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COACHING DEBATING. GENERAL GUIDELINES. CONTENTS. Foreword Selecting Speakers Squad Rotation Speaker Roles Setting Objectives Team Dynamics Training Logistics Structuring Training Training Stuff Warm & Fuzzy Feelings Competition Time Tips & Niceties 3 4 10 12 17 20

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  2. CONTENTS Foreword Selecting Speakers Squad Rotation Speaker Roles Setting Objectives Team Dynamics Training Logistics Structuring Training Training Stuff Warm & Fuzzy Feelings Competition Time Tips & Niceties 3 4 10 12 17 20 26 31 46 51 57 62

  3. FOREWORD These are general guidelines that should be of assistance to coaching at any level. However, it has been particularly drafted with the framework of Provincial Teams in mind. It addresses issues in both the Development and Open Streams. The guide will take you from a selection panel when selecting speakers for a team, through training and then to the competitive space. There are also useful additional resources attached for training. Vashthi Nepaul 2011


  5. ROLE FULFILMENT The importance selectors give role fulfilment depends on the speakers. Junior and Development speakers have often had little to no coaching, which suggests some leniency should be applied. Senior Open speakers should be able to fulfil all the basic requirements of a role. Discipline to stick to a role’s requirements is very important. If a speaker, even after feedback, still fails in meeting a role’s requirements, it should count against them. While you can teach a speaker how to fulfil a role, discipline is harder to instil.

  6. ACTIVE LISTENING We want to select speakers who are always following and engaging with the debate. Pay attention to which speakers are obviously paying close attention to what is being said, both by their team and the other team, and if they are also responding in kind. The ability of the speaker to not just hear, but to also understand what the opposing team has said, is very important. These are often the speakers who will respond most fairly and clash better. Listening to the accuracy of rebuttal, POI’s both given and received and the reply speech, will help you to identify speakers who are actively listening and comprehending.

  7. ANALYSIS • Analysis is not just limited to positive matter, it applies to everything said in the debate. • Here we are looking for speakers who know: • What will win them the debate • How things in the debate relate to each other • Which points of the opposing team’s they must attack • How to explain their case clearly and without confusion • How to expand on a point so that they actually offer proof • Analysis is a teachable skill, but it’s difficult to teach. Also, you have no idea how quickly speakers will pick it up or if the training time you have is sufficient. • Hence, if you have a speaker who is obviously talented in this area, they should be a prime candidate for selection.

  8. STYLE • Selecting someone because they have very good style makes sense if you feel they are also trainable in the other areas. • Not selecting someone because they don’t have very good style makes less sense because style can be, and often is, improved on in training. • Good style includes but is not limited to: • Obvious confidence and comfort with taking the floor • Easy for listeners to follow • Appropriate humour • Even, measured speaking pace • Natural, non-distracting hand gestures • Appropriate tone and pitch modulation • Completed sentences and fewer filler or run-on words (then, like, because, also, um, ah) • Sometimes a speaker may just have an awful, horrible, no-good voice. In this case, selectors have to make a discreet weigh-up.

  9. CHANGE In the course of your selection process, be sure to make recommendations to speakers of what you would like them to do differently. Inform the other selectors of what these changes were so you can all assess whether the speaker attempted to make those changes and how well they were able to do so. Some speakers here will display their ability to learn and adapt quickly, which is something coaches value. Furthermore, they will also display a willingness to learn and change, to accept that they may not have been doing the best job previously. This attitude is also desirable in a speaker.


  11. SQUAD ROTATION Try as far as possible not to select people directly onto teams. Doing so is self-defeating: it’s basically saying that your training will not change any of the speakers’ abilities. This is not the case – especially because those who have not been coached before often display a very rapid growth curve, which affects what team they make Try to move speakers around during this time, giving a lot of individual feedback. Speakers are often put on different teams and in different speaker roles so coaches can start to decide what their true strengths are.


  13. FIRST SPEAKERS Clear and concise explanations Strict adherence to structure and to the role requirements Strict adherence to timing Good signposting Not easily confused or muddled by received POI’s Opposition first speakers must also be strong at rebutting

  14. SECOND SPEAKERS Analytically strong, especially proposition’s second speaker Able to rebut the biggest issues in the debate Strict adherence to timing Good expansion of points Good signposting Evidence of flow/cohesion with first speaker’s speech

  15. THIRD SPEAKERS Convincing Active listener Analytically strong Good expansion of points Ability to correctly prioritise issues in the debate Ability to effectively rebut the biggest issues in the debate

  16. REPLY SPEAKERS Convincing Strict adherence to timing Ability to perform a weigh-up Ability to correctly identify the clash and issues in the debate Should be capable of ending their speech very strongly


  18. TEAM ABILITY While you are still rotating speakers in the squad, you will get to learn of their varying strengths and weaknesses. If coaches are honest with themselves, not every speaker on the squad is capable of a 70 average. What is important is recognising how many very good, how many good-to-solid and how weak speakers you have. This will give you an idea of whether, when you divide up into final teams, you will have a sliding scale of Good to Weak or if you will have two very good teams and two weak teams, for example. You can then set goals that are appropriately matched to each team’s ability.

