Once again it is that time of year when school debating teams start to pass the zone level and compete for Regional and State titles. This also makes it the time of year when debating coaches like myself need all the support from staff they can get, but unfortunately seem to have used up all their favours just getting the zone rounds done.
I think that debating is such a worthwhile activity for students to be involved in – both competitively, and in the more relaxed environment of in-class debating. However, I think that schools that are entering teams into debating competitions need to understand the full range an amount of resources that are needed to support the teams. Here are my first thoughts on what a school needs to plan for – can you add more?
- Each team will participate in at least three zone-level ’round robin’ debates. This means cover of some kind for at least three half days for each teacher taking a team.
- If a team wins their zone, they go on to play schools that are progressively further away. This usually means close to a full day of cover is needed for each debate beyond inter-zone finals.
- If my Year 11 team make it to the State Final they will have been in around nine debates. This means up to nine days away from most classes!
- Debaters need lots of coaching to do well. Weak debaters need coaching so they feel comfortable in the competition; strong debaters need coaching if you want them to go as far as possible in the comp. This could mean losing around one lunchtime per fortnight, or missing more classes - you will probably try to use your ‘free’ periods, meaning the kids will always be out of the same classes.
- Do they have clean shirts, ties, blazers etc.? Or will “someone” i.e. the coach have to organise this? The school may need to develop a system for borrowing formal uniform items.
- Debates have associated equipment – bell, stopwatch, palm cards, chairperson forms, glasses for water on the tables… You will need a designated storage space so these things are easy to find, especially in schools with more than one teacher coaching the teams.
I’m hoping to work out a real ‘budget’ – both for funding and staff support – for debating in my school. We’re always going to want more than we can have, but schools need to at least be realistic about what they are signing on for, I think.