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Event Overviews and Resources 10: Policy Debate (Feat. CX tips from Coach Jeremiah Etcheverry)

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

Welcome to A Long Winter's Clap: 12 Days of Speech and Debate Event Overviews and Resources. Today's event is the classic long-form team debate - Policy Debate, and we've been gifted some excellent tips and ideas from Rock Springs Policy Debate Coach Jeremiah Etcheverry - a tortured debate genius with some great thoughts to share!


Policy Debate is a two-on-two long-form debate that is common to both high school and college debaters. While it has a bit of a reputation for being complicated or intense and it does include a fair amount of jargon and nuance, the basics of policy debate are relatively simple.

Here is a description straight from the NSDA:

“Policy debate is a two-on-two debate where an affirmative team proposes a plan and the negative team argues why that plan should not be adopted. The topic for policy debate changes annually, so debaters throughout the course of the year will debate the same topic..”

To give you an idea of the kinds of topics that Policy Debaters work with, the topic for this year is: Resolved: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the United States in one or more of the following: forensic science, policing, sentencing.

The topic for the upcoming 2021-2022 season is: Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its protection of water resources in the United States.

I’m certainly not going to attempt to explain the ins and outs of Policy Debate in a quick topic overview, but I will say that a really great Policy round is thrilling: full of dynamic debate, evidence presentation, long-form speeches, and numerous opportunities for cross-examination clash. At its core, Policy is not super complicated. The affirmative’s job is to identify the problem, propose a solution to that problem, explain the benefits of that solution, and then ultimately explain why their proposed solution actually will do something to resolve that problem. The negative’s job is to do the opposite: explain why there isn't the problem, why the problem isn't that bad, or why the proposed solution won't work. This is a debate that is a magical fit for many competitors who find a great mix of competition, deep dive into a specific topic with rigorous research, community building, and endless argumentation variation.


Five helpful tips for Policy Debaters from Jeremiah Etcheverry, Rock Springs HS Policy Debate Coach

1. Try on lots of different hats…

As a debater, engage in all the different types of policy debate. Run the ‘K’, read the politics DA and counterplans that shield the link, go for topicality and just try everything before you determine what type of debater you are…what your identity as a debater is going to be. Not only will you better understand all different types of debates, but you will also find what your truly passionate about in this activity.

2. Always ask yourself this: What questions are my opponents trying to answer with their argument and evidence…

In debate, it is essential that we are thesis finders and hypothesis testers. Look to a macro-understanding of what each argument is and why it is being presented in the particular speech. What is your opponent getting or attempting to get from the argument; each debater must be able to ask and answer this question. Moreover, debate is not about proving that you are right or your opponent is wrong, but testing the notions of knowledge and truth being presented by the opposing team. Doing this will open up the participants understanding of the arguments being made and how to question that rhetoric.

3. Argue the internals of the evidence, not the taglines to your evidence…

Learn this skill early that we are not debating taglines in policy debate but we participating in a comparative analysis of evidence to determine appropriate policy actions. Evidence is used in this activity to support claims that are being made, this is the key underpinning of this debate in and of itself. Being able to extend argumentation via the internals and analyzing the internals meticulously will not only increase your credibility in round, but will also win you more debates, all the while making you a better researcher as well.

4. Cut more cards…

Research, research and more research. This is so important, constant research will exponentially increase your ability to compete at high levels in this activity. Knowledge building surrounding the topic will give you the advantage in the praxis of debate, but will also mean that you will generate quantitatively more evidence and evidence that is nuanced.

5. Do not be afraid to lose; only be afraid of self-defeat…

Losing is not negative in this event. Losing in the mechanism by which participants should self-evaluate, reflect on the comments of the judges and reflect on their decisions made during the debate. Policy debate is not something that is learned quickly or can ever fully be known. In a long history in this event, it is safe to say, that at each tournament, I, as a coach, judge and former competitor, learn and grow in some facet. As a competitor, one must be able to also know that the round ‘they should have won’ may also be a round that has made them better for their next round, or has motivated them for that inevitable next round.

Thanks so much to Jeremiah for the gift of these super smart tips for Policy Debaters.


You should check out Jeremiah's previous interview on One Clap with debater Hanna Crockett. Additionally, if you are interested in learning more about Policy Debate, Cheyenne East Policy Coach Jeff Pope has put together an excellent 9-episode introduction to CX Debate and a topic overview for this year. All of these episodes are linked here:

Rock Springs Policy Personalities, Jeremiah Etcheverry & Hanna Crockett, Talk CX Debate

How Policy Debate Works and Isn’t that Hard with Coach Jeff Pope

Teaching Policy Debate - Five Basics You and Your Students Can Master

Four Online Resources to Make Policy Debate Easy with Coach Jeff Pope

Flowing Policy Debate in Five Steps with Coach Jeff Pope

The Laptop Age- Five Keys to Digital Debate & Stock Issues w/ Jeff Pope

CX, AFF Basics, & NEG Basics with Coach Jeff Pope

Coach Jeff Pope's Introduction to Policy Debate Master ROCK On! Debate Episode Playlist

20-21 Policy Debate Topic Analysis and Overview with Coach Jeff Pope


If you have any ideas for the podcast or would like to help out with content here at One Clap Speech and Debate, send me a message on the website or an email ( As the Speech and Debate season nears a close, I have less time to create content for the podcast and the website. But, I'll continue to do my best to get usable, inspirational, and helpful content out there.

Be sure to subscribe, rate, and review the One Clap Podcast wherever you listen! Watch for new episodes of One Clap, Rock On! Debate, Coach Connection, and Speech Love!


More links to helpful resources for Policy Debate:

NSDA Competition Guide:

Debate Resources Video from the 2020 Wyoming Coaches Conference, Presented by Marcus Viney, Matt Liu, and Mack Kramer:

Mack Kramer's Debate Resource Compendium:

Wyoming Debate Roundup:

Introduction to Policy Debate from the Debate Guru:

Introduction to Policy Debate from NFHS:

The Policy Debate Manual by Joe Bellon with Abi Smith Williams:

What to expect in CX from a Student's Perspective from NSDA:

Policy Resources from Judge Training:

Policy Resources from

Sample CX Ballot from NSDA:


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