Debate Tournaments go Virtual


Photo by Reagan Montgomery

Junior Reagan Montgomery and third-year member of the debate team attends Oct. 2 virtual debate tournament.

Brylie Reese

Many elements are at play to have a successful debate round. What happens if one of the microphones gives out, or if the document a debater is supposed to give its speech from is not loading due to network issues?

With the new season transferring tournaments completely virtual, it brought about its own set of struggles, from slow Wifi to online lessons.

“People think they have good computers and good Wifi until all of a sudden you do something like video debate, where you need your laptop to not only stream but have like 20 tabs open,” said debate and forensics coach Katie Deneault. “All of a sudden your laptop can’t hang and neither can your Wifi.”

Previous state runner-up junior Andy Alvarez describes the situation as different from past years.

“It’s been stressful and a bit confusing,” Alvarez said. “My goal for returning this season is to not be affected and to get to a point where this just feels like something I have been doing for a long time.”

According to Deneault, teaching debate through virtual classes has proved to be an uphill battle.

“It’s really hard because I have almost half the amount of individual contact,” Deneault said. “So much of the learning that students do and so much of debate, especially in novice debate, is brand new content. There’s no new knowledge to build off of, or at the least very limited prior knowledge. That has meant going slower like we have not covered half of what I would normally cover.”

Learning debate virtually has not been a walk in the park for both advanced and novice debaters who have struggled to adjust to the information and structure of the new curriculum.

“It has definitely made me a little bit more lost and less grounded to it, by not being able to be in a room and talk to all my other teammates,” Alvarez said. “A big thing as you grow into the program is being able to look at the freshman and be like, I know exactly what you are going through.”

For novice debater sophomore Colin Vigil online learning was difficult enough but Debate has brought more challenges.

“Being a first-year debater also proved more challenging this year than in previous years,” Vigil said. “Personally, I’m not good at learning online and a lot of things about debate are difficult because there are just so many aspects to it.”

With all of the complications and uncertainty, many goals for debaters this season have changed.

“My goal honestly is to keep everybody growing and thriving and not disenfranchised with the activity,” Deneault said. “We’ll pick up next year or whenever we go back to in-person debate.”

According to Alvarez, this season has put a lot of things into perspective.

“Some things are out of your control…in the grand scheme of things it is so much bigger,” Alvarez said. “This COVID thing is way bigger than any single debater, and it is way bigger than any single activity. This is just how it affects my personal life every day, and I just have to deal with it the same way everyone else has to deal with it.”