Team Building and Coaching Novice

Team Building and Coaching Novice


Many teams are self-taught, meaning that the more experienced debaters (Varsity) teach the new debaters (Novice) how to debate. This often happens on large teams that do all the events, and one coach can’t cover each student’s individual progress.


Enter team building and coaching.


Here are different activities you can use to teach novice and build your team’s skill levels.

  1. Lectures
    • Although you may receive general lectures on argumentation and delivery from your coach, it is useful to address PF specific topics. This would require Varsity debaters to prepare talks to give to the Novice. Organize topics from basics to more advanced topics. Teaching topics sequentially by when they occur in the debate (Research, then Case writing, then Rebuttal, etc etc).
  2. Topic talks and brainstorm sessions
    • When the new topic comes out, you should rally your team together either in class or after school to discuss. I would suggest assigning the topic to one or two varsity to give a short background speech to set the stage for brainstorming. Having a group brainstorm will help kick start everyone’s research, but more importantly, teach the novice how to think critically about the resolution. This needs to be demonstrated for new debaters – don’t assume they know how to deal with this immediately.
  3. Hold practice rounds
    • Practice rounds are invaluable for both those who debate and those who watch. Make sure your novice are getting practice rounds as well as…
  4. Watch varsity rounds (for the novice)
    • It is important for novice to see “good habits.” Have two Varsity teams debate just for the novice. Consider stopping in between speeches to explain what just happened. Pairing lectures with observing rounds is a powerful teaching tool for novice.
  5. Hold angel tournaments
    • Angel tournaments are where a novice team is assigned a Varsity debater who will be with them in round to help. This helps guide the novice in an actual debate and apply the lessons they are learning. It also helps with confidence and diminishes stress that naturally comes with facing a real important.
  6. Require debaters to watch out rounds if they do not break.
    • This especially applies to novice debaters. I truly believe watching rounds is what pushed my debating forward because I saw what I wanted to be doing, rather than just heard how I was supposed to do something. Require your novice to watch Varsity rounds, not novice rounds. We want the best examples for novice to watch, not simply repeat the type of debating they see in round.
  7. Assign Varsity mentors to novice debaters.
    • By pairing one Varsity to one novice, you can spread the work of teaching as well as create a more personal way for novice to learn. It is easier to approach someone who is supposed to help you than ask the scary Varsity who seem too busy or important to help you. If you have more novice than Varsity, try and keep mentorship assignments to a minimum.
  8. Don’t write the Novices’ cases for them.
    • If you write a case to give to the Novices, this produces many problems that include
      • You are not teaching critical thinking.
      • The Novice have not read the evidence.
      • It is not the Novice’s logic, which means it will be more difficult for them to defend.
  9. I do think Varsity give old cases to model how to write a case. Teach a Novice to write a case and you prepare them to debate. Give them a case and you allow them to avoid building strong debate skills.
    • Share evidence and ideas within your team.
    • Treating your team like a team, rather than a bunch of individual teams that are competing against each other, will make everyone stronger. When you share evidence and ideas, you push each other forward, lend different perspectives to the topic, and make the hard work of preparing for a debate easier by sharing.
  10. Accept that debaters will have different levels of investment in debate.
    1. When you teach novices, realized that this is most people’s first experience with debate. Some people will not take to debating and not put in the effort you think that they should. On the other hand, some people may immediately throw themselves into debate and impress you. Accept that there will be different levels of investment, but don’t slow down for people who are not putting in effort.
  11. Have some fun!
  • Novice that will be invested and involved are those that feel like they are learning, but also that they are being supported. When you remember to have fun with the novice and not just demand they learn and do research, you’re more likely to build a family-style team. In my experience, family-style teams can survive losses and support each other better, and ultimately are more successful overall.

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