Basic information:
Former head debate coach at Waukesha South HS for 37 years (39 in Wisconsin, 2 in College). Policy debater in college, and in Wisconsin HS debate. That means 42 years in debate.

As a retired coach who has hear ZERO rounds this year, the following General Debate Positions information is critical.

General Debate Positions

As an old guy, I believe debate - in any format - is primarily an oral communication activity. As such, my general approach as a judge is as a critic of argument. That means that I want to hear good clash between the two sides (advocating for their side). I need the help of debaters to present their arguments (data, claim, backing, rebuttal) in a clear fashion. If I can't hear it, I have trouble flowing it. If I don't flow it, and no one talks about it, I assume it wasn't important. But even if I flow it, if it is important, it should be pushed (that's advocacy). A good debate tells me a "reasonable" story that advocates for or against the resolution and reflects the give and take that took place in the round.

I usually say that I am Tabla Rasa -- as I literally let the debaters tell me how to vote, but the preceding paragraph overrides.

Bottom line: I am guided by the arguments of the debaters, even if they are not the strongest arguments.

I reward debaters with comprehensive strategic positions. This means the individual arguments should fit into an integrated position. I will vote on case or plan. The earlier you indicate what you’re going for, the happier I will be. Impact evaluation makes my decision less arbitrary, so I feel better if there’s lots of impact analysis.

From here, I'll address some format type issues, but recommend you read it all.... It's not that long.

Policy Debate Considerations


Policy debate is a team activity that depends on the individual efforts of each person. As such, I do not like tag team Cross ex. If a partner screws up the strategy, you'll have to adapt.

A perfect debate round consists of a clear, persuasive presentation of a reason to change the status quo with an opponent who challenges the reasons to change, shows clear disadvantages, and challenges solvency. Both sides then push their issues, and at the end, I have two or three conflicting issues that ANYONE could identify as crucial. I prefer when the arguments take me to a clear and convincing burden of proof, but can deal with the greater weight of the credible evidence. Unfortunately, many of the rounds I judge end up being decided by a scintilla of the evidence (and I don't like it.)

You should debate for me as if I were someone you wanted to impress. I want to understand your arguments (and hope I do), but I want to be impressed by your presence in the round. Speed is a "skill," not a presence. Presence comes from communication skills. Delivery I can understand, control over cross examinations, the ability to explain the arguments in the round and why your positions are stronger.


I look at all or nothing issues (like topicality) first. The high stakes nature of these issues makes them a priori. I will vote on a priori issues.

As for counter-plans and kritiks, I'm old, and actually believe that counter-plans (They must be non-topical, competitive, and net-beneficial.) give up too much potential negative ground. And Kritiks are generally weak disadvantages. But, if you run it, go for it, and win it. If you do, you will likely win the round.

I am not a believer in conditionality. Advocates are often not conditional. However, I have coached and voted for conditional positions. Sometimes they make the most sense and are reasonable.

As for theory, I once argued debate theory in front of Wayne Thompson who had written a number of debate and argumentation texts. Be sure you are right, and that the theory argument is important. Your time is precious.

Cross examination (in LD or Policy) is a critical block of time. If you can get your opponent into a dilemma and can use it, that is often the most persuasive of techniques. I listen to CX, and appreciate CX that makes a point. I understand that understanding your opponent's position is your first priority. The second is to win the CX time period with good questioning skills. Finally, I am shocked when the CX yields significant admissions from your opponents or reveals significant omissions in your opponent's position, but I never hear about those things in the remaining speeches.

In the end, I will be asked to say who I thought "did a better job of debating." I will decide based on what happened in the round and, hopefully, that will be issue-based.

Most importantly, I want to know why you think you've won the debate.

Lincoln-Douglas Debate Considerations


If you have read this far, you know that advocacy and persuasion are critical to me.

That said, while I believe that selling your position is way more important than values/criteria debate, you as a debater have choices. When we are done, I want to know why you win.

Cross examination (in LD or Policy) is a critical block of time. If you can get your opponent into a dilemma and can use it, that is often the most persuasive of techniques.

In a good debate, I will be presented with two competing views of the world and will be asked to choose one. One of the competing views of the world I will accept is that the resolution is false.

Again, I what to know why you think you won the debate.