How do Tournaments work?
Tournaments are one of the most fun things to do within the debating community. But how do tournaments work? How do you sign up for one? What does a day look like?
Why are tournaments fun?
While debating against people you know is fun, it’s also fun to debate against people who you haven’t met before. Tournaments provide a day full of debates, usually followed by some sort of fun activity at night. You get to meet lots of interesting people and have a debate-packed day. It’s also a fun way to visit (faraway) places and countries and interact with the locals.
How do I sign up?
You sign up by filling in the Tournament Sheet, which you will be able to access as a member of the LDU. You can also ask a board-member to do this for you. Usually, you already have a team-partner in mind when you register, so be sure to indicate that you want to sign up as a team. If you can’t find a team-partner, you can ask the board to look for one.
If you don’t want to debate, you can also sign up as a judge. Judging is also a very rewarding experience where you learn to distill what makes an argument persuasive and compare it to other speeches. Signing up as a judge also means that you pay a lower or no participation fee! To make tournaments possible many tournaments require that societies send a certain amount of judges when they register teams. This means that you enable other debates to speak by judging.
Tournaments usually provide food and (if necessary) a place to sleep; also referred to as ‘crash’. At most tournaments you will be hosted at the at their homes of members of the socieity organizing the tournament. This is a great way to meet students in other cities and see how they live. As a general rule, LDU will pay in advance for you. When the tournament is over, you will receive a request from the treasurer with the details of how to pay the society back.
Where are the tournaments?
There is always a tournament to go to. They can be as close as Leiden or Rotterdam, or as far as Kuala Lumpur. Refer to the Tournament Sheet or the debate calendar for specifics. Depending on the location, you might need to take a train or plane (or boat – or car). This is something you will have to book yourself, though it’s usually more fun if you book it together with the people who are also going to the tournament. Check out this website to get an idea of how many debating tournaments there are hosted each week.
What do I need to know about a tournament?
The size of a tournament may vary wildly. Some tournaments are rather small: e.g. internal tournaments, which .are tournaments where only members of a certain society participate. Others – like the World Championships – are rather large; these can consist of hundreds of teams from all over the world. Most tournaments consist of 40-70 teams. Luckily, all tournaments tend to follow a general pattern. Here’s how a day generally goes at a tournament.
During the day
When you arrive, you need to let the organisers know that you’re there. You do this by finding the registration (also referred to as ‘reg’). They usually hang out near the entrance of the building you need to be in, have a laptop and row in front of them. Sometimes they look stressed. Should you want to stress them out more (it’s fun – do it), tell them to change your team name. Registration is also the place you pay the tournament fee (if LDU has not done this for you already).
At the beginning of the tournament, all debaters are herded into a big room. Here the announcements are done. The organisers usually give some general information about the schedule and locations. The announcement room is also where they announce the motions and tell you in what debate you are supposed to be (and in what room). So remember where this room is!
Each tournaments consists several of rounds. At a certain point, when all (or most) of the debaters are in the announcement room, the organisers will start speaking (though not everybody will start listening). They announce the beginning of a new round. First the draw is put on the big screen. The draw tells you what room you’re supposed to be debating in, against what teams and who is judging you. When everybody knows this, the announcers will tell you the motion. You now have 15 minutes to prepare, and get to the room you are supposed to be debating in. Generally, the Opening Government has the ‘right’ to prepare in this room.
After the debate, the judges will deliberate while you wait outside. It’s usually handy to stay in the vicinity of the room. Use this opportunity to get to know your fellow debaters better.
After the judges have decided on a result, they will call the debaters back into the room to explain the ranking and the result. However, during the last round(s) of a tournament, the judges won’t do this. These are called ‘closed’ rounds (as opposed to ‘open’ rounds). Closed rounds are rounds where judges don’t give calls or feedback. This is to keep things tense for the teams that are likely to break. You can of course ask your judge for the call and feedback for this round, but that’s only possible after the break announcements have been made.
Each round brings with it the opportunity to earn an amount of points. In the British Parliamentary format 1 point will be awarded for each team that you beat in the round. This means that the team that won will receive 3 points, the team that was third receives 1 and the fourth team gets 0.
During each debate, the judges also grant each speaker the so-called ‘speaker-points’ on a scale of 50 to 100. At a good tournament the average speech would be around 75 points, the normal speeches of the better teams would be about 80 speaker points and the best speech of the tournament around 85 points.
The teams with the most points will advance to the finals. If there is a tie on points, the combined speaker points of both speakers in a team determine which team goes through. Going through to the final rounds is called “breaking” in debating lingo. In the final rounds the points earned previously no longer count. The best two teams per round will go on to the next round, until a final debate of four teams is reached.
Most tournaments also give prizes for the debater with the most speaker points. Special prizes are often awarded to top-ranking first-year debaters.
Lunch and Dinner
The tournament organisers usually take care of lunch and dinner. These are usually included in the registration fee. If you want to be certain though, you should ask the organisers. Should you have dietary preferences or food allergies, you should let the organisers know ahead of time. If you register via LDU, let the board know so they can tell the organisers. If you register for a tournament independently, let the organisers know when you send a registration email.
After a day of debating, it’s nice to unwind with a drink at the pub or a party somewhere. Luckily, most tournaments tend to organise exactly such an event! We encourage you to go to these, as they are usually a lot of fun!
Another reason to visit the socials – besides people-watching and drinking – is that to hear who made the finals. During the socials the teams who are advancing to the finals for that tournament are announced. Be there to celebrate your getting into the finals or to celebrate with the people who did!
Another reason that tournaments are fun is that you get to visit cities and go sightseeing with a fun group of people. Consider arriving a day early or staying a day later than the tournament and go sightseeing!