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Thanks - and Two Requests

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  • Thanks - and Two Requests

    I'm writing to get your help.

    AMTA's board meeting is this weekend, July 20-21. At the core of our meeting is the future of AMTA's tournament structure: almost half of all motions on the agenda come from the recently-formed Tournament Future Committee (TFC). This committee formed last summer in response to a rising challenge: how does AMTA accommodate the historic growth of participating teams without, thus far, a corresponding growth in willing hosts? The committee's goal was to develop ideas for the board to consider. I was privileged to chair this committee of experienced hosts and AMTA board members. We started with a survey of AMTA hosts, coaches, and competitors. Almost 200 people participated, and the results were extremely informative. After that, the committee discussed a variety of proposals. The current agenda includes seven motions the group wanted the board to consider, and they target different components of the challenge we face.
    • TFC-1 (AMTA can host its own event) tries to create more hosts
    • TFC-2 (no NCT catered banquet) and TFC-6 (schools must offer to host if they want to field 3+ teams) try to increase the number of willing hosts
    • TFC-3 (pairing system for ORCS) and TFC-7 (8 ORCS / 6 bid per) try to improve selection of teams for NCT
    • TFC-4 (NCT/ORCS hosting stipend dependent on judge recruitment) tries to improve judge numbers at national events
    • TFC-5 (max one NCT per school) tries to include more schools at NCT

    Here's why I'm asking for the community's help. This weekend, my colleagues and I have to vote on these motions -- and discuss how, if at all, to amend them. I haven't decided how I will vote on each motion, and I am confident some of my fellow directors remain undecided on at least some as well. My uncertainty might seem counter-intuitive, as several motions bear my name. Sometimes in my role as chairperson I put forward an idea developed by the committee or originally proposed by another. But mostly I havenít decided how I will vote on each motion because I don't think AMTA needs to adopt all of these motions (many of which contemplate huge changes to our current structure), and I don't intend to vote for all of them.** But we do need to do something significant to address this issue.

    **The only ones I definitely plan to vote for are TFC-2 because the catered banquet is an enormous financial and logistical burden on hosts without a corresponding benefit, and TFC-3 because Iíve seen it work (this one is my idea, so feel free to direct all critique Ė and questions Ė to me). But these motions donít address the core issue Ė our ability to accommodate teams at Regionals and ORCS given the trajectory of registered teams and willing hosts.

    I thank the community for the views they've expressed on this website and the emails theyíve sent AMTA so far. I have two requests. First, please continue to send me (and AMTA) your thoughts. The community's views can impact how directors vote. For example, on TFC-5, I expected that many students from schools with historically successful B teams would see the motion as less fair than our current system; but Iíve been surprised and moved by the number of people who have said it would damage intra-program camaraderie. So your thoughts on these issues are very helpful.

    Second, if you donít support these motions, please propose some alternatives. All of the motions have drawbacks (even those I definitely plan to vote for): TFC-2 eliminates a fun part of the NCT experience; TFC-3 has implementation questions; etc. But with the number of teams rising faster than the number of willing hosts, we need to figure out solutions, and some of those solutions are bound to have drawbacks. So offer some alternatives Ė and try to be realistic. Itís easy to say, for example, ďAMTA should recruit more judges,Ē but that places more work on a group of volunteers already stretched thin (plus, AMTA is already trying to do this with the Judge Committee, and itís too soon to say how successful this will be).

    Bottom line: thanks for your thoughts so far, and keep Ďem coming.

    If there is something you would prefer to communicate by email than this online forum, my email address is bernstein[at]

    (As always, I write in my individual capacity and not on behalf of AMTA.)
    Last edited by Justin B.; July 15th, 2019, 11:45 AM.

  • #2
    *Posting in my individual capacity and not on behalf of AMTA*

    As a member of the TFC, I echo Justin's thanks and will add my own to Justin for his leadership on this committee that is dealing with some ideas/discussions that could have great impact on AMTA's future. I will also add that the best way to get ahold of board members is directly through the emails listed on the AMTA website (they're public for a reason!). While I recognize the utility of posting on this forum and others, if you want board members to hear your voice, you need to tell us! As of this posting, I have not received or seen any emails from the community regarding any of the proposals to be voted on this weekend. My email is devon.holstad [at] gmail.

    Devon Holstad


    • #3
      Justin, in your proposal for only 1 team at Nationals, the rationale partly reads "This proposal is based on two principles: at the margins, it is better to include more schools at NCT."

      How is "better" being defined here? Better by what metric?
      Last edited by Gronksmash; July 16th, 2019, 02:30 PM.


      • #4
        Thank you to the five people who have emailed me about this (on both sides of several issues). I hope more people will send their thoughts.

        One person asked by email:

        Thanks for encouraging people to email you. But why is that necessary? Shouldn't board members be able to read perjuries and MTC? Respectfully, I don't think that's too much to ask.
        Fair questions. Regarding this website, some directors do read the message boards here -- you know that because some directors post here by name. But Perjuries has its drawbacks as a source of information. Most messages are presented anonymously. While that doesn't prevent someone from considering the merits of the arguments presented, it does make it hard to infer whether those arguments are widely held. Maybe one person is posting under multiple accounts; maybe most of the arguments being made for a particular proposition come from the same school. I also think that it's reasonable for people to take arguments more seriously if you know their source. For example, I will probably be more persuasive if I tell my colleagues I received a compelling argument from, say, the team captain of Boston University than, say, a perjuries commenter named GronkSmash or The Real Mock Trial Prodigy. (I don't actually know if these commenters are anonymous; I chose those names because they are outstanding.)

