Wellness Toolkit

Thinking about Wellness

Final lines of a poem by Bryant K. Alexander

* * *

I have been reflecting on wellness and what it means to be well.

 To be well is to have a balance between

the internal and the external,

the pedagogical and the competitive,

the goals and the practices.

 Caring + Healthy = Wellness.


The NFC is dedicated to ensuring the health and wellness of students, coaches and judges alike.

Our Code of Ethics affirms this commitment:

“Tournaments should be structured and conducted in order to maintain the health and well-being of all participants. Competitive environments can sometimes create incentives to overlook important wellness factors such as adequate food and sleep. Tournaments should develop a schedule that takes wellness into account including opportunities to eat and time to rest. Tournaments should be aware of distances traveled and attempt, when feasible, to create schedules that accommodate such travel.

‘Tournament directors should take affirmative steps to help students and educators maintain health and wellness.

“Tournaments should aim to provide safe and healthy socializing options outside competition. In an era of private prep rooms and private team meeting rooms, tournaments should seek to find ways to foster a sense of community among competing schools.”

The NFC Toolkit on Wellness

To assist schools in promoting wellness on their teams as well as on their campus when they host a tournament, the NFC is dedicated to creating a “toolkit on wellness” where resources on wellness can be shared with the community.

We believe wellness encompasses both the physical and mental well being of everyone.

Below are a collection of links to scholarly articles written by forensics coaches about wellness. We invite anyone to send more links, which we will post.

Pursuing wellness begins by asking the right questions.  Below we collect questions relevant to wellness, and invite readers to offer more questions – or to submit reflections on any of these issues. We will post your reply as a new link.

On host responsibility for wellness:

  • To what extent is there an institutional responsibility for wellness as hos? What obligations does a host assume for wellness when hosting?

On program responsibility for wellness.

  • How can programs promote more healthy eating? How can we help students get more rest? Who’s responsibility is it to discourage harmful behaviors at tournaments?

On issues of mental health:

  • What obligations are there to report unsafe behaviors or appropriate mechanisms for sharing of information regarding concerns about a participants well being?
  • How can the NFC stress confidentiality and non-judgment? We are not professionals in counseling, only concerned for the well being of our community members so our ability to respond may be legally limited?

On issues of sleep:

  • What time should tournaments start in the morning?
  • What time should tournaments end in the evening?

On issues of food:

  • Should tournaments be expected to guarantee the availability of food on campus?
  • Should tournaments schedule meal breaks?
  • Should tournaments sell/supply water?

We hope programs will help submit resources for this Toolkit on Wellness.

Forensics & Wellness

Links to Scholarship

  • “So, as an activity, it’s easy for all participants to get caught up in the excitement of the competition. The chief culprits of this intensely competitive and unwell activity are tradition; the length of the season; swing tournaments; and tournament length and rigor.”          Clark Olson ForenSICKness
  • “Our tournament culture has evolved as an unhealthy culture, generations of competitors and coaches having bought into the myth that champions are made of all night practice sessions, strong coffee, and sheer deter- mination, that hardships like going hungry and being deprived of sleep are part of the winning experience.”                        trejo wellness
  • “Perhaps the biggest consideration when crafting a healthy tournament schedule is the wise use of time. Too often tournaments have been scheduled solely around classroom availability instead of considering the health of the respective participants.”               clark olson wellness
  • “In one of the few empirical studies of forensic educators and health, coaches reported high levels of stress and burnout, which contributed to them actively considering leaving the activity.”          Carmack on wellness
  • Tournament Directors should schedule tournaments where no competition round begins before 8:00 a.m. or after 6:30 p.m., applied equally to all competitors (debaters, extemporaneous speakers, etc.). Adequate time should be created between rounds to allow short breaks between rounds and to avoid rushing for participants who are double-entered.
  • Tournament Directors should create a schedule that allows meal breaks during normal eating hours on all days of competition, applied equally to all competitors.          NIET Wellness Initiative
  • “There is a distinct lack of exercise amongst directors. There seems to be no time, no energy (when everything else is done) and no priority. We know that it is good for us, but we find that no matter how hard we plan to put in that time for exercise there is something that always comes up that is ‘pressing.’ ”     leland on wellness 2
  • “Wellness is a process which involves the striving for balance and integration in one’s life, adding and refining skills, rethinking previous beliefs and stances toward issues as appropriate. Wellness is about growing. A person truly involved in wellness does not get “there”; they are always on the way, in process, alive and participating.”                         hatfield on wellness 2
  • “Well, it is good and prudent to be thinking about wellness; it is good and proper,
    it is satisfactory,
    it is well.                                                                           But often we resist mandates — like drinking and driving, speed limits, smoking in public buildings, seat belts – we resist it like caring equals cost or at least convenience. Well it does.”                   alexander poem wellness 2
  • “My standard practice at tournaments now is to make sure that my debaters have access to healthy breakfast options.   It is also important to address the late-afternoon hunger period.  If the lunch options provided by the tournament were not conducive to my eating regimen, I would leave to buy my own lunch somewhere else.  Debaters usually don’t have that option – limited time and transportation prevent them from buying their own food.”       hall on wellness
  • “There were stories of director burnout, where coaches would leave the activity to pursue the simple pleasures of a normal romantic relationship or family, a day or two off each month, a more profitable position in the academy, and three square meals each day, none of which included french fries or potato chips.”          workman on wellness 2
  • “Is there a link between wellness and the pedagogical and competitive mood of the activity? Should it be defined in terms of the activity itself, what activities con- tribute to wellness and which do not? How can the wellness of the activity be addressed in a manner that still allows for programs to meet their goals and expectations?”     schnoor on wellness 2