How To Train A Youngling

Rishit Pradhan | 6/10/22

It’s that time of the year again when school is off and everyone is excited for summer and the national tournament. However, just within a couple months, your high school debate program will have a set of new faces. Minions, younglings, padawans, novices, whatever you call them, these children will be the future of speech and debate, and it is important that you train them properly. Throughout this post, I will be discussing how to build interest for debate, how to expose novices to argumentation, and how to build a fully functioning varsity debater.

Back in the summer of 2019, when I was a rising freshman, our school held a debate camp for all future prospective debaters. Expecting full on legal debates, I was in awe when my first ever debate topic was “What is the best first movie date? A Romantic Comedy or a Horror Movie”. This unique topic sparked interest in me, which kept me attached to the event. Today after three years, I still remember that topic because it is the reason I still debate. Thus, the most important thing for anyone handling a new batch of novices is to ensure that they remain interested in the activity. They can be incredibly talented, but if they are not interested in the activity, they will inevitably quit. Building interest in the activity is a rather simple task, instead of introducing children to the crude essence of debate, help them explore more enjoyable topics and get an understanding for the activity. Alongside this, building connections between the upperclassmen and the novices is also critical, as it allows for the formation of deeper bonds that are often needed in competitive activities.

After this formative step, it is critical that novices are introduced to the actual argumentative structures of debate. In boy scouts we were taught the EDGE method for teaching, and this also applies towards debate. The first step in this method is “Explain”. Novices need to be introduced to rules and norms within debate, as well as how their activity functions. They need to be taught how to make cases and how to be strategic with their speechwriting. Following this, the next step is to “Demonstrate”. There is no better way to demonstrate debate to novices than to conduct practice rounds with varsity debaters. Allow your novice debaters to ask questions to more experienced debaters within these demo debates, which will foster a more in depth learning. The second last step is “Guide”. After your novices build a rough understanding of the activity, guide them through a round. Make them debate other novices, and be present in order to ensure that they are able to follow the rules and help them if they are making mistakes. The final step is to “Enable”. Throw them into the deep end and give them a tough round. In the fall of 2020, I had to go against a debater who ran thirteen off case positions against me, a lay debater at the time. But through this difficult and confusing round, I was introduced to circuit debate and became a full time circuit debater by building connections with the community. This debate taught me a lesson that everyone should know, the best way to learn is to fall into the deep end. Give your novices difficult rounds, because those allow them to gather more exposure and gain a greater amount of learning. If your novices truly want to learn, they will strive to do so.

The final step to training your younglings is to take them to tournaments and make them better than you. Let the student become so good that one day they are enabled to become the master. Many novices will go through a postnov period, where they compete in varsity but often lose a lot of their rounds. This can hurt them but over a period of time, the experience will add on to the point that these novices become fully functioning varsity debaters. As the Rock once said, “All successes begin with self-discipline”. Make sure that your novices work hard and strive because they could be the next national champions or bid leaders.

Overall, novices are young individuals who often have a lot of things to juggle, but over a period of time through the right training, they will become the face of speech and debate. It is all in your hands, and by following these tips you can successfully train these younglings to become the very best.