Collaboration in National Speech and Debate Tournament Preparation

by Jackelyn Theiur

As senior Jay Namdhari gets out of bed to prepare for the second speech and debate tournament of the week, he packs his bag and heads to school just in time to get on the bus. Sitting with his team, he reads over his debate topics and reviews the critiques he received the day prior. Seven hours pass, the dozens of rounds of speeches have finally come to an end, and Namdhari goes home to rest, just to do it all over again for the next three days. 

The speech and debate team earned two sweepstakes awards in the 50th Annual Texas Forensic Association State Tournament for the second year in a row. The team has numerous strategies to help prepare for their competitions, however a crucial factor in the devising for nationals is teamwork. All teams are collaborative and work together, but what makes the team unique is the learning that is passed on each year by the more experienced individuals.

“We don’t have a very large team, but we are a team that just helps each other,” Namdhari said. “We prepare together as a team and a lot of the research, such as cutting arguments to read at the tournament, is done collaboratively. Most of what I learned about debate came from upperclassmen who were very good at the activity, and a lot of that talent got passed down.”

Taking constructive criticism can be strenuous, especially in the event where nothing seems to be wrong. In an activity like speech and debate, assessing critiques and coming to an understanding as to what was done wrong is crucial to future success and improvement. Junior Aadit Walia finds importance in taking account of mistakes that have been made, even in instances of dissent. 

“I try to listen to the judge’s perspective as to why I lost, even if I don’t agree with it,” Walia said. “I look back to important debates that I’ve lost throughout the year and analyze what I think I did wrong, taking into account what the judges have told me. This helps me decide what to focus on in the next coming weeks of debates.”

Speech and debate coach Madi Gackenbach made a strong impact on her team’s success in their experience with debating, consistently supporting them in their achievements and losses. Gackenbach created a team that feels like a family to all of the members and maintained an environment that keeps her students motivated to consistently prepare for their events and work hard overall. She puts forth a lot of effort to keep her team proactive, signing paperwork and waivers for tournaments, and sometimes allowing non-finalists to watch final rounds to learn for when they eventually qualify in future competitions. IB Sophomore Mira Chary noticed how much Gackenbach contributes to the team and how significant she is to accomplishing their goals. 

“I definitely think that preparing and working hard is a big thing that the coaches push for and the students strive for,” Chary said. “Our coaches push us to participate because they want us to have experience and do what we enjoy, not solely to win. I’ve placed in two tournaments, and I know that number will continue to grow because of my coaches’ support.”