From Novice to Titan: The Tiers of Excellence

A debater will transition through six stages in his development. Knowing which stage describes you will help you focus your learning so you can get the most out of each round. For someone who starts young, these tiers can be a forecast of years to come.

Tier 1: Novice.

You’re learning the basics of debate. You run cases people give you. You’re figuring out what stock issues or values or fact criteria are. You’re not sure what to expect from rounds. You get a big adrenaline surge when you start talking. You can graduate from this tier after about 30 rounds.

Tier 2: Underdog.

You know what to expect in a round. You’re trying to adhere to universal standards of improvement by working on verbal pauses, writing better cards, etc. Generic advice is very useful to you. You can graduate from this tier in about 40 rounds.

Tier 3: Intermediate.

You have no significant weaknesses. You’re experimenting with different cases, theory, and strategies. You can read ballots and know what to learn from them. You suffer a slight dip in your win-loss ratio as many of your experiments fail to pay off. You can graduate from this tier after about 40 rounds.

Tier 4: Advanced.

You have mastered generic debate principles. Your mindset has changed from a general desire to do better to a focused desire to do well. You’re shocked if you don’t break to outrounds. You have learned what worked and what didn’t. You’re very hard to surprise. You can graduate from this tier after about 30 rounds.

Tier 5: Pre-Titan.

You begin a second experimentation period, in which you try wild and crazy things that are only possible because you’re such an advanced debater. You climbed a mountain in the first three stages, reached the top in the fourth; and now you find a verdant valley on the other side. You sample the various fruits in the valley – not all of which are worth eating. You suffer another dip in your win-loss ratio. You can graduate from this tier after about 20 rounds.

Tier 6: Titan.

Armed with everything you learned in the valley, you return to the top of the mountain. You embrace the pinnacle of debating excellence, with advanced strategies and complex persuasion. Generic advice is almost useless to you. You stretch the limits of the format and provide a shining example of excellence to those in early tiers. You never graduate from this tier, but it takes about a round a week to keep from rusting up.

Of course, there are ways to speed up the leveling process. One of my students advanced from the second to fifth tier in less than six months thanks to a number of factors: he started later in life, he worked hard, he was teachable, and he worked with national-level coaches. While his lack of total experience sometimes showed in that he lacks a few skills developed in tier three, he finished as an incredibly skilled competitor.

I want to see you become the most excellent version of yourself. Meet with me and I’ll show you how.