Author Topic: In Defense of 7 Round National Tournaments  (Read 5057 times)

Ryan Galloway

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In Defense of 7 Round National Tournaments
« on: October 21, 2009, 05:37:33 AM »
I feel there has been a growing current against 7 round tournaments and that those in favor of 7 rounds haven't been making themselves heard.  Here is the case for 7 round national tournaments.

*5-2 is nearly a clean break:  it almost entirely eliminates not clearing on points.  At GSU, one team missed clearing on points at 5-2.  At Kentucky, two teams missed.  Coming from a squad that had a team miss on points four times in a season (GSU, Kentucky, Wake, Northwestern), I can tell you that one of the most frustrating things ever is to miss on points.  This is especially true in a world of judge instability on points (the 100 point scale).  I agree with Skinner's post on edebate that the point situation is too much in flux.  As we strive to develop a norm, and as many increasingly challenge the norm, now is a time that speaker points should be marginalized as a path to clear while we straighten some things out.

I have long challenged the utility of a system that tries to define tournament success based on speaker points ("Debate it Out, Don't (Speaker) Point it Out"  At Georgia, I had a team miss on points at Harvard as the 17th seed who won at least one elim at every national tournament they cleared at, including when they cleared below the 16th seed level.  This team also won the West Georgia tournament after narrowly clearing on points. 

Creating a world based far less on speaker points for the purposes of clearing is a worthwhile goal.  This may have not been the rationale for moving to 7, but it is an advantage.  In this instance, functionality trumps genealogy.  The good that a new system does trumps the rationales for why it came into existence.

I'd like to speak for a minute or two on squads that have breakthrough moments and what it does for that squad.  To begin, it is incredibly frustrating for schools trying to "break through" to miss on points.
Clark Bowers & Nick Agnello missed on points FOUR TIMES at national tournaments a couple of years ago.  In a world where points are undoubtedly based some on reputation, never getting to the elims in the first
place can significantly undermine a debater's and squad's motivations at the highest level.  And going 6-2 is much harder than going 5-3 or 5-2 (which can be equivocated as getting 5.5 wins). 

Samford's breakthroughs this year have happened when we were 5-2.  We may have cleared with 8 rounds anyway...we have a hard working squad and a great top team (IMHO).  But FINALLY breaking through has done wonders for our squad:  It has bolstered squad morale,helped with recruiting, and got us positive attention from the Dean.  We view ourselves as contenders at every tournament we go to.  It makes a real difference.  I don't think it's just Samford that has those break-through moments of success either.

As a specific example, look at UTD at Georgia State even a year ago.  5-3, missed on points.  It may have affected their first round bid, since they "missed at a major".  Then, they start breaking through at tournaments, developed confidence, momentum, semis at CEDA, and won GSU this year.  What a difference clearing at some majors makes.  5-2 creates much closer to a clean break on points...which might bolster the ability for teams that few have heard of to "break through."

*There is something to be said for the tournament schedule that gets an elim on Sunday night.  A "mix" of having debates and getting to watch multiple elims is useful.  It is easier for my students to get 2 elim rounds watched than it was in the previous system.  And, if we watch 2 elims, we get home earlier, are less fatigued, etc.  I challenge the idea that "more debates is always better" for inexperienced debaters IF the trade-off is that they will watch less elims.  Frankly, some of my younger debaters will continue to make the old mistakes until they see people doing it right.

*You aren't as tired on the day you leave.  Many have made the argument that day 2 becomes more difficult in a world of 7 rounds.  Here's the difference:  no one is leaving the tournament on day 2, everyone is staying the night.  In a world where students may need to get back by Tuesday morning, professors may need to get back to teach on Tuesday, shortening elims on Monday is the critical place to make a difference. 

Even getting to leave after the first elim instead of the second (judging obligations) can make a big difference in the time people get back from the tournament.  More people may get a longer day on day 2 (since they are all there), but the impact is lessened because everyone gets to sleep the night before they leave.  Most of the complaints are happening because people on little sleep either are under pressure to "make it home" or those people are judging/debating into the wee morning hours.  None of that happens by making 3 debates and an elim happen.

*It eliminates the world of "five debates in a day."  There is a growing movement against this phenomenon. 

