This past month the New Horizons debate team took on the most challenging tournament of the year, the Kentucky Tournament of Champions (TOC) for a second go round. This rigorous and selective competition located in Lexington, Kentucky is considered one of the most high profile national championships, and our debaters got to experience it first hand. All debaters must be invited to the TOC and an invitation is only granted if a debater reaches certain criteria. Participants must have two or more “bid legs” to qualified for the TOC. A “bid leg” is earned when a participant achieves a designated result at a TOC-approved bid tournament. Needless to say, Kentucky grants specific stature and holds a much higher competitiveness level than other national tournaments.
Although Lexington, Kentucky is predominantly a conservative state, much of the judging panel was liberal. Lexington is defined as a city but it’s mostly known for its vast fields, horse farms, and southern hospitality. Most of the time was spent driving around vast fields that evoked wonder, its endless roads seemingly led to a horizon we could not yet see, mirroring the lingering feeling among us as we stepped foot in the TOC for the first time. The experience was unlike anything we as debaters were used to. Our opponents were amongst the best in the country and most accustomed to a much more technical and specific strategy that we have yet to perfect.
Although speech and rebuttal capabilities are essential for all debate forums, in prestigious and rigorous tournaments such as this one teammate require a lot more. It’s more about how you win not why. Most judges are extremely qualified and in search of clear winning strategies that not only convince but show a clear link between your case and the ballot. Our lack of capabilities in this setting was soon put on display.
Moreover, Kentucky served as a learning experience for us firstly as human beings then as debaters. Having spent time in such a different environment we were exposed to certain cultural norms. For example, we all became aware of how welcoming the approach of most who reside in Kentucky was. From restaurants to crossing guards, there was always the hand of good nature reaching out to you. As debaters, it was definitely an eye-opening adventure. In the most part, we learned how to accept defeat and pillage on regardless of every nerve urging us to turn back. To take criticism stoically and learn from every battle, Kentucky has taught us perseverance above all.