Okay you got logistics finished. Now for the meat and potatoes. What does competing at tournaments look like?
Transportation and lodging
For any tournament you need to consider these factors. First, figure out what you need. You don’t need to get hotel rooms for a 20 minute drive away. Next, ask your administration about how both will work. The district probably has transportation services it can lend you and travel agencies it partners with. Always go through the district and not do things independently.
Tip: A lot of districts need to use the bus at the beginning and end of school, so if you are using district owned buses, you will probably need to leave school hours before the actual tournament starts.
Arriving at the tournament
If you arrive early, they will take you to a holding room. Once you get to the tournament, see if registration is open. Registration is usually a desk where you will pay your fees through a check to the tournament hosts. You may also be asked to show your teacher sponsor as well as any judges that need to be there at that time.
Critical locations at tournament
Tabroom: This is usually a literal room where a bunch of coaches sit around running the tournament. This will be a go-to place if an issue arises with the tournament’s logistics (think less where to buy food and more dropping students, missing judges, delayed rounds, etc.). Furthermore, if you need to pick up trophies if you missed the awards ceremony or need to find ballots, go here! Help/Information Desks: There will usually be many of these around. Ask them for help about maps, finding rooms, schedules, etc. They are your general guide for everything! Main Holding Area: Usually a cafeteria or auditorium, this will be the central hub for the entire tournament. Every team will stay here as they wait and prepare for the next round. There will also be a concession stand selling food and meals to raise money for the schools speech and debate team. Paper with the rounds and postings will be posted around the main holding room as well. Tip: Since you will have to stay here for quite a long time, make sure you find a location in the Main Holding Area near an outlet. These are lucrative but super helpful spots! Judge Lounge/Hospitality: This is where judges will hang out. If you are a judge, hang out here when you aren’t judging a round as they will come find you if you have a round you have to go to. Luckily there will likely be lots of free food and it will be real quiet, so it’s a good place as a judge to hang out. Extemp Tab: Extemp requires those 30 minutes of prep remember? Well this is where you do it. It’s usually a seperate room/auditorium from the main holding room. Make sure to get there on time!
Getting to round
Now that you’re situated, you got to get to round! 30 minutes before every round for each event, posting will be posted on either Tabroom, joyoftournaments or in person. (Depends on the tournament). Here’s an example:
Notice how on each separate row is a room location, competitors (because it's debate, it’s only 2 competing teams) and judges. In some tournaments like the one above, competitors are given codes to hide their identity. If there are codes, you will be given your codes when you register. On the very left, there’s a common called “Flt”. This is known as a flight. Usually applying to debate, flights are used by tournaments to have rounds in the same room one after the other. So for the first two columns, if you are flight 1, you would be the first round in that room, starting at 7:00 PM CDT and if you were flight 2, you would be the second round in that same room, starting after the first round finishes, at around 8:00 PM CDT. Every type of posting, whether it's in person, on joy, or on tabroom will all have the same exact format and common conventions. Once you get to round(preferably early), you will wait for the judge. If you enter a room without the judge in the room as well, you will be disqualified from the tournament, so make sure you wait for a judge. Then you run the round and do your best! If you have any questions during the tournament, ask your judge, the help desk, or other coaches. Remember, all tournaments are unique so you want to make sure you know the specifics about your tournament. If you are a judge, you will either be given a paper ballot or an electronic ballot on tabroom. Filling out the ballot requires some training, so make sure you are familiar with the event you are judging and know what to look for in a winner! If you have any questions, ask the staff at the tournament or other coaches. The best thing to do is to reach out. It’s better to be embarrassed by asking something simple than to mess the entire tournament up.
What should I bring?
A power cord. You’ll need one.
Your laptop, cases, speeches, legal pads, stationary, and anything else you need to succeed
At least 20$ a day for concessions. Make sure you eat!
Extra pantyhose and sewing kit
Any paperwork or emergency contact forms.
Outside food. Sometimes concessions is expensive, so this will be a cheaper option.
Manuscripts for Interp events. For events that require you to present the script exactly as it is, you need to bring the physical full copy of the play/book the script is from, as well as your cut copy.
Extra tips and information
Make sure you wear a suit or suit skirt. It is customary in most events to dress formally.
The Team Captain should make sure to keep constant communication with the coach. If there’s any issue with tab, they will contact the coach, and the team captain should help figure out student-related decisions.
Judges should get to the school 30 minutes before their first round.
When the tournament ends
After rounds have finished, on the last day, there will be an awards ceremony. The top 6 of each event will each go on stage and the placings will be announced. It is customary in most debate tournaments for you to clap once after each announcement from 6th to 2nd place and then give a standing ovation to the champion in each event. There will also possibly be announcements for the top speakers in each of the debate events (those who got the highest composite speaker points in prelims). Finally there are the sweepstakes awards. This is given to the top 3 schools who did the best overall. Decided based on points given for each however well each competitor does, these awards will be given to schools, and the coach or captain usually accepts these awards. Awards ceremonies are always lively and super wholesome so be sure to attend! After awards, make sure you get ballots. If the tournament was done online, you will have ballots online, but if the ballots were physical and on paper, you will have to visit the tabroom to receive your ballots. Get these ballots, use them to submit any NSDA or local state points you need, and then pass them back to the competitors. Phew, that tournament was fun, but it was also a great learning opportunity and hopefully, you’ll start planning your next tournament!
What if it's online?
With an increased threat of pandemic level events occurring in the future, what can you expect from online tournaments and what should you look out for?
The two main platforms for online tournaments are Classroom.cloud and NSDA campus. Do not worry, most tournaments will give detailed instructions on how you can use these platforms so just do your research and you will be fine.
Always be at round early. Whether it’s technology issues or sudden changes, it’s easy to not notice changes in an online tournament, so get to rounds early.
When tournaments refer to events as Asynchronous, this means that you will just record your performance and submit it to be viewed by judges. You will not have to show up to rounds if the tournament doesn’t say so.
Pay attention to your camera. Make sure you are visible to the judges and other competitors. You want them to be able to see your face, your gestures, and be able to hear your voice
Otherwise, its business as usual. Follow dress code, debate your best, and compete like you would at any other tournament!