Thursday, November 20, 2014

Debating to Build Mental Strength: Part Four

Written by: Dr. Sarah T. Partlow Lefevre

It has been a few months since the first three installments.  But, I hate to leave a job unfinished.  So here goes number four.  In parts one, two, and three, I discussed 15 ways that debate can build mental strength.  I based my suggestions on the blog written by Paul Hudson called 20 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.  In this final installment, I discuss Hudson’s remaining suggestions and contextualize them in terms of debate.  The suggestions are:

16. Repeating Mistakes
17. Giving Into Their Fears
18. Acting Without Calculating
19. Refusing Help From Others
20. Throwing In The Towel

In debate, students learn to avoid repeating mistakes, overcome their fears, prepare their arguments, accept help from their partners, and to never give up.

16. Mentally strong debaters learn to avoid repeating mistakes.
When I was a debater, my coach told me that the path to winning in debate was learning from arguments to which I lost and never losing to the same argument twice.  After debates, I would analyze and examine the arguments that I lost to and write better answers to use in the future.  This strategy works in debate and it works in life.  Rather than bemoaning a loss, complaining about the judge, or belittling your partner, a mentally strong debater should craft better answers to other people’s arguments and seek to use each loss as a moment to learn and improve. 
17.  Mentally strong debaters do not give into their fears. 
There is a reason why public speaking is “America’s biggest phobia” according to the Washington Post.  Simply put, public speaking and debate are scary.  It can be a great challenge to speak in front of a judge; to try to give a coherent speech when you might be behind in the debate; to speak well as you enter a break round.  However, giving into such fears leads to defeat.  Instead, mentally strong debaters learn to channel their adrenaline and to use their fear productively to create better performances.  Misdirected adrenaline sparked by a fight or flight response can be a debater’s worst enemy.  Purposeful movement, mental strategies for overcoming fear, and focusing on the task at hand can help debaters to perform under pressure –a portable skill that will serve them throughout their lives.  For more suggestions on overcoming fear click here.

18.  Mentally Strong Debaters Are Prepared and Have Considered Arguments In Advance.
When you have time, you should prepare.  There are different ways to prepare depending on the particular debate format.  But, not to consider a variety of arguments and how they interact before you are in the heat of the debate leaves you without the ability to fully understand the complexity and strategy in a given situation.  Substantial calculation in advance will serve you well in prep time and speeches and allow you to construct winning arguments.

19.  Mentally strong debaters accept help from their teammates and their coaches.
In watching years of practice debates, I have often noticed that debaters respond to constructive criticism defensively with comments such as, “Well, of course I won’t do that in the debate” or “I know I am not supposed to do that.  But, this is only a practice.” This type of face saving comment makes it difficult for a debater to learn or to process potential improvements.  Mentally strong debaters should be open to constructive help and suggestions from their coaches. 

Additionally, debaters often refuse to accept help from their partners or other team members.  This is unfortunate because learning to work effectively in a team environment is one of the greatest benefits of debate.  Mentally strong debaters recognize that accepting help from others makes everyone better and does not diminish the individual. 

20.  Mentally strong debaters do not give up.

Many people try debate and give up because it is a challenge.  But, as with most things that are worth doing, debate requires personal growth and improvement over time.  It requires concerted effort from individuals who do not easily give up.  Perseverance in debate magnifies the importance of the accomplishments you do have.  We don’t do debate because it is easy.  We do it because it is an intellectually challenging, strategy oriented activity that requires development of useful skills over time.  If debate was easy, there would be no reason to continue.  It is because debate is difficult that we must press on.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Lewis & Clark Debate Tournament

Aurora, Tristan, Karen, Molly, Sasha, Mike, Jay, & Patrick
The James M. & Sharon E. Rupp Debate Society is competing at Lewis and Clark College this weekend in Portland, Oregon.  The team has a chance to visit downtown Portland last night where they were able to ride , to ride MAX, eat fantastic food at Mcmenamins, to visit the famous Powell's City of Books, and to stop by Voodoo Doughnuts.  After a good night's sleep, the debaters are competing in Extemporaneous Speaking, Impromptu Speaking, Informative Speaking, and Programmed Oral Interpretation today.  Tomorrow and Sunday, they will compete in NPDA debate and British Parliamentary Debate.  Good Luck Bengals!  GRRRRR.  #ISUDEBATE #RUPPDEBATE
Some of the debaters stopped to see Vista House in the Columbia River Gorge.

The Columbia River Gorge.

The Columbia River Gorge.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

ISU Debaters Take Top Speaking Awards at the College of Southern Idaho

Brandon Biggs & Patrick Loftus
In a quick trip to the College of Southern Idaho on September 26th and 27th, Idaho State debaters Brandon Biggs and Patrick Loftus earned top speaking honors and placed third overall in British Parliamentary Debate.  Also competing were Nicholas Tarbet and Karen Lei.

