Debating Resources for the World since 1994

I Have a Budget. Where Is the Team?

Thomas Kenne Worthen, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor - Director of Forensics

Department of Communication
University College of Cape Breton
P.O. Box 5300, Sydney
Cape Breton Nova Scotia
Canada B1P 6L2
(902) 539-5300 Ext 231 - Office
(902) 842-9198 - Home

B.F.A, Utah State University, 1983
M.A, Eastern Illinois University, 1984
Ph.D. Southern Illinois University, 1989


In building a debate program problems concerning the budget, or scheduling tournaments must be addressed but one of the reoccurring problems that arises every year is how to recruit debaters. Each year comes the realization that your squad has few if any returnees and you must start preparing for the following year's team. The purpose of this article is to assist the beginning coach with some ideas on how to recruit both inside and outside their college or university.


ACT Test ResultS

A valuable source of information to a coach exists within the information that is provided every college or university from the student's ACT scores. Along with the scores from the various academic areas there are answers to other questions such as whether the student competed in high school debate, speech or drama and if they are interested in competing or participating in these activities in college. You can usually have access to this information once the student has applied for admission. Writing to these students telling them about college forensics can generate some initial interest in your program.

Debate Camp

Most football teams have a pre-season camp in which the students come to school early to concentrate on footbalL The same type of camp can work for debate. Use the ACT information to mail a letter to everyone who expressed interest or has had experience in competing. The advantages of a camp are that you can pick out the best students before the season starts, the time invested in a concentrated environment will save you time later when school starts and your novices will have a big jump for the first tournament.
Your arlministration may even let you give credit and count it as part of your summer teaching load. Having the camp the week before school starts allows the students to have the library to themselves. To help instruct the camp you might bring in a top debater from a previous year or someone from another college to assist. This camp could be a workshop to introduce them to debate techniques and end with practice rounds. The CEDA topic hasn't come out before most schools start. However, even if you select the wrong topic, having gone through the arguments will have been beneficial. In arranging food and housing many colleges have a conference and institute office that will help in making arrangements.

Recruiting from Classes

Check your college catalog for classes that may have persuasive or argumentation assignments. Many Speech, English, Political Science or Logic classes may have students who have an interest in debate. Talk to the teachers and see if they can recommend their top students.

Hosting a Tournament

Hosting a tournament gets the area high school students to become familiar with your campus and lets them know about your program. This is also a good way to start a relationship with area coaches. with your students as judaes you can easily scout out several teams and possibly even give a scholarship from your school to the top team.


Local Tournaments

By judging at local tournaments you not only get paid but also establish a relationship with area students and coaches. Sitting in on final rounds can really help you recruit some of the top students. Follow up these tournaments with a note congratulating the students and letting them know that you have an interest in them. Nothing feeds a debater more than his ego.

Assist in Local Programs

Set up a coaching program at the local schools vith you or your debaters assisting. In helping after school you are creating a feeder program for your debate team. You can work with kids up through the ranks so that when they arc ready to enter college it is an easy transition as they are familiar with your style of coaching. With your debaters helping you might be able to work out a way to get them paid or receive credit for their assistance.

This paper is not meant to be prescriptive in nature as there are numerous ways to recruit students to fill a program. Within my experience coaching I have found each of these to work well in not just finding bodies but in finding and creating a competent team. Good Luck.