Tuesday, January 31, 2017

In which we suggest that you evaluate the way you're doing your job

Here’s how you should coach your team. Keep this as you primary goal, and do everything that it takes to achieve it: Make sure that all your alums want to judge for you for a couple of years after they graduate.

I am regularly dismayed by large programs that are incapable of digging up alums to judge for them once in a while. The bigger the program, the more alums there are. Why aren’t they coming around to give back a little bit? What did you do as a coach that made them immediately sever their ties with their high school, and with the activity that probably was the most important to them for four years?

The VCA knows that I don’t have the highest opinion of former students who hang around because they have nothing better to do, or still have a high school frame of mind when they should instead have a college frame of mind. Only students seriously considering education careers should be showing up every week. But the rest of the grads? Yes, they’re busy, but you need them. The activity needs them. Where are they?

One thing to keep in mind, when you go to a tournament and prepare to pay them for judges, wouldn’t it make more sense to pay your own alums? I know some schools think that giving back literally means giving, but they’re giving you their time and their expertise, and God knows, you seem perfectly willing to pay a stranger. Pay your own kids. Makes sense to me.

My guess, though, is that it’s not the money. It’s you. You, the coach. You did not build a lasting relationship with your students, you have no personal bond, and once they graduate, you’re like every other teacher they had, quickly forgotten, despite the uniqueness of this activity, in which we work with the students, and travel with them, for four straight years. We eat meals, we pass the time, we research and kick around ideas. Or we treat them the same way their Intro to Bio teacher treats them, interested in them of course, but not particularly connected. How can you work with them for four years and not connect? Beats me.

Yes, I’ve always said that forensics is about education first, and I believe that. But part of that education is the students building new and exciting relationships among a diverse population they may never had otherwise encountered. Shouldn’t that include their coaches?

And, by the way, no, I don’t have any more judges to sell you at the XXX tournament. You’re on your own. Maybe that’s the incentive you need, the little $500 fine I've been levying lately for showing up without judge coverage. Hey. Whatever it takes.


Monday, January 30, 2017

In which we tidy up a couple of events

Let’s see. The forensic world lands in Atlanta? Check. Delta computers go down for the return trip? Check. Finally, something other than Trump to concentrate the mind, at least for a few minutes.

I spent a lot of the weekend room whispering. Penn has umpty-ump buildings, and it was a matter of determining who would do what where. And, of course, there was the updating of the schedule. Once again we’ll have a tournament where there’s alternating rounds in the same room, meaning that Saturday will, for all involved, be the proverbial life of Riley. Unfortunately, that means that on the one hand we seem to be tabbing all the time, but on the other hand, we always have the rounds ready plenty of time in advance, with lots of time left over to harass people to get to their rounds. CP was doing this via Facebook for Emory. We like the more hands-on approach: we do it by sending our tabroom golem to the rounds and beating a few people upside the head in person. For tournament directors, the tabroom golem is available under the tab Schematics/Enforcement/Artificial. Just click on “mud monster” and drop it into the rounds you want to get started. Works wonders.

Baby Bump is now all set. Quite good numbers, when all was said and done. Very robust PF divisions, workable LD divisions. Apparently we even have the auditorium this time out. That’s a real throwback. As long as I can remember we had to use the cafeteria for starting and ending, which required me to talk loud and for people to listen loud, neither of which ever came off particularly well. This being an event for young ’uns, having an award ceremony, however brief, makes sense. Like an MHL or CFL. Also, we’ll have a short kickoff for judges so that they are all on the same page. A lot of the attendees are relatively new to debate; it can’t hurt to give them a little reassurance before they start.


Friday, January 27, 2017

In which we apologize for making fun of Congress yesterday on Facebook

A Field Guide to High School Forensics Judges

Speech judge
(showtunis wannabeum)
Natural habitat: Judges’ lounge. As a general rule, the showtunis wannabeum is so afraid of missing judge call that it never ventures more than three feet from the area where the ballots are distributed, except during actual judge call, when the showtunis is inevitably in the bathroom. 
Characteristics: Showtunis wannabeum comprises three separate subspecies. Showtunis wannabeum coacheum is considered the main line, and has heard teenagers attack Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven so often that, like the poet himself is so often wrongly depicted, they take to alcohol and opium while generally percolating macabre and murderous thoughts. Showtunis wannabeum exstudenti is a college student studying the performing arts in preparation for a career in food service. Showtunis wannabeum parentis has no idea why they are here, is not sure whether to laugh at the funny bits, and can’t believe that there is no one else in the building capable of judging Declamation.

