University of Chicago ’21
2017 TOC Champion + 3rd Speaker
2nd Place 2016 Voices Invitational
3rd place 2016 Greenhill Invitational
Summer is a huge opportunity to improve at debate, and figuring out how to spend your time and money is difficult and confusing because there are so many debate camps that have qualified instructors and seem like attractive options. The summer before my senior year, I decided to skip a formal 2 or 3-week debate camp and instead do a personal, one on one camp with DebateDrills for 2 weeks. This was one of the best debate decisions I made, and I’d highly recommend you consider doing something similar if you are serious about debate.
The main difference between DebateDrills’ and other debate camps is the focus on drills. DebateDrills’ camp was 75% drills while other camps I had attended were closer to 25%. Large debate camps simply don’t have the logistic capacity to drill with every student for multiple hours a day. There aren’t enough instructors to work for several hours a day with each kid individually.
Instead of spending dozens of hours researching a topic that may or may not be chosen, I only focused on producing generic prep that I knew would be useful for the upcoming season. My prep assignments included creating 1ARs vs. K’s we knew would be popular, researching impact turns like de-dev and warming good, creating a solid impact defense file I could pull up in any round that become a util debate, and beefing up my generic theory file with arguments and files I knew would be relevant. Because I didn’t have to worry about cutting 50 cards in a night to write a case neg to an aff that wouldn’t help me at all during the season, I could focus on the stuff that really matters: rapidly improving my execution of nuanced, high level skills that would be crucial in the most important rounds of the year.
Before camp started, Paras and I sat down and created a list of weaknesses and areas I wanted to improve, and then we attacked those weaknesses relentlessly. He has a never-ending amount of helpful drills. In particular, because he’s watched and analyzed virtually every round available on youtube in the last decade, he has a long list of rebuttal redos you can do from real rounds that target very specific weaknesses. A major benefit of DebateDrills’ camp is that it was personalized. Even the smallest camps have around a 1:4 ratio. Working with Paras allowed me to tailor the curriculum to my own needs, instead of arbitrarily being put into a lab where debaters come from all parts of the country and have very different weaknesses. Because traditional debate camps have such a diverse group of students in each lab, they tend to focus on broad areas that will help every student in the lab which is an inefficient method to teaching a one on one activity like LD debate.
Surprisingly, I think DebateDrills’ camp is easier work wise than other camps, while also being more effective. We drilled from 9-5 (with a lunch break), and then I had free time from 5 until I went to sleep (although I had prep homework during that time).
Working one on one with someone of Paras’s caliber and going to camp have different advantages. My experience with Paras was individually focused, and helped me build skills that made me better in every round. Going to a formal camp will inevitably have more of a focus on card cutting and working in labs with some emphasis on drills. Debate camp is a good option if you aren’t a self-starter and if you want to make friends in the community, but it isn’t ideal if all you care about is winning and improving at debate. If you want to have fun and make friends, go to camp. If you want to win the TOC, spend the summer working with DebateDrills.