So you’ve made the decision. You are going to *insert tournament name here.* Congratulations! Forensics is fun! You get to miss a day of school to do something you love, meet a bunch of new debate friends, and compete against some of the nation’s best talent! The only problem is the docket comes five days before you start competing and you have no clue how you are possibly going to do all of that prep while juggling school work and Netflix.
That’s a scary feeling. Don’t worry though, we’ve all been there.
Congress is different from any other debate event because the topics change every tournament. While this is good because it makes for an ever-changing, dynamic debate, it can also make going to a big tournament daunting. During my high school career, I was often the only person from my team competing in Congress which meant that I was the only person who was going to be prepping the sometimes massive docket.
As with anything, the more experience and practice you have, the better you become, and by the end of my career, I was pretty efficient at tackling a big docket. Now that we’ve reached the most intense part of the season I wanted to share some tips with you about prep. Here are some tricks that I have learned over the years:
1. Get a grip on the docket
When preparing for a tournament the first thing I always did was look through the bills on the docket to get an idea of what I was working with. This is a great place to start because you can get a feel for which topics are going to be more popular (usually those pertaining to contemporary, real-world policy discussions) and those that won’t have a good debate.
2. Be efficient
It’s no secret that sometimes bills from a previous tournament get resubmitted to an upcoming tournament. If you happen to have a speech on a bill you’ve debate previously, great! You’ve cut down your prep time on that bill significantly! I’d recommend looking at your ballots and reflecting on how your speech went during a previous tournament and then making improvements as you see fit.
3. Figure out where you will need help
In every docket, there will be a bill or two which you, for some reason, just can’t seem to wrap your head around. It’s much better for you to identify those topics early (like when you take a first look over the docket) so you can allocate some extra time to researching that bill. YouTube videos that break down the topic, Vox, and Wikipedia can be great sources for understanding more about a topic before you start thinking of arguments.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Asking for help is not a bad thing. I was very lucky to have coaches and former competitors that were always willing to explain a complex bill or help me brainstorm arguments for a piece of legislation. Coaches and former competitors have devoted a lot of time to forensics and will be thrilled that you are are taking the initiative to do well!
We may be in the full swing of tournament season, but you shouldn’t let large dockets deter you. The tips listed above should give you a good idea of how to effectively prep for the tournament. Follow them, practice your speeches, and you’ll do you best!