What is Speech and Debate?
Each event in speech and debate features a different form of public speaking and requires a unique skill set and talent. While students often develop a passion for specific events, many compete in multiple categories throughout the course of their academic careers.
Speech involves a presentation by one, two, or sometimes a group of students that is judged against a similar type of presentation by others in a round of competition. Speech events range from limited preparation events that require extensive knowledge of current events to dramatic and humorous interpretation, which challenge students to find powerful moments in literature and recreate them for an audience.
Debate involves an individual or a team of debaters working to effectively convince a judge that their side of a resolution is, as a general principle, more valid. Students in debate come to thoroughly understand both sides of the resolution, having researched each extensively, and learn to think critically about every argument that could be made on each side. See the current topics our students are debating.
[Speech and debate] helps students come to terms with their identity and teaches empathy. At an age when bullying is so common, speech and debate celebrates kids who often fall through the cracks in more traditional settings. Specifically, girls are encouraged to be smart and argumentative as much as boys, in whom strong emotional awareness and expressiveness are celebrated.
The Benefits of Speech and Debate
Speech and debate changes lives. From building confidence, improving communication, and increasing critical thinking skills to better preparing students for college, speech and debate activities provide life skills vital to a young person’s success in the future.
Our team won the state championship three consecutive times, … [and] it established a school-wide intellectual and academic pride … As a result of the “speech and debate attitude,” earned dual credits increased 800%, ACT scores increased an average of three points, and scholarship dollars offered doubled in three years.
Speech and debate activities focus on the four core zones of literacy: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Utilizing these skills inside and outside of the classroom teaches students the value of critical thinking, the ability to clearly articulate thoughts and ideas, to answer questions logically with clarity, and to think on one’s feet. Additionally, students develop interpersonal skills such as conflict resolution, assertiveness, and listening to peers. These important life skills empower youth to become engaged citizens, skilled professionals, and honorable leaders in our society.
Why Become a Member?
As the largest interscholastic speech and debate organization in the world, the National Speech & Debate Association provides an extensive array of benefits to help new and existing programs make the most of membership.
We are helping teams and educators
We have lesson plans, event-specific intro to coaching courses, practice drills, national final round videos, research guides, webinars, textbooks, and more to help new coaches and programs get started.
We offer accreditation as a speech and debate coach or teacher as well as professional development opportunities and credit through our learning management system. We also create ways for educators to connect via an online forum, participation on local and national committees, webinars, and more.
Speech and debate participants do better academically across the board. They become engaged, active participants in their education and in their community. Our school has seen great improvements in student culture and spirit since we started our program, and I would highly recommend joining the NSDA to any administrator looking to make a positive impact on school culture and academic performance.
We wanted to create more opportunities for our students. What we ended up doing was impacting our school culture in a variety of positive ways … Those benefits include scholarship dollars for your students, opportunities to give students a place to belong and “plug in,” not to mention the possibility of outstanding recognition for your school and community.
National Recognition for Local Participation
Every day, the National Speech & Debate Association works to connect, support, and inspire a diverse community committed to empowering students through competitive speech and debate. A big part of our mission is centered on celebrating the incredible achievements of our members. Use the links below to see some of the ways we honor our students, coaches, and schools!