I enjoy working in a niche market. Homeschool debaters couldn’t be niche-ier. They are a very narrow audience with an extremely focused set of needs. I like to think I stay on top of it, but I do have my share of competitors. And darn it, they get under my skin.
One is Ethos Debate. The organization has traditionally been my strongest competitor. Their camps have always been competitively priced with mine, and we have traditionally wrestled over our success rates. Some years my alumni take the top awards, other years their alumni do. We’ve exchanged #1 and #2 throughout the years as we duke it out in this extremely niche market.
Extremely niche market. This got us both thinking, why are we competing so much? We’re trying to train our students to compete, but perhaps cooperation has some value.
Don’t get me wrong, competition is awesome. It keeps us both on our toes developing the sharpest resources possible for speakers and debaters. But in a niche market, competition stretches our resources so thin that we both struggle along. We’re in this because we love it, not for the money.
About a year ago we started working together. Encouraged by my friend Skip Rutledge, college professor at PLNU and partner for our 2013 summer program, I reached out to Isaiah and asked him to head up my parli track. Isaiah accepted! I followed up the August camp by inviting him to my For Action Conference, and he crushed it (his speech is available on CD if you’re interested).
Now we’re venturing into our first collaborative event: the Nationals Intensive Training Camp. Isaiah and I are pooling our coaches to cover both leagues (NCFCA and Stoa) for the 2-day camp leading up to each national tournament. One league has already announced their national tournament in Virginia, the other is expected to announce soon.
Is this cool, or what? We see three major advantages that will pump huge energy into the debaters we both serve:
- Experience. We are going to pool our coaches to bring the best to these camps. Even Coach Vance is Skyping in from France. Students are definitely going to see the benefits of this year’s NITC.
- Expense. We are going to split our expense, Isaiah covering the East and me covering the West. This would have killed us both if we were soloing it.
- Exposure. We are going to share marketing efforts. Our audience and mailing lists overlap significantly, so we see this as a win-win.
We both suspect this will be the most significant and successful NITC in our history. In the end, everyone wins: the both of us, the students, and the leagues (because we’re sending them some awesomely prepared students this summer).
Well, there is one loser in this whole scenario. The debaters who don’t register. That’s just how competition works, I suppose.