Debate thrives online

Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova on

Nicolas Valladolid ’23

In response to the move to online learning, the Strake Jesuit Debate Team has adapted and prospered

Debate has relied heavily on in-person communication. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed debate to a fully online medium. Many aspects of debate, such as in-person tournaments, traveling around the country, and the team spirit that comes with in- person contact, have changed, creating hurdles. 

“Because debate is an intrinsically social sport, removing the in-person aspect will kill some of what makes debate debate,” said Joshua Martinez ’22, a member of our team.

Finding new means of communication during the pandemic has been tricky. Despite this, the debate team has been committed to reviving the camaraderie that was there during in person instruction. 

“We have adapted to the current climate by moving more and more social resources to online formats,” Joshua said. “We have created a debate discord server through which we can revive some of the old camaraderie. This has greatly increased ou connection as a team and allows a forum newer debaters can learn from.”

On the other hand, online learning has presented debaters with an increased opportunity to compete at a national level.

“It has led to a greater degree of freedom when deciding where and when you want to debate,” Joshua said. “This has allowed me and my partner to have greater access to national tournaments, not limited by flights, cost, school, and other factors.”

The debate team is in a year of unparalleled success as every weekend, the team has the opportunity to compete all over the country and the state.

“This year has been historic for both SJ Public Forum and Lincoln Douglas in bids for the Tournament of Champions,” Mr. Crist, Head Debate Coach ,said. “In Public Forum, SJ is 4th in the nation with 13 bids. The team has championed the Elsik, CyWoods, St. James, and UH tournaments. Most impressively, our top team of Zain Ashraf ‘21 and Ishan Dubey ‘23 reached the finals of the Glenbrooks tournament in Chicago, widely considered the most prestigious and difficult tournament in the country. Additionally, Ishan has become the sophomore with the most bids in PF history, indicating that the future is bright for the team. Also, Zain is looking to retain his status as State champion having won the TFA PF championship in 2020 with his partner Ali Jalal ’20. In  Lincoln Douglas, SJ is 1st in the nation with 52 bids. The team has championed the Lexington, Peninsula, University of Texas, and Scarsdale tournaments, with numerous top speaker awards and debaters reaching late elimination rounds. Joey Georges ‘21 and Zion Dixon ‘22 closed out the Lexington Invitational, one of the most prestigious tournaments of the year. Karan Shah, Jet Sun, Michael Stuckert, and Vratin Mankidy set the record for the number of sophomores receiving bids. The LD team hopes to end the regular season by breaking the all-time national record of 59 team bids.”

The dedication of our students to this activity despite this year’s challenges has given team members the ability to improve the way they view the world and communicate with others.

“I believe that the ability to think for yourself is incredibly valuable as personal success is widely dictated by the degree to which an individual can stand out from the crowd,” Joshua Martinez said. “Debate puts us in a unique position to think on our feet and critically about the world and how policy positions might affect it. Debate teaches you to speak and be confident in yourself, which will improve every single aspect of your life.”