Banging the gavel once again: Students return to in-person Speech and Debate tournaments


Sylvia Douglas, Eric Bolanos, and Jaya Ramanujan are new members of the Original Oratory event, which is where you write a 7-10 minute speech about a topic that is important to you. Bolanos, eighth grade vocal major, listens attentively to his event captain as she explains how the event works. “I chose to do OO because personally, I love giving speeches,” Bolanos said. Photo by Cole Hoffman

The Speech and Debate Club is back in session for the 2022-2023 school year – but with a twist: In-person tournaments are now a reality once again for the first time since the pandemic.

“In-person tournaments raise the stakes,” said Claire Holmes, speech and debate advisor. “They make the students stronger because they can physically see their competition in action. They also give the kids a perspective on how other schools do speech and debate.”

Sunjana Shankar, eighth grade communications major, was not the biggest fan of the virtual tournaments that were the standard for the last two school years. She said that students could easily get distracted when they’re not physically there in front of their competitors and the judges.

“I am extremely excited to compete at my first in-person tournament because I will not only be able to improve my public speaking skills by performing my speech live in front of an audience, but I will also be able to experience the social side of debate and make friendships with other people attending,” Shankar said.

Zahab Ali, seventh grade communications major said that he will definitely switch his preparation tactics for the new tournament style.

“When giving a speech in person, you have to show more expression and be more careful with how you move,” Ali said. “But, when you are virtual, the judges can’t fully tell if you are swaying back and forth or if you sound a little monotone. So, when I prepare from now on, I can’t just focus on what I say.”

The first Speech and Debate meeting was Sept. 7, and the first in-person tournament is Oct. 19. Holmes said Bak will host a tournament later in the school year, most likely the second semester, where schools from all over the county will bring their students to compete in events like congressional debate, impromptu speaking, dramatic interpretation, comedic interpretation and so much more.

“I am so excited to be back doing the speech and debate club again this year,” Shankar said. “The culture is so diverse, and with in-person tournaments coming back, the dynamics are sure to be interesting.”



At the first Speech and Debate club meeting, Sarah Horan, eighth grade communications major and captain of the Congress event, explains what Congress is and why it is her personal favorite event. “Congress is a great event for beginners,” Sunjana Shankar, communications major said. Photo by Cole Hoffman