There are three documents on this page:

·        Starting and Running a Speech and Debate Team

·        Starting a Program

·        Managing a Forensics Program


1. Create a Contact List

Get students’ phone numbers, addresses, and e-mail addresses. Then, create a sheet with this information so that people can contact each other. Be sure to respect people’s desire for privacy by not publishing information they don’t want published.

2. Talk with your school about Logistics

--Find out how to reserve, the cost of, and get school vans and buses

--Find out about school rules and procedures for having students drive to tournaments

--Find out what your budget is

--Find out how to get money from budget

--Find out about your school’s rules and procedures for having students miss classes for academic events like speech and debate

3. Recruit Students

--contact advanced placement and other teachers to hook up to kids that show talent or that would benefit from being in a public speaking class/debate

--give extra credit to students who get involved with the team

--encourage students in your own classes

--contact junior high/middle school kids coming into your high school; see if you can get a mailing list from your school district and mail information about your team to them

--have a mini institute at the beginning of the year where kids meet each other and get involved.

--have a showcase where your students present speeches and debate; others see what your students are doing thus impressing parents, other teachers, administration, etc.

4. Plan your travel schedule

--Contact your state or local forensics organization for a schedule of tournaments in your area; if you don’t know what this organization is, contact a coach at another school; call up the nearest high schools and ask to speak to their speech and debate coach

--Schedule at least three tournaments each semester so your students have enough opportunities; avoid scheduling more than two tournaments on successive weekends or you will cause burnout for yourself and your students.


5. Setup your Budget

--Consider what your budget is

--Consider this as a good way to budget:

·        Think through how many debate teams and individual event entries you will have at each tournament

·        Figure on paying about $10 to $35 per debate team ($50 to $150 for national circuit tournaments)

·        Figure on paying about $5 to $20 per individual event entrant

·        Figure on paying about $30 for a school entry fee

·        You will need one judge for each two debate teams and six individual entries at most tournaments. If you don’t have that many judges, you will need to hire them at about $150 per judge.

·        Figure on paying about $70-100 per night for hotel rooms

·        Include the cost of using your school’s van, rental car.

·        Figure on about $10 to $15 per day food money

·        What costs will you require students to pay? For example, will students pay for hotel rooms and food? If your budget is very small, will students pay for registration fees?

Also, consider computer costs, purchasing of books, etc. as you develop your budget.

6. Prepare and handout a Team Tournament Guidelines document

Inform students what they need to bring to tournaments including their debate materials, clothing and toiletries, etc.

Establish guidelines for expected behavior including curfews, inclusive environment, courtesy, etc.

7. Prepare and handout Trip Information Sheets

State when you meet to leave for tournament

State when you return (be sure to account for the typical one to two hours late that most tournaments are)

8. Establish Good Relations with others at your School

--Work with the librarian

--Work with your School’s Accountant

--Work with the person in charge of your extra-curricular activity

9. Promote your squad

--Send information to the person who sends out announcements

--Make sure your principal and other important decision-makers at your school know when your students win trophies and other awards

--Have someone write articles for the school newspaper

--Encourage students on your squad to become part of your school’s student government

--Consider publishing and mailing a newsletter to graduated students; they might be willing to donate money or time to your team and they are interested in how the team did

10. Going to host a tournament?

Use the Star System at

11. Team Get Togethers

Its a good idea to have a beginning of the year; winter holiday; and end of the year team get together. This brings students together socially and helps bond your team closer. Have students help out.

12. Returning from Tournaments

--make sure students have safe rides home

--handle expense report forms as soon as you can

--be sure to pay judges and other expenses as soon as possible

13. Fund Raising and building an endowment

for information on this see the next link on the Forensics Resources Web Page.


Starting a Program

Here are some issues to consider in establishing a program:

1. Staffing

You would need a person to coach the program. This entails instructing students, handling budget and travel arrangements, taking students to tournaments and judging at tournaments.

