Copied from Top 10 National Circuit Thread
Tournaments Are Good
Having just completed a four-year cycle building a national travel policy debate program on the West Coast, I offer the following to Justin and the Berkeley Prep Program.
First, and somewhat contrary to the lovely Mrs. Bearden’s advice, I would encourage you to attend as many National Circuit Tournaments as you can possibly afford, CONSISTENT WITH YOUR SQUAD MEMBERS GETTING A’s IN ALL THEIR CLASSES. Every below listed event (and many, many others in which Saints was not able to participate) are well worth attending. However, travel is (a) expensive; ( tiring; and © taxing on your life and the lives of your families.
By far, one of the most important days in many of your high school lives will be May 1 of your senior year, the day that you notify the college or university of your choice concerning your decision to attend their campus for college. In the grand scheme of things, GETTING GRADES is the primary factor that will afford you the chance to make a May 1st decision that best suits your needs and desires. However, the rich rewards of competing in policy debate, engaging in critical thought and meeting other bright, articulate young people are available to you at myriad places in many locations. In my view, the more tournaments you attend, the more quality rounds you get, the more diverse styles and judges you see . . . the better. So long, however, as you GET GRADES and do not lose sight of your entire high school experience, and of the chance to also spend quality weekends, too, with your families.
Second, I encourage you to review Jim Schultz’s posts carefully. Coming from Florida, Jim’s experience and advice should be extremely helpful to you as you and your squad plan your breakout year on the National Circuit.
Third, Mrs. Bearden is absolutely spot on when she writes that “best” or “top 10” begs a more fundamental question: Best at what? Everything from cost, to competition, to tab room, to quality of judging, to outside “learning-fun experiences” is really implicated by the question you have asked. Considering all of these factors, however, here is a list of events from which you can choose as you plan your year.
With those three caveats in mind, and limiting my answer only to TOC Bid or other related events that Saints attended (for example, we did not go to (but I wish we had) Michigan, New Trier, Blake, the Florida Tournaments, Alta, Whitman, Gonzaga, Newburg Free, Grapevine and many others), here are some tournaments to plan for, and reasons why, if my son were doing this again, I’d encourage him to compete at these tournaments once or twice or three times more.
THE TOC: Attending really is worth the chase. Succeeding at the most competitive and grueling qualification process truly makes attending the TOC “worth the effort to get there.” In Dr. Hingstman, Professors Mancuso, Solt and Kall and Ms. Dzuris, you have the single best tab room (fair, honest, efficient) that anyone could hope to see, anywhere. The competition is outstanding in every round, and Dr. Patterson is a wonderful and gracious host.
MBA: Hospitality, competition, tournament hotel, facilities and fairness make this event wonderfully memorable for student and coach alike. Though as Zach (one of the two brilliant B’s in GDS BB) explains, this is a “by invitation” event reserved only for one team from each school and missing MBA itself, there is no question that if you break at MBA, you deserve a bid, and if you go deep into elims, you are one of the best teams in the country. The quality of judging, the level of competition and the remarkable elegance and thoughtfulness of the host parents and staff make this tournament a must attend.
Plus, many, many big time college debate programs have their head coaches come to MBA just to scout who they might want to offer a scholarship.
USC RR-REDLANDS [December 17-19, or so depending on which days are Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of that week]: Regardless of where in the country you come from, this is a wintertime tournament(s) experience not to miss. The Golden West Tournament at Redlands has been producing champions since 1971, and rounds 4-7 at Redlands (particularly Round 7) are some of the toughest, most intense rounds you will ever debate. If you are able to mix in the USC RR, which is larger than most RR’s and is truly a well-run and well-judged event, then you can get maximum bang for the buck at the end of your winter semester, see Disneyland, enjoy some sunshine and visit two of the most beautiful college campuses you will ever see. Once again, the tab rooms, the quality of the judging and the level of competition at these tournaments make them special events and well worth attending.
GEORGETOWN DAY SCHOOL: Mr. Gentile knows how to run a tournament. His students, and their parents, are all helpful and accommodating. Being in Georgetown, offering 7 rounds and getting plenty of early attendance from high quality national programs who bring smart, sophisticated judges, competing at GDS gives you an idea early in the year where you stand, and what arguments you will need to prepare for as the year progresses. If you can arrange housing with the GDS students, the tournament is extremely cost effective and regardless of whether they use the High School or the Middle School, this tournament is one of the best you will ever attend.
