WHAT IS debating on the circuit?

“The Circuit” is a mysterious and foreign world for many debaters. What is it? How do you get there? Who are these elusive beings called “circuit debaters”?

Here’s a post to break down the mysteries and myths about debating on the circuit.

What defines a circuit tournament?

  • A circuit tournament will have a diversity of schools competing at it. Diversity means schools from different districts, states, etc.
  • Local tournaments are generally not circuit tournaments.
  • Circuit tournaments often have a round robin or a bid to the TOC.

What are major tournaments on the circuit?

  • Major college tournaments include: Harvard, Berkeley, Emory, Stanford,
  • Large regional tournaments include: Glenbrooks, Bronx Science
  • TOC Qualifying Tournaments are often circuit
  • The Tournament of Champions (TOC)
  • The NCFL National Tournament
  • The NSDA National Tournament

What is the TOC and why does it matter?

  • The Tournament of Champions is a tournament you have to qualify for by receiving at least two bids (three is a guarantee) in order to attend. You win bids by reaching a certain round at a TOC qualifying tournament (usually dependent on how many teams and schools attend). You can also apply at-large if you only have one bid or do not have bids but believe your winning record justifies your acceptance.

What are the logistical differences at circuit tournaments?

  • The pool of debate teams will usually be larger than non-circuit tournaments.
  • The number of preliminary debates will usually be higher than a local tournament. 6 is often the number of prelims you’ll have.
  • The judging pool will usually be more varied and include more experienced judges (ex-debaters, college students, etc).

What are the debating style differences?

  • Evidence is often more prominent and more often challenged if fishy.
  • Framework is a requirement for many judges and many debates.
  • You may encounter regional differences in both debate conventions and stylistic differences.

If you are new to circuit debating, you should realize….

  • Circuit debates are not radically different than other debates.
  • Stay true to your style and don’t get intimidated by the “big fish” in the pond.
  • The TOC and TOC bids are not everything. It is one tournament. Often teams with many bids have the resources to travel often to compete at qualifying tournaments. It is one measure of success, but not the defining measure. Don’t go bid crazy!
  • Try out debating on the circuit if you can. It will challenge your skills, open your eyes to the larger debate world, and be a lot of fun.
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