Debate team offers students chances to build skills, bond with classmates

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Alessandro DeBrevi

Staff reporter

adbrevi@jccc.edu

The college’s debate team gives students the opportunity to learn important skills and compete in tournaments all across the nation.

The team is made up of 14 to 18 students who are enrolled in the debate class.

“I debated in high school and I took a public speaking class with the assistant coach Dan Stout and he recruited me from his public speaking class,” said Sara Coble, member of the team.

Throughout the course of the year, they will compete against four-year and community colleges from all over the country.

Each year there is one resolution that the team debates for the entire season at each different tournament.

“It’s one resolution and it’s pretty broad so within it there’s a lot of opportunities to debate sub-topics,” Justin Stanley, debate coach, said.

This year’s resolution is: The United States Federal Government should establish national health insurance in the United States.

Members of the team have the opportunity to explore the topic and find various ways to persuade opponents and judges.They are given the freedom to pursue arguments and angles that they believe to be important, whether that be for or against the resolution.

Stanley said that it is very student-driven.

“Ideally it would be students’ ideas plus coach’s advice leads to strong argument,” Stanley said.

Researching and comprehending information is crucial to success. Students learn how to not only gather information but also use that information to form logically-sound arguments.

“That is one of the most important elements of debate,” Stanley said. “To look at an idea and to analyze that idea from both sides of the issue and really kind of look at the strengths and weaknesses of a particular position and then be able to communicate those ideas or those strengths and weaknesses to a judge or to another team.”

This is one of many aspects of debate that both coaches and students find beneficial.

“There’s great interpersonal communication skills,” Coble said. “I’m not afraid to talk to people simply just walking up to them or talking in front of crowds. Also just the depth of knowledge of different things.”

Being a part of the program is about more than just doing research and debating. There is a great sense of camaraderie within the team that certainly helps when you are traveling and spending time together at tournaments.

“The teammates make everything so much better,” Coble said. “My debate partner is phenomenal. He’s like my best friend and so is everyone else on the team. So it makes it more worthwhile. When you spend weekends with these people it’s nice having them as your friends as well.”

The season is at about the halfway point right now. In the spring, the team will start competing in more tournaments as they prepare for Nationals in March.

“It’s going well. There’s been a few bumps in the road but everyone has a great winning percentage so it’s been a good season,” Coble said.

This year the team is looking to take the next step. They have always competed in the Cross Examination Debate Association National Tournament, which is open to all schools.

The team will also look to be one of the top 76 schools in the country and qualify for the National Debate Tournament. They were the first alternate last year, and the goal is to make it all the way this year.

“This year is looking very promising,” Stanley said.

Anyone can become a part of the team by simply signing up for Elementary Debate. There is no previous debate experience required.

“There’s just all different kinds of people on the team and it kind of makes everything interesting [because] no one’s the same and everyone has different opinions and ideas,” Coble said.

Whether you are looking to gain confidence in public speaking, learn about relevant topics or make new friends, the debate team has something for everyone.

“I think that people should do it. You aren’t required to go to tournaments or things like that in your first semester if you’re just testing it out so you can get a feel for it,” Coble said. “I think it’s great though because it’s not a normal class. You spend a lot of time bonding also with your coaches, which is very unique. Not only are they my coaches, but they’re my friends and I can always confide in them when I need help with school or things like that.”

For more interested on the college’s debate team, check out their website.

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