2. Funding

A program's funding depends on the level of involvement and size of the program. A small program with about 8 students that did just debate and went to two or three tournaments each semester would cost about $2,500. A moderate program with about 15 students that did debate and speech and went to three or four tournaments each semester would cost about $5,000 to $10,000. A larger program with about 25 students that did debate and speech and went to four to six tournaments each semester would cost about $10,000 to $18,000. The money goes to pay for transportation, hotel, and registration costs. Programs that pay for food money and that travel on planes obviously cost more.

3. Time Commitment

Speech and Debate is a demanding activity. Tournaments usually begin Friday morning or afternoon and end late Saturday night. For preparation, low-key programs engage in about 5 hours of work each week and the time spent on tournaments. Highly involved programs engage in about 20 to 30 hours of work each week in addition to the time spent on tournaments. Coaches and students can establish the level of commitment they wish.

4. Events students can do

Students can do three kinds of events, Debate, Individual Events and Student Congress.

In debate, students can compete in Policy Team Debate, Lincoln-Douglas, or Public Forum Debate. Policy Team Debate involves debate on a topic chosen by the National Forensic League (so everyone in the country debates the same issue). This topic focuses on changing United States government policy such as a change in immigration regulations. Teams of two students debate the topic. At each tournament, a team would debate in six preliminary rounds, and, if deserving based on their win-loss record, would advance to elimination rounds. Lincoln-Douglas Debate involves debate on a value topic. Most states use the National Forensic League LD topic--though not all. LD topics focus on value judgments. For example, an LD topic might be: Resolved: That the political correctness movement unfairly stifles free expression. Debates in LD are one student against another. Public Forum involves debate on a different topic each month of the academic year. The debates focus on the core, public audience issues of the topic. In all three kinds of debate, the students express their arguments and attempt to convince the critic that their side is stronger.

In individual events, students can do a variety of events including impromptu, extemporaneous, oratory, informative, editorial commentary, interpretive reading, dramatic interpretation, humorous interpretation and dual interpretation.

Putting together a program is not easy and it does require financial and time commitment. However, the benefits to students are great. I encourage you to pursue the creation of a speech and debate team at your school.



Managing a Forensics Program


                        Judging/Critiquing Practice Debates
                        Leading/Facilitating Discussions
                        Delegating Research Assignments where appropriate
                        Writing coaching handouts
                        Organizing coaching handouts
                        Researching relevant topic issues
                        Communicating to students upcoming tournaments          
                        Choosing which tournaments to attend
                        Advising Debaters on strategy
                        Supervising students
                        Formulating student evaluation forms
                        Publicizing meetings
                        Setting up meetings for beginners and experienced debaters
                        Organizing meeting times and topic discussions
                                Speech or Debate 
                                competitive or non-competitive
                        Estimating yearly costs
                        Arranging for travel accommodations
                        Arranging housing/hotel accommodations
                        Requesting tournament invitations
                        Maintaining accurate records of past tournaments, 
                        student ballots, receipts from fundraisers
                        Balancing Budget on a regular basis
                        Writing open memos requesting use of funds
                        Obtaining adequate supplies
        Public Relations
                        Designing advertisements
                        Posting advertisements (lecture halls, newspaper, email)
                        Attending high school tournaments
                        Grant Writing (internal and external)
                        Drafting letters to firms and former UW debaters
                        Editing and Reviewing letters
                        Petitioning UW Administrators
                Serving the Community
                        Brainstorming new ways to serve the university and community
                        Arranging projects aimed at serving the community
                                public debates
                                forum topic discussion
                                Speech Workshop
                                High School debate workshop
                        Moderator for public debates/forum discussion
                        Publicizing projects
                        Participating in faculty meetings
                        Hosting tournaments for high school and/or colleges
                        Creating debate squad newsletter
                        Publicizing student successes 
                        Maintaining Speech and Debate Web Page

Thanks to Brian at the University of Washington for this outline.