Essential Tournament Prep: Judging Debate

Are you ready? We’ve all spent months helping equip our debaters for competition. We’ve asked: Do they have fitting tournament attire, a way to organize their evidence, a timepiece and flowpad? Have they written their case well, developed enough negative research, and practiced enough debate rounds? We’ve focused on making sure they are prepared — or at least as prepared as they can be. As parents, we usually worry about ourselves last, but are we prepared? As tournament morning arrives, the nerve-wracking conclusion may dawn on us as we find ourselves asked to watch a judge orientation video: We will be called upon to judge debate. 

What is a parent to do? Just take speech ballots? Schedule a lunch break during the debate round? Let your laptop battery run down? We didn’t sign up for this, did we? Those approaches work only until you realize that the tournament will grind to a screeching halt and be delayed for two hours for all 150 or more competitors. Surely, NCFCA will provide qualified judges for debaters who have worked so hard! Well, they will — kinda — but it might not mean what you think it means. Parents, we are the qualified judges! 

So, how can we confidently approach judging a debate round, sure that we are making a well-reasoned decision based on the debate we have just heard? Sounds like a lofty, complicated, brain-numbing, and maybe impossible standard. We’ve already done so much! I assure you, you will thank yourself later for taking the time now to learn how to make a debate decision. With guidance from NED coaches, you will learn:

  • how to use your ordinary decision making skills to make good, supported decisions based on the round’s arguments; 
  • that you don’t need any special outside knowledge about the topic;
  • that if you don’t understand what is going on in the debate, it means that the debaters have not met their basic responsibility to communicate clearly to you.

A little preparation now will turn your reluctance for judging debate into eager appreciation as you gain confidence in making decisions that honor the work students are doing in honing their ability to discover truth and communicate effectively as they strive to become ambassadors for Christ. 

New England Debate judge training is available at all NED Camps, Workshops, Road to Nationals, and in-person and  Online Clubs.

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