Soysal makes USA debate team


Soysal with fellow debater junior Shinjini Mukherjee. photo by Premanshi Agarwalla

Juliana Blazek, Staff Writer

Only 15 high schoolers from across the country were selected to be on the USA Debate Development team and junior Naz Soysal was one of them. This year, Soysal will continue to debate on the Hockaday team, as well as the USA team where she has the opportunity to debate with students from around the world.

“There are thousands of high school debaters in the country, which makes the talent pool very competitive,” said Hockaday Debate Head Coach Chuck Walts. “Naz’s performance in competitive debates makes her more than qualified for that element of the team.”

Junior Cassie Liu made it to the final round of interviews, but was not selected as a member of USA team, Walts said, adding Liu is equally committed and respected for her debate abilities.

To become a member of the USA Debate Development Team, Soysal went through a complicated process beginning in June.

“There’s an essay stage and then there’s three video stages where you film yourself presenting an eight-minute speech,” Soysal said, “then at the end there is an interview process that you go through and then they decide to put you on the team or not.”

Soysal was one of five Hockaday girls who applied for a spot on the USA Debate Development Team and the only one accepted.

“Naz is a perfect fit for the USA debate team because she knows how to work well with others and how to pull her weight, but also because she’s always ready for a challenge,” debate teammate junior Tukwa Ahsan said. “I know she’ll definitely contribute a lot to the team.”

This year, debate competitions will look very different than they have in the past because they will be entirely virtual. The two competing teams will be on Zoom with a judge. However, all the same mechanics and rules will still be in place.

“The biggest difference has been communication with the rest of the members on your team because obviously you can’t just directly talk to them in the middle of the round,” Soysal said. “Figuring out how to do that has been really important.”

Another difference with virtual debating includes the inability to socialize in person, making it difficult to meet new people.

“I really valued that, but it’s enabled us to debate with people from all around the world which is really great,” Soysal said.

Soysal plans to attend about 20 debate tournaments this year, representing either the USA team or Hockaday. She will be picked to compete tournament- by-tournament for the USA team but will sign up to participate in tournaments for Hockaday.

“To be a great debater takes more hard work than natural talent,” said Assistant Debate Coach Jordan Innerarity. “Naz is smart and a great speaker, but it’s her willingness to practice all the time and hone her craft that sets her above her peers.”

Soysal’s first competition with the USA team was Sept. 18-20. Hosted by Greenhill, the tournament included teams from Mexico and Brazil.