Speech and Debate Club thrives in student-run environment

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LUCA KELLEY NIELSEN/SAGAMORE STAFF

The Brookline High School Speech and Debate Club meets via Zoom every Wednesday evening to prepare for upcoming tournaments and events

Every four years, millions of people watch nationally televised presidential debates, but the majority of the time, the art of debate is overlooked and underappreciated.

The student-led and initiated Brookline High School Speech and Debate team has gone on a winning streak locally and regionally. The team meets every Wednesday to prepare for their upcoming events and to discuss potential strategies with their members.

Freshman Yuval Levy recently won the Harvard Invitational Speech and Debate tournament in the Junior Varsity Lincoln-Douglas debate division, which is the largest high school debate competition.

“Hopefully this means that we’re bringing some attention to this club because it honestly deserves just as much recognition, if not more recognition than some of the sports teams at BHS,” Levy said. “We are super committed to this club. We work really hard, and we are so dedicated.”

Levy said the student-run model of the team is different compared to other club teams, but it still works efficiently.

“We have students that are running the banking and the finances and organizing tournaments and emailing tournament heads. It’s the older kids, these upperclassmen who are taking freshmen under their wing and the junior varsity novices,” Levy said. “So it really is like a community where it doesn’t have the same strict structure as a lot of other teams that have coaching with adults.”

The captain of the team, sophomore Charlotte Stokes, said the fact that the team does not have an adult coach makes this recent victory even more significant.

“I am both the captain and the coach because we don’t have an adult coach. is what makes this victory even more huge because all of these other teams had an adult, a hired adult coach,” Stokes said.

Stokes said even though the structure of debates makes her anxious, once the topic is settled, she can focus and dominate.

“In the moments leading up to a debate, you’re freaking out. I don’t know anyone who’s confident going into a debate round. But once you’re giving your speeches, once you’re talking, everything goes by super fast and it’s great in the moment,” Stokes said. “I hate it all the way up to right before I start talking. Then once I start everything clicks, and it’s super fun.”

In addition to being student-run, the team has also had to change their strategies in preparing for their events because of the completely virtual format of the tournaments.

Levy said that although she has not gotten experience with the team debating in an in-person environment, she understands the major differences between the two formats.

“People tell me that it’s definitely more of a team bonding experience to debate in-person, and obviously you’re going to the campus,” Levy said. “You go more in depth into debating your opponent, and there’s this whole tactical strategy of being able to scale your opponent by your facial features and their confidence and trying to shake them.”

Sophomore Jacquovia Higgs said despite the challenges of the remote environment, she has taken away invaluable experiences and relationships from the team.

“I think I have developed a lot of fun relationships debate community. Everyone has such a unique personality, and it’s really weird how we all kind of fit together so well,” Higgs said. “I think what I have taken away from a lot of the people here is that the format that we’re doing debate, we’re not doing it alone. We’re all still together.”

Transitioning into the virtual format of debate while growing the team’s prestige is something every member of the team has done effectively. Stokes said the team’s exponential development is something to be proud of.

“Watching them win is just the best feeling because it’s like we did this, this team of five kids created this huge booming Brookline team that’s now a formidable debate team nationwide,” Stokes said. “I’m just so proud.”