Self-Care and Debate: Advice from Our Community

Self Care In Debate

Whether you attended your first debate tournament one week ago or decades ago, you probably know that debate can be stressful. Doing debate can help you learn how to thrive in a high-pressure situation, but it’s not easy. Our coaches and judges know what you’re going through. That’s why they shared their perspective on how to prioritize your well being during debate season and tips for confronting pre-round anxiety.

Embrace Failure

"Learn From Failure" - Melekh Akintola

Melekh Akintola, Program Coordinator

“If debate is something that matters to you, you shouldn’t consider losing a failure. Even an important round just matters in the moment. If you fail, you’ll be able to take a lesson from it in the future.”

Take A Break

"Take A Break" - Teddy Munson

Teddy, MDAW Instructor

Take a break when you need to. It’s okay if you don’t debate a round. You should also be cognizant of your opponents and how they are feeling.” 

Question Your Fears

"Question Your Fears" - David Cram Helwich

David Cram Helwich, University of Minnesota

Ask yourself: “What’s the worst that can happen?” It’s natural to be anxious while debating, but most of the things we are really afraid of are cognitive distortions. Be mindful of how you act and feel. Ask yourself: “Do the feelings I have match up with the evidence?”


Connect With Others

"Connect With Others" - Rachel Baumann

Rachel Baumann, Farmington High School

“One of the best ways that you can feel more comfortable in debate is to make & keep connections with others

It’s also important to protect your space, so be intentional about what you give back and put into debate.”


Know You’re Not Alone


Tim Hayes, Highland Park Senior High School

“Remember that everyone is in the same boat as you, whether you’re in novice or varsity division. Your opponents could be just as new to this as you are, or nervous, or putting lots of pressure on themselves just like you do. You aren’t the only one that feels this way and you have more in common with your opponents than you think you do.”


Focus on the Fun

"Focus On the Fun" - Sebastian Crea

Sebastian, Roosevelt High School

“Don’t ever take debate too seriously – of course it’s amazing and very important to many of us, but nothing’s over because you lost a round. Every round is another chance to have fun.”


Stay Hydrated

"Just Stay Hydrated!" - Zach Glaser

Zach Glazer, Alum & Judge

“Hydration is key! Try to drink one bottle of water per round.”


Sleep, Shower, and Eat

"Sleep. Shower. Eat!" - Tom Mickelson

Tom, Roosevelt High School


“If you have to choose between sleep and prepping for a tournament, choose sleep.

Sleep, a hot shower, and food will get you through a lot more than you think it can.

Ultimately, if debate is too stressful for you, it’s okay to stop competing and that doesn’t have to mean you stop being part of the community. There are so many other opportunities to mentor and be involved, like judging and coaching MS debate.”