What is Competitive Debate Really Like?

By Jalexis Edwards

Lint rolling, heels clacking, and aggressive scratching are just some of the things I saw today. I was in a room full of people, as Beata Cassidy put it, “debating about debating.” This was my first ever debate tournament, and I definitely did not know how to react to it. I was neither nervous nor exactly calm. I was just the usual me. I didn’t feel as if I was here to slay everyone with my (hopefully) awesome debate skills. I just felt normal. I like to think that my normal is ‘ready to conquer the world’, but it’s usually me just chilling and not caring in general. This is exactly how I felt. I had barely done any prep for this debate, and I did not know where that would get me. At first, I assumed that it would just be people thinking on the spot with bullet point notes written, but I recently learned that serious debaters in fact prepare about two minute speeches to read. This was a concept that was pretty easy for me to pick up on. It was almost easier this way, more simple. There was no loud heart beating moment or rushed speaking if you were simply making an argument from reading a pre-written paragraph. The question I found myself asking was, did I want it easier? My thoughts lately have been around doing something that I’m passionate about in the future even if I deemed it scary. Doing what you fear seemed like an okay thing in my book, so I thought maybe I should try to do just that, but during the debate I noticed what made some debaters stand out for the right and wrong reasons. Speaking with only bullet points did not work, writing a paragraph and reading it did not work, and going up with nothing did not work. What made some debaters great was that they had prepped before with a paragraph, but throughout the course of the debate, they added rebuttals and more points. It was also the way they delivered the speech that made their argument strong. In conclusion, I learned a lot from my first debate competition and will definitely apply all of the information to my next debate competition. I cannot wait.

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