As a debater who came from, at the time, a small school program, I had to teach myself lots of the foundational debate skills that helped me in the beginning of my career. Whether it was speech structures or the basics of weighing, the knowledge that I acquired needed to be leveled-up. There needed to be drastic levels of improvement to turn my 2-4s into 4-2s. That’s where camp comes in. Debate camp condenses what would otherwise be months or even years of knowledge-building and skill development into a condensed, interactive experience. No matter your skill level - novice, intermediate, or TOC qualled debater - everyone will improve tremendously at camp. Let’s get into the specifics. In my experience, attending debate camp enabled my competitive success through three avenues.
First is competition. Put simply, the secret sauce to debate success is practice. You can learn as much as you want from lectures or slideshows, but the only way to translate that knowledge into a round-winning strategy is by in-round practice. Camp provides the only avenue where you can practice against the country’s best debaters in a constructive, friendly environment. When I was a camper at Delta, the highlight of the day would be the practice round. I’d have a treasure trove of information and constructive feedback that I accumulated from lab time, mentor meetings, and office hours - and scrims were my chance to add those new skills to my arsenal.
Second is Talent. Debate Camps accumulate the best coaches, former debaters, and staffers from across the country. Ranging from TOC champs to bid leaders to National Champions, the way to become the best of the best is to learn from the best of the best. If the argument exists, your staffers have probably read it themselves or debated it. Flowing rounds on youtube is a great way to shake the rust off during the season, but being mentored and taught by the best debaters in the nation is an experience like no other. Regardless of what skill level you are, your lab leaders have been in your shoes and can guide you along the path to success. During my time at camp, I would come as early as possible to every office hour and mentor meeting; being able to talk to champions of the activity one-on-one gave me insight into my strengths and weaknesses. Access to world-class debate talent undoubtedly laid the foundation for the continued success in my career.
Third is Connections. The fellow debaters you meet at camp will shape your career for years to come. The connections I made at debate camp allowed me to spread my wings and become a higher level nat circuit debater. Peers that I met during those 2 weeks in the summer were future fellow “prep group” members and familiar faces in in-season practice rounds. Building a solid foundation of connections on the circuit allows you to carry over the skills you learned in camp and refine them throughout the season. Whether it's a group of teams that you prep day in and day out with or top-tier competitors that you set up a practice round with, networking at camp will propel your debate success and make you lifelong friends along the way.