited. Let's be real - reading a debate textbook is not going to make them excited. Neither is watching a DVD. My club tried it (the only instance of "coaching" we got novice year), and almost everyone dropped out of debate before going to a single round robin.

This isn't an argument against coaching. After all, what works varies from club to club. Our year, most of the kids were over 16 and really interested in debate. A few weren't -- but they quickly warmed up. Going 2-4 at a round robin gives a spark that no debate textbook ever could. And obviously, this model doesn't work for everyone. This year, we have a lot more younger novices, and it makes sense to do more coaching. But even then, we have to be careful to make sure that we're not doing everything for them.

But honestly? The main problem I've seen in our region isn't too little coaching. It's too much. (usually, it's parents/alumni living vicariously through debaters who are actually much better than they are :P)

And, for the record, this isn't an attack on anyone on this thread! There are definitely coaches out there with good intentions, and DEFINITELY coaches out there who make their kids better independent debaters. There are a ton of coaches in our region that I highly respect.

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Andrew Min
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Arete Speech & Debate, NCFCA, Class of 2011


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2012 2:06 am 
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andrewmin wrote:
Once you get the excitement, the passion, the fuel, the rest follows. It makes sense to go to a debate camp and get coaching on more advanced strategy and theory. I'm not saying all coaching is bad at all levels. But for novices, the key is to get them excited. Let's be real - reading a debate textbook is not going to make them excited. Neither is watching a DVD. My club tried it (the only instance of "coaching" we got novice year), and almost everyone dropped out of debate before going to a single round robin.

I agree with everything that you said. One thing I might add is that I think it's important for students to see examples of really excellent debating. Either at tournaments, from older people in the club, or videos, but I think that's important.

My first year, I got a lot of inspiration from the team in my club who taught me. My second year, I was getting a little irritated with debate because I wasn't doing very well, but then I saw a really outstanding debater, and he also inspired me to keep trying.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2012 2:18 pm 
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Dr_Pepper wrote:
andrewmin wrote:
Once you get the excitement, the passion, the fuel, the rest follows. It makes sense to go to a debate camp and get coaching on more advanced strategy and theory. I'm not saying all coaching is bad at all levels. But for novices, the key is to get them excited. Let's be real - reading a debate textbook is not going to make them excited. Neither is watching a DVD. My club tried it (the only instance of "coaching" we got novice year), and almost everyone dropped out of debate before going to a single round robin.

I agree with everything that you said. One thing I might add is that I think it's important for students to see examples of really excellent debating. Either at tournaments, from older people in the club, or videos, but I think that's important.

My first year, I got a lot of inspiration from the team in my club who taught me. My second year, I was getting a little irritated with debate because I wasn't doing very well, but then I saw a really outstanding debater, and he also inspired me to keep trying.


I definitely agree. I think though it makes more sense for that to be outrounds at a tournament than a video... realistically, no one except the most dedicated watches videos of debate rounds. Even when I was most serious, I had to force myself to watch videos (and that just so I could get other 1ACs flowed).

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Andrew Min
ahmin@princeton.edu
Arete Speech & Debate, NCFCA, Class of 2011


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2012 5:56 pm 
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Something I've seen work well a few times over the years: see if you can get a more established club to mentor yours. If you have connections with another club, or one of your parents or kids does, then float to them the suggestion that they pass along some of their blessing by putting a modest offering of their time and experience into helping your club grow. If possible, pick a nearby club that'll attend several of the same tournaments on your schedule. Have at least one meal together, possibly do morning devotions together, and encourage your club members to talk to theirs between rounds, when they're not otherwise occupied. Then, between tournaments, you might do a reasonably short part of your club meeting via Skype or other net conference, having one of their most successful competitors explain something about debate and take questions, or just debrief the debaters on things they're not understanding.

To be clear, I'm not calling this a replacement for your coaching; I'm saying it's a complement. I've been around debate for a billion years, and there are things my debaters learn best from hearing me explain it, or doing a one-on-one practice session with me. But there are other things that they learn best from peers, and I'm simply no substitute. When your club is established, then your experienced debaters can mentor your newcomers. But for now, you might check out whether you can get a transfusion from an entirely separate club.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:04 am 
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Personally as someone that debates/d highschool and college, coached HS and JHS and taught at camps, I'd say there is nothing wrong with choosing winning as your goal. Convincing kids to get involved for debate because its great education or makes them closer to God will only go so far and that's probably not very far. That's the end goal but its usually not what gets kids involved in the first place.

