Feature: M-A Debate Club Lacks Support Necessary for Success
In recent years the Debate Club has mainly consisted of a small group of dedicated students who engaged in lunch meetings and off-campus debates. Robbie Gordan, president of the club, expressed his concern regarding the lack of authority and sponsorship for Debate Club. He notes that while all other clubs have a volunteer sponsor, Debate Club has not found a dedicated leader.
In past years, the Debate Club was sponsored by a coach from San Francisco. Since he left, the team has not had a volunteer coach. They are currently looking for a teacher or parent to volunteer, but have not yet found one due to the substantial time commitment. This job would mainly consist of weekend work as a typical competition requires members to be engaged from 7AM on Saturdays until 5PM on Sundays. Additionally, debate team members spend up to four hours per week in preparation for competitions. Unfortunately, not many teachers or parents have this much time to spare on weekends.
Without a coach, the team has struggled to maintain the level of commitment compared to previous years. Most students have other interests, activities, and sports commitments, so they tend to opt out of participation in debate tournaments. Robbie expressed concern that this is the main reason they have not been able to find a coach. The coach’s job would consist of organizing weekend or lunch meetings, going to debates on the weekends and helping the teams prepare to be successful at the competitions. Ideally the coach could be a Stanford student debater; they “just need someone with more experience,” according to Robbie.
M-A’s debate club competes in parliamentary debate. This type of debate involves two students from two schools on opposing teams. They are assigned a topic of debate and their required stance about 20 minutes before competitive debating begins. Depending on the location of the debate, they may or may not have access to the internet. However, they can always use the information in their personal notes. It is vital to have a coach at this time to help prepare the argument. After the 20 minutes are up, they debate for five rounds over the course of two days; three on the first day and five on the second day.
A few weeks ago our M-A team went to the Stanford Invitational debate competition. Once there, it became apparent that the other teams had a “huge difference in preparation,” according to Gordan; the other teams had coaches and M-A’s did not. Many different schools traveled from all over California to compete in this prestigious debate. Robbie and his partner won three debates and lost two, which he considered “okay.” However, the other two pairs lost more debates than they won.