The Student News Site of Tompkins High School

The Nestline

The Student News Site of Tompkins High School

The Nestline

The Student News Site of Tompkins High School

The Nestline

The Scoop on Tompkins’ Debate Team


When one considers the major social aspects of a student’s high school experience, teams, such as the football, basketball or drill teams, are often some of the first activities to come to mind. A large part of many students’ social lives revolve around the athletic team they participate in, but athletic teams are not the only way a student can be involved with other students in a team oriented environment. The Tompkins High School debate team is a prime example of a non-athletic team that allows students to interact with one another in an environment that is conducive to all students with an interest in asserting their opinion about a current subject matter to others. Debate and Speech teacher Weston Elkins was involved in debate in his high school and feels that being a part of the debate team exposes students to topics that are not always encountered in everyday life.

“For the kids I like it because it gets them connected to their community, and they have to break the bubble that they kind of live in where they are only focused on the things that affect them in the here and now, and look at other places, other communities, other people about different issues that are affecting them also,” Elkins said.

Members of the debate team are committed individuals who understand that success comes with preparation and the development of their skill set. Students can often be found staying after school four days a week and as late as 5 p.m. in order to prepare for an upcoming event or to debate each other with practice rounds.

“They debate each other so they can get practices rounds in, they give practice speeches and give each other feedback, so it’s a lot of researching, writing, preparing, and practicing everything all together for what they need to do,” Elkins said.

There is often a misconception that debate is just a semester course, but it lasts throughout the year with the inclusion of many debate tournaments both in and out of state. Students are given the opportunity to show their growth in certain areas as well as improve their technique by competing in the the many tournaments offered to them.

“We go to something like 16 competitions just on our normal schedule, and then we have five or six more after that. This upcoming year we have a trip to San Antonio we are going to in a few weeks, then we have another trip to the University of Texas tournament in Austin, then we are going to Harvard again for their tournament in Boston in the spring,” Elkins said.

Just like any team, the debate team is growing each year. Students are welcome to join the team, but must follow policies in order to compete in individual and team events at tournaments.

“I require students to actually take the class for two years. They can start debating the first year they are in the class, but if they want to keep being on the team, they need to stay in it for the second year, and that is because there is so much to learn. After those first two years they can keep competing without being in the class, but they have to have me for two years,” Elkins said.

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