That being said I'd focus on the kids who want to be there. If that means your club will be smaller, then make it smaller. If your club is entirely made of kids who are forced to be there, create incentives. Make them integrated with the community, make them make friends. This will increase their desire to win and thus work.

I also agree on hooking up with a club that is more established. See if you can hustle up some money and pay someone to lecture.

The next is the most important. Debate constantly. Period. That is how we built up our club. Incessant practice and work.

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"It is not possible to choose between injustice and disorder. They are synonyms." -- Nicolás Gómez Dávila

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2013 7:44 pm 
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Hi! I haven't been on the forums in ages, but your post caught my attention. There's definitely been some really great suggestions thrown out there. I think there are some, however, that really worked for us that haven't been discussed yet. So in the hopes that this will still be helpful to you, I'll throw my oar into the waters. ;)

DebateCoach94 wrote:
First, some of the students actually don't want to do debate, but their parents force them to. How can I kindle the students' interest so that they themselves enjoy and want to do debate? Is this just a thing that takes time or is there something I'm doing wrong?


Dealing with students who don't want to be there is probably the worst for a coach who loves debate. What I figured out though, is that no one likes to lose. Especially not to nerdy debaters who are smooth speakers. Nothing is more frustrating for a novice who hates debate, other than, of course, debate. ;)

Three things.

1. Make it fun.
If it's boring, admit that it's boring, but then find something that's cool/relevant about it. Make it real for them. Sometimes, movies are very helpful. Just clips, not the whole thing, naturally. We did a "logic week" (a la shark week) where there was a daily e-mail on the fallacy shark of the day, a shark-related example of it, and then the reminder that in club, there will be a quiz. Think of it as impacting to a judge who has no clue what's going on, and is bored silly. You just have more resources with which to drive home your point.
Also, make them MOVE. The more physically involved they have to be, the more they're likely to remember it. When we taught CX strategies, I always had my "haters" be part of the CX food chain. When we did Effects-Topicality, we always did human illustrations so they wouldn't forget. I'd collect a group of about five volunteers and then say: "I am the affirmative team. I say that Bobby [bobby stands next to me], will make a face at Suzy [standing next to Bobby] who will then step on Jimmy's toe [Jimmy should make a show of hollering] and while Jimmy is waving his arms, a great wind is created that will blow our troops away from SK."

Also, be sure to let them play with fun resolutions before making them jump into a serious topic. They learn to apply stock issues and structure so much better when they're not worried about knowing something about a serious topic that requires a lot of work. Let them pick a goofy resolution. (Resolved: We should mine the moon for cheese.)

2. Strategy is more important than evidence
For a TP alumnus-turned-coach, that's probably the hardest concept to grasp when coaching. Just because you and your partner had the "rolling thunder" moniker due to your huge rolling evidence suitcases and obssessive need to brief every case on the planet does not mean that your students will love it too. So the question is: when they don't love research, what skills are necessary? Stick with strategy. Those are the life-skills that sold your parents on debate to begin with. Teach them CX techniques. Teach them how to build a solid, focused Affirmative then how to play offensive Affirmative. How to pick apart a case when they don't have evidence. None of those techniques require serious topics. They'll especially appreciate the last strategy. Teach them what to question about a 1AC. Using the Socratic method is always the best way to encourage them to think and practice communicating what they're thinking about. Use your own back-ground to turn smart-alec answers into something useful.

I think it's also important that you're NOT constantly debating. Mhmm. NOT. :shock:
There are lots of teams and clubs who believe like Rebel up there that incessant practice gets results. I vehemently disagree. I believe that practice makes permanent, not perfect. So, whole round practice should probably be once or twice a month. In the meantime, practice strategy piecemeal.
For example: Focus on delivering a good 1NC. Read the tags of a 1AC, have everyone flow it, and then have everyone practice giving a 4 minute 1NR. Sans evidence with a good solid opener and closer. Even if they're not the 1N, have them practice anyway. Call it "partner appreciation day." ;)


3. Engage
Engage them with fun!
Sometimes, we alumnus forget that for some people, all life is not debate. When you get them into serious waters, remind them that it's ok not to take themselves too seriously. Challenge them to make funny things relevant. Things like Princess Bride quotes (never get involved in a land war in Asia??) or Chuck Norris jokes: "Judge, we believe that troops may be withdrawn from SK/Afghanistan/Japan - but only if they promise to replace the troops with Chuck Norris. Otherwise, we have xyz DAs...
Engage them by using what they know.
During the first year, the "debate is dumb" attitude is exaccerbated because they're scared and overwhelmed with what they don't know. Make them comfortable with the concept (engage them and make them communicate what they think) and they'll be a lot more interested in learning what you have to teach them. After their first tournament, they'll also be a lot more interested in research.


