With tournaments being online this season, there are bound to be a ton of changes with respect to how you prepare for tournaments. It’s going to affect how we all view debate competitively, socially and mentally. This article outlines tips and tricks for navigating online tournaments.
Take breaks from your screen. It’s no secret too much time spent looking at a laptop is bad for your eyes and mental health. It’s tempting to spend every minute in between rounds writing case negs to new affs but de-stressing is more important. At an in-person tournament, you have built in breaks when you walk from your round to the cafeteria, line up to buy food or take the bus back to your hotel. It’s important to simulate these small breaks at home. I suggest doing activities like going outside, turning off your computer and listening to music and hanging out with your family. If you prioritize your tournament performance over everything else, the stress is likely to negatively affect your performance in later rounds so that extra case neg probably isn’t worth it.
Take breaks from sitting in one place. Spending hours hunched over your laptop will hurt after some time. The examples from tip #1 show that in-person tournaments naturally accommodate breaks. At home, try to fit in a short workout between rounds, go for a walk, do some yoga, stretch your legs - any amount of movement is better than none. Consider standing up for all of your speeches and cross examinations as well (if you don’t do this already).
Communicate with the debate community. Online tournaments can be lonely. You can’t prepare for rounds or go out for lunch with your friends. Whether it’s through calls or texts, keep your friends posted on your tournament performances and funny in-round moments. The social aspect of debate is definitely going to take a hit this year but we can try our best to keep it going virtually.
Communicate with your family. Parents bursting in to hoover your room without warning, siblings yelling at each other outside your door, dogs barking excitedly - there are a litany of reasons why debating from your home is inconvenient. Increasing communication with your family can help. Try to let them know when you have rounds so they can maintain a quiet environment. Additionally, let them know when you have lunch and dinner breaks so they can adjust meal times accordingly. Sitting with family during meals can also help reduce feelings of isolation.
Any general health advice for in-person tournaments applies. Get lots of sleep, eat healthy meals and communicate with teammates/coaches/anyone else you trust in the debate community if you’re struggling with anything.
Stay positive. This is pretty cheesy, but with the COVID-19 pandemic weighing down on everyone it’s important to boost morale. Online tournaments are far from ideal but they’re better than no tournaments at all. There’s also the benefit of people being able to attend tournaments they never would’ve otherwise, whether it was for financial, logistical or other reasons. Debating and learning from new and different people can only be good for intellectual growth and debate skills. Make the most of it!