Anyone can become a coach and everyone becomes a coach for different reasons. Maybe you were roped into it by someone already in debate, maybe it’s to help your resume, or perhaps you’ve done debate before and have a passion for it. Whatever the reason, you have a real opportunity to make a difference here. In a lot of ways these opportunities extend far beyond being a teacher but what you choose to do with it is entirely up to you.
In this article I am going to explain what separates a “low impact” coach from a “high impact” coach. But first, lets talk about how to get started as a debate coach.
Whether you’ve done debate before or not you’ll want to get familiar with our rules and format. On the Resources web page you’ll find the Art of Debate, Tournament Rules, and Judges Guide and it is probably best to read it in that order. These were written by us specifically for us and get updated every summer in-between school years. Furthermore there is a judges online course available that you should also take to be better informed and more helpful to your debaters. This sounds like a lot and it kind of is, but a lot of the information is crossed over from one resource to another. Eventually this information becomes like second nature.
LOW IMPACT COACHES
Low impact coaches take various forms, shapes, and sizes. They are not to be confused with a bad coach or someone that doesn’t care. NextGen Debate will only work with coaches who make a positive difference in our community. However, sometimes coaches only have so much time to volunteer or perhaps their strengths lye within different areas in our program. Whatever the reason, it is important that the decision to be a low impact coach vs a high impact be made consciously.
Coaches are ultimately responsible for the safety and whereabouts of their team during our events. They are expected to participate in 1-3 coaches meetings a year and to be available to host debate practice for their school. Each school is also required to bring at least one certified judge for every two teams you are bringing to each tournament unless its your first year joining debate. And well, thats it.
HIGH IMPACT COACHES
Similar to low impact coaches high impact coaches can take various forms but they often stick out like super heroes.
If your first concern is about your debaters it should be. But you dont need to know anything about debate to be a high impact coach. Debate teaches students to think and research independently. So often the best thing you can as a coach is just listen and ask questions. The more you are available to do this, the more you are impacting them.
Most coaches host one practice once a week which is a big commitment. However it is true what they say about practice making perfect. The debaters who move on to national competitions are ones who derived from teams that practiced a lot. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting national debate winners and they said they practice 3 days a week and a full 8 hour practice the Saturday before every tournament. This is of course, in addition to them practicing on their own time.
NextGen Debate is like any other business that requires support in a variety of areas to stay afloat. Not just debate instructors but social media, photography, litigation, food, and so much more. Volunteering your time in more than one area is a good place to start making a bigger impact.
We host open debate practice for kids from all walks of life to join. Some debaters dont go to a school with a debate program so they join our public events like this one. Any coach is welcome to host debate practice or join an existing one to offer more support.
Coaches can sometimes get overwhelmed too so showing support by attending each others practices is a great way to lift off some of that stress. With this in mind our coaches will often offer to host “joint” debate practice with schools who are new to debate.
Making a big impact isn’t just about volunteering more of your time. In fact, your attitude and presentation are what we look for the most. It may sound cliche but we take our culture very seriously as this directly impacts everyones experience.
UNDERSTANDING THE CULTURE
Judges use feedback after every round, the head judge gives feedback to the judges, coaches give feedback to debaters, debaters give feedback to each other, parents give feedback to coaches, and Anthony (President) gives feedback to all of the above. Do you see a common trend? We try to give as much positive feedback to each other as often as possible so that when we do have to give negative feedback, the person receiving it (hopefully) knows it comes from a good place.
Giving feedback starts with POSITIVE INTENT. Assuming positive intent reflects our view of someones actions. It means starting with the belief that a person meant well or was doing their best, regardless of what they said or did. Often times this can be done simply by asking the person about what you saw or heard before giving them feedback. However, before you can begin giving them feedback you must ASK FOR PERMISSION. Asking for permission usually sounds like this “would you mind if I gave you some feedback?” or “Is now a good time to give some feedback?” The reason we ask for permission is because if the person receiving the feedback isn’t open to receiving it then the feedback will be unproductive. Sometimes we are going through things that cant be explained to others or perhaps they would prefer to hear it in private and that is okay!
When delivering your feedback it is important to remain specific and provide a solution. Feedback like “you look weird” does not make people feel good about themselves or understand how to fix it. Feedback like “you spilled some food on your shirt, try using this cloth to clean it” would be more effective.
Remember when I said high impact coaches stick out like super heroes? Once you attend your first tournament you will start to notice the volunteers who get the most attention. That’s because when you volunteer in more than one area and embrace the culture you will earn more respect from the debaters and other volunteers. Debater’s will write in about their favorite volunteers and how much they have impacted them, it is truly heartwarming.
Remember when I said your opportunities extend far beyond a teachers? Well NextGen Debate is not affiliated with any other organization, institution, or program. We remain independent and allocate enough donations to keep this program alive ourselves. With that said, we too want to make an even bigger impact than we already have. We want to continue growing and are open to new ideas no matter how extreme. This program is yours as much as it is ours.