  19. INDIVIDUAL TEAM GOALS A word of caution: it is impossible to predict whether teams will achieve their goals at tournaments. There are so many factors at play: the tab, rival teams’ performances, whether your team raises or drops its game under pressure. That’s not to say that goal setting is pointless. Goals are a great way to prepare speakers for the tournament and to focus or rally them during training. Goals for stronger teams should always be breaking first and winning the tournament. Weaker teams should make breaking their goal. (speaker ranking and selection to SA Trials are worthy individual goals)


  21. RELATIONSHIPS Coaches need to be acutely aware of the interpersonal relationships between speakers when selecting teams. This is usually something you have to feel out as you go along because the two streams often do not know each other at all, within streams speakers have passing knowledge of each other and if speakers from the same school team are selected then the relationships are often complex. Sometimes speakers who are friends just do not work well together on a team. A lack of friendship often also harms a team and hostility affects prep and team cohesion very seriously. Some speakers do work very constructively together, which should be noted. Teams are working relationships. In each case the speaker needs to know what they are expected to contribute to that relationship.

  22. STRATEGY Teams need to consider their strategy during prep. Just because a team is made up of strong speakers does not mean that the team will be strong strategically. Often speakers (be they good or bad strategically) often are not aware of making strategic decisions. Coaches then must pay close attention both in debates and during prep and identify the strategically strong speakers. Ideally each team will have at least one speaker who is strategically strong or strategically stronger.

  23. KNOWLEDGE Some speakers are good sources of knowledge. This becomes more important as the level of competition rises. Useful knowledge for debating:current affairs, history, geography, demographics, countries of the world, economics, law. Even if a speaker has a great general knowledge, they should also be able to successfully use it in the debate. Speakers who share their knowledge are even better.

  24. PREP CONTROL Speakers who are good in prep are disciplined and will: stick to the prep format, not interrupt one another, not repeat information and generally not waste prep time. Successful preppers are also able to identify the issues in the debate early in prep. Ideally, you want your strategically strongest speaker to be leading prep so the right issues come up in the right order. Be careful of creating teams where everyone tries to lead prep or where no one does. Be careful of destructive speakers who enjoy playing The Devil’s Advocate during prep.

  25. DRIVE Each team needs at least one speaker who motivates the others. This motivation need not come in the most obvious trappings so pay careful attention to which speakers raise spirits and stir up competitiveness. Drive will also make a speaker commit, practice, focus and learn. Debating is, ultimately, a competitive activity so a team with the drive to win is a powerful thing. A team with very low drive will find it harder to motivate themselves. They find it harder to bounce back after losses too.


  27. HOLIDAY/WEEKEND Provincial training occurs in the school holidays, over weekends or a combination of both. The training schedule is usually determined by two factors: the availability of the Squad coaches and the availability of students. Confirm with both of the above groups based on when the majority are available. If you can, confirm not just one training at a time, but as far ahead as possible. Creating a training schedule would help. Be sure to communicate the date, time and location in advance because the speakers have to notify their parents.

  28. DEBATING CAMP Another option is to hold a debating camp. This can be either your sole training or an addition to a holiday/weekend training schedule. The debating camp tends to be difficult to arrange because you need to be able to afford it – it is costly to feed and house close to 40 people, especially where half of the speakers come from financially challenged homes. If your only training option, you will have to secure days during which all Squad members and coaches are committed to attending. Debating camps are a more feasible option for small Provincial Squads or even just for additionally training individual teams

  29. TRANSPORT Irrespective of when you chose to hold training, make sure it’s somewhere not too out of the way. Unfortunately it is inevitable that some of the speakers will be travelling a fair distance, but the more central to the participants, the better. Some Provinces arrange transport for their Development speakers and others could choose to subsidise speakers their bus or taxi fare. Enquire with your Provincial Board to see if either of these options is a possibility.

  30. THE VENUE A school or university is the best option for Provincial training as they have several separate venues. A full-sized squad of 4 Senior teams and 2 Junior teams requires 3 venues. If a 4th venue can be spared as a break room for coaches to wait/discuss in, that is even better. One of those venues needs to be big enough to hold the entire squad for content sessions and briefings. The briefing venue should have a board for writing on, chairs and desks.


  32. LAYOUT Try to schedule your content training sessions early in your training regime. This will give speakers the opportunity to use the material you teach them in content sessions. It will also mean that you do the bulk of your training in the build-up to Nationals, which is good for arriving on-form. Make sure you cater for time to have briefs on logistical issues too.


  34. PREP Identify the Burden of Proof (what the team must prove to win) List all actors (people and organisations) involved and their responses List all major arguments or points Relate major arguments/points to the actor analysis and the basic arguments Select and order points Write speeches

  35. CONTENT TRAINING Content training usually takes the form of seminars, with each seminar addressing a specific area. Coaches should think about what factual information and understanding they would require from their speakers. Then structure a lesson or seminar around that subject matter area. The lesson should include chronologically ordered facts, explanations, relevance and examples of how the information can be used in a debate. Require that speakers write down notes and ask questions about that which they do not understand.

