Debaters are bad at drilling. They wake up in the morning and they do not think about their drills for the day. They go to sleep at night having not drilled. They brag to their friends about how little drilling they do. For some reason, many debaters are too cool for drilling. But, of course, they don’t perform as well as they could should they have drilled. A reason for that failure to drill comes from a mindset that views drilling as an ad hoc, “only if I must” type activity that is purely for improving weak spots. This viewpoint is, guaranteed, going to lead you to plateauing and not meeting your full potential. Here I propose that debaters take steps to become more consistent by viewing drilling akin to exercise; a constant, must-have part of the week that is routine and performed rigorously. It is my hope that this article can help people from all ranges, from those who wake up and don’t know what drills to do that day, to those that struggle with committing to consistently honing their skills.
Over the past year I’ve become much more invested in exercise and have found that the key to making myself go out every day and make sure I workout is having routine. I use a Program A/B/C approach to guide my training every week, where Program A is Chest/Triceps, Program B is Back/Shoulders/Biceps, and Program C is cardio/legs/abs. On Week One I’ll do A/B/A. Week two, B/A/B. On the same days each week I’ll do Program C. Having rigid programs that train specific muscle groups is a cornerstone of any and all exercise philosophies; consistency is a crucial part of habit formation, which is the baseline to making sure that you are becoming a healthier, fitter person. When I apply this philosophy to debate, I find that the current lack of routine severely hampers debaters who need to be working on their skills and getting those incremental improvements to their performance.
I encourage you all to take some time and ponder your current drill set up and see how routine-based it is. Here are some questions you should be asking:
• When I do a drill, how many times am I doing it? For instance, am I doing rebuttal redos once, or three times?
• What drills am I doing every week?
• How many days am I spending drilling?
• What drills should I be doing that I’m not? What skills are being underworked?
• Do I come at drills at random? Is it at the same time everyday?
• How often am I skipping out on drills and instead moping about on Facebook/Snapchat/Insta etc.?
If the answers to any of these questions are discouraging, I recommend a program based approach to drilling as a solution. Try the following in sequential order:
1. Write out a list of every single debate drill that you know. Just as in exercise where there are set workouts (bench press, crunches, sprints) you should itemize drills and write out their names and details (how long they take, what skills they work, etc)
2. Write out your Sunday – Sunday calendar. Find what times are currently available and unavailable.
3. Find how much time you are willing to dedicate to drilling per day. My opinion, you should be drilling at minimum 30 minutes, maximum 90 minutes.
4. Decide what time each day you will be drilling and put it in your calendar. Promise to yourself that each day, you will show up and put in the work at that time.
5. Decide what drills you will be doing on any given day. Create programs based on skills or on time needed (I recommend having at least 3 unique programs).
6. Slot those programs into the times you selected.
As an example, a drill schedule could be the following:
Program A: 90 minutes
- Practice Round (1)
- Post-Round Strategy Analysis (1)
- Rebuttal Redo: Original Speech (1)
- Rebuttal Redo: Alternative Speech (1)
- Rebuttal Redo: Opponent Speech (1)
Program B: 30 minutes
- Pen Drill (5)
- Speed Drill (5)
- Giving a speech in half the allotted time (2)
- Flowing a speech (2)
Program C: 120 minutes
- Impromptu Theory Debate against myself (2)
- Writing out shells and answering those shells (2)
- Drilling theory with a teammate (1)
- Tutoring Session with my coach
From there, you would slot those programs into days and, depending on your preferences, cycle them. Perhaps you also want to program out card cutting by making card cutting one of your daily programs instead of drilling and breaking things down in terms of card type (K, Policy, Philosophy, Defense, etc.). The larger point I’m getting at is just making sure that drilling becomes a routine that you have mindfully thought through rather than trying on a whim whenever you’re bored by the internet.