Debate Returns In-Person

Darian Pierre, Online Editor

As of last month, the debate season has fully begun, with in-person tournaments being held on Saturdays. This is the first time since the 2018-2019 season that tournaments have been in-person. The last in-person tournament was the district tournament held on Feb. 28, 2020.

During the year of the lockdown, Millard South transitioned to remote learning immediately after spring break. But debate didn’t return at all until the following year. And for the entirety of the 2019-2020 school year, debate tournaments were held online via Zoom. Students would either Zoom in from home, or more commonly they would come up to Millard South and Zoom in from there. 

“Debate is foremost a communication event,” head debate coach James Constantino said. “The team missed that interaction with the kinds of thoughtful people you find in the debate community. Ironically, doing debate through Zoom brought us closer together as a team, but we are social animals and are eager to be back without the barrier of the laptop camera,” Constantino said.

Zooming from the school put the team all in one place, and due to the lack of travelling, team funds were able to be used to pay for lunch. But there were also times when debaters were hindered by technical problems, and a bit of the experience was lost by competing in the same place every week.

Juno Gage, a junior at Millard South and Varsity debater shared their experience with online debate and their hopes/concerns for this season. 

“The benefits [of online debate] were definitely sleeping in and always being at the school you were familiar with,” Gage said. “We didn’t have to wake up as early for out of town tournaments, and we didn’t have to struggle with buses, traffic, and not being able to navigate foreign schools. We did face the challenges of not being able to bond as well with people outside of our team or get to know new opponents as well.”

There were also internet troubles such as audio cutting out, WiFi not working, and speeches not loading.

“It’s hard to do a speaking event if your mic cuts out or your speech wont load,” they said.

But despite those challenges, little under two years without competing in person is bound to make re-adjusting a challenge.

“It will most likely be difficult for us to get back into the swing of things, but I am very excited for all the fun that comes with in-person debate, such as being able to see friends from other schools, and visiting other districts. As well as the rush of debating face to face, and relaxing in between rounds and playing games. These benefits outweigh any comfort of being alone,” Juno said. 

“I’m hoping to have a similar season to my first in-person year. I do enjoy winning, everyone does. Even besides that I’m just hoping that I can do well and learn more than I did virtually, and get to know some more people. I also am really hoping for success in the novices who just joined or varsity who have never competed in person. I want them to fall in love with the activity just as I did,” they concluded.

However, a lasting benefit to the remote year is that it created an infrastructure where teams know that remote tournaments are a viable option. Some tournaments, such as the two-day one held at Dowling Catholic High School in Iowa on Dec. 10 and 11, are still remote. That gives the benefit of not having to travel to compete out of state. And if the school has to go into quarantine again, the debate season doesn’t have to end early, so figuring out how to host tournaments that way was not a total loss.

Note from the editor: I have been on the debate team for 3 years. But in the interest of making this an objective story, I’ve opted to exclude my own opinions. That being said, I fully uphold all ideas conveyed via interviews.