Coming from a Former Debater, Is Speech and Debate Worth It?

Hanna Darne

Speech and debate is an activity that many sign up for in hopes of impressing colleges… or because they actually enjoy the concept of it. As an introvert, I can say that I am the former. With that being said, do I think my time as a debater was worth it? Yes…and no. 

When I competed in Speech and Debate, I participated in the event known as “Lincoln- Douglas Debate”, which is a one-on-one morals-based debate. I’m not going to lie, sometimes it made me want to cry, but for the most part, the topics were interesting, especially when you looked at the morals aspect of global or US issues. From my three years of experience, I definitely became a much more confident speaker and debater. 

If you are looking to improve upon your public speaking skills or just get rid of stage fright, Speech and Debate is a great place to start. In rounds, it’s only you, the judge, and your competitors. In order to keep things fair, you will only ever see these judges once, so you don’t have to worry about embarrassing yourself to some random adult. But what about the competitors? Well, the judgment only lasts a little bit, and I can guarantee you that I have forgotten most of the people I have been in rounds with. I could probably only name a few kids from other schools, and those are only the ones that were really good or that I connected with outside of rounds.

Speaking of connections, Speech and Debate is a great way to make friends both at Sentinel and across the state. I have had so many interesting conversations with people in between rounds, and I think doing Debate helped make me a little less shy. I have also become much closer with some of my friends through venting about rounds. (Nothing’s better than complaining about an annoying opponent or a clearly biased judge.) I also found that the team is like one huge family, as cliche as that sounds. I cried for seniors graduating that I never talked to outside of tournaments, and I celebrated with people whose names I barely knew. Overall, Sentinel’s Speech and Debate team is such an accepting community – that aspect was probably my favorite part of the experience.

While Speech and Debate helped me make new friends and become a better public speaker, it was not always so great for my mental health. Before every tournament and almost every round, I would get headaches and feel like I was going to throw up from the stress. Writing two new cases and fighting evidence between new topics was the bane of my existence because I was already doing a lot outside of Lincoln-Douglas and didn’t always have time or the energy to do so. Of course, part of the issue was that I was (and still am to an extent) a huge procrastinator, but still…writing cases is stressful because you have to make sure there are no holes in your arguments or they will be torn into by your opponent. When you have homework in five other classes, it can be hard to find the time and willpower to write another two essays, especially when you aren’t doing them for a grade. Debate was great for a number of reasons, but the stress it gave me was too much for me to handle going into senior year.

So. Having said all this, does that mean that Speech and Debate isn’t worth it? 


I think that gaining public speaking skills and being able to make friends are some of the most important skills a person can have. That being said, if you join speech and debate, and you absolutely hate it, my advice to you is to quit or try another event. Don’t force yourself to do something because it will look good on your transcript or resume. Nothing is worth putting aside your mental health for half of the school year. 

The main reason I decided to not do debate this year is because I wanted to have more time to take care of my mental health; but honestly, I missed the team and the experience as a whole. Overall, I would say Speech and Debate is definitely something you should try at least once because you’ll gain valuable life skills and might even have some fun with it.