Hockadebate Achieves an Unusual Success

CONCESSIONS CRAZE Senior Emily, Junior Renee and Senior Leila help out with the concession stands, which raise extra money at the tournament to help fund the debate team's many tournaments. Photo provided by Michelle

The Hockaday debate team is used to playing host to hundreds of local debaters each year, but this year’s attendees were even more diverse than usual. The American Foundation School, an international school in Mexico City, sent a team of debaters to compete at the 31st annual HockaDebate Invitational on Nov. 11 and 12.

For even a nationally competitive high school debate tournament, to have a team from across the border in attendance is a real rarity. For a local level tournament, it’s truly a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence.

“[The American Foundation School] tries to go to one tournament in the United States each year. They went to Stanford last year so we should be honored,” Hockaday Director of Debate Eric Melin said. The school’s choice to travel to the Hockaday tournament serves to highlight the positive reputation of the event.

The Hockaday tournament’s annual turnout similarly reflects the event’s popularity amongst more localized teams as well.

“We consistently get a few out-of-state teams that are close by,” Melin said. This year’s tournament attracted 550 high school debaters, a significant number for a local-level tournament. This level of attendance is not an anomaly for the team, however – last year’s turnout was a similarly high 600.

CHAMPION The winner of the Lincoln-Douglas event poses with her first place plate, which features the Hockaday crest, a new addition this year. Photo provided by Michelle

Hockaday’s continued success in hosting the tournament can be attributed to attention to detail. It’s the little things that attract local teams back to the event year after year – “We provide good hospitality, we have good facilities, and we try to hire quality judges and we’ve done it consistently enough over the years so that people keep coming and the quality of competition stays high,” Melin said.  “It has inertia because of the little things we do well.”

This year’s competition included an added incentive to do well – redesigned Hockaday trophies. Traditionally Hockaday has awarded simple silver plates to top debaters in each category of debate, each with the event name, the debater’s placement in the event, and of course, “The Hockaday School” engraved on it.

But recently the Hockaday team voted to add the school crest to the plates for a touch of personalization and added glamour.

“Instead of it just being text, we changed it to include the Hockaday crest, which we thought would make them prettier,” Melin said.

The team’s goal was to make sure debaters who received trophies would be proud to display the plates and remember their achievements. So, to ensure that debaters who received a fifth or sixth place trophy didn’t cram their trophies in the back of their closets until their parents throw them out, the debater’s placement in their event was taken out, leaving the crest, the school name, and the event.

“We took away the specific place you got, because if you got third or sixth place you might put it in your closet, whereas if it just says Hockaday on it you might want to display it,” Melin explained.

For the girls on the team who host the tournament, the event means tireless months of work calling judges, obtaining food for participants and organizing the nuts and bolts of the competition. “The tournament is a lot of work, especially for the team officers, but it’s all worth it in the end,” junior Rebecca said.

Though the preparation is back-breaking, the tournament experience itself is both loved and hated by Hockaday debaters.

“Hosting the tournament is great because it almost allows you to have a tournament experience without the stress of having to compete since you can meet and hang out with all your friends from other schools who are debating at the tournament,” junior Nikita said. “At the same time, hosting can be stressful and boring. Stressful in that you want everything to run smoothly and when something inevitably doesn’t, you have to hurry to fix it. Boring because when rounds are going on you just kind of have to sit there.”

Overall the tournament this year ran smoothly and on time, proving a largely enjoyable experience for participants, judges and the Hockaday team.

“It went well this year. Everyone seemed please,” Melin said.

– Michelle