This Long-time Supporter Became a First-Time Judge!

Tina Thomas Thank You

Tina Thomas (top left) was able to volunteer with our programs for the first time this year!

The virtual debate format has at least one silver lining – we can work with great volunteers who normally could never share their time at a tournament! Tina Thomas has made the most out of virtual debate. As a registered nurse working in hospice, she’s busy. With the new virtual judging format, Tina can translate her long-time support of debate into volunteering – even though she doesn’t live in the Twin Cities! Learn more about her first-time judging experience and why she is motivated to make time for debate:

How did you get involved with supporting the MNUDL?

I know someone who has been involved in MNUDL and saw the great things the organization is doing. I follow MNUDL on Facebook and love to see the updates on the students and all of the success stories.

What inspired you to judge debate?

My kids were in Debate in High School, so I am familiar with the tournament structure and Debate overall. I know how much effort the students put into preparing for a tournament and wanted to be able to support that. I have been thinking about judging for a long time but wasn’t able to since I don’t live in the Twin Cities. Now, since the tournaments are all virtual, I am able to judge from home.

Debate is not really a “spectator sport” but when my kids were in High School Debate, I did attend some of their tournaments. I recall being impressed with the vast amount of knowledge each student came into the debate with. They students want to present a majority of that knowledge so they talk very fast and you have to pay close attention to what the speaker is saying. Between rounds, there is a flurry of activity and preparation for the upcoming round. It’s not unlike half-time at a sporting event. The teams huddle, talk strategy, and make a plan for going into the next round. It’s exciting to see how passionate and serious they are about Debate.

What was your judging experience like?

I recently judged my first Middle School tournament – first time judging any tournament! I was a little nervous going into it because I wanted to do a good job and be able to provide constructive feedback to the students. For both rounds I judged, I was paired with a more experienced judge which I really appreciated. It was nice to be able to observe someone who has done this many times before. There were regular updates during the tournament from MNUDL about starting times and such so it was always clear what the next step was. Also, since I have never judged before, I was counting on the training provided by MNUDL to get me up to speed and it did. The training was all I needed to start judging!

Do you have any highlights to share?

It was amazing to watch the middle school students debate. I could see how much this meant to them and how hard they were trying. It was impressive to watch these young kids tackle a tough topic and do a great job with it.

I was also impressed with the other judges. They were not only encouraging of the students but had thoughtful, constructive feedback for them.

Why do you support our organization?

I believe Debate gives skills to students that they can carry with them into the adult world. Debate builds confidence as well as teaches critical thinking skills. For folks not familiar with Debate, they might think it is just two students arguing. But, that is so far from what it is. The students read, research, practice, and formulate strategies around a specific topic. Their presentations are well throughout and logical. I love supporting an organization that plants such useful and necessary seeds in the students. I have seen the difference that Debate has made in my own children’s lives and I am all for helping others have the same benefits.

Looking for a way to support debate during COVID-19? Become a virtual debate judge like Tina! Check out our upcoming volunteer opportunities.