New Year New Contentions

by Esme Longely

2018 is over, but your debate season isn’t! I like to think I’m a pragmatist, but I definitely think there’s something exciting and magical about a new year. Closing one calendar and opening another, counting down the seconds until a new date — everything seems fresh and there’s a feeling of being able to start again.

Although it’s impossible to change the past year, we can definitely take advantage of new year’s resolutions and take tangible steps towards making the next one better.

Here are three main debate-related accomplishments of 2018 that I am grateful for.

  • Being a Part of Beyond Resolved

I am incredibly thankful to have a platform to speak about girls in debate. Those of you who know me in person definitely have heard me sift through a whole load of rough brainstorms to help include girls on my local circuit and reconstruct the community, but none of it has ever felt tangible enough until I became an advisory board member for this blog.

I’ve felt like we are actually making a difference. The people it has introduced me to have all genuinely cared about supporting girls and have really clever, interesting, and powerful ideas. I’ve learned to be less judgemental, more willing to share my ideas, and more hopeful for progress. I love you all and really admire how strong you are!!!!

  • Debate Attire

I used to be really nervous about wearing clothes to tournaments that I thought might get me dropped. You know, the ballots that say “Skirt too short” or “Wear makeup” or the judges that stare creepily at your legs under the high school desk as you stand up for rebuttal. (Ew.)

I used to wear my below the knee-length skirt that was kind of itchy just because I thought it would help me pick up a round. I also owned a pair of taller heels that made me hobble around on tiptoes between rounds to avoid blisters on the back of my ankles just to make up for my lack of height when I stand next to guys in cross. I just want to clarify that there is nothing wrong with dressing in long skirts or tall heels. They’re pretty!! If you love them, I bet you look amazing in them.

But this year, I’ve been able to wear a larger variety of clothes to tournaments that are comfy and make me feel confident in myself. Funnily enough, I find it easier to be proud of my speeches or focus on what needs improvement if my legs don’t itch or my heels aren’t bleeding.

  • My Debate Partner

Last, but not least, Mac!!! I’m really glad I have a partner who not only cares about debate, but is now one of my really good friends. We don’t agree on everything, but we learn from each other, and I really appreciate your hard work, preference of quality over quantity, and generosity. You are so supportive about everything I want to do even if it obstructs your own debate career and I’m proud of your work for inclusivity in the debate community. I can’t wait for our 2019 season and actually picking up bid rounds!

Not gonna lie, debate isn’t perfect. I often think about quitting, to stop buying legal pads and having to shave my legs for tournaments or restructure my rebuttal. Debate is so much work and it doesn’t always feel rewarding enough when you don’t feel like you’re a part of the community. But Beyond Resolved and other projects from people in the community are changing this and so can you!

I encourage you to plan out one or two tangible things you want to accomplish next year! Here are some suggestions to help make pf a more fun and inclusive event!

  1. Although constructive self-criticism and analysis is important and helps you get better, make sure to try and talk positively about yourself. It’s easy to tell others “I kind of suck” after a round you’re not happy with, but instead it’s always a good idea to try and look for the positivity in rounds. Maybe your flow looks neater than usual! If you came up with a good response too late in the round, you have a great one to whip out later! There’s always something to celebrate after every round. A little positivity goes a long way for not only your own personal growth, but also for encouraging other people around you. Especially at tournaments, around younger debaters who face a lot of challenges that can make them feel less confident, this is really important!!

  2. Along with positive reinforcement to yourself, it’s always great if you’re able to open the door to include more people. If you have a position of power, or clout, or even if you don’t, there are always ways to invite people into conversations, help them meet people and make connections, or even to talk about rounds or arguments one-to-one with them. Debate sometimes seems to be a lot about networking, but whatever your intentions are — if it’s a friend to help you prep, or just a person you like talking to — the activity is irrefutably more fun with a friend. Personally, one the biggest reasons I love the activity, and the largest prohibitor for me quitting has been the support and friendship of those who I’ve met. We usually don’t even live in the same state, but they are some of my closest friends!

  3. Lastly, don’t focus on picking up rounds. I know this gets said a whole lot and is hard to not laugh at. Debate is competitive. You literally go to tournaments to compete against other people. I think, though, some of my favourite tournaments haven’t been the ones where I’ve picked up the most rounds, even though that’s fun. For example, when I was at my first bid tournament — Glenbrooks — my sophomore year we went 3-4, but it was the first tournament that I got ballots longer than a sentence at. The feedback I got there really helped me get a clearer picture of what speeches were meant to be organised, how to interact directly with arguments, and what I wanted summary speeches to look like. I think tournaments where you learn a lot (even by watching rounds) or tournaments where you meet new people are some of the best and most meaningful tournaments that make the biggest impressions on your life.

Best of luck for your 2019 season!

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