Since March 2020, all of our programs’ debaters have made the transition to online debate. This includes former middle school debaters, who are now making the transition to high school debate in a totally virtual space. Have you wondered what it’s like to make the adjustment from in-person tournaments – with bus rides, pizza, and packed auditoriums – to debating from home? Learn more about one debater’s experience with this guest post from Charlie Schmit, a 9th grade student at Washburn High School:
My name is Charlie Schmit. I’m in 9th grade and I debate at Washburn High School.
I joined Debate in 6th grade. I was the first year of debaters at my school because we had never had a debate team before. It was just a blast that first year, even if I didn’t know what I was doing for the majority of the year. I enjoyed it and have since continued to do it!
I like debate a lot because (I know this is gonna sound generic) I really love to argue with people. I’ve always liked arguing with people (which my parents do not always enjoy) So when debate came around I was like “Why not join?” It’s also really fun because I get to hang out with some of my friends at the same time and all in all it’s a very fun activity.
I’m doing pretty well under the Pandemic, all things considered. I definitely miss seeing my friends and getting to do fun stuff with them. I was also really sad when my overnight camp was canceled. When I wasn’t doing anything over the summer, I was just really bored. That was one reason I decided to keep debating.
What is Virtual Debate Like for You?
I have loved debate since 6th grade and really wanted to join the Washburn team this year. I didn’t want to let a pandemic stop me!
Virtual debate is definitely very different from online school. In online school, you get bored of sitting there and listening to the teacher go on and on, but in debate you’ve always got something exciting and engaging going on so you never really get tired of it.
In-person debate is very different from online debate. It is different because you normally get to go to a school that you may not know and you get to eat pizza and talk to your friends. I remember one time we had a debate tournament on my birthday and my friends decided it would be a great idea if they got the 100+ people there to sing me happy birthday! So things like that I really miss about in person debate. But I think online debate can be fun as well. It’s definitely less stressful knowing that I don’t have to walk around to find my room. I just have to click a link. Also online it’s a lot easier to hear people and to flow so in that aspect online is better, but I personally like in person a lot more.
I like the topic of criminal justice this year. I feel it is really relevant to me because I live in Minneapolis where all these recent protests started and it’s great to be talking about a topic that I feel has personally affected many people in my community. I also feel it is way better than last year’s [middle school] topic of space exploration. That topic wasn’t relevant and some arguments in that packet were extremely overpowered. This year the packet seems to be balanced.
Me and my old debate friends (we are all now on the Washburn team) all love to try to brag about how well we did and try to say we are better than each other. It’s all in good fun though so no one really gets angry.
What Are Your Hopes & Highlights for the Year?
My experience this year was a lot different from past years because my partner was a first year debater this year so I had to help him learn how to debate while also trying to improve my own debating. I think it worked out pretty well for us as we have been doing fairly well in our recent tournaments. All in all I would say it has been a very successful year of debate.
The JV/Novice State Tournament was definitely new for me because I had never been in multiple elimination rounds before so that was exciting. My partner and I made it to the Quarter Finals when we got eliminated by a team from South so we were a bit disappointed – but we considered ourselves the real winners in that we didn’t have to debate for another round that day. (We had been debating since 8 in the morning and by this time it was 5!) It was also kind of funny because South’s Debate coach was actually my Middle School Coach, so I’m glad that at least someone I knew was part of that team.
My partner and I decided to do the Citywide Debate Championship this year, which I think will be really fun. I’ve done the [middle school] Citywide tournament once before, and I was the runner up for JV, so that was cool. As for goals, I’m hoping me and my partner get at least top 4 but if we don’t I think we’ve still done amazing this year considering it’s my partner’s first year debating.
What Advice Do You Have for Other Debaters?
Some advice I would give to future students is that debate isn’t about winning, it’s about having fun and enjoying your time. Debate has always been a place where I know I will have fun so don’t sacrifice that just because you want to win. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to win. What I’m saying is that winning should never be your main goal. Your main goal should always be improving yourself so even if you lose the next time you can go in and win and of course to always have fun!
Charlie gained skills in middle school debate before competing for Washburn High School. Help more students prepare to get involved with debate by supporting our middle school programs, which will be virtual in 2021. When you give your final 2020 gift, you can triple your impact thanks to a generous match from Sam Gill and his employer! Make your gift today.