“As a former small school debater myself, I understand how it feels to be feeling as if you have to go above and beyond to face schools that are larger and have more resources. Honestly, work hard and do your best to write frontlines to and block out some suggested answers to your cases (e.g. ask other people how they would respond to your case and then write responses to that) and then take a break to take your mind off debate. Do not let foolish social stigmas like “rep” or how many TOC bids someone has bog you down or cause you to be salty when you get pairings, just be confident. Keep in mind, coaches can write things out for you and tell you which cases to read but they can’t give anyone’s rebuttal speech for them, so always try your best and that will be more than enough to keep up.”
- Maintain healthy relationships, a lot of times it’s easy to make toxic friendships which just made debate seem less fun. This weird thing happens in debate where people feel like they have to be friends with and socialize with EVERYONE in order to gain prominence in the community, even if they don’t like certain people or those people have awful character traits. Do not force yourself to hang around with people you think are problematic or toxic. This seems obvious, but apparently it is easier said than done.
- Take time to yourself for both self-reflection and a peace of mind. Debate cliques and toxicity at tournaments in general is easy to get dragged into, but is also just as easy to distance yourself for a while to focus on yourself. There is a difference between being alone and lonely, and I hold the belief that there is value in selective solitude.
- I will also quote a submission/response from NSDeep Week 4 here:
“How to be a nice person since no one in debate can seem to learn how to :’)I feel this 100%. Often times people get so caught up in this competitive speaking activity that they don’t pay attention to how badly they are treating people which sucks. There is also always the chance that some people are just not really nice in general (even outside debate) and I think that is a separate issue. Here, I feel being a nice person for yourself is most important. One of my favorite bell hooksian concepts are the “politics of accountability” versus the “politics of blame.” Hold people accountable for treating you badly or being rude, if you feel comfortable explaining your feelings or being an active rather than passive bystander. It is really important to continue to just try to be kind in this activity when you can. Call people out for being disrespectful, maybe even be a killjoy but definitely try not to let the negativity of people in the activity personally affect you outside of it. Embracing a love ethic has incredible potential here.”
A. “If you’re holding on to the idea that winning is everything then that is a problem, because that cannot be the only goal. Through your own sense of self-compassion you can become your inner ally instead of your inner enemy. So, it’s about developing self-compassion; self-esteem and confidence aren’t it. Self-compassion is the ability to talk to yourself, just like you talk to a friend you believe in or care about. If you have this, you see that failure is a stepping stone and not something that defines you. This does not mean accept less than your best, but it is really about working towards your mission and vision for your goal. If your goal is to win the debate and get the bid, that’s okay. However, if you don’t, you have to withstand the disappointment rather than letting it destroy you because you want to have a rational perspective about yourself and your experience. Sometimes you’re going to lose when you should’ve won, because the world isn’t fair and that is frustrating. However, you can be willing to take the risk and approach yourself with a strong sense of self compassion.” – Shirley Matthews PhD.
Interested in learning more about this concept? Dr. Shirley Matthews is citing one of her favorite books: The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook: A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength, and Thrive by Kristin Neff, PhD and Christopher Germer, PhD.
B. Make losses or struggles productive! Losing is not easy and really contributes to stress while at debate tournaments. A good way to cope with losses and not just sit around and feel upset or angered is to do redoes or talk with a friend or coach about future ways to improve in those specific instances. Molding your venting and emotions into a way to be better will make every loss or stumble feel a lot less devastating and you will feel a lot better during a tournament.
C. Try changing your mindset. Of course, winning is awesome and feels great and a big part of a competitive activity like debate. However, it is also not the be all, end all. Debate is also a space for you to learn, to grow, and to meet new people, and interact with new ideas. To be perfectly honest, those parts of debate are the ones that will really stay with you. If you can focus on those, all your anxiety and stress will feel a lot less intense and you might even find yourself performing better as I did.
D. It’s ok to cry. I would regularly cry after losses, many times in front of people. I found that I’d get super embarrassed and let these moments affect my whole tournament experience—everyone realizes that debate is intense and emotional. Being anxious about crying just makes things worse, let it out if you need and try to find a place where you feel safe/comfortable.
E. Read over your cases. I read over my cases. I’m usually stressed because I’m not doing well, or I think I’m not doing well so what better way to fix failure than prep? I just read over my cases and discuss my past rounds with my teammates to understand my downfalls.
F. Take breaks – burn out is legitimate and getting involved in other things to balance
my life so that if debate did not go well I could be fulfilled through other activities
G. “Focusing more on the intrinsic reward than extrinsic for debate can be life changing.
I became so involved in bids and TFA/NSDA points that debate seemed to be not as engaging. Focusing on doing the things I wanted to debate about, in the way I wanted to, made it more rewarding as the prep and the debate were rewarding through input not output. We all have experiences where tournaments did not go the way we wanted to and it sucked, but focusing on what you put into the activity makes those instances feel less like you are a disappointment but more that you did your best, and still got something out of it despite not advancing, placing, or doing as well as intended/hoped.”
H. Have a support system. Some of the people I met in debate are still my close friends
and having them to lean on has made a huge difference for me.
I. Focus on why you like debate. I found enjoying the academics and intellectual exercise of debate made it more fun than being concerned with winning all the time, and I stopped getting so nervous (and as a result I won more rounds).
J. Sometimes, tune out debate drama, rankings, etc. It’s easy to get stuck in the abyss of “who won what” and how good everyone is and who has a bid and who’s better or worse than you. Sometimes, it’s good to take a break from all of that and just enjoy debate for the fun it is.