2018-2019 Debate Preview

Debate trophies outside of room 2240.

Debate trophies outside of room 2240.

By Sarah Waters, Staff Writer

Everyone has a different opinion on competition. Some love it, some hate it – but for the students on the debate team, it’s a part of their everyday life.

That mindset was obvious last year, which is widely considered the team’s most successful ever. The team of Nathan Glancy and Nasim Salehitezangi (both seniors last year) finished their year ranked sixth in the nation. During the year, they took home their first IHSA state championship title, had two top-16 appearances at two different national tournaments, and a second place finish at the final nationals tournament.

“The seniors really put a lot of work into the year, and also the coaches and other students as well,” head coach Eric Oddo said. “They all came together and worked really hard to achieve a goal that we set at the beginning of the year. I also think they are just naturally talented—Nate and Nasim especially, Ellie as well. All the seniors, in general, were naturally talented, and that plus the hard work plus the coaching really helped everything come together.”

That success didn’t come out of the blue — the team has been steadily climbing in the national ranks since its founding eight years ago.

“I think that it still being a new program helped motivate everybody, and also made it more exciting because they were new things that we’d never accomplished before,” Oddo said. “So winning [the Greenhill Fall Classic], or winning [IHSA] or NSDA was wonderful. I also think that when you have a new program you push yourselves harder than programs that have been established because students can take ownership over their success.” 

Despite last year’s success, the team’s hard work is far from finished. Over the summer, some members of the team took their commitments a step further and attended debate camp. Most teammates attended the University of Michigan’s summer debate institute, with five students spending seven weeks there, and others spending three, four and five weeks. But there’s a catch — it’s not the kind of summer camp you’re used to.

Some debaters want to be as competitive as possible and go to camp for as long as they can,” team co-captain and senior Dylan Chikko said. “Others aren’t as competitive and would rather go to camp for short periods of time or not at all. It’s entirely dependent on the amount of knowledge about this year’s topic and debate as a whole that you want to gain. The nice thing about debate is that you can put as much into it as you feel necessary, and you’ll get results that correlate with that.”

This summer’s camp season was a success. Secretary and senior Nadia Firozabadi said camp has been a huge help this year.

“My camp experience this summer was really unique and educational. I was surrounded by a lot of competitive and smart debaters which really motivated me. I got to work with a lot of really successful coaches which was a great resource and source of help,” Firozabadi said.

Debate doesn’t finish with the end of a season; rather, students compete yearlong, and the work is intense. The most committed students attend upwards of 5 tournaments a semester, oftentimes overlapping with school. It’s difficult for students on the team to strike that critical balance, but it comes with practice.

Balancing the schedule with school and other obligations is just something you pick up over time. It helps to have a planner, talk to your teachers about assignments you’ll miss, and just generally having a good grasp of what assignments you’ll do and when,” Chikko said.

The team’s practices are held Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The atmosphere is fun but serious — every student is passionate about their work.

Practice is a lot of fun. You get to spend time doing research and debate work with the rest of the team,” Chikko said. “It’s especially important during the beginning of the year because that’s when we get to learn about the topic and practice for the very first tournaments in the season.”

There are plenty of differences this year, especially in terms of membership and experience. “The team is a lot different this year. Our team is very young, as [the] majority of us are sophomores and freshman,” Firozabadi said. “The team just came back from a really successful season which is setting us up for another year of success and hard work. Another big difference are that we now have two coaches who come after school and work with us at practice, which has been a huge help and a great resource for us to get help on speeches, research, and practice debates.”

This month, the team is preparing diligently for upcoming tournaments. Up next on the schedule is the Greenhill Fall Classic, happening Sept. 15-17. The team outlook is great — but there’s no unhealthy pressure.

“I’m really excited for this year. I think we have a young team, so I’m not expecting to pressure them or put them in a position where they feel pressured to achieve what we achieved last year. I think we could qualify for the Tournament of Champions, I think the JV and Novice could win a lot of tournaments. I would like to try to defend the state title and advance as far at nationals,” Oddo said. “What I think is really important this year is the team culture and making sure that we continue to grow the team.”

For students interested in joining the team, practices are held after school Tuesdays and Wednesdays in room 2245.