The Fran Tanner Invitational at the College of Southern Idaho hosted seventy debate entries in three divisions of debate.  After four preliminary debates, Loftus and Biggs were seeded second and invited to debate in the final round of British Parliamentary debate where they placed third overall.  In addition, Loftus and Biggs were honored as the top speakers at the tournament with a total of 693 speaker points finishing nine full points above the second place team.  Loftus and Biggs took first or second place in three of their four debates.

The team debated in British Parliamentary Debate which is a debate format designed to include eight individual speakers from four teams.  British Parliamentary is a fast paced, fun debate format that allows audience participation.   Each speaker has one seven minute speech but may ask questions of other speakers during their speech times, mimicking the style of the British Parliament.  This type of debate is accessible to public audiences and encourages proper delivery, jokes, and rhetorical flourishes while relying on the foundations of a good argument.  Rather than choosing a winner and a looser, the judges collaborate to rank order the four teams participating in the debate.

Patrick Loftus said, "I had a great time at the tournament working together with Brandon. I was very humbled to get the placing we did and am excited to be receiving positive results mid-season."
Brandon Biggs & Patrick Loftus Debating at CSI
The coaches are also pleased with the results.  Sarah T. Partlow Lefevre, Director of the James M. & Sharon E. Rupp Debate Society at Idaho State, said, “We are excited to try British Parliamentary because it is an engaging form of debate that develops students’ persuasive abilities and increases portable skills.”  Indeed, Forbes has listed Communication skills as #2 in the list of the twenty people skills you need to succeed at work.  In a recent Forbes article about the Benefits of speech and debate, Robert Sher argued,

“Here is the truth about students who compete in speech and debate.  They’ve spent hundreds of hours perfecting their speaking skills.  Many have done intensive research to write their speeches.  All have endured the pressure that competition brings, and have performed well intellectually under such pressure.  They’ve made connections and friendships with other high performing peers.  All of these behaviors are excellent predictors of success on any leadership team.”

Partlow Lefevre said, “British Parliamentary debate is particularly good at encouraging students to develop analytic skills, good delivery practices, and a persuasive style.”

                Apparently, Loftus and Biggs are well on their way to perfecting skills that will continue to pay dividends in college and beyond.  “I am so proud of their success and the way that they positively represent Idaho State University,” Dr. Partlow Lefevre said, “The skills they are learning today will last long after the debates end.”

If you are interested in debate or would like to learn more, please contact Dr. Sarah T. Partlow Lefevre using the contact form on the right.
Top Speaker and Third Place (Bronze) Trophies.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Debate Photo Scavenger Hunt - 2104

A few of the pictures taken during our first day scavenger hunt.  Who do you think had the best interpretation?

1. A selfie of the team:
Alexander Lopez   & Molly Draben

Patrick Loftus & Brandon Biggs
Mike Eyre & Jay Stark

2. An Owl:

No one knows why this is here.

We paid $4 to get this.

The sign says OWL

3. Strategy:
Tic Tac Toe
This is not a strategic shot

Locking the rest of the team out of the squad room.
4. Childhood:
We liked to ride bikes

No, we did not draw this.  Notice that Hope is 10 years old.

We are skipping like children.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Welcome Back ISU Debate!

We are excited to start the 2014-2015 academic year today.  Our first debate squad meeting is located in 410 Frazier Hall.  The meeting runs from 3:00-5:00 pm.  Feel free to drop by and find out about the opportunities available on the Idaho State Debate Team.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Throwback Thursday

Paul Montreuil & Scott Odekirk

Rachel Nicholas & Nate Murphy

Megan Demasters & Hannah Dunlop

Sarah Partlow, Danielle Jennings, Skip Flinn, Megan Demasters, Paul Montreuil, Andy Ridgeway, Nate Murphy, Hannah Dunlop, Rachel Nicolas, Desaray (Brown) Odekirk,  Lindsay Vanluvanee, Dan Fayle, Scott Odekirk

Paul Montreuil, Lindsay Vanluvanee, Rachel Nicholas, Hannah Dunlop, Andy Ridgeway

Aaron Dekeyzer

Nichalle (Klosterboer) Dekeyzer

Sheldon Kreger

Skip Flinn & Lindsay Vanluvanee

Megan Demasters & Stefan Menses

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Throw Back Thursday

Danielle Jennings & Paul Montreuil

Hannah Dunlop & Rachel Nicholas

Rachel Nicholas & Nate Murphy
Skip Flinn
Sarah Partlow Lefevre
Nichelle Klosterboer (Dekeyzer) & Aarom Dekeyzer
Scott Odekirk, Desaray Odekirk, & Sarah Partlow Lefevre
Scott Odekirk & Megan Demasters
Sheldon Kreger & Nate Murphy