Congress judge
(elsewherium ratherbe)
Natural habitat: Some other event. An elsewherium that is specifically assigned to judge Congress is the rarest of specimens. Most often found in the Speech pool or the PF pool, hiding their heads under their wings in fear of hearing their names called for Congress duty.
Characteristics: The elsewherium ratherbe is the most elusive genus of judge. Occasionally a true elsewherium, with a history of participating in Congress back in the day, is seen in the wild, but most elsewherium are the genetically doomed offspring of other judges: they appear at a tournament expecting to do one thing, end up doing another thing (i.e., Congress), and disappear thereafter, never to be seen again. Like magpies, the true elsewherium ratherbe can recognize itself in a mirror, but refuses to look, out of a sense of personal shame.

PF judge
(loco parentis)
Natural habitat: Unknown. The loco parentis, having neither instincts nor education, tends to disappear from whatever venue where it ought to be located. It’s there, somewhere, but extremely hard to find. Attempting to summon it via text, email or phone inevitably leads to failure, and most tab rooms simply go out with a net and capture whatever specimens it can, rather than searching for specific individuals.
Characteristics: The loco parentis has as its chief employment the maintenance of the honesty of the PF division: If the loco were to go extinct, the event that is its realm would immediately transmogrify into two-person LD, dooming it to its own long drawn-out but inevitable extinction. The loco parentis seldom knows what it is supposed to do, but even less seldom admits it. It plans on gathering its young and getting out of here at the first possible moment, a moment it tends to define differently from the people running the tournament. Sighting the same loco more than once is a highly prized experience among tab officials.

LD judge
(readium casecardius)
Natural habitat: Coaching its students about to enter rounds because, as everyone knows, cramming before the exam is the best way to deal with the inevitable.
Characteristics: The readium tends to be only slightly older than a high school debater, and usually has risen phoenix-like from its own dubious high school past, which everyone assumes was a lot better than it really was. Usually unable, regardless of sexual orientation, to find a date among its peers to, say, go to a movie, it agrees to spend virtually every weekend back in high school. A subspecies, the readium casecardius notoverit, acts as if it still wants to win the TOC. A rarer subspecies, the readium casecardius gerontius, may or may not coach Lincoln-Douglas, has no idea what anyone said in the round, refuses to read cards in a speaking event, and is inevitably struck by most of the field, unless there’s a lot judges whose first name is Mister. The readium casecardius gerontius is most often found in late out-rounds after everyone else has left.

Policy judge
(Latin? We ain’t got no Latin! We don’t need no Latin! We don’t have to show you any stinkin’ Latin!)
Natural habitat: Habitat? We ain’t got no habitat! We don’t need no habitat! We don’t have to show you any stinkin’ habitat!
Characteristics: Characteristics? We ain’t got no characteristics! We don’t need no characteristics! We don’t have to show you any stinkin’ characteristics!

Student judge
(waytoo selfimportantia)
Natural habitat: Attempting to get past the sign on the judges’ lounge that says “Adults Only.”
Characteristics: The waytoo selfimportantia is a senior or, occasionally, a junior in high school, who is judging novices, most likely for the first time. The waytoo is about as qualified to judge younger students as a sousaphone is qualified to sort rutabagas. The waytoo knows exactly how the round should go and what arguments should be made, because the waytoo knows how it would do it, and the possibility that there might be some other way is inconceivable. During rounds, the waytoo is often texting, gaming or listening to Killer Mike rather than flowing, although will never admit to any of it. As soon as the waytoo makes a decision, it will then proceed to a critique of the round that is longer than the round itself, unless someone from the tab room comes in and hits it over the head with a frying pan.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

In which we nod approvingly at March PF

OPTION 1 – Resolved: The United States should no longer pressure Israel to work toward a two-state solution.
OPTION 2 – Resolved: The United States should suspend military aid to Israel until new settlement construction ceases in the West Bank.