*The uneven number of rounds per side argument is a bit exaggerated.  People should learn to win on both sides.  At the end of the year, even if every tournament did 7 rounds, it would take a wild statistical skew to even have a team having 2 or 3 more rounds on one side of the topic than the other.  If the other
arguments are true, 7 provides the benefit.

*Having a few less debates may save wear & tear on coaches who host and on the directors attending the tournament.  It is true that moving from 8 to 7 mitigates the effect of this "health & burnout" benefit
than going to 6 does (which many people are increasingly supporting). But 7 might make it a bit better, and I strongly question 6 as to what you would have to do to clear at a major.  I'm wondering if 4-2 will even be enough at Wake this year.  The announcement I'm least looking forward to is the:  "the following teams missed on points..."  If it breaks at 4-2, is the over-under on this number 20?  How many of those will be teams that cleared at both GSU and Kentucky this year?

Time will tell.

This is a long way of me expressing two thoughts:
*I think 6 might have merit for younger teams and local/regional tournies.  It's easy to burn new kids out on the activity--an argument Mike Hall was making for his younger debaters at Richmond.
*There are a couple of advantages to going to 7 at national tournaments.  A primary one is that less teams will miss on points and there is a clearer break.  Especially in a world of instability about
a 100 point scale, this may have an important rationale of getting new squads to clear.  From personal experience, it is a tremendous boon to a squad to get a team clearing at national tournaments.  It is an
important "milestone effect" and injects energy and enthusiasm into a squad.  It really matters.  There may also be minor physical health & mental health advantages by getting home a bit earlier on Monday, because everyone is "obligated to judge through the Octas."



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Re: In Defense of 7 Round National Tournaments
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2009, 07:33:33 AM »
I still remain an "8 rounder" at heart, primarily because it gets the extra round for the kids who didn't clear.

That said, I agree with a lot of what Ryan has to say here. I think 7 is nice because it is close to a clean break. I prefer 7 over 6 for that reason. As of right now, I can tell you exactly the names of the teams who missed on points at GSU and Kentucky - which is probably more a good than bad thing for them.

I think the problems with speaker points are magnified by the experimentation with a 100 point scale. That scale makes sense, in certain respects, but the transition has been a bit bloody.

But, since the community has a sudden urge to experiment, I suggest this idea as well:

If 7 is better than 6 because of the clean break, why not run 6 and break all the 4-2 teams to a partial triple? I don't think the judging demands would be too much different. That way, every 4-2 who 'wins' their break round (the partial round) advances. It's possible that a 5-1 occasionally loses in the partial, but probably rare and, if it happens, it's not something to be too sad about.

Brad Hall

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Re: In Defense of 7 Round National Tournaments
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2009, 02:54:14 PM »
And for those who just want to maximize the number of debates, why not then go to 10 prelims and clear to the semis? (An old Ross tongue in cheek proposal that I was reminded of recently by Seth.)


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Re: In Defense of 7 Round National Tournaments
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2009, 04:06:24 PM »
And for those who just want to maximize the number of debates, why not then go to 10 prelims and clear to the semis? (An old Ross tongue in cheek proposal that I was reminded of recently by Seth.)

For me, it is more about the fact that I will take teams to a major national tournament that will only debate for about 1.5 days of the 4 days they are on the trip.  It just makes more sense to me that we try and give 2 reasonably-full competition days to everyone at the tournament.  Certainly, more rounds could be had by going to more tournaments, but the ratio of debate time per-student to travel time is severely decreased in the 6-round model.

8 and 7 rounds are fairly good balances between travel commitment and fairness of picking a deserving winner.


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Re: In Defense of 7 Round National Tournaments
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2009, 11:56:01 PM »
i'm an 8 round supporter for national, large tournaments.

ryan, your arguments are good though and worth tournament directors considering.

one further thought on this--one additional aspect of determining the "right" number of rounds is that the rounds will sort out of the teams for good seeding in elims. my view on this:

you should have enough prelim rounds to hypothetically create one undefeated team.

150 teams

after round 1: 75 undefeated
after round 2: 38 undefeated
after round 3: 19 undefeated
after round 4: 10 undefeated
after round 5: 5 undefeated
after round 6: 3 undefeated
--in my view, that is not sufficient; you need at least 1 more round and better 2 to assure, hypothetically, that you have only 1 undefeated team.
jim hanson :)
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