Nevada Union debate team earning high marks in path toward national competition
November 23, 2017
When many think of high school team sports, football, track and wrestling may come to mind.
But there is one team that often gets overlooked — the debate team. In fact, the scrappy Nevada Union High School debate team, consisting of six varsity and eight novice members, is proving to be a powerhouse in debate competitions.
Like a sports team, debate team members have a busy competition schedule, having already attended five tournaments this school year and traveling to locations like Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York. The team will also be attending competitions in Santa Clara, Salt Lake City, San Diego and Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash.
All the training, travel and tournaments drive the team toward its goal of qualifying for the Tournament of Champions hosted by the University of Kentucky in May.
“... because of the Nevada Union debate team’s grit and commitment to debate, we’ve found ways to work around the resource disparity.”
— Morgan Margulies, Nevada Union senior
Recommended Stories For You
The Tournament of Champions is the championship of the national debate circuit and is the most prestigious high school debate tournament in America. Nevada Union has not qualified since the 1990s, said Morgan Margulies, senior at Nevada Union and debate team member.
"We keep getting close, and we have high hopes for the next few tournaments," Margulies said.
In order to qualify for the tournament, the team must receive two bids. Bids are like debate currency, and competitions award bids to teams that reach a certain level. The team is off to a good start. Of the five tournaments attended, they have received awards at three, in addition to speaker awards at the New York and Long Beach competitions.
Homework helps overcome obstacles
But success does not come without hard work and dedication, they said. The team meets every Wednesday for two hours, and the novices attend a debate class, taught by three varsity members, including Margulies and high school junior Devin Anderson.
The team prepares for debates by doing research within the annual, overarching debate topic; this year it's education reform. The research must be extensive, since the team never knows beforehand what aspect of the topic may be addressed, and they must prepare for various arguments.
Team members also attribute their achievements to their coach, Stephen Goldberg, who donates his time weekly to train the team and attends all competitions. A nationally renowned high school and college debater in high school and college, Goldberg lives in Sacramento, works as an attorney for a firm focusing on social justice and coaches three debate teams.
Finding success in the debate world can be difficult, the Miners said, especially for smaller schools with limited resources, yet the Nevada Union debate team has been able to overcome obstacles.
"It seems impossible at first," said Margulies. "There is a resource disparity, and that certainly affects the way debates go, because one team is going to be more prepared because they have more experience, they have more support.
"But, because of the Nevada Union debate team's grit and commitment to debate, we've found ways to work around the resource disparity."
Powered by community support
According to team members, Nevada Union's debate team receives no funding for their program from the school district. It is supported solely by funds raised through the Nevada Union Booster Club. Since the cost of transportation to competitions can be expensive, the booster club subsidizes the fees of students who cannot afford them, ensuring the debate team is accessible to all students.
"We really feel very strongly that this shouldn't be about whether you can afford to take airplane rides," said Michael Anderson, coach, parent and president of the booster club. "If you've got the talent and you're willing to put the time in, we need to be able to send you out there."
The team will host "Miner Disputes: A Civil Discourse on Current Issues" as a fundraiser for the program in April at Summer Thyme's. Visit http://www.NUDebate.org for more information on the event and how to make a donation to the Nevada Union debate program.
Mia Belluomini is a senior at Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning and intern with The Union. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.