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Speech and Debate begins virtual year by hosting national tournament

While various sports and other activities have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Loyola’s debate team has been preparing for its upcoming season. However, unlike previous years, three head coaches will lead the Speech and Debate team rather than one head coach. Those coaches include Zachary Sandoval, Paige Burkholder and James Zucker.

Zucker, Social Science Department Chair and a coach of the Speech and Debate team, explained, “The change in our coaching staff is very important because we collaborate on how to run the team and our practices. This change ties into our mission of collaboration, and we see this as a new model for how we run the team.”

In this upcoming year, the coaches are seeking to offer a more inclusive and dynamic team that will offer students multiple opportunities to engage with a variety of Speech and Debate activities. The competitions consist of multiple categories: the Lincoln Douglas (LD) runners, Public Forum (PF) runners, Congress speakers, and a final main event where a collection of events are discussed. 

In anticipation of this upcoming season, junior Jared Aimone, a Public Forum runner, said, “I am looking forward to learning how to work with a partner and develop the teamwork and strategy necessary to succeed in these tournaments.”

Zucker added, “I think it is really exciting because up until recently many people had resisted changes with technology, but we can’t do that anymore. The cool thing that we found out with speech and debate is that right now everything is all online, and it is not a problem.”

From Sept. 4-6, Loyola held its first virtual Speech and Debate weekend tournament of the new school year. Because of debate restrictions, a school hosting a tournament is unable to participate in that event. Therefore, Loyola’s role as the host was to moderate and ensure smooth operation of the event.

Because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, this past debate tournament was held online using a platform called Campus, which lowered attendance fees. This new platform allowed students from all over the country to attend, not just the usual participants from Harvard Westlake. Overall, there were over 89 debaters from over 22 different states. 

Zucker explained, “Our mission was similar to the Loyola one in which we wanted this tournament to be inclusive, so we opened it to more teams across the country to get them involved.”

Despite being unable to participate in this past tournament, junior Sam Salseda stated, “I am looking forward to trying to make the best of this year, even if it means that we have to make compromises that we didn’t have to make last year. Online tournaments will not be as easy to participate in, but they should still be fun.”

Each team’s preparation differs based on their topics and styles of competing. For example, LD began practicing four to five weeks ago because they compete nationally; however, PF begins sometime in this upcoming week. Regardless of when a team begins, each team must research their topics extensively to prepare for future tournaments. 

Salseda stated, “I think being on a team and working towards a common goal with other like-minded individuals makes regularly boring research or other work fun.”

Aimone elaborated, “I am looking forward to engaging in discussions and debates regarding current issues because there are a lot of current issues that will come into play with this year’s topics. I am looking forward to having those debates and getting into those pressing issues.”

Many aspects of Speech and Debate are slowly changing. For example, Public Forum is becoming a more comprehensive event in which debaters are evaluated on the way in which they speak. 

Zucker affirmed, “Public Forum is evolving into an event with both current events and philosophy. When competing in a public forum, you really have to consider how you are arguing. You must consider the judges’ appeal to your tone of voice, emotions, word choice, and style that you are using.”

Regarding the future of speech and debate, Zucker explained, “When coronavirus is gone, we can continue to have practices at school and online which will make us more competitive, and hopefully, in the future we can even add a speech and debate class.”


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