  36. CONTENT TRAINING Examples of content areas worth training: South Africa Overview: past & present Law and the Legal System Basic Economic Theory Basic Political Theory Electoral Models Current Affairs issues should also be addressed as topical issues frequently surface in the topics set at tournaments.

  37. DEBATING TRAINING In Debating Training, the most important thing is that speakers understand and follow the very basic technical requirements for a debate. These absolutes are: Follow speaker roles Always have a definition, identify the clash, and give a case split Establish what the team must prove to win the debate Target rebuttal at the major issues in the debate Sign post Take at least one POI and no more than two POIs Do not speak under time Do not get banged out for going over time Relate substantive matter back to the burden

  38. STYLE TRAINING Each speaker will have their own individual style. While individual style should be developed, there are certain universal style requirements.

  39. ADJUDICATION TRAINING Train your speakers how to adjudicate. Anyone not speaking should be made to adjudicate their teammates. This teaches objectivity and critical thinking. It makes speakers more aware of how they come across to an audience/adjudicators. They also can report back as to whether what was decided in prep actually came through in the debate and whether they made strong strategic decisions.

  40. ATTACHED RESOURCES Attached to this Training Manual are some simple explanations around debating essentials. Please use these documents for training some of the stylistic and technical subjects. Included is Debating Elements – additional resources for training: The Burden of Proof Matter Generation Basic Arguments POI’s Style

  41. INDIVIDUAL IMPROVEMENT When you give speakers feedback, individual feedback is important so listen and watch each speaker Set each speaker individual goals relating to improvements you want to see in them Make the feedback and goal-setting for individuals a positive rather then negative experience Goal ideas: Better timing Stylistic changes Writing down POIs General improvement of speaker scores

  42. TEAM IMPROVEMENT • When you give a team feedback in training, it should not only be about the motion. • It is important to address issues that you find are recurring weak points in each team. • Things to be on the lookout for: • Lack of team cohesion through a team line, shared vocabulary and referencing previous team speakers • What is decided on in prep doesn’t make it through to the debate • Team members who do not understand one-another

  43. QUESTIONS & ANSWERS • Make sure your training schedule allocates time for addressing the questions of speakers. • Training is the only time that most speakers will get to ask very specific questions. This requires that trainers: • Prepare well for the content training sessions • Spend a lot of time giving feedback after debates – including answering their questions • It is important that a trainer is able to answer questions effectively, which means that listening carefully to the question is important. Query the question until you are sure that you understand what they mean. • Answers which contain examples are easier for speakers to understand.

  44. FLEXIBILITY & AWARENESS As much as you need a schedule to communicate to the speakers and to the other trainers, be prepared to have to rework it on a daily basis. Ideally things will run as you have predicted, but there are often surprise issues that require briefings, or logistical issues like getting locked out of your venues, to consider. Build buffer time into your schedule to help cater for such inevitabilities. Try to stick to the schedule unless for good reason. A good reason for letting everyone have ten minutes to chat and stretch their legs may be that you have noticed that the speakers are no longer following a training session. If a lot of people are restless: not watching you while you speak, not taking notes, starting to yawn, fidget or talk to one another, then call a break. Regroup once you’re more likely to have their attention.

  45. FUN Training is hard work; so is learning debating. For your sake and those of the speakers, try to make training as much fun as you possibly can. Debating is a social activity so give everyone time to socialise with fellow speakers and the trainers/coaches alike. It’s not a bad a idea to try to have a few running jokes of your own to liven up a training or feedback session. Also, let some of the more humorous and engaging speakers have the floor for a few minutes from time to time. If you have the time, try some games and films with a debating slant.


  47. STATIONERY Each child should get two books. One book is for writing their speeches in, so they can look back and improve. The other book is for writing down debating and content training – this book becomes worthwhile for taking along to tournaments. (Exam pads are discouraged because they lose their previous speeches.)

  48. THE INTERNET The internet is not necessary for debating training, but it is useful. If you have all speakers in an email list, it’s simple to send them links to articles or debating websites. Local news websites are a good source for South African current affairs. The internet is particularly useful for researching prepped debates as speakers know what to search for. Decent sources for debaters are: http://www.idebate.org/index.php & http://www.economist.com

  49. NEWSPAPERS Reading the newspaper definitely boosts general knowledge and current affairs knowledge. Speakers can read the major news sites off their phones, making newspaper accessible in virtual format. If you are dealing with severely disadvantaged speakers, a good idea is to ask newspaper companies for back issues of their papers. This has worked in the past. It is also relatively inexpensive if you ask one team member to get a newspaper one week, and then a different person each week. Each speaker would only have to bring one newspaper to share for the entire length of training.

  50. FOOD Try to train near a source of food. Teenagers need sustenance and diversion – a walk to the shops is a good break. If you have speakers from poorer backgrounds, try to put aside some of your Provincial training budget for their lunch. Ask your Provincial Board if this is possible. For major training days, debating has in the past teamed up with temples, churches and NGOs to feed development speakers. It may be worth investigating.

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