Can't I succeed without debate camp?

Besides scheduling conflicts and other impediments to students attending camp, I’ve seen my fair share of debaters who decide not to go to camp even though they can and should. The biggest reason I’ve seen debaters use to justify not coming to camp is that they believe they wouldn’t gain enough skills or “are too good” and don’t have much else they can improve on. 

As a debater who has gone to camp every summer of his career, this is patently false. Debate camp is designed to improve your skills regardless of your skill level. That’s why at NSD for example, labs are divided by skill level, meaning that debaters ranging from novices to TOC level competitors will be learning alongside peers that are in the same skill range. As a result, the curriculum that each lab learns is uniquely tailored to the skill level of that lab but also the needs of the debaters that make up that lab. Simply put, your lab experience caters to your needs and opportunities for growth, not the other way round. That’s why I can point specifically to skills that I learned every camp session that I went to and how those individual lessons helped me compete at the highest level nationally. Whether it's improving weighing, critical thinking, analytical argumentation, or research - you will leave camp being a better debater holistically. 

Another reason I’ve seen debaters in partner events like Public Forum (PF) skip going to camp is because they don't have a partner or their partner can’t go. Debaters sometimes worry that without having their trusty 1st or 2nd speaker by their side, they won’t be able to develop their skills. This, again, is another area where debate camp shines for skill building and development. Especially this past NSD session, dozens of students from all experience levels attended without a partner coming in. Camp remedies this issue in two ways. First, individual debaters who come to camp are paired up so they can have the same number of practice rounds, a partner in the lab, and in the camp tournament as well. A change of face is never a bad thing, especially at debate camp. Having a camp partner allows you to spread your wings and make new friends, but also allows you to get insights into the vast array of debate styles. Maybe your camp partner has a really niche skill set that you could look to improve and they can help you take that skill set one step further. Whatever it may be, it’ll only boost what you learn at camp and ultimately benefit your in-season partnership since you can take those new tips and tricks and assist your normal partner as well. 

Second, the individualized nature of camp means that whether or not you come in with a partner already, you’ll get the same amount of teaching, if not more. With NSD’s focus on small group mentoring, office hours, and tailored lab curriculum, you’ll be learning skills that improve your own needs. All in all, when considering camp, take a look at the bigger picture: camps, especially NSD, are designed to put our students first and accommodate their needs. Partner or not, you’ll come out of camp with a toolbox of new skills and in-round tricks that you’ll use in the upcoming season to propel your success.

Lastly, if your schedule does not match up with any in-person or online camps (be it through NSD or another institution), families might consider organizing bespoke, individualized coaching that is built on flexible scheduling (e.g. tutoring).