BERKELEY-HARVARD: [bOTH ON PRESIDENTS DAY WEEKEND IN FEB] GO TO ONE OF THESE TOURNAMENTS. In alternating years, GO TO THE OTHER. Big (huge), efficiently run, quality competition, outstanding judging, marvelous campuses, top flight administrations and two of the best college debate programs (and staffs) in the nation, these tournaments make sense for anyone thinking about applying to, or attending, either Berkeley or Harvard. Besides, a full-service tournament (with IE’s and LD), should appeal to your speech and debate team members, too. If you want to see where you stack up against the world (not necessarily the TOC World), these tournaments, because of their size and national draws, should be put at the top of your list of “to-go-to’s.” Once again, if you can also qualify for the California Round Robin (at College Prep) or the Harvard RR, GO and do these tournaments because the round robin’s so well prepare you for success for the rest of the tournament year, and the judging critiques that you receive will help you improve both the quality of your arguments and the presentation of your positions. On a limited budget, and if you have room for just one National Tournament, do BERKELEY or HARVARD.
WAKE FOREST-GREENHILL: GO TO ONE OF THESE TOURNAMENTS. In alternating years, GO TO THE OTHER. The Wake Tournament is class personified. The competition is excellent, and the judging is really pretty good, as well. The tab room and tournament administration are as accomplished as any in the nation, and using the high school for the prelims is a real plus since everything is on one floor and you still get to see the beautiful Wake Forest campus on elim day. GREENHILL is a superb event as well. The campus and tournament hotel are in close proximity to one another, and the level of competition is remarkable. The hospitality of the tournament parents and staff is outstanding, and here, too, if you can get housing with Greenhill Debaters (or other Dallas-area squads), the price of attending drops dramatically. Elims at Greenhill are as tough as Elims anywhere, but securing that first bid at either WAKE or GREENHILL sure makes the year a whole lot easier.
THE BARKLEY FORUM-EMORY: What is not to like? The Emory staff and squad are gracious, extremely professional and very, very successful. Though the Forum is large, using the Grady HS campus last year made things really, really easy. Elim panels are as good as judging gets, unless you make the Finals in which case the panel is as diverse as one could want. If you are fortunate enough to combine the Forum with a place at the PACE ROUND ROBIN, consider yourself fortunate indeed because Pace Academy is beautiful, the RR is intense, yet a whole lot of fun, and the extra rounds are really, really helpful in January.
THE GLENBROOKS: Particularly if you have a JV or Novice squad who would like to see where they stand in relation to their age-level competition early in the year, THE GLENBROOKS is a must tournament to attend. The Tournament Hotel is awesome, particularly on Elim day, and the Tournament itself is very, very special. For such a large tournament, judging is excellent, but the students at GBS and GBN, and their parents really go out of their way to make you feel at home. The legacy and traditions of the tournament have been carried on so very well by the new generation of coaches at GBS and GBN that going to Chicago in November should be an early airline ticket buy, once they tell you your application to enter has been approved.
THE OHIO VALLEY: This tournament at the University of Kentucky is a winner both because of the types of teams you will meet, and because of the location and efficiency of the way the event is run. Kind of like a mini-TOC, the OHIO VALLEY is easy to get to and if you do qualify for the TOC, heading to OHIO VALLEY will give you a real comfortable feel for the physical dynamics of what will be coming in May.
ST. MARKS: [uSUALLY 3rd WEEKEND IN OCTOBER] Great campus, wonderful competition, top notch tournament hotel and an Octos bid make ST MARKS worth the money if you need an early season test of where you stand in relation to national competition. Mr. Mahoney has hosted CEDA Nationals and been a part of many great events, and if Professor Lain, Mr. Lingle and Mr. Huston are helping out in the tab room, this Tournament is both a tough and fair test of national names and newcomers alike. Like MBA, this Tournament provides students with outstanding access to college debate coaches, and gives those coaches who attend a great opportunity to see who is out there for recruiting purposes.