DebateCoach94 wrote:
Second, this is a fairly new club, so trying to teach the parents is another challenge. So far, I've been recruiting the parents as timers, so they can observe the debate and speech rounds. Any suggestions on specific things I should discuss with the parents?


Unless you're trying to train the parents to be coaches, not really. But the really important stuff usually deals with the partnership issues. So again, three things:

1. Goals
Ask your parents to identify what their top three goals are for their student. Are we doing this for academic only purposes? Are we trying to attend two or more tournaments? Make nationals? Do we just want to know how to talk right? (Seriously. I've heard this one before. See avatar.)

2. Tournaments
Give your parents a touranment schedule. Explain the typical cost, the benefits, and the unbridled excitement a tournament presents. Ask your parents to ponder how their student will get there, who their student will partner with, and the supplies that their student will need outside the usual. For first years, DEFINITELY talk about dress code.

3. Partnerships
Parents need to know that their children will be expected to have partners. They need to talk with other parents to find parents who have similar goals. Then, they'll need your help to suggest good pairings. Usually, you'll want to make sure that you can put together students who complement each other's personalities (not likes/dislikes). However, for students who don't want to be there, pairing them with someone they can have fun with is a good way to ease them into debate.

If your club plans on hosting a tournament, that's another story entirely. ;)



DebateCoach94 wrote:
Third, I schedule specific times for us as a club to watch videos of different national ranked speakers and debaters. I also point out helpful hints for my debaters (filler words, annoying habits, clear and precise points, etc.) and discuss the importance aspects of debate (stock issues and the importance, logical fallacies and the way to identify them, etc.). What else should I be discussing for first year debaters?


Do the students get to point out what they think is wrong? Besides the fact that it's a debate round? ;) For students that don't want to be there, the key is to make them do the thinking. Your goal is to guide them to the answers, not give it to them. Otherwise, they'll be bored, disengaged, and they'll walk away remembering that even national debaters chew gum by accident.

Debate is a VERY common sense exercise. They (even first-year 12-year-olds) should be able to look at the speech segment and figure out what went wrong (or right) with a little prompting. Ask them things like: "Did this make sense to you? What just happened here? When the smart one (there is always one) says "they gave a speech," :roll: don't let it bug you. Engage the imp and ask them what the speechifier speeched about. ;) Why did they bring that argument up? What's the point of this speech in the round? What would you have voted on?" Take it from there based on their answers. Also, if you're not already doing this, I'd have them practice their flowing.

If they survive the first year, the ones who didn't want to be there initially, often turn into the most marvelous little debaters in their second year, or even by the end of their first year. They might still not really want to debate, but they'll know what's going on, they'll be comfortable with the concepts, and more open to research.

I've been a coach for the last 9 years and led my own club for 3 years. During those 3 years, I sent 80% (out of 3 teams, 6 teams, and 10 teams, respectively) or more of my club to nationals each year. I also taught for 3 years at PHC's debate camp as a senior instructor, and hosted/guest taught at 9 different camps in TX and OK over the last seven years.
Outside of debate, I've taught 5th and 8th grade over the last two years.
In all this time, I've had lots of experience with students who "don't want to be there." In the end, if they're engaged and encouraged to express their opinions (messy at first, then correct it as you go along), they'll cross over. :)


Anyway, hope all that helps.

I wish you and your club the best! :)

_________________
I have sometimes believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast...


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 30, 2013 7:48 pm 
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As a student in an established club that's been doing fairly well, I just wanted to say that the most important thing my coach has done for me is probably not in his theory and speaking tips (although those are absolutely fantastic. Best coach ever. :)). Rather, it is in his support and the focus he brings to the group.
He is there to answer questions when I have them... even though our club is far larger than it has been in years past and he's rather busy. And I kid you not, he is the best encourager on this planet. That stems from loving the kids in the group.
But the mindset he has put into our club is what brings it all together: that this activity is ultimately about glorifying God; that if we are not glorifying Him we are not debating for the correct reasons; that the skills and lessons learned are far more important than the competition.
// $.02. :)

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