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Rock On! Debate LD #9: The Bigger Picture in LD With Coach Marcus Viney

Time for some big picture perspective, LDers... time to debate like a lion.


Episode 9 Resources:

Episode 9 Handout
Download PDF • 30KB

Episode 9 Transcription:

My name is Marcus Viney, Head Coach of Cheyenne East, and this is, Episode 9:

The Bigger Picture

We’re going to start this episode with a story. A long time ago, a freshmen girl walked into a debate room. She was quiet, apprehensive, and by the end of an hour, ready to run from debate forever. She even tried to transfer into welding. By some miracle, she decided to stick with the activity and began her journey. She did pretty well as a novice, but ran into the varsity wall, and lost more rounds than she won for two years. She didn’t like losing, but she was scrappy and had a big heart. She kept at it, came to practice, and tried to get better. And yet, she kept losing. Sometimes she cried. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to console and reassure her on the bus ride home that things would get different. But they didn’t. That is, until one tournament when she decided to get serious. She read, researched, and practiced more on that resolution than I had ever seen anyone do. On the bus ride there, she could rattle off two-punch rebuttals for any argument on the map. She had CX questions prewritten, and a plan for closing arguments. If there was a written test, she would have aced it. You could tell, she felt ready. And little did she know, she was ready. At that tournament, she won all of her prelims and broke to the final round for the first time in her varsity career. And I remember standing outside the room with her nervously waiting for that round to begin. In a fumbling attempt to be helpful, I asked her “what side, affirmative or negative, will you choose if you win the flip?” thinking it might be a crucial decision. She thought for a second, smiled, and said “it doesn’t matter.” Those three words hit me like a lightning bolt as I realized for the first time what it meant to be a great debater. It didn’t matter what side she was on because she was so confident in herself, her preparation for the tournament, and her ability to advocate for either side. She had done the real work and had come to play the big game. This girl’s name was Jasmine, but that night she became the Buzzsaw her poor opponent walked into that round. She won handily, took first place in Lincoln Douglas at her first varsity tournament, and I have never since seen anyone happier walking back to the bus for a three-hour ride home in the dead of winter.

There are many lessons you could take from this experience, whether it’s about the power of perseverance, being open to a competitor becoming your coach, or how debate can grant much-needed self-worth. But one of the biggest lessons I learned was what I now call “Debate Like a Lion.” This is a guiding principle in debate that means not being afraid of what case your opponent has, or who your opponent will be, or whether they know your case and have answers for it already. Being a lion means none of this matters because you have prepared to the point where you’re strong enough to stand in the open without fear. It means you’re ready to debate against any case or any opponent. Lions would have no problem sharing their cases with others, allowing them to prepare, and beating them anyway. Notice that being a lion doesn’t focus on winning or the trophy, it focuses on the good stuff of debate that happens to lead to those things. And the best part is “Debate Like a Lion” is an attitude that extends well beyond debate; it’s a way of approaching life and being in the world. Be courageous, work hard, and don’t worry about what other people are doing. You be you! *Lion Roar!

As a debate coach, I am not ashamed to say that I had to learn all of this from a kid; in fact, I’m proud of it, and frankly, I’m grateful to have been there. So, kids out there listening to this, remember: never, ever underestimate your ability to transform yourself or others (even your coach). Right now, you might be feeling fired up and wanting to get to work. Here’s one last piece of advice for how to begin your lion adventure: Make a big plan and stick to it. A small plan is what you want to do at a tournament, but a “big plan” is what you want to do over the course of a resolution. Here are some suggestions with six simple steps that helped the “buzzsaw” win her first tournament. First, analyze the resolution; break it apart, define all the words, and figure out what you think it means. Second, read about the topic relentlessly; find the arguments that pop up the most for both sides. Third, build your cases and plan some rough prebuttals for what you’re likely to hear. Fourth, compete and test what you have built so far, and fifth: regroup after the tournament and figure out what worked and what didn’t and adjust accordingly. Finally, sixth, repeat steps one through five. You need to think of debate like an immune system; you may lose or “get sick” to an argument one weekend, but that doesn’t mean you can’t beat it next weekend. In short, always move forward.

Two last exercises: “LD Chunks” has you focus on one argument from a resolution at a time. Make the argument, and have people cross-examine you, and then give an unfair amount of rebuttals for you to answer. The second activity “Prebuttal File” takes the first exercise but multiplies across all the arguments on a resolution and has you record all your answers. That’s enough for now, see you next time!


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