One of the best poker books IMO is Elements of Poker by Tommy Angelo. In it, he posits that everyone has 3 levels of performance they can give in any game
This is you at your absolute best- everything is clicking, your hitting all your shots, your confident in your decisions. A-game is rarely achieved for most of us, we play our A-game 20% of the time or less
B game is your day in day out “usual”. You do more good than bad, but mistakes are made. B game is how other people would describe you because it is what they see from you most often. B game is about 60% of your performance
This is your worst. Lack of sleep, lack of preparation, being a Cavs fan- all these things contribute to you giving your worst performance possible. As much as we would like to think we are firing on all cylinders every time we step on the field, the reality is that for most of us we give our C game too often- up to 20% of the time.
You could think of your game like this:
Each persons curve will look a little different obviously, but imagine you had to fill in each section with corresponding skills. In other words, what are your a, b, and c game skills? That might look something like this
-good at selecting appropriate evidence
-highlight like a champ
-doing line by line
-policy arguments generally
Now, organized this way many of you can probably c where I’m going with this- when setting goals your aim should be to “lop off” your C-game, improve the things you are bad at and eliminating them from your repertoire. However, that is not what most people in debate do. They try to improve by improving their A-game. Improving your A-game is very, very hard. Lets look at an example: you are fast. Faster than 95% of your competitors. Now, how much work would it take for you to become faster than the other 5%? A LOT. Once you get reasonably fast, joining the upper echelon of fastest ever is a much harder leap- each standard deviation you move out becomes harder and harder. Once you are reasonably fast if you have a finite amount of time to work on improving your skills you would see more results by focusing on your C-game, the things you are often bad at.
We can think of this a different way
Lopping off the C game means that the portions below the C- line would no longer exist
By constantly lopping off your C game, your overall performance improves as you are making less mistakes and performing at your best.
So, lets say your biggest problem last year was 1AR coverage. You are pretty fast, which makes it odd you have this problem, and you like to read a lot of cards and extend a lot of arguments.
What most people would do is practice… going faster and extending more arguments! What should you be doing instead? Well I would break this down into 2 basic “goals” for improvement
- In future 1ARs I will make choices and extend less arguments
- I will start doing efficiency drills in addition to speed drills to work on saying the same thing with less words
So how do you accomplish each goal?
Number 1 is tricky, because learning to make strategic choices often requires setting up practice debates with other people and blah blah blah. While it is hard to practice MAKING strategic choices by yourself, its easy to PREPARE to make strategic choices by yourself. For example, lets say you want to improve your 1AR on the states CP. You know the 2AC block your partner wrote for this is the following
- Perm do both
- 50 state fiat bad
- fed key to advantage 1
- fed key to advantage 2
- state politics disad
After this 2AC, you have a lot of strategic options:
-go for the perm/win it shields the link
-go for theory
-go for either advantage, and reasons the CP doesn’t solve that advantage
-kick the case and go for the disad to the CP
Now depending on the block you are only going to extend 1 or MAYBE 2 of those options. For many people, this is scary. Going for a small number of arguments, to them, means you aren’t likely to win because… you don’t have a lot of arguments. While a common fear, this is ultimately backwards. You win by winning an argument conclusively, not by having a large number of arguments. You win conclusively by dedicating time to the argument to make it good/develop it. In order to dedicate that time, you have to make choices. It’s as simple as that- there is no other way to do it.
So lets take one part, the perm, and start prepping it to be a “strategic option”. What does that entail? Well it means you are prepared to go for the argument and win it. This means you need to have an extension block prepared that addresses common points likely to be raised by the other team, and explaining why your argument defeats them. Lets look at how this debate usually plays out.
2AC: Perm do both
2NC: Perm do both still links- it includes federal action which means Obama gets the blame for the plan and loses political capital.
1AR: Extend perm do both- it shields the link
You may think this is an exaggeration, I assure you it is not. The 2NC was not great on the perm, but the 1AR responded by being worse. That’s not a winning strategy. Given you have infinite prep time to write 1AR blocks you should be able to do better than this pretty easily.
Step 1- Brainstorm what the neg will say to the perm
-some kind of theory nonsense
Step 2- write out responses to these
AT: Still Links
-the plan text says congress not the president, and most legislation originates in congress not from the executive- its illogical to assume Obama pushes the plan. If he doesn’t have to push it to get blamed than the link is Non unique as he would get blamed for (xyz thumper), or he would get blamed for the action of the CP and it links as much as the plan
-States shield the link- no congress person can bash obama over the plan if their state just enacted similar legislation- they would look foolish and would alienate their constituents. We’ll concede their evidence that states are faster and more responsive- that means the CP would happen first and the plan would be perceived as follow on
-Don’t vote on minimal risk of a link- its the neg burden to prove a significant net benefit to the CP- risk of a link encourages them to find the most obscure and terrible disads we won’t have offense against warping research incentives and destroying education. Assign zero risk of the net benefit and vote aff on presumption-which shifts as the CP is more change than the plan
-No theory abuse- the perm is just do both, it implements the whole plan
Notice, reading all that will take a lot more time than the 1AR in the example above. This means you need to take time away from other things, and that requires argument choice
Step 3: Efficiency
After you write blocks you should always, but especially if you are working on your efficiency, go back and highlight/re-write them to try and make the point with less words so the argument takes less time. There are a ton of inefficiencies above and you could probably shave several seconds off by re-working it. If you read 6-10 blocks in the 1AR and each one is 2-3 seconds shorter due to re-writing that’s an extra 30 seconds of 1AR time per speech.