Monday, May 5, 2014

Debating to Build Mental Strength: Part Three

by Dr. Sarah T. Partlow Lefevre

In part one and part two of this series, I introduced an article written by Paul Hudson called 20 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.  Upon initially reading the article, I noticed that many of the characteristics of mental strength could be developed through the practice of debate.  Debate is an activity that promotes dialectic and argumentative interaction while accepting disagreement.  The structure of debate lends itself to developing mental strength and healthy life perspective.  In part three, I examine Hudsons’s suggestions 11-15 rephrasing them as affirmative practices in the context of competitive debate.  Hudson’s things that mentally strong people don’t do are:
            11. Trying To Please People
12. Blaming Themselves For Things Outside Their Control
13. Being Impatient
14. Being Misunderstood
15. Feeling Like You’re Owed
Because debate is a training ground, I rephrase each as an aspect of debate that can develop mental strength.

                11. Debaters recognize when they’ve done their best regardless of the results.
While the structure of debate asks debaters to please the judge, mentally strong debaters also must do their best and accept that there are some results that rest outside of their control.  Because the judge is a human being and--by nature--imperfect, the very best performance might not yield a victory.  Mentally strong debaters recognize that the decision making process is also about the judge – their thoughts and predispositions, their moods, or even their human foibles.  A mentally strong debater understands that strategy in debate is about more than a virtuoso performance – it is also about adapting to the judge.  Additionally, a strong debater recognizes that doing one’s best doesn’t always mean marking a win on the results sheet.  Even in these cases, a strong debater is proud of doing his or her best. 

                12. Debaters recognize that there are some things they cannot control.
Debate is a game of control.  If debaters can control the variables, they are more likely to win.  However, even in such an intricate and strategic game, there are elements of chance.  Mentally strong debaters know this.  They recognize that they might draw tough opponents, fail to find the best evidence, run out of time in their speeches, make a mistake, or end up disagreeing with a judge.  Debaters learn that this is inevitable in debate and in life.  Debaters learn from experience that their control is not absolute.  This means they must do their best and recognize that some factors are not within the realm of their control.  Letting go of the notion that total control of the situation is possible frees debaters to be their best.  Win or lose, they must learn not to blame themselves and by extension not to blame the judge –a fellow human being.

                13.  Debaters learn that persistence and hard work produce dividends.
Many people who start debating do not ever succeed because they are not persistent.  If individuals begin debate and do not persist, they may not experience the benefits of debate.  Like many things that are worth doing, debate requires hard work over a sustained period of time.  But, the rewards that come from sticking with it go far beyond trophies.  Debaters experience personal growth and transformation.  They develop life skills and analytic skills in a dynamic environment.  Sometimes the process hurts.  Mentally strong debaters learn to embrace the adversity as a method of intellectual and personal growth.  Debaters who stick with it develop amazing analytic skills and begin to win.  But, often winning takes time.

                14.  Debaters recognize that they are responsible for crafting and refining the messages that they communicate.
Mentally strong debaters understand that they are responsible for what they communicate to the judge.  Debate is a process of persuading the judge as a specific audience in a dialectical environment.  In that sense, the judge has a particular set of life experiences, debate experience, academic knowledge, debate knowledge, and different preferences that may all influence his or her response to the round.  Strong debaters seek to understand the perspectives of the judge rather than to blame the judge for voting against them.  For those who are not mentally strong, every debate victory is about their skill as debaters while every loss is about the stupidity of the judge.  Mentally strong debaters recognize the possibility that they might be wrong in any given debate.  Recognizing their potential weaknesses allows debaters to identify flaws in their communication and to remedy them.  Fundamentally, it is a debater’s responsibility to communicate clearly and persuasively.

                15.  Debaters know they must earn their success.
Mentally strong debaters recognize that debate doesn’t owe them anything but offers many things.  Participation in debate builds research skills, the ability to understand and process complex material, strategic thinking, speaking skills, and many other benefits.  Mentally strong debaters understand that each of these benefits is multiplied through hard work and practice.  Expecting to have success handed to you leads to disappointment in debate and in life.  Often, debaters develop mental strength as they learn to thrive on the challenge and to hone their debate skills.  Accepting that rewards are earned serves debaters well throughout their lives.

I hope you are enjoying the series.  Feel free to comment or make suggestions. Part four is coming soon.   

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Throwback Thursday

John and Krista Dewey

Brad Cole

David & Terry Fredrickson

Izak Dunn & Richard Howell

Jessica & Amanda Melham

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

End of Year Squad Dinner, April 30, 2014

Roger Copenhaver

Krystal Lynes & SamRichardson

Anne Johnson & Zach Sayles

Sam Richardson, Logan, and Robyn Hemmert
Kendra Doty & Sarah Partlow Lefevre

Thanks for a great year!  
See squad award winners here.

Examples of the word cloud recognition for the debaters.