USC: [FIRST WEEKEND IN NOVEMBER] Quality people who run a quality Tournament with a really spectacular campus and an awesome tournament hotel, attending the USC Tournament is special, particularly if you also have a JV Team. Being run the same weekend as Michigan (which everyone who I trust tells me is also a GREAT tournament to go to) is the only downside to USC. However, having seen first hand how fair, how prompt and how well USC is run, even though this is a split weekend, the results at USC in early November provide a real foreshadowing of national out rounds at later TOC events.
LEXINGTON: Nothing says “great tournament” like heading from California or Florida to Massachusetts in the dead of winter, but the family friendly and outstandingly well-run LEXINGTON HS TOURNAMENT would make me want to face the blizzards and frozen windshields yet again. One real plus to LEX is the housing with LEX families. Another is the sightseeing possibilities in the New England area. A third is the diversity of those teams in attendance which exposes judges and debaters to really advanced critical and performance rounds. The LEX families who host students, the food they supply and the quality of the judging pool makes this a really first rate event.
STANFORD: This tournament is really, really strong, particularly in JV, and the Varsity Policy portion (a quarters bid) of the Tournament has a judging pool and a slate of competitive teams entered that any tournament would envy. Though a big tournament, the campus gives the event a small-school feel, and having campus food services close by and marvelous tournament hotel (though somewhat distant) make STANFORD a really first rate event. Again, having multiple IE’s, LD and both a JV and Varsity Policy division are a plus if your school would like to offer both speech and debate people a chance to compete against national quality competition.
Go to LONG BEACH early and HARKER late. LONG BEACH is really big, but if you want to get a sense of what the cutting edge arguments will be in October and November, going to LONG BEACH early in the year is really helpful for your argumentation development. Tough to find a place where elim panels are as “diverse” as Long Beach, my theory is that if a team can do well at Long Beach, they can do very, very well at NCFL’s and NFL’s, too.
HARKER is new, but I would go every year to this tournament, and if you are on the West Coast, or in the Western Region, Dr. B is a first-rate host and a quality, quality teacher. As with LEX, GDS, GLENBROOKS, MBA and ST. MARKS, the parents and students at Harker really help out in making your tournament experience a weekend well spent.
NON TOC-BID BUT NATIONAL TOURNAMENT EVENTS:
NORTHWESTERN: Whether it is the Juniors RR, or the National Invitational Tournament, even though Northwestern is a non-TOC Bid Tournament, this event is worth the trip. The University is beautiful, the competition is fierce and the NU staff and debaters are truly wonderful people from whom much can be learned. If you have qualified for the TOC, you GOTTA GO to the NIT, if only to see what arguments may be on the horizon. If you are a younger debater in need of a learning experience, debate at the NIT and watch the elim rounds and you will learn so, so much about how to debate.
THE MEADOWS: [THIRD WEEKEND IN SEPTEMBER] What happens in Vegas . . . well, you can guess the rest. This Tournament is really, really fun, and three of the top five teams last year went 4-3 at the TOC or better. If this tournament gets a bid . . . go [YIPPEEE, IT DID]; even if it does not, and you want a marvelous tournament experience in a fun location . . . go.
First, GET GRADES.
Second, HAVE A QUALITY OF LIFE that you enjoy.
Third, go to as MANY Tournaments as you can possibly afford to attend, subject to items 1 and 2, above.
Finally, National TOC debating is not the only way that you can benefit from your participation in this activity. Go to local, regional and state tournaments and qualifiers. Much has been posted by others who really care about this activity concerning judge adaptation, enhancing speaking skills and the joy of learning about a topic that (at least for the past 4-years) has had immediate relevance and importance to the world around you.
However, for as many tournaments as some people are fortunate to attend in their careers, after 4 short (even though it may not seem short to you who are going through it) years, your career is over. In no other activity, however, do you get the chance to visit so many wonderful places, meet so many bright, giving and intelligent individuals and COMPETE in an intellectual activity that requires stamina, strategy and a desire to win, and learn about the great issues of our time. Good luck to all of you in picking tournaments to attend. My apologies for leaving any tournament out, but the world of TOC National Circuit debate is a big, wide world and the more you can sample of it, the better you will become for having done as much sampling as you can possibly afford. . . provided you get good grades.