The expectations I had for my very first international debating tournament were low. I just hoped I would have a nice time and that I would win at least one debate. I wasn’t expecting to see much of the town or to find new friends. I went to Prague Debate Spring with 14 other students from team Netherlands Young and I had an amazing time.
I never flew before, so when I met up with my team at Schiphol airport, I was very nervous about the flight. For some reason, I’m not nervous about the debates anymore. I immediately found support within the team. They made weird jokes which weren’t funny at all, but they still made me laugh. After a long wait and a short flight, we arrived in Prague. For a girl who hasn’t visited more countries than France, Belgium, and Germany, Prague was an impressive city. The city has these amazing streets that almost give you this Paris vibe. The buildings are old and have this beautiful historical look.
On Friday, the debates began. It was weird and awesome at the same time to debate against a country like China. It wasn’t necessarily a different debate from one I would have with another Dutch team, but it was the whole experience around the debate that was different. After every debate, you talk to each other about where you come from, what your school is like and so on. I’m not used to talking to people who live in a city which has more inhabitants than the Netherlands. A team that I really liked was South Africa. The positive energy that they spread throughout the whole competition was so amazing and lovely.
As I heard from other debaters, my expectations for the food shouldn’t be too high. They were right. The food wasn’t bad, just wasn’t meant for me. Luckily, Prague was filled with cheap supermarkets which had a lot of great food. As for where we slept, it was better than I expected. Besides a broken shower, a lack of cups and a lack of good pillows, we all had a bed which was comfortable enough to sleep in. We stayed in a quieter area of Prague, so there wasn’t a lot of noise at night.
In the late nights with my team, unexpected bonds came. As we liked to call them, bonding nights, we talked about things that otherwise never would have been talked out. We laughed, cried, talked, but most important we supported each other. We talked about tensions and nerves. We discussed the other teams, Prague itself and our expectations of the other debates. We were able to have a cup of tea and at the same time discuss how nervous some were about the debates. That form of support is rare, but something that is so lovely when you find it.
We also bonded with the coaches. On Friday evening, I fell ill and I wasn’t able to sleep, but one of my coaches was able to give me the best help possible. They were the biggest help you could hope for. Talking with them about how you feel is very important and the solid support they gave was probably one of the most important things during the whole trip. The coaches and my team formed this kind of safety net for me and that gave me the power to keep going even on lesser moments.
A debating tournament makes you realize a lot about yourself. It increases the self-knowledge you have and the knowledge you have about others. It learns you even better than a national tournament how to deal with the stress, how to spend your prep time as efficient as you can and how you are able to calm each other down. It’s one big teambuilding assignment.
In the end, it’s important to remember that a debating tournament like Prague isn’t just to win all the debates. It’s about support, fun and learning new things. Prague gave me those things: the amazing support from my team members and my coaches, laughing, learning and exploring all day.
For the upcoming General Assembly of the Nederlandse Debatbond, the Board proposes to introduce a new article 20 of the policy manual. During the General Assembly, the article will be voted on in Dutch, but for the sake of discussion, we have translated the article to English.
Proposal on Central Equity Officer
Realising that there are several issues within the Dutch debating community that could use a central equity officer.
Proposes a new article 20
20.1 A national Equity team exists.
20.2 The members of the equity team are appointed by the General Assembly after being nominated by the board. The members of the equity team are proposed for a period of one year. A member can not be appointed more than three times. Board members can not be part of the equity team. There are no more than three members of the equity team.
20.3 During the nomination a diversity in gender and debating society will be sought. There will also be sought for people with previous experience as an equity officer at their society or on debating tournaments.
20.4. The Equity team has four tasks:
– They write a (national) equity document specifying what equity is and in which ways they can help.
– They advise the board, the General Assembly, equity officers of debating societies and tournaments and the members of the Dutch debating community on matters regarding equity.
– They handle complaints from individual members of the Dutch debating community, when these members can not go to a different equity officer. For example because no equity officer was appointed for the occasion when the matter regarding the complaint happened, or because it is impossible to go to the appointed equity officer.
– They keep a so called ‘black list’ of people who, because of extremely serious transgression to that what is accepted within society, are no longer welcome on Dutch debating tournaments. This black list can be shared, when necessary, with Equity Teams of tournaments so these equity teams can make a decision as to whether these people should be banned from their tournaments. When a tournament does not have an equity officer, it can be shared with other parts of the organisation.
For the upcoming General Assembly of the Nederlandse Debatbond, the Board proposes to introduce a new debating ranking list. However, to come up with a new policy that got support from our members, we would like you to inform us about your thoughts.
We have deleted the old debatranglijst due to the new privacy law. We’re uncertain whether we should have a debatranglijst: leave your thoughts down below.
