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Winning and Losing with Excellence

When we think about becoming excellent debaters, it is easy to focus on the skills needed to win rounds. Debaters develop excellence in critical thinking, presentation, and research. We spend much of our club and practice time working on these skill sets. But let's not forget to develop the kind of competitive excellence that happens after the rounds are over: excellence in winning and losing.

Winning and losing with grace can be difficult. Anyone who has debated in a few tournaments knows how frustrating it can be to lose rounds, and how easy it is to get carried away with success. Responding well to the results of competition does not come naturally, and should be taught and practiced like any other skill. Here are three tips for showing competitive excellence after winning or losing.

1. Remember that God is sovereign. God is ultimately in control of what judge you receive, what teams you debate, and so many other variables that affect your success at a tournament. If you lose a round you didn't expect to lose, instead of lamenting that you got a "bad judge" or thinking you would have won against a different opponent, remember that God has a plan for every round you debate. What does He want you to gain from that particular experience? On the other hand, if you experience great success, take a moment to remember God's sovereignty in allowing such a great blessing.

2. Give thanks. Every round, tournament, and debate season holds blessings for all of us. Sometimes those blessings are difficult to see, but they are there if you look for them. Even a debater who has an 0–6 record at every tournament can be grateful that they have the opportunity to learn skills most people never develop, that they can afford to compete and travel to tournaments, and that they are gaining wonderful friends along the way!

3. Put others first. Phillippians 2 encourages us to esteem others as more significant than ourselves by looking out for others’ interests in addition to our own. At every tournament in which you compete, there will be many who do well and many who do not. It can be easy to focus on your own record after awards. You may be proud of your own success or feel the pain of loss deeply. It's okay to be excited, and it's okay to be disappointed. But don't forget to encourage those around you. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.

Before each tournament, and prior to each award ceremony, take a moment to review these ideas. Having the right mindset will help you respond to any situation with competitive excellence.

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