Speech & Debate

Pranav Moudgalya, Section Editor

What is Speech & Debate?

Speech & Debate, in addition to being one of the most popular academic extracurricular activities high schoolers in the U.S. partake in, is one of UHS’s premiere scholastic clubs. The phrase “Speech & Debate” is an overarching term for a variety of styles of debate and speech that Uni offers. When you are part of Uni’s Speech & Debate Team, you actively participate in one or more events that the club offers. These events are listed below, and examples of each style of debate have been hyperlinked. 

NOTE: 2 v. 2 styles of debate necessitate having a partner (there is no grade level restriction of who can be your partner, but they must be a Uni student). 

Parliamentary Debate: A 2 v. 2 style of debate that focuses on current events and domestic/foreign policy news. The topic that is debated is released 20-30 minutes prior to the debate round, so having a broad sense of the news is vital. 

Public Forum Debate: A 2 v. 2 style of debate that focuses on current events and domestic/foreign policy news. The debate topic is released one month prior to the tournament you will compete at, and thus, this style of debate allows debaters to spend time researching the topic and developing a good sense of the arguments to be run on both sides. Public Forum debate is the fastest growing style of debate and has the greatest amount of participation at the high school level.

Policy Debate: A 2 v. 2 style of debate that focuses on one policy the entire year. This style of debate is arguably the most research intensive and also exposes debaters to a wide variety of philosophical frameworks as well––policy debate is the oldest form of high school & collegiate debate.

Lincoln Douglas Debate: A 1 v. 1 style of debate that focuses on moral and philosophical topics. Topics are changed every 2 months, and thus, substantial research is necessary for this style of debate as well. 

Congressional Debate: An individual event in which debaters partake in a mock legislative assembly competition. Students draft bills and resolutions, which they and their peers later debate and vote to pass into law.

Speech: An individual or partner event in which students are required to draft their own original speeches OR perform interpretations of past literary works in a humorous, dramatic, or informative manner. There is tremendous flexibility in terms of what your speech can be––generally, students prepare one speech that they perform for the entirety of the debate season, although, this is not a requirement. 

What is the time commitment for Speech & Debate?

In terms of club meetings, the Speech & Debate team has one mandatory weekly meeting where important information will be communicated––however, additional practices throughout the week may be scheduled to practice with others who compete in the same events you do (the details of these meetings differ from event to event). 

In terms of tournaments, being a member of the Speech & Debate team does not come with any requirements to attend tournaments during the debate season (September-April). As a member of the team, it is up to you (and potentially your partner) to decide what tournaments you would like to attend. Tournaments consume an entire weekend of your time, so before committing to a tournament, ensure that you have no schedule conflicts. Leaving a tournament early, missing rounds, or in any way reducing the time you spend at a tournament will disqualify you from competition. 

Finally, every tournament has a judging obligation––this means that either a trusted adult or your parent(s)/guardian will be requested to judge at the tournament and spend their weekend alongside you. Not providing judging will lead to an additional fee that you will pay.

What is the financial commitment for Speech & Debate?

Every tournament will have registration costs––depending on the tournament, this cost can range between $20-50 per person. Not providing a judge can also increase the cost to compete, but this is determined on a case by case basis. 

[See “How does COVID-19 affected Speech & Debate?” for more information]

What are the levels of competition that Uni’s team partakes in?

As a team, we attend local tournaments sponsored by the Orange County Speech League (OCSL), all of which are within Orange County. There is also an opportunity to attend the state-qualifier tournament and those who qualify to the state tournament will be allowed to compete at the state level. For those who wish to compete on the national circuit (tournaments held across the nation at various high schools and universities), it is recommended that you communicate with club leadership for more information. 

How can I join?

Information is provided at the Speech & Debate Interest Meeting during the beginning of the school year, but you may join at any point during the school year. Every member of the Speech & Debate team is required to fill out 2 forms. (1) A Student Contract which details your contact information and requires adherence to all Speech & Debate Club rules during tournaments and (2) A field trip permission form which you and your parents/guardians must sign to be eligible to compete at any and all Speech & Debate tournaments. After filling out these forms, you are eligible to compete under the “University High School, Irvine” name when you attend debate tournaments. Sign-ups for individual tournaments are handled several weeks prior to the actual tournament. 

NOTE: You are NOT permitted, under any circumstances, to compete at a tournament as a “University High School, Irvine” competitor without the proper authorization and relevant paperwork signed by the club’s adult advisors. 

What resources are available to help me better my skills?

Speech & Debate is an activity which allows you to spend as much time as you deem appropriate on improving your skills. Thus, it is encouraged that you reach out to others in the club to schedule practice speech/debate rounds, spend time watching recorded debates on YouTube, and doing drills to improve––senior members of the team will be more than happy to assist you with specific ways to improve your skills. But, as with every activity, competing at numerous tournaments will improve your skills tremendously.

How does COVID-19 affect Speech & Debate?

In-person tournaments are cancelled for the first-semester and most likely for the entirety of the year. However, tournaments will still happen ONLINE. Thus, the cost and time associated with traveling to tournaments has been removed. It is recommended that you have a working computer, a strong internet connection, and a microphone/headset to compete at online tournaments.

Relevant Dates?

October – Fall Novice Tournament hosted by OCSL (only first year members are eligible for this tournament) 

November – OCSL Fall Open

February – OCSL Winter Open & State Tournament Qualifiers

March – State Tournament

If I have questions, who can I contact?

Please email [email protected] with any questions.