Amateur no more

The opportunity to watch someone grow into a place of confidence

Eiffel Sunga, Editor-in-Chief

Coming back to school and joining back into Speech and Debate Eiffel Sunga has met many new members. She watches as her partner falls in love with debate in similar way she has. Lauralai Gilbert

“Just stay cool, calm and collected,” I told myself internally as my novice debate partner and I sat in the Bonita Vista High (BVH) cafeteria waiting for our first debate topic to be announced. To say the nerves were high was an understatement because this was an experience I was largely unfamiliar with.

On Saturday Oct. 15, I competed in “The Cameron Loughney Semi Annual Parli Pro AM.” The parliamentary or “parli” debate format gives a team of two competitors 20 minutes to research and prepare a debate case for a given resolution, before going into their round against another team of two people.

Given that I have been doing this activity for almost four years and my partner for zero, there was a large gap in our experience level. Though I was nervous about competing in an unfamiliar event with a partner who was even more unfamiliar with debate, the experience was rewarding for me in more ways than one. 

Knowing that we were in a time crunch, my partner and I met up before the tournament to strategize the best course of action during our 20 minutes of prep time. We came up with a solid plan to divide our time between brainstorming and researching. Now, it was a matter of actually applying our strategy to a round against our opponents.

That brings me back to the BVH cafeteria where our first resolution was announced: “When in conflict, commitments are more important than opportunities.” I was perplexed. I am not used to debating abstract, general topics such as this. Regardless, I tried to remain cool, calm and collected for my partner and my peace of mind.

When we began talking about potential interpretations of the resolution, my initial panic subsided. I was reminded of something our assistant coach said to the class before the tournament: “Your partner is a better source than Google.”

What was at first a daunting debate topic turned out to be my favorite resolution out of the four we debated that day. The way ideas were flowing

I often think that success in debate is as much about having a harmonious partnership as it is about research and argument writing.

— Eiffel Sunga

out–it was as if our brains were morphing together into one mega mind. I would pitch one idea, my partner would build off on it, then we’d come together and merge our ideas. Each round, we seemed to be more and more in-sync. 

I often think that success in debate is as much about having a harmonious partnership as it is about research and argument writing. I was lucky enough to find a debate partner in my freshman year that I could simultaneously work diligently with while also having fun. That debate partner is partially why I enjoy speech and debate so much. I could only hope to be that person for another. 

Thus, when my novice debate partner told me they wanted to join Speech and Debate next semester I was elated. Not only did this mean that a friend of mine would be a part of the team, but I was glad to see someone discover and enjoy Speech and Debate the way I did when I first joined the team. 

Being a senior now, I forget what it was like being “new” to speech and debate. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been doing this activity for decades. Excuse the debate lingo, but I could recite an off-time roadmap in my sleep and cutting a card is muscle memory for me. So each year, what I most look forward to is seeing those bright-eyed novices find their place in speech and debate. 

Throughout the Parli Pro AM, that’s exactly what I observed in my debate partner. As the rounds progressed, they became more confident in what they were saying. They asked me questions about how the debate was formatted and in the next round they applied that knowledge. 

By my partner’s final speech in our final round of the day, I found myself amazed at their confidence and unique ideas. As I watched my partner walk out of that room with a sigh of relief and a smile on their face I thought to myself, they found their place.