Excusal slips: A comparison between debate and Rowmark

Between the constant excusals and countless emails sent to teachers asking for makeup work, Rowmarkers and debaters alike are no strangers to missing class in pursuit of athletic or argumentative feats abroad. While trips during the school year to remote destinations like Italy or even just Vegas may seem like a break from school, in reality the travel is only all the more intensive as students balance both their extracurricular and academic lives. And despite the fact that these activities seem to be polar opposites in their academic versus athletic nature, I wanted to see if there was any correlation between Rowmark and the debate team in their rigor and strategies that they use to get through their competitions.

 

 

Early mornings at a debate tournament are no more enjoyable than at those ski races. Like at most Rowmark events, mornings at debate tournaments feature the usual half-eaten bagels with hastily-applied cream cheese and gear shoved into unzipped backpacks. Likewise, the morning gloom that junior Eli Hatton describes also seems to afflict debaters too. Car rides to the tournament are spent silently preparing or whispering quietly about the upcoming rounds. As long-time Rowmarker Declan Morasch attests, “trips up to the course can be pretty quiet.” When asked how the morning routines between the two activities might be similar, he stated that, given the athletic nature of skiing, “you have to make sure that your body is fully awake before skiing. Not only do you have to be mentally…sharp, but you also have to be physically ready.” He continues, “this looks like stretching, doing really anything to get your blood flowing.” 

After the skiers have readied themselves for competition, the next step at a Rowmark race involves scouting out the mountain to visualize the course and familiarize themselves with the terrain. Cam Prichard, another senior Rowmarker, says that it’s to “get a feel of the conditions.” Similar to the skiers, debaters who often travel for tournaments will find themselves in foreign territory, stumbling around other high school and even college campuses to find the room for their round. Even if it’s not entirely the same, we undergo this same process of scouting out the tournament terrain despite our pre-round nerves. When I asked about the kind of mental challenges that Rowmarkers experience before and during their race, Declan told me that “it’s kind of a tightness in your body that you have to work through….It’s like a tenseness that is sometimes hard to shake.”

Declan remarks that in the past he’s suffered from “choking” under pressure, a kind of unexpected lapse in performance that many athletes face when performing in high-stakes competitions. When I asked other debaters how they think choking might impact their performance in-round, they told me that they think it’s “different from in sports.” They tell me that it’s more like just being “overwhelmed by arguments” rather than simply underperforming. Declan remarks that for Rowmark “it isn’t really that the course is difficult, but that I just seize up in the moment.” He argues that while both skiing and debating are certainly “psychologically burdening,” the difference is that skiing requires that your physical body always perform at its best, not only that your mind operate at peak capacity. In this sense, he believes that the two activities and the relative burdens that they demand are different. Declan also states that in skiing “you’ve done the same motion a million times so nothing is really super unexpected.” In debate, it’s possible that you mess up having made the same argument on multiple occasions, but the team tells me that “errors usually occur when [encountering] unfamiliar arguments.”

 

 

While many of the pressures inherent to any competitive activity apply to debate and Rowmark, both time-consuming activities require a delicate balancing act between dedication to the sport or activity and commitment to academic responsibilities. Likewise, the kinds of mental burdens that the activities place on competitors are similar. Between the stress of dealing with mornings before the competition and the nerves of scouting out the competition, both ski racing and debate are mentally taxing. Hence, Rowmarkers and debaters alike must find ways to calm and center themselves before big events. Across both activities, Rowland Hall participants recognize the importance of mindfulness strategies in preparation for their performance. Declan remarks that “rituals…can sometimes keep me focused on the task at hand.” He remarks that he’ll often “play certain playlists that get [him] in the mindset” of ski racing. Similarly, assistant coach Zach Thiede says that while he’s preparing evidence for tournaments, “playing a curated selection of Debussy” is a good way for him to “clear [his] mind.” In light of all the struggles that all these competitors might face, the mental strategies that debaters and Rowmarkers employ are all instrumental to their competitive feats. 
 