If we would have a debatranglijst, we want to have it start afresh every year and have your four best tournaments count. We wish to count your accomplishments based on a percentile, and we don’t let any tournaments weigh more heavily than others. Only certain tournaments are counted, tournaments with special selection-criteria or with themes are excluded.
For the last few years the debatbond tracked all Dutch debaters on a debatranglijst. A list of all debaters, giving points on how well they had done at different tournaments and ranking them accordingly. Last year the old debatranglijst had to be removed from our website because it was no longer GDPR compliant. Since a new list had to be started in the new debating year we felt it was the perfect time to discuss updating its rules. To do so a Brainstormcommittee was formed and we discussed whether a debatranglijst should exist, and, if it should exist, in what way. This document is a summary of that discussion. It includes recommendations and a new proposal for a debatranglijst, should the bondsraad want one.
Should there be a debatranglijst?
The brainstormcommittee isn’t certain whether there should be a debatranglijst. A debatranglijst can be fun, because people can compare themselves with other debaters, even when they aren’t regularly speaking at the same tournaments. It can also be a way to track your own progression over the years. However, the debatranglijst can also be used to cultivate toxic status-relationships and to keep them intact. Moreover, the debatranglijst can be used to look down on people within the debating community and some people feel less certain and good about themselves because of it. There’s already a lot of competition within the debating community and people are ranked after every weekend. It might be wise to keep that to the (necessary) minimum of tournament rankings. It remains to be seen how strongly the debatranglijst plays into this, especially because ranking debaters already happens in so many ways.
The brainstormcommittee advises to only have a debatranglijst if a large majority of the member-societies want it, and to permanently abolish the list if it would play too much of a role in the way debaters see and treat one another.
What’s allowed with the GDPR?
Roughly speaking (and in no way to be seen as legal advice): every tournament needs to ask permission to publish someone’s name online (via the TAB), when asking this permission the tournament could and should also ask whether we can use your name for the debatranglijst. On top of that, there should be (as there always was) a way to get yourself removed from the debatranglijst.
This means that using foreign tournaments becomes almost impossible, but using national tournaments would be fine, as long as this permission is given.
How should the debatranglijst work?
To answer this question we looked at four different aspects: How many tournaments should be counted in what timeframe, what tournaments should be included, how should accomplishments be weighed and should different tournament be weighed differently?
Our proposal is to have a cyclus of one year. This means that every year the debatranglijst starts afresh: a blank slate where everyone has the same amount of chance to do well as everyone else. At the end of the year a prize could be handed out to the winners. This would mean that more value can be given to the list, since inactive debaters no longer pollute the list with their presence, and the list becomes more accessibly to newer debaters. Every year the four best tournaments of every speaker are taken into consideration, which means that players aren’t obligated to compete in all competitions to get a better score, but also that inactive speakers won’t be ranked too highly on the list. If someone does not speak Dutch they can request the Debatbond board that their three best tournaments are counted, to make it easier for them to participate and do well on the list, without them having to participate at more than half the tournaments in their chosen language. They have to make such a request in the first three months of the year.
What tournaments should be included?
The bondsbestuur will make a list with all the tournaments that count that year. This list is open for everyone and all tournaments can apply. The Bondsbestuur will actively encourage tournaments to do so. The board makes this decision on the following criteria: the tournament must be held in AP, BP or in a different format that’s used around the world, such as Australs. The tournament must be open, so no selection-criteria exist in order to compete . This means that, amongst others, novice tournaments, schools tournaments, internal tournaments and the mace are excluded. Lastly, there should be no restrictions to the CA-team, so themed tournaments are also excluded. A first list for this year could be:
How are accomplishments weighed?
Several different options exist here, we’ll outline four and argue for our preference.
The committee wishes to go for option 1, but has no preference for 1a or 1b in what way we’d count the outrounds. We believe that debating is a team sport and people should therefore mainly be marked on team-accomplishments. Even though we do see a compromise could be useful, we fear it would be highly unpractical to implement, and we would still value team-accomplishments more than speaker accomplishments.
Should different tournaments be weighed differently?
Because we propose a percentile-based system we do not feel the need to make a difference for different tournaments. We cannot easily or objective weigh the toughness of the competition at different tournaments and therefore the best thing is to look at how many other teams are participating. Importantly, we believe that Dutch nationals should be counted differently from other tournaments, since now it influences the debatranglijst way too much. We do see that someone who wins a tournament with 40 other teams doesn’t get more points than someone who wins a tournament with 20 other teams, but we feel that the outrounds are, in a way, equally tough, no matter how many other teams first competed. Moreover, we believe that the list should focus on the average debater, for whom the difference between a 12th place and a 15th place does matter a lot, which is taken into account really well, and for whom the different tournament size also matters a great deal.