Hi all, I wanted to echo congrats to all the qualifiers. Iâ€™ve had my own fair share of frustration with this system (that I have both been benefited by as well as let down by), but Iâ€™m also relieved that our state continually does well at nationals and am genuinely happy and excited to see everyone represent Kansas this year
I think the main source of the antagonism is from a fundamental disagreement in what we believe to be the purpose of this activity, so obviously we will have differing opinions on what we perceive to be best for it.
However, even with that said, the main issue with the NFL qualifiers, in my opinion, seems to be its [consistent] inconsistency in what it rewards (regardless of which style of debate you advocate). This stems largely from a judging pool that is very unpredictable and that includes an extremely wide range of judges in terms of experience.
While Iâ€™d be a strong advocate of MPJ or even a coach voting system that elects a set of â€œfirst roundâ€ teams (this was suggested during last yearâ€™s post-NFL qualifier discussion), there are some structural barriers from national rules. I wanted to present an alternative solution that may reduce the extent of the problem while avoiding the red tape from national NFL rules:
Cap entries. NFL has the 4 team limit, but there are no rules preventing schools from sending less. The methods for this could be 1) each school can only send their top 2 teams (in recent history, I donâ€™t recall an instance where the top 3 or 4 finishers at the qualifier were from the same school) or 2) the KS coaches/community create a â€œnon-officialâ€ requirement for teams to attend the qualifier (e.g. DCI qualification).
The only disadvantage to this idea is that it reduces the number of qualifiers in most cases from 3 to 2, but this would resolve instances where schools simply complete the competition pool by sending maximum teams possible, which also necessitates dilution of the judging pool with 2 more judges for each of those teams. It should be noted that I honestly think this is a solution to the problem and that I actually am disincentivized to say this as it would mean that I probably would not have qualified my junior year. It may, however, resolve Amandaâ€™s dissatisfaction after the qualifiers when she debated. Nonetheless, I think qualifying 2 teams with a more desirable judging pool would be preferred over qualifying 3 teams where the process is more unpredictable (especially if the reduced competition pool resulted in substantially reducing desperate attempts to recruit non-experienced parents to fulfill judging requirements for the large pool). Iâ€™m interested in hearing everyoneâ€™s thoughts on this.
On some other portions of this discussion:
Changing NFL qualifier dates â€“ I think this is also a very reasonable solution that resolves the issue of desirable judges being overstretched on the same weekend. Would moving qualifiers to after the state tournament conflict with KSHSAA rules? If not, that is a plausible option. If it does conflict, the other option would be spreading the qualifiers throughout the â€œregular season,â€ but this would conflict with other DCI tournaments and potentially exacerbate another issue that is being discussed on the bidtracker about too many qualifiers if the top teams from a district donâ€™t attend a bid tournament for 5 weekends.
Freshman judges â€“ I think theyâ€™re still more experienced and can decide more objectively than parents who are new to the activity. Amanda raises an important issue, but Iâ€™m not sure that her concerns are about the nature of being a freshman or simply from certain relationships or biases that would still exist for sophomores and older. If a judge feels uncomfortable about objectively judging a certain round, that can be easily fixed, but I donâ€™t think it justifies eliminating all freshman from the pool (e.g. Sean Duff who was used as an example above).
Modeling the national tournament â€“ From my own experience, I only had flow rounds at nationals, especially in rounds 7-10 (including 2 non-traditional/critical debates). Even while there exists a pool ranging from college debaters to judges who prefer slow rounds, there were not any "non-experienced parents" from what I saw at least. It is certainly not a â€œlayâ€ tournament, and recent finalists who have also been teams with the most TOC bids are a good indicator of this (Greenhill, Iowa City West, College Prep, GBS, Damien).
Samanthaâ€™s post â€“ Sam raises the importance of debate as a communication activity and being able to adapt. While I still personally prefer an experienced college debater over a parent, I think adaptation as a skill is fine as long as itâ€™s consistent. Many times, including the round I was eliminated in last year, included a parent with no experience, a flay judge with little college experience, and a more experienced â€œhigh-flowâ€ judge. Round-by-round adaptation, which I think what Sam is talking about, is distinct from having to debate in front of 3 different people at the same time with different judging preferences. Obviously eliminating panels resolves this issue, but I think the benefits of a panel may outweigh the need for this. However, alternative solutions that result in a more similar/predictable judge pool resolve this. And while I agree that even â€œflowâ€ judges arenâ€™t perfect, I still think we should strive to reduce non-experienced judges who have a greater potential to make decisions that are not as objective as an experienced judge. Is that wrong?
On a side note, Iâ€™m happy to see my peers who are out of high school engaging in these discussions. I feel indebted to Kansas debate for everything it gave me, and if I was closer, I would love to remain involved in the community and judge tournaments frequently.