Tips and secrets from champion debaters for building an unbeatable debating team

By Jason Cheng and Keith Wong

From last week’s issue, you learned the gist of how to win a debate. It takes time to hone your debating skills but you can get better faster with the help of your teammates

By Jason Cheng and Keith Wong |

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Captains of Wah Yan College debating team Keith Wong (left) and Jason Cheng.

Running a debate club in school provides a platform for debate enthusiasts to thrive and grow even faster together.

The English Debating Team of Wah Yan College, Kowloon, has groomed seasoned speakers who all started from scratch. The team was the champion of the 12th HKSDPSC Junior Debating Tournament and 13th Hong Kong Parliamentary Debating Society Tournament. Wah Yan captains, Jason Cheng Kwan-chun and Keith Wong Chung-wa, have three excellent tips about how to run a successful debate team in your school.

Variations in training

It is key to plan what you do in training sessions. Knowledge-building activities are important. Good debaters always have a wealth of knowledge to share. They are aware of what’s happening around the world and often train by mapping out the pros and cons of government policies, so that they are able to analyse faster. Your team may start by conducting a matter quiz for junior debaters and matter lectures or news sharing for more experienced or senior debaters.

Debating skills don’t develop overnight. Debaters should go the extra mile as often as possible by having regular impromptu speech practice, short debates or mock debates so that they can get used to debating in a competitive setting.

Increasing exposure and finding your strengths

You can polish your skills by involving yourself more in the local debating community. Team Wah Yan Kowloon is grateful to many debating organisations for the wonderful learning opportunities they shared. The team has learned a lot from opponents’ speeches and adjudicators’ quality feedback.

Debaters on the team take part in different debating tournaments, including Hong Kong Secondary Schools Debating Competition, and British Parliamentary and World Schools Debating Championship.

Often, you have to tweak your strategies to suit different competition formats. It is not easy to master all debating styles but this could be a way to find out where your strengths lie.

Evaluation and building a united team

Other than gruelling and intensive preparation before a competition, it is equally important to evaluate your performance as a team afterwards. Coaches, teachers and debaters can get together for a quick debriefing session, in which you reflect upon the experiences and share ideas on how the team could improve. For instance, the team may think about ways to strengthen rebuttal tactics after having won a round or to change the line of attack after a defeat. It helps you to refine the team’s performance and set sights on a common goal, eventually emerging with a stronger team spirit and more diverse strategies.

Debating is not an individual sport. A lot has to be done to build a dream team and it’s easier said than done. It requires collaboration between teachers, coaches and students. Remember to always prepare, practice, and communicate with your team, and most importantly, enjoy the process!

Edited by Nicole Moraleda

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