        As for MTC, I disagree -- the format (no topic threads), anonymity, and content of the page don't make it a particularly reliable way to gauge community sentiment.

        None of this is to say that Internet fora are bad places to present your opinions. But if you are trying to persuade the AMTA Board, I recommend contacting its members.

        Originally posted by Gronksmash View Post
        Justin, in your proposal for only 1 team at Nationals, the rationale partly reads "This proposal is based on two principles: at the margins, it is better to include more schools at NCT."

        How is "better" being defined here? Better by what metric?
        Here are what I see, and have heard, as the main arguments on both sides of the TFC-5 debate, beginning with the answer to your question.

        Pro: I think the primary argument is that an NCT bid provides tremendous benefit to each competing school, not just to the 6-10 students who compete with that bid. In preparation for NCT, a competing team can (and often does) scrimmage with other students from their school even if they are not competing. The next season, students who competed at NCT can impart what they learned to new students. Thus, increasing the number of schools at NCT increases the number of students benefited. (Counter-argument: Schools can still scrimmage and prepare the NCT case even if they donít qualify for NCT. Schools are still able to learn from NCT, either by attending or via video, even if they do not qualify.) As a secondary argument, most competitions limit schools to one entrant, e.g., college football, college softball, etc. (Counter-argument: Just because that is typical among most competitions does not mean it is optimal for collegiate mock trial. Plus, some competitions Ė academic and athletic -- allow multiple entrants from the same school/country/etc.)

        Con: I think the primary argument is that NCT should include the best 48 teams, and the best 48 teams almost certainly include more than one team from certain schools. ORCS results show that B teams are annually among the top 48, and NCT results show that B teams can win or contend for the national title (UCLA 2011, Yale 2018). It would be unfair not to allow the best teams to compete at NCT, and it would dilute the quality of NCT competition. (Counter-argument: the same-school-matchup constraint already benefits programs with multiple strong teams and undermines the unfairness argument; for example, my UCI-B teams benefited from never having to face UCI-A, and vice versa.) As a secondary argument, limiting each school to one team damages intra-program camaraderie not just for schools that would qualify two teams to NCT, but for any school that hopes to. (Counter-argument: Programs already deal with this issue when limited to two teams at ORCS, so they can cope with a similar limitation for NCT.)

        Obviously, there are additional arguments and rejoinders to the counter-arguments, but I think these are the main arguments.
        Last edited by Justin B.; July 16th, 2019, 08:23 PM.


        • #5

          So basically the same debate that has always been raging in mock trial; do we want this activity to be about education or competition. Personally, I am for the latter and hope to see this shot down.


          • #6
            I don't know how I plan to vote on this motion (I think there are good arguments on both sides), but I want to point out several things that I don't think have been mentioned in the discussion. First, it's far from clear that the NCT always has the best 48 teams in the country. As with any competition, there is luck involved with strength of schedules, quality of judges, etc. A team that barely missed the NCT and sits at the top of the open bid list with 5.5 or 6 wins and a huge CS seems no less "deserving" than a team that got through directly with 6 wins but either had an easier schedule or didn't have to deal with a tiebreaker. So any "dilution" in talent that comes with substituting such a team for a B team that qualified is not likely to be immense. Also, the benefits of making the NCT are far greater for a program than seeing the best teams in action. It gives the team and the school the ability to advertise that they made the highest-level tournament involving just 48 teams out of more than 700. That in turn helps the ability to obtain funding. Moreover, simply making the NCT makes it more likely that the school will be invited to top invites the following year. Several invite hosts have told me that their first round of invites go out to NCT teams.
            Mock Trial with J. Reinhold! Mock Trial! Mock Trial with J. Reinhold!


            • #7
              If this change does occur is there any possibility that support from schools that consistently qualify two teams to nationals will change? Ie will this create a disincentive for high resource schools to stop cooperating with AMTA to host regionals or ORCS? Kind of an out there thought but thought Iíd see if it has any consideration.

              My other question is around historical parity within AMTA. Has the talent gap widened in mock trial over the past 4-5 years? Ie Has there been less parity between schools/ and less opportunity for cinderellas to make it? These would be interesting data points to see what the diversity of the national championship has been and how it has changed. Furthermore, it would be interesting to see the impact to TPR overtime for newer programs/programs that havenít ever qualified for the national championship to see if there were any lasting impacts to the teams performance. I understand that TPR is not truly reflective of all the potential benefits of making it to nationals but is a decent proxy since it would presumably increase resources and make it easier to recruit better talent. My problem with this motion is that if there isnít any quantitative proof that there are long term benefits for a new school attending nationals... itís a late of churn for no reason and doesn't provide the desired outcome. If there are data points to support parity within mock trial Iím all for it. This at least attempts to refute the dilution of competition argument.

              Unsure of whether AMTA keeps track of exactly when programs started and their performance over time but I think these data points are vital to understanding the impact of attendance to nationals. Are teams like Texas A&M outliers that had a lucky year or will attending nationals give them staying power. Would love to see a chart of when teams started competing and TPR over time
              Last edited by DevilsAdvocate2020; July 17th, 2019, 03:32 PM.