Sometimes we need extra help- there’s no shame in it!
When poking around on Reddit or talking to people at debate camp, you may hear about personal coaches. They come in all formats, skills, and affordability levels. Some people say you need them, others may say it’s a waste of time and money. How do you know for sure what the right path is for you?
Disclaimer: The author recognizes that it is a privilege to have the means to hire a personal debate coach for any length of time. Hiring extra help has often been associated with severe wealth inequality and lack of accessibility. This post provides strategies to improve on individual terms and make access to personal coaching more open for everyone and does not endorse coaches who set prices or other factors of training at levels demanding undue sacrifice from students.
Now, the first question that you need to ask yourself is, “Do I really have no other alternatives that can help me improve?”. I suggest you ask your school coach to stay a few minutes before or after practice for more personalized feedback if that is something you need, or look for online resources such as this blog, YouTube lectures, and Wiki pages to help familiarize yourself with strategies and other debate concepts. If you feel like you need more advice on performance and general speech structure, I suggest you talk to an upperclass-person (junior or senior, usually) on your team or debate circuit. Chances are that they will be happy to help for free for a short time.
The second question you need to ask yourself is if you are willing to commit to anything extra that the coach may require for practice. This may include extra practice sessions, drills, or other exercises a coach may have you do. If you are struggling in school, have other extracurriculars that you hold to an equal or greater importance than debate, or work a job, I would advise you to pursue the above listed strategies first before deciding on employing a personal coach. To get your money’s and time’s worth, you’re going to need to do the work that a coach suggests, and if you cannot prioritize it, you will not improve significantly with it.
Another related consideration is if you are willing to have the financial commitment. I suggest talking to a few coaches or looking at their profiles that list their prices and inquiring about flexible payment if that is a concern for you. Do not be afraid to set a price that works for you and ask them to accommodate you, and if they won’t, then that is not the person you should be working with.
If you answer that you are not satisfied with any alternatives, are willing to put in the commitment to make the work with the coach effective, and find someone within your financial means, then you would make a good fit for working with a personal coach. If you said no to any of the questions, I again advise you to pursue the alternatives that I listed at the top of this post and take some time to assess ballot feedback, case structures, and speaking style so you know exactly what to work on with those alternatives. Best of luck on the road works best for you.