There’s No Debate: This Is A Team Like No Other!


Elena Krueper, Staff Writer

These students are “all talk.”

Speech and Debate is a competitive academic team at Elkhart High School that many students misjudge and mischaracterize. Some believe that it is “nerdy,” and it doesn’t really have a lot of benefits; however, that could not be further from the truth.

One of the most common misconceptions about Speech and Debate is that the topics and competitions are all the same. Ellsie Leiter, a junior at Elkhart High and state finalist for Speech last year, corrected this statement. “Something I think people should know about speech and debate is that there are so many different branches of it that you can go into.” Expounding upon this, she adds, “You’re not limited to just one choice: There’s skits, impromptu, poetry, Congress–the list goes on and on! There’s so many options!” Speech and Debate offers dozens of different competitions. As Leiter explains, some encourage students to embrace their acting skills, and others allow them to argue about issues that they care deeply about. There’s no one competition that everyone has to do. And,  they can compete in any of the ones that resonate with them the most.

Another point that many people don’t understand is that joining Speech and Debate can be very beneficial. Leiter communicates it this way: “Some benefits of joining are that you have the potential to earn scholarships, as well as making new friends and getting to know your team members.” There are numerous scholarships that people can earn by participating and winning competitions in Speech and Debate. For example, colleges such as Bethel University, Baylor University, and Gonzaga University all offer special scholarships for competing. Another amazing aspect about being on the team is that it enables students to connect and build relationships in a fun, team setting. Leiter explains, “The best part about being on the team last year was being able to support each other while we competed, and being able to just hang out and play games while we were waiting for the next competition to start—not to mention all the food we brought to every meet.”

Speech and Debate also helps people develop good communication, writing, and presenting skills. In competitions like Congress and Discussion, students have the opportunity to learn how to effectively communicate with other competitors, discuss important topics, and make significant decisions as a collective group. Not all competitions are like that, though. Some competitions (like original oratory) allow competitors to write their own scripts and determine their own topics. Instead of a group setting, they are given eight-to-ten minutes of time to communicate their ideas to their judges independently. This allows them to branch out and practice how to be a better writer as well as a presenter. Presenting for Speech competitions is not as scary as some people think, however. Most of the time, competitors only present for a few judges and students at a time. 

Participating in Speech and Debate is an extremely authentic experience, where people have the opportunity to network with other students in a cool, new way. Although there are some misconceptions about the team, it genuinely is a great program to join and the benefits are tremendous. The best part about this team, however, is how much it allows people to grow and truly convey how they really feel about certain subjects. It’s just like what Ellsie Leiter says: “People should join Speech and Debate because it provides one with a great way to express himself in a different way. You can be persuasive, argumentative, and theatrical–it is so much fun!”