Q&A: Less than ideal partnership?

Q: In general, how do you recommend dealing with a partner situation that is less than ideal?

I don’t want to feel limited by my partner in the coming years. I want to do as well as possible in debate and I need a partner who can help me achieve that level of success. Debate is an area where I can’t really have a “c’est la vie” attitude – I just care too much.


Never enter a partnership expecting to be best friends. If this happens, consider yourself lucky. It is healthier to expect someone with whom you can work hard, both in round and in trying to improve your debating. Partners should have similar expectations for debate. This means similar commitment levels to your program, to attending tournaments, to traveling, and the amount of time spent preparing for debates. Sharing these expectations will protect your team for unnecessary conflicts. Conflicts will surely arise if you do not agree on these things.

If you do have conflicts, make sure you talk about them – best if you can have a neutral third party (a coach or team mentor) be present for the conversation. Things can get personal fast with just two partners and you want to keep things civil.

I do believe you should aim to partner with  someone with similar debate experience. Debate experience includes all forms of debate, not just PF. When possible, match yourself with someone with an equal number of rounds under his or her belt. Poorly matched pairs end up being mentorship relationships rather than teams.

You want to be a united front even if your team is struggling in round or with relational issues outside of the round. For the time of the round, lay down any swords you’ve raised at each other. You’ve got to learn to roll with the punches and mistakes that will happen in round – together. Work to highlight and maximize each other’s strengths. Work on making your team a unit: have traditions, pump-up music, superstitions, special binders or flow pens, matching ties, or whatever else makes your team “you”. Your partner is not just a debater, but also a person. You are more than a debater to your partner. Do not take yourself or debate too seriously!


Q:I’m a Pufo debater who is looking for a good pufo camp to go to with my partner. Any suggestions?

Q:I’m a Pufo debater who is looking for a good pufo camp to go to with my partner. Any suggestions? 


Actually, I do! First I encourage you to look at my post Selecting a Public Forum Summer Camp for a guide on how to pick a camp. As a follow up I have posted two segments of a four part series on Public Forum camps across the country. West and Midwest are up, South and East to come soon.

I also think it is a great idea to go to camp with your partner if you can. Going together allows you to work not only on your individual skills, but on your partnering.


I would suggest that you debate with another person at camp for at least part of the week. Debating with someone new pushes you out of your comfort zones and pressures you in new ways to improve. I think it can help illuminate both your strengths and weaknesses. Consider splitting up for debates even if you attend a camp together.

Look for the last two posts on camps soon to come.