A lot of the preparation for the TOC is the same as for any tournament. But there are some noticeable differences.
The biggest difference between TOC and other tournaments is judging so I’ll start with an overview. As of this writing there are 113 judges in the combined PF/IPF judge pool. Some of those judges will leave the PF pool for the IPF pool as coaches have been asked to update their judge list and make the distinction. Some coaches have and some have not. At some point the judge pool for PF will be set and then your work can begin.
There are 103 teams in the PF judge pool and all have one thing in common. All earned at least one bid from a qualifying tournament. What are some things you can do now to enhance your chance of success once you arrive in Lexington?
The Judge Pool
Let’s start here. Which judges do you know and which ones are unknown. For those strangers on your list, start tracking them down. Many will have judging paradigm’s; hit the internet and look for that. In fact Tabroom has a PDF file with paradigms. For those judges you do not know, find out what school they represent and then look for tournaments they might have judged at. With Tabroom and Joy of Tournaments having results and ballots online you should be able to find a ballot or two on any judge who has a history. What you find from reading ballots will be much more helpful than any answer to the proverbial question, “What’s your paradigm?” Many teams will make a judge chart listing what they know and don’t know. Your goal is to fill in all blanks on that chart.
TOC is a tech debate tournament. The judge pool will have few, if any, parent judges. And while you won’t have many lay judges you will have several policy and LD judges in the pool. Look at the hired judge list. Many are UK debaters who have not seen a PF round but have been in a lot of policy debates. You should write your cases with this judge pool in mind. It probably is a poor use of time to write two versions of the same case but you certainly should write multiple cases. Regardless of how many cases you write, make sure your contentions are well structured. Make your claims and support with warrants explaining how and why the claim is should be accepted. And make sure your evidence is solid. The judges will call for evidence and they will evaluate it. If you write your case with this in mind you will be okay.
TOC is not the case to try to sneak in some bad evidence. Your competition will know when something sounds too good to be true and when a team tries to play games word travels at record speed. While I would hope no one would ever make up evidence, or clip evidence, it has happened. The penalty means you will not be a TOC champion. Understand you are responsible for every piece of evidence you present in round. It makes no difference from where it came, if you read it you own it. Part of your preparation is to check everything. Have the PDF ready. I would also propose that for every piece of evidence in your case you have the full paragraph from which you quoted or paraphrased, fully cited. If you do not put this in your case either insert at the end of your case or make a separate document with all of this information. You will make friends with your judge.
As I said previously you will probably want to write multiple cases. There are two thoughts here. First, two different set of arguments, both core to the resolution. You might want to think about writing multiple contentions and flexing them to offset the prep-outs that will happen.
Just as useful is to write multiple cases with a different approach to the resolution. Due to the diversity of the judge pool it will be common for a team to get a judge that will be open to arguments not usually found in PF. A critical position. A plan. A counterplan. I’m not recommending you go all the way to the edge of the argument world but if you have a position that is well linked to the resolution, write it and run it. Policy and LD judges will be open to some theory arguments. Even if you do not want to run these arguments you need to be prepared to debate them. The AT – this is Public Forum debate and those arguments aren’t allowed will not win some debates at TOC. A few years ago one of my teams ran a philosophical position in a quarter final round. It was the only time we ran that case. I also remember a few years ago a team won TOC with a novice LD case. Right judge. Right time.
While TOC has a field of only Champions not all are created equal. The bid system is designed to help schools that cannot travel much have a shot at attending. It also means some smaller tournaments with just finals of even semi final bids fail to attract many “circuit” teams. As a result some teams that do not travel the circuit qualify to attend. This means you might debate a team from a school you’ve never heard of and they will be very good., well skilled. This also means you might meet a team from a school you’ve never heard of and they will not be competitive. The early rounds will seem just like a regular tournament. If you are successful, however, the power matched rounds will be as difficult as any you have had all year.
For those schools you know you should already have built over the year(s) intelligence on what they like to go for. Do they like to win with framework? Do they spread their case arguments and then blow up the part of their case you failed to adequately cover? Do they go for the big impact and have excellent evidence to win with? Do they speak pretty? You should have a plan for debating all of these type of opponents. Be strategic in how you approach your opposition.
I firmly believe that part of preparation for TOC is rest. I know of West coast teams that come to Lexington a day early to get adjusted to the time zone. By the time you hit out rounds on Monday you will have had the chance to get three nights of solid sleep. The tournament ends each day early enough. But for many of you the nights will be short as you do the things you should be doing now. Get ahead of the game. An hour more of sleep has great dividends on Monday. (And also Tuesday and Wednesday as many of you will return home to AP exams)
In closing, I’m reminded of the old Marine Corps saying known as the 5p’s, “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.”