AHS Speech and Debate Team Expands Reach, Sends Students to National Competition

AHS students interested in the intellectual sport of debate found themselves in a dilemma. When compared to surrounding schools, the Arlington High School Speech and Debate Team was sorely under-resourced. The student leaders were working hard—doing the planning, running meetings, finding tournaments, teaching new members how to debate, and helping to edit cases for tournaments on top of preparing their own cases for competition.

They knew that one thing would really help—a debate coach. So co-captains Maren White and Kate Rodger applied for and received an Innovations in Education Grant from the Arlington Education Foundation that enabled them to hire Coach Donald Broussard, an experienced speech and debate coach based in Louisiana. Coach “B” was virtually present at practices and was on deck for questions and advice during tournaments. Additionally, he:

  • Judged practice rounds and offered individualized feedback
  •  Contributed topic lectures and helpful resources
  •  Worked one-on-one with any students needing extra help
  • Suggested ideas for recruitment and retention
  •   Lightened the administrative workload for the student captains and club advisor AHS Social Studies teacher Ms. Sarah Stoe
  •  Handled issues with registration, payment, and other logistics involved with organizing tournaments.

His vast knowledge of the various tournaments and opportunities available to the students was a tremendous contribution to the Team. Last season, students participated in six tournaments. This year, the Team sent students to 23 tournaments and scrimmages, including national qualifiers. This expanded knowledge of what is available will serve the AHS Team for many years to come. Coach “B” also exposed the group to different types of speech and debate, and this has led to a thriving speech program. He advised Team members to compete in the lesser-known style of Big Questions Debate, an area where the students are now having great success. The Team has captured first and second place for Big Questions at several tournaments this year.

An additional outcome from Coach “B’s” involvement is the re-activation of a relationship between AHS debaters and the members of the Ottoson Middle School Debate Club, something that stopped during COVID. At the early Tuesday morning meetings, AHS Team members organized fun debate drills and games with the OMS students and provided feedback, helping the younger students understand and learn the skills necessary for competitive high school debate. The undergraduate members of the AHS team are looking forward to continuing this relationship and also to working with the rising ninth grade students in the fall. A small-scale debate tournament between AHS and OMS took place on June 2. This provided a comfortable environment for the younger debaters to be exposed to the intensity of high school debate.

Coach “B’s” expertise enabled him to shepherd four students into qualifying for the NSDA 2023 National Speech and Debate Tournament this summer, something that AHS has never done before. He has guided the students through the process of registration, hotels, plane tickets, and debate preparation and will be present in Arizona to provide further assistance.

The three junior captains of the AHS Speech and Debate Team are currently working with the school administration and the Massachusetts Speech and Debate League to plan a speech and debate tournament at Arlington High School next year—something that hasn’t happened since 2017. Thanks to the hard work of the members and the expert guidance of Coach “B”, the AHS Team has expanded their reach in the community, developed additional relationships with schools across the state, and built a foundation of knowledge and skills that can be passed down to new debaters in the coming years.