The Week Before Nationals

The seven days before Nationals are some of the most important in your speech and debate career. How you spend them will determine how you walk into Nationals, the biggest tournament of the season. This prep schedule is intensive. So is Nationals. You need to train yourself for difficulty.

Here’s how to prepare like a National Champion:

Days 1-3

  • Sleep like you’re at the tournament. This is the top item for a reason. Physical exhaustion is the most consistent reason for underperforming at Nationals. Begin shifting your sleeping pattern to how you’ll be sleeping at Nationals. This means going to bed within the same 1 hour window every night, ensuring you’re getting 7-8 hours, and adjusting for timezone differences.

  • Organize and strategize briefs. You don’t want to be rummaging through 5 briefs from 3 evidence rings while you’re hitting the top-seeded team in round 6. Take your briefs and read through them. If possible, create a strategy against every case with your partner. At the very least, make a list of the 10-20 cases you really don’t want to hit and make a battle plan This means that you should consolidate all briefs on a case into one which only contains evidence/arguments that you would use in the round.

  • 1-2 practice rounds daily. It’s been a while since your last tournament. Don’t get rusty. Daily practice trains your brain to think like it’s at a tournament, putting you in the mental pattern necessary to be performing for 12 hours a day.

  • Run through prepared speeches daily. At this point, your interps and platforms should be better memorized than the happy birthday song. You should be able to deliver them with no issue while doing simple math problems or washing dishes. Run through them daily and focus on finetuning the aspects of delivery: your pauses, intonation, volume, and articulation.

  • An hour daily on limited preps. Limited preparation speeches are the best way to practice your delivery. So, even if you aren’t participating in Impromptu at Nationals, practice it. You should be prepared for every Mars Hill and Apologetics topic, caught up on current events for Extemp, and capable of stretching yourself with advanced drills.

  • Outline your biggest obstacles. Why have you lost rounds this year? If you don’t achieve your goals at Nationals, why? You need to know what’s going to stand in your way at this tournament. Outlining these obstacles and writing down how to overcome them will prevent you from repeating your biggest mistakes.

Days 4-6

  • Keep drilling. Keep doing the same drills listed as above, every day.

  • Practice Rebuttals and Responses. Give rebuttals from past rounds, practice or otherwise. Push yourself by cutting down times or assigning times to specific arguments. Develop your versatility. You also know what responses you’ll have to run. Go through them. Make sure your arguments could be understood by a ten-year-old; you can’t risk confusion.

  • If traveling: stay sharp. If you’re spending a significant portion of these days on the road or in a plane, don’t get rusty. Run through your speeches in the airport, prepare your briefs on the plane, do a practice round over facetime in your hotel room. Keep pushing. You’re almost there.

Day 7

  • Rest. You’ve made it. Spend time with friends, take a walk, or go see a movie. Do whatever you need to do to be relaxed and walk into Nationals as a champ.

Joseph and I are cheering you on. See you on the other side!