A Note about Observer Etiquette at CMSDL Tournaments

We’ve had a few recent complaints about parents and observers at CMSDL Tournaments.

Please share with parents of students who plan to attend T4 and T5.

The purpose of CMSDL competitions is education and developing academic and social skills. While we very much appreciate family members supporting their students in doing this, observers should NOT do the following:

Observers should not speak to their debaters to give advice or encouragement once the debate has started. Our judges are trained to help encourage students if they’re confused or stuck and students need to develop confidence as public speakers.

Observers should refrain from talking to judges about the substance of the debate or lobbying them on behalf of students. This shouldn’t need much more explanation, but students need to learn to compete on their own merits in a fair competition. Even if the intent isn’t to persuade judges in favor of your student, the perception that outside adults are trying to influence younger judges can be quite detrimental to the confidence of the opposing team’s students (as well as your student’s confidence and self-reliance) and reflects poorly in general. A few judges have remarked that they felt they were being questioned about their view of the debate by observers – we don’t disclose decisions in the CMSDL until the Awards Ceremony, so trying to find out from the judge in a sidebar who “won” the debate in advance isn’t allowed and won’t be fruitful.

Observers should not audibly react to arguments or distract students during the debate. This includes laughing and scoffing at arguments, agreeing with them verbally, giving non-verbal physical encouragement or hand gestures to students, etc.

Observers should sit at a reasonable distance from the students competing.

Observers should keep conversation to a minimum and at a quiet volume during prep time, refrain from taking phone calls or texting, and should not discuss the debate verbally so that students or the judge can hear this discussion. You’re welcome to go out into the hallway to answer the phone or have a conversation with another person observing, but not inside a classroom during a debate.

When in doubt, remember that debate is about the debaters. There’s definitely a way to be supportive and encouraging without becoming a distraction and we politely ask that all observers follow these guidelines. Observers are very much welcome, but our judges are allowed and instructed to ask any observers who are becoming a distraction to leave the room until the debate has ended – please do not argue with this and respect this request.

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