Excusal slips: A comparison between debate and Rowmark
Logan Fang

Between the constant excusals and countless emails sent to teachers asking for makeup work, Rowmarkers and debaters alike are no strangers to missing class in pursuit of athletic or argumentative feats abroad. While trips during the school year to remote destinations like Italy or even just Vegas may seem like a break from school, in reality the travel is only all the more intensive as students balance both their extracurricular and academic lives. And despite the fact that these activities seem to be polar opposites in their academic versus athletic nature, I wanted to see if there was any correlation between Rowmark and the debate team in their rigor and strategies that they use to get through their competitions.

 

 

Early mornings at a debate tournament are no more enjoyable than at those ski races. Like at most Rowmark events, mornings at debate tournaments feature the usual half-eaten bagels with hastily-applied cream cheese and gear shoved into unzipped backpacks. Likewise, the morning gloom that junior Eli Hatton describes also seems to afflict debaters too. Car rides to the tournament are spent silently preparing or whispering quietly about the upcoming rounds. As long-time Rowmarker Declan Morasch attests, “trips up to the course can be pretty quiet.” When asked how the morning routines between the two activities might be similar, he stated that, given the athletic nature of skiing, “you have to make sure that your body is fully awake before skiing. Not only do you have to be mentally…sharp, but you also have to be physically ready.” He continues, “this looks like stretching, doing really anything to get your blood flowing.” 

After the skiers have readied themselves for competition, the next step at a Rowmark race involves scouting out the mountain to visualize the course and familiarize themselves with the terrain. Cam Prichard, another senior Rowmarker, says that it’s to “get a feel of the conditions.” Similar to the skiers, debaters who often travel for tournaments will find themselves in foreign territory, stumbling around other high school and even college campuses to find the room for their round. Even if it’s not entirely the same, we undergo this same process of scouting out the tournament terrain despite our pre-round nerves. When I asked about the kind of mental challenges that Rowmarkers experience before and during their race, Declan told me that “it’s kind of a tightness in your body that you have to work through….It’s like a tenseness that is sometimes hard to shake.”

Declan remarks that in the past he’s suffered from “choking” under pressure, a kind of unexpected lapse in performance that many athletes face when performing in high-stakes competitions. When I asked other debaters how they think choking might impact their performance in-round, they told me that they think it’s “different from in sports.” They tell me that it’s more like just being “overwhelmed by arguments” rather than simply underperforming. Declan remarks that for Rowmark “it isn’t really that the course is difficult, but that I just seize up in the moment.” He argues that while both skiing and debating are certainly “psychologically burdening,” the difference is that skiing requires that your physical body always perform at its best, not only that your mind operate at peak capacity. In this sense, he believes that the two activities and the relative burdens that they demand are different. Declan also states that in skiing “you’ve done the same motion a million times so nothing is really super unexpected.” In debate, it’s possible that you mess up having made the same argument on multiple occasions, but the team tells me that “errors usually occur when [encountering] unfamiliar arguments.”

 

 

While many of the pressures inherent to any competitive activity apply to debate and Rowmark, both time-consuming activities require a delicate balancing act between dedication to the sport or activity and commitment to academic responsibilities. Likewise, the kinds of mental burdens that the activities place on competitors are similar. Between the stress of dealing with mornings before the competition and the nerves of scouting out the competition, both ski racing and debate are mentally taxing. Hence, Rowmarkers and debaters alike must find ways to calm and center themselves before big events. Across both activities, Rowland Hall participants recognize the importance of mindfulness strategies in preparation for their performance. Declan remarks that “rituals…can sometimes keep me focused on the task at hand.” He remarks that he’ll often “play certain playlists that get [him] in the mindset” of ski racing. Similarly, assistant coach Zach Thiede says that while he’s preparing evidence for tournaments, “playing a curated selection of Debussy” is a good way for him to “clear [his] mind.” In light of all the struggles that all these competitors might face, the mental strategies that debaters and Rowmarkers employ are all instrumental to their competitive feats. 
 

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