March 13, 2013 by williamsjustliving
At the beginning of Fall semester 2012, I found out that I was the coach for Georgia State College of Law’s Jessup team. I started searching the internet for checklists, advice, general guidance–and there isn’t much. I just got back from the Jessup Super South Regional in New Orleans. My team was in the final four, we won 5th best brief, and one of my team members garnered a 3rd best oralist award. Here are some life hacks that I wish I had known at the beginning of this process.
1. Be the first one to send out communication to your team. They will know that you want to be in the loop.
2. Be honest about your time limitations. I wanted to be at my team’s practices, and the only way to do that was to plan around each competitor’s schedule and my schedule.
3. Google Drive is your friend. Some like Dropbox (I don’t like the “e-mail 10 friends to get more storage” promptings); some prefer the e-mail attachments game (things get lost too easily). Google Drive is convenient and you can easily access documents on your smart phone, computer, or tablet.
4. If you don’t know the competitors on your team, spend some time getting to know them OR ask mutual friends. I lucked out and ended up with a team of women I already knew: I’d had a class with and/or benched a practice round for each of them. I had an idea of each woman’s working style. You need to know what times of day each person likes to work; whether that person is an introvert or extrovert; whether that person is a visual/aural/tactile, etc. learner. My job as a coach was to make sure that each practice session advanced each competitor to a higher level of comfort with the argument and potential questions that might be asked. I could only do that once I understood each competitor’s style.
5. Travel together. If it’s at all possible. It’s easier. Trust me.
6. Make sure your competitors have rooms close together–late night study sessions are much safer and easier that way.
7. Record a practice round. One of my teammates suggested this–and it was valuable for them and for me. I used my digital camera and figured out how to upload the videos to Google drive after we’d all gathered to watch the first few minutes of each competitor’s arguments.
8. Use practice rounds as a teaching session. I wish that I had done this a little more actively–not because I think it would have made a difference, but just to try out the theory. I think that practice rounds–particularly the first two–are more beneficially used as a learning experience. Forensic pointers and issues of style should be the focus of the first two practice rounds since the competitors are still learning the argument. After that, the majority of feedback should really be on the substance of the argument (unless one of the competitors is doing something that’s attention catching forensically). During a few of the practice rounds, I noticed my teammates looking at their notes at unnecessary moments–so, I scheduled a note-free practice. But, I was very clear about the purpose of the note-free practice: to allow the competitors to feel the places where they were solid on the argument and the places where the argument felt weaker or less “pat.” The moral of the story: don’t hide the ball. Tell your teammates what needs work and how they can work on it.
9. You will need to give a pep talk. I mean, all the great coaches had one, right? Lombardi, Dooley, Ditka, Dungy…search your inner competitive victory-hungry beast. Or, you could just google a quote by one of the aforementioned coaching greats. Either way. Have something encouraging to say.