Tis the season- teambuilding season!
As state championships wrap up and World Schools teams are announced for districts and cities, debaters are faced with an interesting problem: how do you build a strong team from scratch in less than 3 months?
As a quick disclaimer, this is going to be about building a multi-school team that represents a city or district that will be sent to the national debate championship. I’ll go more in depth into team building activities in a more general post later on. Now, how do we get these teams ship shape for what may be the biggest tournament of our careers?
The first thing that you need to do is get everyone up to speed. Returning team members should make quick PowerPoints, handouts, or emails explaining the basics of WSD, frequently used jargon, and speaker strategies and roles. Obviously, practices will be the time to introduce these issues more in depth, but nobody should be showing up to the first practice absolutely clueless as to what WSD is. If you don’t have any returning members, be the team member to take initiative and learn about World Schools yourself from the textbook or videos online and distribute this information in a condensed format to your teammates.
The second thing you need to do is understand everyone’s talents. Perhaps you’re a combination of some of the most notorious LD debaters, a fire PF team, and a squad of Congress kids. Maybe you have five extempers, or someone who wandered in from policy. The first few practices ought to be about taking stock of where everyone stands skill-wise. If someone is really good at flowing and can give detailed responses that don’t drop any points, they would be best put in the second speaker position, which handles the bulk of the rebuttal. If there needs to be storytelling and emotion in the crystallization speech, chances are you’re going to put the speechies or the Congress people on the first and last speech of the round.
Finally, we need to get everyone’s skills to be well-rounded. Yes, everyone should have their strengths highlighted in what speech they will be giving most often, but nationals can be unpredictable. If you are in an impromptu round and the only person who knows anything about the topic used to be the third speaker, they might have to be bumped up to the first or second speaker to make sure they get all the substantive content in correctly. Maybe your normal crystallization speaker is having an urgent phone call and absolutely cannot make it to the round; someone is going to have to step in and fill that role. Everyone should do each speech at least once at practice rounds to make sure they can cover all the necessary content and do so decently well. Everyone also has to make sure their rhetoric skills are as strong as possible. World Schools is not like policy debate or even LD, which are extremely technical and far less flowery than world schools. Make sure everyone is using team lines, speaking slowly enough to be understood by lay judges, and references each other throughout the speeches for the sake of continuity.
To recap, this has been the first part of a world school’s debate team building series. We went over how we should go into the season (prepared), what we should start practices by doing (finding strengths that match certain speeches), And how we need to continue throughout the season (well-rounded and prepared for anything). best of luck in meeting and working with your new teams, and enjoy spring break to those who are on it!