Debate Coach

Debate Coach

EP 15

Athens, GA

Male, 54

I have been the director of the Georgia Debate Union for the last twenty-five years. Our program works with intercollegiate debaters who engage in public policy debate (National Debate Tournament style debate). Our coaches collaborate with undergraduate debaters on developing argument strategies for the annual national topic, direct research on that topic, facilitating discussions related to theories of debate, and listen to practice debates and speeches.

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18 Questions


Last Answer on February 04, 2013

Best Rated

Are presidential debates actually "debates", by the traditional definition?

Asked by J. Wright over 11 years ago

They lack both equal and adequate time. Two conditions for a real debate. This format leaves people fighting for time and leads to the complaints about the moderators. And, there are a number of serious issues that don't get fully developed. We could use a whole 1.5 hour debate just covering a plan to reduce our national debt.

Do you think people's determination of "winner" and "loser" in a prez debate is based on the actual strength of the arguments, or is it more about who presented better / had the stronger personality? Is it about form or substance?

Asked by Findependent over 11 years ago

It can be substance, but that isn't the case in '12. Romney won debate #1 because he undermined the narrative the Obama campaign carefully crafted for the two months leading up to the debate. Simply put, the arguments before the debate should look like the arguments during the debate and they should be carried forward post debate. Not the case for Obama in debate #1.

In the last 20-25 years, what would you say was the most resounding win in a high-profile debate?

Asked by spikeitup over 11 years ago

If you look back 30+ years, Reagan Oct 1980. Closer to today, Bush Sept 2000. If you are looking for effect on the outcome based on performance, Kerry was solid in 2004.

Are you married, and if so, does your spouse get annoyed if you flex your debate skills during an argument?

Asked by Maria_77 over 11 years ago

She is a commercial litigator. I don't win many arguments at home :)

What 1 piece of advice would you give each of Obama and Romney to improve their respective debating skills?

Asked by AliceE over 11 years ago

Governor Romney needs to be less combative in this setting. Given the issues are security based and he will be sitting at a table with Obama. The President needs to replicate the persona deployed in debate II when answering the Libya question. While this is a foreign policy debate he needs to be more assertive on how his domestic policies are really part of a broader long term plan (green jobs, infrastructure repair, debt reduction).

As gratifying as it was to watch Joe Biden repeatedly put Paul Ryan in his place, do you think he went overboard with the interruptions, eye-rolls, snickers, etc? Would something like that result in a penalty of some kind in real debates?

Asked by Joe Podium over 11 years ago

He hurt himself with undecided voters, while rallying the base. He did a good job given his goal was to mobilize those disillusioned by Obama's debate #1 performance.

What's the most common mistake or weakness that you find yourself having to correct with your undergraduate students?

Asked by HHernandez over 11 years ago

An inability to take argument risks and a desire to speak more quickly than they can really manage.

Do you recruit elite high school debaters like college sports teams recruit high school athletes? Are there debate scholarships?

Asked by JKR over 11 years ago

We do offer modest scholarships. Some schools offer larger awards. Usually a school with an endowment ot one hoping to attract students who otherwise might pick a stronger cool use hefty awards for debaters.

Do the majority of your students on the UGA debate teams want to go into law and/or politics? What kind of students does debate attract?

Asked by Whitewalls over 11 years ago

Academics, Law, and a growing number into risk management. They debate using a cost-benefit template and that translates nicely into working in the insurance industry.

In college debates, how are the topics for debate chosen, and how much time are participants given to prepare themselves?

Asked by brikhaus over 11 years ago

In the policy debate community, the topic process takes about a month and culminates in a vote by participating schools. In a debate each team has a total of 10 minutes of preparation time to use as they see fit (a debate takes about 2 hours)

Have you coached any students that have gone on to become analysts or talking-heads on news networks etc?

Asked by Gracie Gray over 11 years ago

None of my students have followed that path. Theer are a lot of folks from the debate community to graviate to those types of positions.

One more, related to my previous Q. in "real" debates (like the intercollegiate ones you deal with), which is more important: delivery, or substance?

Asked by Findependent over 11 years ago

Substance. Not close.

How long do you have to go to school to be a debate coach?

Asked by Mariah over 11 years ago

I have a Ph. D. and hold a faculty appointment. Other colleges use a different model and staff a team with. Someone who has an M.A.

You mentioned that the pres. debates don't meet the conditions for a real debate. So do you think these debates serve any real purpose? Or is this all just for show?

Asked by J. Wright over 11 years ago

They have value. It is a moment that can't alsways be controlled by the campaign team and we see the candidates together and can make interpersonal judgments about each.

Do you think debate skill is mostly innate? Or could a completely unskilled debater be taught to be great?

Asked by big sir over 11 years ago

Unskilled students can be taught to be good or very good. My own feeling is that personal drive and an innate sense are elements needed to be great.

How much does vocal tonality matter re: persuasiveness? Is someone with a high-pitched, nasal / whiny voice at a dramatic disadvantage?

Asked by SamTs over 11 years ago

Intercolleiate policy debate is a high speech data driven activity. Content usually trumps presuasive considerations. In a traditonal public audience debate -- pitch would play an inportant role in determining outcome.

Who are better debaters: men or women?

Asked by jeremy over 11 years ago

Depends on the person. The 1st speaker at the 2012 NDT was a woman.

Hello, I am currently founding a debate club at Onondaga Community College. This will be a good start but the goal is to organize a debate team to be competitive nationally. We need a debate coach. What do we do?

Asked by Lucky about 11 years ago