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The Case for Continuing Your Speech and Debate Activities in College Why the Skills You’ve Learned Could Pay Big Dividends by Jack E. Rogers, Ph.D., and Nicole Freeman, Ed.D. Editor’s Note: Coaches, here’s another way to motivate juniors and seniors to continue with speech and debate activities after high school. Invite students and parents to check out this article from two veteran collegiate Pi Kappa Delta coaches.


irst, congratulations on your achievements. As teachers and coaches, we know the hard work, commitment, and sacrifices you have made throughout your high school years to compete with your debate and forensic teams. There was a lot to learn, often in a short period of time, and although it was fun, it often meant late nights trying to get ready for competitions while trying to balance other commitments like homework and extracurricular activities—not to mention the toll competing can take on your family and social life. The question you may be asking yourself right now is given all the hard work, stress, and time commitments, why would I want to continue to compete by joining a college speech and debate team? What’s in it for me? Your parents may also be concerned with how your competition on a college team might impact your successful transition into college. Sure, they want you to enjoy your college experiences, but if competing on the speech and debate team doesn’t help you to become a better student, prepare you for your chosen career, or give you valuable life skills, is it worth the potential distraction? The intent of this article is to give you the information necessary to not only answer those questions but to empower you and your parents to make thoughtful and intelligent decisions



Given all the hard work, stress, and time commitments, why would you want to continue to compete by joining a college speech and debate team? Allow us to explain.

regarding your future. First, we will talk about what continued participation teaches and how it will change you as a student and person. Next, we will discuss the potential financial benefits. Finally, we will attempt to give you some guidance regarding how to go about finding and approaching college programs to ensure the right fit.

The first question is, what would you learn from continued participation and how might it change you and your future? To begin, literally hundreds of studies over the past nine decades have attempted to examine exactly what competitive debate is, what it should teach and to whom, and what benefits,

if any, our student competitors should look forward to as they leave the competitive experience. Competition on a speech and debate team is credited with increased critical thinking, better presentational skills, a better understanding of and commitment to social responsibility and the world around us, offering excellent professional training, increasing knowledge, self-confidence, poise, and a wide range of skills necessary for academic success including leadership, organization, analytic reading and comprehension, and time management. How do we know these claims are true? Is there documented evidence to support these claims? In 1997, the authors began a longitudinal study which compared incoming college freshmen who had joined and would compete for the speech and debate team with those who would not. A national sample of more than 700 volunteers was collected, analyzed, and eventually narrowed down to 100 debate and 100 non-debate study subjects. We did everything we could to isolate participation on the debate team as the only major difference between the groups. Everything else about the two groups—gender, ethnicity, ACT, SAT, GPA, type of high school, public or private, and socioeconomic background—were taken into consideration to ensure that the two groups were as similar

Profile for Speech & Debate

2017 Spring Rostrum  

Volume 91 Issue 4

2017 Spring Rostrum  

Volume 91 Issue 4