Host schools announce the opening of pre-registration for their tournaments usually one to two weeks before the scheduled tournament date. They have the option of capping the tournament at a certain number of teams, making timely pre-registration very important. Pre-registration with the tournament directors (those in charge of a given school's tournament) usually ends the Wednesday preceding the tournament.
Each debater should bring enough clothes, debating items, and money with them for two days. Most people wear a coat and tie or female equivalent during debate rounds, but change into casual clothes for the party. Debaters may have to pay for several meals themselves. Debaters may find this list helpful:
- Debate Clothes (formal)
- Casual Clothes
- Sleeping Bag and Pillow
- Paper (Most Debaters use legal sized pads, called "flow pads")
- Watch for timing speeches
- Clipboard or Folder to write on
- Directions to the Tournament
- Cell Phone and a number to call if lost
The day of the tournament, teams are required to arrive between 2:00-3:00 pm Friday in order to officially register. The school representative gives the tournament directors (TDs) a list of the teams, names, and novice/varsity distinction. Each school receives a "free seed," which entitles one of that school's teams to avoid hitting another seeded team during the first round. A debater receives a seed by reaching the final round of a sanctioned tournament or competing in the elimination rounds at Worlds or Northams. Seeds carry over from the tournament in which they are received until the end of the APDA year. Two seeded members comprise a full seed team, and one seeded member and one unseeded member comprise a half-seed team. Most tournaments can protect all of the seed against each other, but at very competitive tournaments priority must be given to certain seeds over others. Full seeds have the highest priority, followed by half-seeds, followed by free seeds. The school representative verifies each teams pre-registration with the tournament directors, stating which teams are full seeds, and which team will receive the free seed. Each two-member team receives a letter. For example, if Amherst brings five teams to a given tournament, the team representative assigns the teams the labels "Amherst A," "Amherst B," and so on. An alternative method labels each team according to the first letter of each team members last name. An Amherst team with Bob Johnson and Melanie Koo would be labeled "Amherst JK."
After registering, the schools will be directed to General Assembly (GA), where they will put down their bags and wait for pairings. Around 4:00 or 4:30, a TD enters the room to announce pairings, the match-ups for the first round. Pairings for the first round consist of seeded teams hitting unseeded teams, unless there are too many seeded teams, in which case the preference system stated above is used. Teams from the same school may not compete against each other during the preliminary rounds of the tournament (in-rounds). Some extreme case may create exceptions to this rule. The TD will read the pairings in the front of the room, most likely announcing "Gov, Opp, Room." This means that the first team read of a given pair is the Government Team, while the second is the Opposition. Finally, the room number is where the debate will take place. If you do not hear your pairing, you should approach the TD and ask. Failure to do so not only leads to confusion, but also slows down the tournament.
After you have heard your pairing, you should go to your room and wait for your opposing team and judge. You should write your positions, names, and school name on the blackboard on the room. The judge will arrive, the government team will take 10 minutes to prepare their case, and the debate will begin! Sometimes the judge may be slow to arrive. Government should begin to prepare their case. If all of the other rounds near you have started and you have not seen your judge, you should send one person back to GA or the tab room to find out what to do. After the debate concludes, return to GA, and wait for pairings for the second round.
Pairings for subsequent rounds involve teams with the same record debating each other with the highest speaking team in a bracket hitting the lowest speaking team in the same bracket. The same process outlined above holds true for the second and third rounds, also held on Friday. There will be a scheduled break for dinner either before the second round, or before the third round, at which time the tournament will either have a banquet, or tell schools where to go for dinner.
At the conclusion of the third round, teams return to the GA to wait for housing. Students of the host tournament's school will divide up the debaters to house them in the dorms (it is best to bring a sleeping bag). Debaters go to their housing, change into more comfortable attire, and go to the optional tournament-sponsored party. This party generally ends around 1:00am, at which time debaters return to their housing and retire for the evening. Debaters should always show courtesy and respect to their hosts when returning late at night.
Pairings for fourth rounds are read between 9:00-10:00 am, and the tournament usually provides some kind of breakfast. Debaters go to their fourth round, debate, return and wait for fifth round pairings. The fifth round concludes the preliminary rounds for the tournament, and the cumulative record over the first five rounds determine those teams advancing to elimination rounds (the "break").
After fifth round, debaters return to GA and the TDs direct the debaters to a luncheon banquet. Upon finishing lunch (this is around 2:30 pm), the TDs read the break, which usually consists of the top eight teams at the tournament. The break is determined first by record, then by speaker points, then by ranks, and then by various tie-breaking factors. The break becomes a set, single elimination tournament. This tournament within the tournament is seeded based on each teams performance that weekend. A team which started the tournament unseeded could be the first seed for the elimination rounds. The teams then debate according to the classic bracket system.
A three-judge panel judges the quarterfinal rounds, and the winners go on to the semi-final round. The semi-final rounds are announced in GA immediately upon completion of all four quarterfinal rounds. Five judges judge the two semis, and the winners go on to face each other in the final round of the tournament for the championship. After the semis results are announced, the TDs will also announce the room in which the final round will take place. Debaters gather their things from GA and move to the room in which both the final round and award ceremony will take place. Everyone from each school attends the final round, as the audience gets to vote in what is a partitioned vote called the "house vote." In the final round, there are usually between 9 and 15 judges from the host school, plus an assigned value of the house vote (for example, if there are 7 judges, the house vote may be valued at 4). After the final rounds, the judges give the chair their ballots, at which time the TDs announce to the audience that they will be counting the house votes. The audience exits the room through two doors, one for Government and one for Opposition. The floor votes are assigned based on a percentage of the audience that voted for a particular side. After the final round, the debaters wait for the tournament to finish tabulating the results. Upon completion of this tabulation process, the host team arrives and begins the Awards Ceremony. The TDs announce the top novice teams and then the top novices, providing trophies usually to the top five. The TDs then announce and award the top ten overall speakers, followed by the top 10 teams at the tournament, reading the decision in the final round. All competitors customarily rise and applaud the top speaker and top team at a given tournament. Thank you's and good-bye's are exchanged, and students begin the return trip to their schools, usually between 7:00-8:30. This concludes a two-day regular season APDA tournament.