January 20, 2023

Captain’s Corner: Coming back from tough losses

“You win some, you learn some.”

When my captain first advised my ninth grade self, I didn’t believe him. As an aspiring varsity debater ready to embark on the national circuit, all I could imagine was winning. 

Just a few months later, I would go on to lose four straight rounds at my first varsity tournament. After another few weeks, I would debate at seven tournaments back-to-back without ever advancing into eliminations. As I came face-to-face with the grim reality of the difficulties that we often encounter in competitive debate, winning felt all but impossible.

Demoralized. Frustrated. Disheartened.

It was in these moments I, like many others, wanted to give up. Forget debate. End this chapter of my life and begin the next.

Yet each time I’d push myself to move on, I refused to leave behind the captains I looked up to, teammates I connected with, and activity I loved. Though I was hesitant at first, I gave debate a fresh start because I could see and experience the inherent value of the activity and, even, of losing. By shifting my perspective, I was able to push myself out of the corner I had been trying to escape from. Instead of seeing losing as failure, I came to see losing as a learning opportunity. Though my partner and I continued to lose in elimination rounds, I finally found joy in debate again.

There will undoubtedly come moments when debate becomes tough, rounds become difficult to win, and judges become impossible to convince. But hang in there. Keep those same six words in the back of your mind, knowing that whether your losses discourage or inspire you is a personal choice.

Find ways to learn from your experiences. Rather than spending hours agonizing over each defeat, watch successful teams debate and follow them between rounds as they study new arguments and craft better responses. Debate yourself in front of the mirror, continuously critiquing your speeches and asking how you can improve. Organize practice debates with your teammates and friends at libraries, taking advantage of every opportunity you have.

Four years and nearly thirty tournaments later, I live by the saying and encourage everyone to do the same. No matter how hard you persist and how hard you try, winning is not the most important. It is what we take away from our losses that truly matters. Most importantly, it is the philosophy of stop at nothing to improve and remember to always come back stronger that carries the day.

After all, “You win some, you learn some.”

-Captain Raymond

Back to Blog