I wish something wonderfully controversial would happen so that I could comment from my responsibility-free perch of coachean retirement. Not being hindered by the chains of representing a school, I could wax eloquent on all manner of things and put everyone straight once and for all. Alas, at the moment the debate world seems as dull as the proverbial ditchwater. Or dishwater, if you prefer. I don’t care. I’m retired from it now.
One thing that is fairly certain is that I won’t be blowing against the wind with the MHL going forward. Honestly, I don’t think there’s anyone around to run it, unless I do, and one of the things I don’t want to do is run things like the MHL. It’s a losing battle. The thing is, the NYUDL has become extremely viable, and once upon a time, the MHL was where schools that eventually went into the UDL would go. Once NYC seems to have a half dozen well-attended events every weekend and starts going to the White House and what have you, the MHL loses at least part of its raison d’etre, the providing of local, inexpensive events. The other part of its raison d’etre, providing a league for learning, remains something of an issue, but at least for novices there’s plenty of opportunities at invitationals, and if we can continue to come up with a few less intense venues for sophomores to learn while not being skinned alive, that would be a good thing. That was the whole point of “Academy” debate, but only two schools ever picked up on it, Monticello and Byram Hills. Whether either will pursue the idea in the future remains to be seen. It’s up to them.
It’s a big issue, though, the retention of students, especially in a region where there’s so much high intensity competition. I’ve already gone on at length about LD’s self-destructive $ircuit tendencies, so ’nuff said there, but PF has its own problems. If you’re always up against teams from schools that always qualify for the TOC, and you’re a sophomore and they’re seniors, you may learn a bit, but you’ll inevitably lose. It’s like chess. Once the skill gap is great enough, the better player virtually always wins, and there’s little point in playing for the better side. At least if you’re playing tennis with someone dramatically below your level you get a little fresh air and exercise. There’s no fresh air in debate, though. Occasionally people do get exercised, but seldom in a good way. Oh, well. Sophomore slump has always been an issue, and it certainly dogs speech events as well, but if one could alleviate it a bit, that would not be a bad thing.
One thing that has to happen around her is that non-UDL schools need to go to the UDL events. If they want competition for their younger students, that is. It’s no big deal to schlep down to the city once in a while, but people aren’t in the habit. Everyone only wants to go to familiar places. Brooklyn Tech? The one you can’t get to from the Brooklyn Bridge, even if your family was born at Junior’s? Not to mention schools in—gasp!—Queens. Heaven forbid!
If you want your first-year students to become fourth-year students, this is the sort of thing you ought to be thinking about. Unless all you care about is students who can get into the TOC. Then you probably want to shake off as many of the noobs as you can before they get too attached to the program. They would, of course, benefit from debate education way more than the kids born to it, but in this day and age, who cares? You can’t put that on the shelf.