Contests are usually held on Saturdays. Major tournaments may last for two or three days. Our regular season lasts from September to April, followed by the state and national championships. We have competitive opportunities 25-30 weekends a year. On occasion, we have contests after school.
No one student attends all contests. Some attend twenty, some attend two. Our long season allows members to engage in other activities, for a few weekends or months during the year in addition to participating in our organization.
2) I have no talent! I can't talk/stutter/have an accent/am shy....
Talent and confidence are what you are supposed to have coming out of the speech and debate team, not starting with us. If you are a good talker already, great. If not, we will work with you. Some of our most successful students started off quieter than church mice without a voicebox.
In addition to teaching you to speak, we will teach you to think....a more difficult task, but one that will help you in school, work, and life.
3) What events are there?
Events fall into a few basic categories. They are typically divided into novice and varsity levels.
Debate: One on one competition. Usually a value question. Examples include 'Capital punishment is justifiable'; 'A just social order places the principle of equality above that of liberty'; 'The possession of nuclear weapons is immoral'; 'An adolescent's right to privacy is of greater value than a parent's conflicting right to know'. You are required to debate both sides of the resolution. A judge will determine the winner. There is rarely an audience in preliminary rounds. The topic changes every two months. Competitors debate both sides of the resolution.
Speech: You are in a room with four to six other people. At the end of the round, the judge ranks the contestants. Events include
Interpretation: You perform a piece of literature, either solo or with a partner. Depending on the event, you have a script or memorize your piece. Body movements are usually limited to above the waist.
Acting: This event allows you to perform several times a weekend, with written feedback.
Original Oratory/Declamation: You write a speech and deliver it- or deliver someone else's speech.
Extemporaneous Speaking: Research and write a speech on a current events question . The research is done with materials we bring to the contest, the speech is a maximum of seven minutes in length.
Congressional Debate: Debate in a legislative fashion. If you have flicked past C-Span with your remote control, this event is like that, only the other congress members will actually be in the room listening. Up to twenty-five or so people will be in the room.
There are several other events as well.
4) Can I travel as a novice?
If you put in the work, and if the coaching staff and your parents feel you would benefit from the experience, than absolutely. We have had novices qualify to nationals on occasion. Since New England is one of the most competitive areas in the country, this is a outstanding achievement.
5) When are practices?
Practices are held after school and twice a week in the evenings. Some practices are team events, at other times you will work as an individual or small groups with a member of the coaching staff. Novices may work with
varsity team members.
You are not expected to attend every practice. Given our multiple events, a debater may not benefit from attending a tutorial focused on another event. The number and timing of practices attended will depend on which tournaments you choose to attend.
6) I am involved in other activities. Do I have time to participate in Speech and Debate?
Absolutely. As noted above, some of our students attend twenty tournaments a year, others attend two, all are welcome. Our regular season lasts from September through April, so students with athletic commitments may join
us outside their sports season. You should attend the number and types of tournaments that are in accord with your personal goals.
We have or have had very active team members who have also participated in sports, musical groups, dramatic productions, employment, and so forth.
Having said that, once you make the commitment to attend a specific tournament, you will be held to that commitment. Waiver will be granted for extreme circumstances only, other activities do not fall under that category. Last minute drops are responsible for, in addition to the original entry fee, any nuisance fee the tournament may charge us as well
as any amount the team subsidizes for the tournament. In addition, depending on the circumstances, suspension from competition for a period of time may occur.
7) Why so strict?
Tournaments are scheduled according to the preregistration. Judges are hired, food is bought, rooms reserved, rounds scheduled, according to the initial list of participants. We determine student cost and engage drivers based on our initial registration. Last minute changes inconvenience many people, delay tournaments, and add to the cost for everyone involved.
Teams which change their registration at the tournament gain poor reputations, and rightfully so. Such reputations may negatively effect our competitive opportunities and efforts.
Not attending a given tournament is fine, dropping out is unacceptable.
8) Who pays for the contests?
Students and their families are responsible for the bulk of our costs. We do have fundraising opportunities throughout the year. Costs may range from five dollars for a local tournament to a few hundred or more for a hotel-based tournament, such as nationals.
9) What should I wear?
Wear what you would to an interview for an office job. A POWERFUL office job. For males, this means a tie and slacks at an absolute minimum. You should wear a sports jacket or a suit.
Females may find high-heeled shoes to be very uncomfortable. If you choose to wear them, bring comfortable shoes to wear between rounds, to spare your coach sympathy pains if nothing else. Since you may do a fair amount of walking between rounds, especially if we are debating on a college campus, be good to yourself.
10) What supplies should I bring?
Debaters: Paper. Legal sized paper. Pens of many colors, or at least two contrasting ones. An attache or brief case. A sports drink or water bottle. Avoid soft drinks, as they are bad for the voice. Bring cough drops for when you, well, cough. Bring lunch, or money for lunch.
Interpers: Hike yourself over to Staples(TM) and get a SMALL three ringed black binder. This is what your script goes into, for your reading events. You will also want to bring a sports drink/and or water, for the same reasons as above. Cough drops can be your friend, even after youswallow them.
Extempers: Magazines and newspapers are our friends. They need to be organized into usable fashion....
11) Is this fun?
Absolutely. We are a competitive activity. However, our chief goals are for every student to be learning and enjoying themselves. My first questions to you after your rounds will often be:
What did you learn?
Did you enjoy yourself? Sometimes the answer will be 'no', even for an entire tournament. Overall, the answer should be 'yes', or you may need to rethink your commitment or focus.
I am confident in predicting that you will meet fascinating people, find your adrenalin pumping, gain self-confidence, learn tremendous amounts, challenge yourself, take charge of your education, and yes, have more fun than it should be legal to have. When you realize that you are in the process of making a great argument or delivering an amazing speech, there is no feeling like it in the world.
Please note the other files for further information. Please speak to me if you have any questions. I may be found in Room 511, or accosted in the hallway when appropriate. - Paul Wexler