Sophomore year, I spontaneously decided to join my school’s speech and debate team. At the time, I just wanted to try something new and step outside of my comfort zone. However, I was definitely not aware of the vast intellectual and personal growth that I would experience from being in debate.
In my opinion, speech and debate is the most useful extracurricular activity to participate in during high school.
Here are ten reasons why.
- You get to advocate about issues that matter to you. This year, I wrote a speech about being introverted and how our society is constructed to place quieter people at a disadvantage. My teammate, who is transgender, does a dramatic interpretation piece about intersex people. It is quite common for debaters to present cases on structural oppression, racism, and patriarchal norms. You can literally talk about anything, and there are a wide variety of events that you can tailor to fit your interests.
- Your team becomes your family. I met some of my closest friends on the speech and debate team. We travel all over the country together for tournaments and share plenty of laughs everyday in class. Not to mention, very intelligent people tend to do debate, so you’ll receive plenty of help with your homework!
- You learn how to deal with failure and embarrassment. Debate tournaments provide a safe environment for learning how to brush off your mistakes, learn from them, and ultimately move forward. People won’t judge you, either, because everyone’s been there at one point or another.
- Writing essays becomes a breeze. Have to write an argumentative persuasive essay in English? Just think up a rebuttal in your head and you’ll have three pages written down! Have to write a paper that analyzes a current event? You’ll have hundreds of articles already filed for you to choose from. Doing speech and debate drastically improves your linguistic and logical skills, along with your ability to construct strong arguments in a short amount of time.
- You become more adaptable. One of the most challenging yet exciting aspects of debate is that you can’t foresee exactly how the round will play out (i.e. what case your opponent will read, the judge you’ll get, which side of the debate you’re on). Eventually, you’ll know how to think of responses to multifaceted arguments on the spot and appeal to judges who would normally disagree with your position. In public speaking events, you learn how to quickly adapt to your judge, audience, and room layout. If you forget your speech in the middle of performing it, you learn how to improvise. Adaptability is a necessary skill for success in life, and speech and debate develops it.
- Colleges LOVE students who are in speech and debate. According to Professor Minh A. Luong of Yale University, students who participate in extracurricular activities that develop “oral and written communication and the ability to organize ideas and present them effectively perform better in college.” After all, other activities, such as sports or music, don’t really engage people’s critical thinking skills as much as debate does. Also, speech and debate is an extremely competitive and time-intensive activity, with tournaments almost every other weekend. Winning awards and having leadership positions demonstrates to colleges that the student has invested a large quantity of effort and time into their events.
- Your public speaking skills improve. This one is obvious but nonetheless very important. I used to shake with nerves whenever I had to present a short PowerPoint to my class. Now, I’m not only no longer scared to speak in front of my peers, but I actually look forward to it! Public speaking is very self-empowering once you become comfortable with it, and it’s also a very admired skill that you can take with you for the rest of your life.
- You meet cool people at tournaments. As much as I dislike waking up at 5:30 in the morning on Saturday, getting to see my friends from other schools makes this small sacrifice totally worth it. Since tournaments host such a diverse group of people, they are great for networking and making new friends.
- You become woke af. Whether it’s doing research on a debate topic about gun legislation or delivering an extemporaneous speech about whether Donald Trump should repeal the Trans-Pacific Partnership, speech and debate truly opens your eyes to what’s happening in the world. You’ll also become informed enough to form your own critical stance on these issues.
- It’s fun! I’m not going to lie; being in speech and debate is hard work. However, nothing is more rewarding than the feeling of making my audience bust out laughing or having someone come up to me after the round and tell me that my speech really spoke to them. Plus, you get to travel a lot, which is always exciting (and the school pays for most tournaments).
Since it’s that time again when students begin selecting courses for next year, I hope you will consider the many benefits of joining speech and debate. It has changed my outlook of life, and it certainly will change yours as well.