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Strategy: Navigating the NCFL Grand National Tournament

by Monica Coscia

cflMonica Coscia competed in extemp for Montville Township High School in Montville, New Jersey. She was the 2014 NCFL National Champion in extemp, state runner-up in United States extemp, and the extemp CFL point leader for the Newark district. She also has broken at Yale, Princeton, and Harvard and has coached middle school forensics. Monica now studies political science and history in the honors program at Boston College and competes on the mock trial team.

The best part about winning the NCFL extemp championship wasn’t the trophy or the title. It wasn’t being the first national champion for my school and my amazing coach, although that was a close second. Rather, the legacy that I hope I left with my NCFL championship is the lesson that, even in the world of competitive speech and debate, the underdogs can win. CFL Nationals, unlike other prestigious tournaments like NSDA Nationals and the TOC, is anyone’s tournament to win. This is not to say that one can win the title without practice and effort, but you don’t necessarily need years of speech camp and tons of national tournament breaks to be successful here.  Sure, I had broken at a few national tournaments, finaled at states, and had been to NCFLs once before, but I had never broken past semis at a national tournament. It’s difficult to ignore the fact that people say I shouldn’t have won, but I would like to believe that this wasn’t a complete fluke. I knew who my audience was, and I catered to that audience. The key to this tournament is being cognizant of who you are speaking to, and gearing your already talented skill set to them. I hope that the following advice is even the least bit helpful to your participation in NCFLs, because anyone who truly dedicates his/herself to practicing for this tournament has the ability succeed here.
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Strategy: “Lone Wolf” Extemping

by Logan Scisco

strategyA large majority of extempers compete as part of a team.  They allocate cutting assignments for everyone on the squad, may critique each other’s speeches in practice, and provide moral support for each other tournaments.  However, there is another type of extemper:  the so-called “lone wolf.”  “Lone wolf” extempers compete on their own, not having a larger team to rely upon.  “Lone wolf” extempers are becoming increasingly common as more homeschool students have begun participating in extemporaneous speaking across the country.  This strategy piece will provide some tips on how “lone wolf” extempers can prosper.
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Strategy: Empathy and Extemp

Dylanby Dylan Adelman

Dylan Adelman competed for Lakeville South High School (MN) and was the 2014 NSDA Nationals runner-up and Final Round Champion in International Extemporaneous Speaking. He previously finished 7th and 11th place in the same category his junior and sophomore years, respectively. Dylan was also the 2014 Minnesota state champion in extemporaneous speaking, as well as the two-time state runner-up to former NSDA national champion Ashesh Rambachan (2012 and 2013). Dylan will be attending the University of Pennsylvania in the dual-degree Huntsman Program in International Studies & Business.
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Strategy: Handling Political Cartoon Rounds

by Logan Scisco

At a few select tournaments throughout the year, you may encounter rounds that are different from what you are accustomed to.  Instead of drawing three questions and choosing one to speak on, some tournaments may give you a copy of The New York Times and have you draft your own question from the paper.  Others may have you examine editorials, and a few may have you draw three political cartoons and choose one to speak on in the round.  Extempers are usually befuddled by changes to their normal environment and even good extempers stumble in these “experimental” rounds.  This strategy piece will examine approaches to political cartoon rounds so that if you ever come across one you will be comfortable and ready to compete.
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Heading to NSDA Nationals? Read These NSDA (NFL) Nationals Preview Pieces from the Extemp Central Archives!

If you are an extemper headed to the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) National Tournament in a couple of weeks, you might find it helpful to read some past NFL Nationals strategy pieces by contributing authors to Extemp Central.  All of the contributing authors below were either NFL national champions or final round winners (Jared Odessky, Dylan Slinger, Tyler Fabbri, Stacey Chen, and Logan Scisco) or NFL national finalists (Omar Qureshi, Michael Garson, and Mark Royce).

2011 NFL National Champions Share Their Views on the Tournament by Jared Odessky & Dylan Slinger Part I
2011 NFL National Champions Share Their Views on the Tournament by Jared Odessky & Dylan Slinger Part II

NFL National Tournament Strategy Guide by Tyler Fabbri

NFL Nationals Strategy by Stacey Chen Part I
NFL Nationals Strategy by Stacey Chen Part II

Extemporaneous Speaking at NFL Nationals by Mark Royce

National Tournament Psychology by Omar Qureshi

NFL Roundtable by Logan Scisco, Michael Garson, and Mark Royce

Strategy: Impressing Judges

Judges are normal people.  They make mistakes, but they do not want to make unpopular decisions if they can avoid it.  Depending on your area of the country, judges may know a great deal, or very little about global events.  They may be parents, coaches, and/or volunteers and they may know or not know very much about the structure of extemporaneous speaking.  Regardless of the background of the judge that you have in a round, there are several tips for how you can impress your judges during a speech.  This strategy piece will cover these tips, which will hopefully assist you in rounds when facing a diverse array of judges.
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Strategy: Maximizing Prep Time

According to the rules of extemporaneous speaking, a speaker has thirty minutes to organize their thoughts in a central “preparation” room in order to outline their speech and practice before heading to their competition room.  As all extempers can attest, thirty minutes when one is under pressure goes by in a flash and to become a proficient speaker, one must be able to maximize the thirty minutes allotted during this time.  This strategy piece will provide a few tips on how an extemporaneous speaker can maximize the thirty minutes of their prep time.
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Strategy: Preparing for Nationals

by Logan Scisco

In just a month’s time, the National Catholic Forensic League (NCFL) will host its national tournament and that will be followed a few weeks later by the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA – formerly National Forensic Association – NFL) National Tournament.  For many extempers, there is a lag time of a month or more between when their local circuit ceases competition and attending nationals.  This is a time when skills can erode if an extemper is not practicing or keeping up with national and international events.  Even extempers that are still competing on their local circuits into April risk burnout if not given enough time to mentally decompress and prepare for the challenge of competing against extempers from all parts of the United States at these national tournaments.

This strategy piece will discuss ways that extempers can adequately prepare for each national tournament.  I highly recommend extempers that have qualified to either competition to search Extemp Central for strategy pieces that have been written by past national champions and competitors as they will supplement the tips contained here.  The Internet is a great tool for acquiring a lot of advice on extemporaneous speaking and extempers should use it to their advantage as they prepare for Chicago and Overland Park this year.
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Strategy: Answering With a Thesis

Most extemporaneous speaking questions will ask speakers to provide a yes or no answer to a given question.  Examples of these types of questions are “Should the United States exit Afghanistan by the end of 2014?”, “Can Hillary Clinton win the presidency in 2016?” and “Does Vladimir Putin wish to reconstruct the old Soviet Union?”  As part of our strategy piece series, we have already provided a strategy for breaking down “How” and “What” type of questions.  For this, I piece I will explain why it is better to frame your answers to yes and no questions with a thesis.  This means that you will not only tell your audience that your answer to the question is yes or no, but will provide a “because” statement that further clarifies your answer.  So, instead of answering the Afghanistan question is “no” you would answer it with “No because the United States has yet to accomplish its goal of creating a stable Afghanistan.”
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