My, what large tournaments you have, Grandma…

You know, every year when I start putting together the Yale tournament, I go through a few irrational moods. The week before Yale, I totally dread it; that’s the moment where the tournament’s size, scope and complexity are most clear, but the details on how it’s going to work exactly are most unsettled.  It always passes as I get into the week before.

Two months before Yale, I always worry about registration. The worries are twofold; what if everyone suddenly secretly hates me and the tournament will be 50% smaller than last year. At the very same time, totally without cognitive dissonance, I worry that the opposite will happen, and the tournament will suddenly expand by 50% and I’ll have no idea how to manage it all.

Well, guess what:

  • Congress 111
  • Dramatic 150
  • Duo 56
  • Extemp 101
  • Humorous 123
  • JV LD 124, 16 WL
  • Oral Interp 132
  • Oratory 118
  • Parliamentary Debate 21
  • Policy Debate 35
  • Public Forum 121, 60 WL
  • Varsity LD 161, 43 WL
  • Totals 1276, 96 WL

That would be 1470 total students. Dear God.

Now, that’s not what the final numbers will end up. We’re working on a different venue for PF so we can hopefully at least clear off at least some of that waitlist. VLD and JVLD will stay stable; going beyond 160 leads to badness with breaks/competition. And Speech and Congress (which had waitlists until today but we found more on-campus rooms for them) will likely shrink through the usual last minute attrition.  Depending on how much they shrink, we’ll have to expand the initial break a bit, especially in DI; breaking 150 to 24 is brutal, especially so early in the season.

Unfortunately, with Yale being as large as it is, it’s grown to inhabit multiple venues.  That means that the attrition in speech can’t go towards admitting more students in PF.  These numbers still represent easily 30-50% higher registration numbers than we’ve ever seen at any point during Yale registration.  Furthermore, many events (VLD and PF in particular) hit their caps and in PF’s case blew past the previous tournament registration record on the second day of registration.

I moved registration up to August 1st this year in the hope that I could spread out the registration at least over a week and people didn’t have to pull the Midnight Vigil to get their spots in.  It didn’t work.  It’s doubly irritating that I’m sure that some of those registered debaters aren’t actually firmly committed to coming, and many on the wait list would be 100% committed to come if given the chance now, but won’t be able to if I admit them off the list the Tuesday before the tournament.  I wish there were some way of running registration such that the people who were totally committed to coming had priority over those who haven’t figured it out yet but want to grab a slot just in case.  Right now the first-come first-served system rewards first those teams whose coaches are on the ball, which isn’t the worst approximation, but isn’t good by any means either.

But as it stands, there’s no way for me to know who is who.  Some tournaments (VBI, Glenbrooks) solve that problem by requiring advance payment before registration; that’s a good way to know that someone is more than casually committed to attending.  But with Yale happening early in the year — it’s the kickoff tournament for many of its attendees — I doubt that requiring advance payment is feasible.

So that’s the story for now.  It’s going to be a fun tournament; despite the growth, we’re going to offer 5 prelims in speech instead of 4, and will probably (depending on the final numbers) be able to finish it in 7 time slots instead of the former 8.   We’ll have the much sought for 7th prelim in LD (and possibly, no promises here, but if it grows enough and we get the rooms we may hold a 7th in PF as well).  Plus there’s the atmosphere of Yale in late September; it’s the perfect time of year to be outdoors in New England.  It’s the start of the year and the first time you see many of your fellow forensicians, at the point in time when you’re least sick of them.  The kids are getting back into the groove too: it’s the first major tournament for most of them, so the strive for it — success at Yale may be a barometer for a good year; but doing poorly is more of a kick-in-the-pants incentive to get to work than an individual tragedy; it’s early, and some very good kids just aren’t ready yet.  So you can gain, but you can’t really lose; it’s no one’s last chance to get to the TOC or whatever.  That means you rarely have a competitive Cloud of Doom hanging over the tournament.

Maybe this year I won’t dread it the week before.  But maybe not.