Getting ready for a debate tournament involves research, case building, and practice debates. Research is known as "cutting cards" and is the process of collecting quoted evidence for use. Case building involves preparing speeches and rebuttals for both sides of a debate topic. During practice debates, teammates go against each other on each side of a topic to prepare for doing so in a tournament.
This past year the Solebury Speech and Debate team earned 3rd place in the Southern Pennsylvania Debate League. They finished behind schools with over a thousand more students, showing that as a team, they are going toe to toe with deep, experienced teams in our region.
Over the summer their success continued. Solebury Speech and Debate captain Tim Carroll '21 participated in a virtual debate camp hosted by the Victory Briefs Institute (VBI) and won the camp tournament, all six of his prelim rounds, as well as top speaker. He also competed in Lincoln Douglas (LD) at the Socially Distant Dog Days of Summer Tournament hosted by William Tennent High School along with Liam Nyberg '23 and Jan Mejia-Toro '23. There were about 27 competitors in LD and Tim won the whole tournament, Liam went undefeated in preliminary rounds and made quarterfinals, and Jan went 4-2.
Tim attributes debate to making him a more articulate student and giving him the ability to write English papers with greater ease. It has challenged his beliefs and instilled a conviction that taking turns listening to others to then have a dialogue is a good thing. "Debate is such an important activity and skill. Especially now, as our country and the world get more divided. The ability to listen and meaningfully respond to someone you disagree with is so important but so exceedingly rare. Debate cultivates that virtue of reason and promotes thoughtful discussion that makes for better students, citizens, activists, and people."
For captain Casey Epstein-Gross '21, the community aspect came as a surprise to her and has become one of the most important aspects of debate. "I wasn't expecting that to factor into debate at all. What's so cool to me is how much the relationships made in debate have branched out from the activity and have become real bonds. I knew I'd love the interesting arguments and I knew I'd love the act of debating itself, but I never expected for one of my favorite parts of the program to be just hanging out with the team. What I love about Solebury debate is that value is placed not only on competing and winning, but on bonding, learning, and simply having a good time."
Our captains have great advice for anyone thinking about getting involved in debate. "Realize that nobody began their first day of debate as a master of argumentation," says Tim. "We all had to begin as novices who knew nothing, but were built up into great debaters over many lost rounds and embarrassing first speeches. Public speaking and thinking of arguments on your feet is difficult, no doubt about that, but it gets exponentially easier as you practice and more rewarding as you improve."
Casey admits debate sounds scary, stressful, and daunting, but that the anxiety from those expectations is actually a lot worse than the anxiety from debate itself. "It's important to realize that there is no such thing as someone who is just bad at debating—we all are before we start! I've seen so many people start the year not even being able to finish their speech in front of an audience to winning awards in actual competitions by the end."
Speech and Debate is currently an activity in the fall with opportunities to compete in the fall and winter. Students interested in getting involved in speech and debate can contact Jared Levy at firstname.lastname@example.org or any of our varsity speech and debate team members.
*The above picture is from a tournament during the 2019-2020 school year