Debate team dedicates hours, aims for excellence

The 2016 Baylor debate team, pictured above after last year’s national debate tournament, comprises eight debaters and eight coaches.

By Kelsea Willenbrock | Reporter

There is a group of students on campus who spend hours upon hours preparing for competition, travel across the country to tournaments and devote their college careers to their activity. These students are not student-athletes, but rather the Baylor debate team.

The debate team is the oldest co-curricular activity on Baylor’s campus and has a long-standing tradition of success maintained to this day by the work the team puts into research and competition.

“[The students] work bare minimum 30-40 hours a week doing research, practice speeches, practice debates,” said Dr. Matt Gerber, debate coach and associate rofessor as well as the Glenn R. Capp chair of forensics. “If we’re not at a tournament, they are here all weekend doing work.”

The team consists of eight debaters and eight coaches. The debaters are paired into smaller teams that compete together. While there are several different types of debates, the Baylor team focuses on public policy to discuss social issues.

According to the debate team’s webpage, Public policy is the preferred form of debate as it offers participants an opportunity to talk about pertinent issues.

The team recently returned from its first tournament of the year, held at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, where it was one of five teams from across the nation.

All four Baylor sub-teams advanced past the first round. Four of the debate team members also received top 20 speaker awards at the tournament.

Des Moines, Iowa, senior Simon Sheaff said he enjoys the camaraderie and support he finds from fellow debate teammates.

“Even though people on the team have different ways of approaching debate, we are all able to help each other out in our individual ways,” Sheaff said. “Nobody sits back and says, ‘The way you’re doing debate is wrong.’”

Most of the recruiting for the debate team happens at the high school level. Gerber travels to high school competitions to seek out the “best and brightest” for the Baylor team. It is possible for a Baylor student to walk on, but chances of making the traveling team are slim, Gerber said.

Last year, at the national debate tournament, the team achieved success that they have not had in over a decade.

“The most teams you can qualify to the [National Debate Tournament] is three, and we did that, so that’s a pretty cool thing,” Gerber said. “That had not happened for us since 1997.”

The goal this year is to qualify three teams again and uphold Baylor’s reputable name in the collegiate debate community.

Most of the tournaments the debate team competes in require travel but at 7 p.m. on Wed. Oct. 12 in 101 Marrs McLean Science Building, two debate team members will participate in a public debate against the British national team about concealed handguns. The debate is open to the public.