JACKSON, Tenn. – Nov. 4, 2010 – The third season for Union University’s debate team is underway, with team members posting strong showings in the first two tournaments of the year.
Team coach Web Drake said after each tournament the team members think through the things they did well and work on their weaknesses.
“Our team is very intellectual,” Drake said. “We usually win the logical side of an argument. Now we’re working on winning the heart.”
Drake said Union President David S. Dockery and Provost Carla Sanderson, understanding the value of academic debate, were instrumental in bringing him to Union to start and lead the debate program. The president and provost also made time to judge debate rounds at the tournament Union hosted last year.
In only two years, the debate team quickly made a name for itself in the IPDA, winning the national championship in March 2010.
Because Union debaters understand how to think logically and argue their point well, team member Kristin Tisdale said, other IPDA teams often say “this is going to be a good round” when they see that they are debating a student on Union’s team.
In the opening tournament Sept. 25-26 at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Ark., Tisdale won top speaker and Jed Dugger won the novice tournament.
The team finished second overall in the tournament, which was Dugger’s last as a novice debater. In the second tournament of the season Oct. 8-10 at the University of Arkansas-Monticello, he joined the varsity team.
In that event, a “swing” tournament – which Drake said is two tournaments in one weekend, Jordan Hayes won the first novice tournament, with Kevin Moss finishing second. Nicole Haynes won the first varsity tournament, with Dugger placing second.
Shelly Ezell won the second novice tournament that weekend. Jordan Hughey won the second professional tournament, and Seth Brake finished second. Abby Williams was the top novice speaker at the second novice tournament, and the team won the tournament sweepstakes for both halves and the overall swing.
In addition to Dugger joining the varsity team, the program gained two varsity and six novice debaters this semester. Students new to the team take an “Argumentation and Debate” class taught by Drake and, like all other team members, debate each other weekly.
Tisdale said that Union’s team is the only one in the International Public Debate Association that requires members to participate in two practice debates every week.
“The more you practice, the more you learn how to think differently,” she said.
Team members also have a diversity of interests, Tisdale said.
“All of our people are really well-rounded and involved in a lot of things,” she said. “We’re literally a representation of our school within the debate team.”
Both Dugger and Tisdale attributed personal growth in thinking logically, defending their arguments solidly and speaking comfortably from their participation in the Union debate program. They credited much of their improvement to Drake’s honest, helpful coaching and the team members’ support for each other during debate tournaments.
“We’re all like a big family,” Tisdale said.
The team will travel to a total of eight IPDA tournaments this season, and will host a tournament at Union University the weekend before Thanksgiving. The next tournament is scheduled for Nov. 5-7 at Louisiana State University-Shreveport.
By Samantha Adams (’13)