Alumni Return To Assist Current Debate Team


Photo by Jiayue Z.

McLean High freshman, Tobin Wilson, holds a mini-lesson for the debate members

The sense of clean victory and relief after winning a tournament brings the LMS Debate Team together because they are the only ones that know the efforts and time they put in. Every Monday and Wednesday, the team rendezvous in the library and Ms.Schinstock’s room to research and craft arguments in preparation for their upcoming tournaments, but there is more to it than just debate itself; there is camaraderie and teamwork. 

The Longfellow Debate Team participates in the Nation’s Capital Debate League(NCDL circuit), which hosts tournaments regularly, typically every month. Without any school staff to lead, thirty members participate in these tournaments under the guidance of high school coaches. 

LMS Debate Team’s history stretches back years and years and has been under a few different sponsors. This year, LMS Debate alumni from McLean and Langley gathered together to coach the current team.

 “I started debate last year in eighth grade, and I saw that working with friends, working with people sort of come together in this speaking activity and advocate and discuss the intricacies of policy as a whole; I found that to be really interesting,” coach Tobin Wilson, a McLean High freshman explained. 

The coaches recognize all the benefits of debate, namely public speaking and advocacy skills are involved. All these become tools when in classrooms and in their daily lives. Living up to the role as coaches, they want to help students see and grow in that aspect.

“I was on the debate team before I went to McLean, and I just really liked being on the team. It was really fun, I made a lot of friends, and so when I went to McLean, I wanted to continue helping that kind of environment grow, so I just started helping out[the LMS Debate Team] in freshman year,” coach Jiayin Zou, a junior at McLean High, said.

The coaches assist the students on their journey to becoming better public speakers and debaters by providing suggestions and advice, as well as sharing their own experiences. Coach Ryan Kang, a Mclean High freshman, explains, “[We] make [the members] mock, and if anyone asks me to look over their case, [we would] help them. [When] I read over [their cases], I ask them to explain their argument to me, even if I already understand it. Part of debate is evidence; however, interpretation and analysis are more important.”

Alongside the coaches’ assistance, the members eagerly prepare for their upcoming tournaments.

“We mock several times, which means we go against our own Longfellow teams. We basically just create our cases, and we have the coaches look over it,” said 8th grader Saumya M., who has been on the team for two years now. 

Over the school year, members of the debate team participated in many tournaments. Through these experiences, they slowly began to learn a variety of new skill sets by going up against other talented debaters from other middle schools. 

“It[debate] has taught me how to find evidence and make sure that it’s reliable and also how to convince someone of what I’m trying to propose to them[the judge],” 8th grader Noelle K. said.

However, the members seem to have retained, beyond debate, which would be friendships. 8th grader Chloe J. said, “Debate has introduced me to many new friends, and it created long-lasting relationships with others. It has also introduced me to different formats of how to communicate with others, and it encouraged me to become more outspoken.”

The essence of debate is teamwork and communication. As a result, the members build trust and reliance between people they never would have interacted with otherwise.

Debate, to the members, not only gave them a chance to learn about effective persuasive and life skills, but it also allowed them to step out of their comfort zone to become a better version of themselves while creating everlasting friendships and cherishable memories.