All right. These are the potential March topics, which means that, at least around here, they’ll be used for qualifying for CatNats and NatNats, and that’s about it. Needless to say, the subject certainly has been in the news lately, and it’s hot-button to a lot of people. I like the idea of students learning about our relationship to Israel, and about two-state, and about the West Bank construction. I like that the topics are fairly single-minded. The former could break into two things, pressure on the one hand and two-state on the other, the latter into military aid on the one hand and construction on the other, but offhand I can’t see any great advantage to anyone to parse their way into some resolution other than the one suggested by the framers. In other words, I’m on board. I’d probably go with number one, because the idea that we’ll suspend military aid to Israel for anything short of Israel declaring war on the US is pretty slim, but in a debate, anything goes. Not bad, folks!

After telling the Penn registrants yesterday that what they got is mostly what they’re going to get, there was a little drop off. At this point it’s mostly getting more slots in divisions, although a couple remain heavily loaded with schools that simply aren't getting in. Speech keeps fluctuating but debate seems locked. Nobody’s going anywhere. This may encourage people to actually start looking at the list of tournaments when it opens on tabroom. You can always take people out later, but you can’t necessarily put them in. Given that the popular tournaments do fill up, you’d think people would have realized this by now. Whatever.

Speaking of tabroom—I know, you’re saying to yourself, who was speaking of tabroom?—if you go to the Help tab on the home screen, you now get a place to post questions and bug reports and suggestions. It needs a little work design-wise, but I like the idea. I put in my thoughts about running e-ballots at colleges. I'll probably put more in over time, if I think it's useful. 


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

In which this is how a waitlist works

My iPhone 6 was telling me it had maybe 30% battery, then suddenly it would have 7%, or none. Obviously this would be a problem, and I googled it as one does, and it turns out that it had something to do with the OS communicating with the battery, and the solution is to reset all your settings. What the hey, said I, and I did it. This had two results. First, apparently it fixed the battery issue, and second, all my settings went away. This is both a good and a bad thing. It’s good because it allows you to see what you had and decide if you still want it, and if you want it the way it was. It’s bad because there are so many bloody settings that it takes forever to sort them out. I’ve been at this a week now, and I just discovered how to not have all my messages notify me twice, which was driving me crazy at Columbia. I thought it was spooks. Haints. Gremlins. I mean, who wants to be beeped twice? Or more than twice, which is an option? Jeesh.

Meanwhile, after a whole bunch of days making piddling changes to the Penn waitlists, I realized that most of these folks were not going to be in Philadelphia that weekend, and sent out a message warning people to go darken someone else’s door. Telling people that I have no idea if they’ll get off the waitlist always has the immediate effect of people asking me if they’ll get off the waitlist. Sigh. I’ve been pretty religiously working it by signup date, which doesn’t stop people who literally signed up yesterday from whining to me that they really need the slot because of X, Y or Z. I mean, I’m trying to be fair. First, a month after registration opened, I did a sweep, and pretty much everybody got slots. Then I waited till we had room confirmations and I started filling in as much as I could after that. I mean, who signs up for a college tournament thinking they’ll get 10 debate slots in each division? Seriously, people. And you signed up two weeks ago, and you have to make plane reservations, and what am I going to do about it? The VCA knows well that all I can do is happily thank you for trying. Since tabroom lists tournaments on the front page the day they go live, people don’t really have a great excuse for signing up late. Even people who say they’re new to this ought to get out of the house once in a while and talk to their colleagues to get a sense of how things work. My responsibility is to set up the best tournament possible. I want diversity in the field and in the judge pools. I don’t want people I know, people I like, people I hate, etc., etc., etc., to play into the equation. There is really no Rawlsean argument that says that, behind the veil of waitlist ignorance, I play favorites. My only bending is to occasionally cut people who are flying in a break, because of the extra problem of airline tix. But, I assure you, it isn’t much of a break, and Rawls (and you) would not disapprove.

More closely, Baby Bump is next week. The numbers are holding up. I still have a tiny waitlist of big school entries, and I want to let them in too, but I don’t want them paying to debate themselves. So I’ll sort that out at the end. Of course, it’s a one-dayer, so it’s no big deal to finalize things late in the game.

I still haven’t seen anything from Lakeland, although Stefan made it clear that he understood that I was blackmailing him, that is, if he wanted me to tab, he had to put up entries at Bump. After that, it’s CFL Grands, and my season crashes to a halt. I’ll have to start blogging about something else. Which reminds me: the new PF topics should be online. I gotta go check ‘em out.