Speech & Debate Team Takes First Place At Home Competition


David Conti

The Speech & Debate Team poses for a club photo.

On October 24, the Speech and Debate team hosted over 100 debaters from 15 schools, including Loomis, BB&N, Choate, and St. Paul’s, among others, for the annual Hotchkiss Debating and Public Speaking Tournament held remotely this year. Hotchkiss competed with an A and B team, both of which defeated every other school in the tournament, taking the top two spots in the overall standings. 

Because the tournament was held over Zoom, the audience was limited to just the judges and debaters. Rahul Kalavagunta ’22, a speech and debate team captain, emphasized the accommodations that the team had to make as a result.  He said, “Being virtual changes the way that you debate a lot. Being in-person is a lot more interactive with your competitors and the judges. It also changes the dynamics and the rhetorical strategies that some debaters use, especially in public speaking. Many debaters have gestures that are going to make their speech more effective, or another example is some people walk around and use their expression to get the judges really into it.” In addition, he expresses regret that many of the current debaters haven’t had the opportunity to experience an in-person debate. Kalavagunta said, “Normally we get on the bus, we get bagels in the morning, we’re in suits all day, and it’s a fun time. I feel really sorry for all the kids who haven’t had the opportunity to experience that.”

Kalavagunta also commented on the performance and depth of talent on the Novice Team, many of whom won awards in multiple categories. He said, “Our Advanced Team [made up of the top 4-8 debaters] is always really strong, but our novice debaters, most of whom have never debated before, have been winning tournaments and doing well, so we feel confident in the future of this team, even after our upperclassmen leave.”

Mr. David Conti P’18, ’22, coach of the school’s speech and debate team and president of the Debate Association of New England Independent Schools, spoke to the team’s season-long success. He said, “Our season has been going very well. We’ve won all three of our tournaments this year, which brings our league-wide unbeaten streak to five tournaments. Considering the size of our league, winning even two tournaments in a row is largely unheard of.”

Mr. Conti said that the league would meet again in January to discuss potential in-person tournaments. The Debate team’s next tournament will be hosted by Phillips Andover Academy on November 14.