Rowland Hall has consistently created some of the best policy debate teams in the nation. In 2016, Rowland Hall LG was ranked 3rd in the country, in 2019, Rowland Hall GY was ranked 10th in the nation, and in 2020 Rowland Hall DG was ranked 20th. When these announcements are given at assembly, do you ever wonder how these everyday high school students become some of the most accomplished individuals in the activity? If so, here is what it takes to be one of the best policy debaters in the country.
A prerequisite to becoming a phenomenal debater is to go to debate camp. Lots of debate camp. The most committed Rowland Hall debaters go to an average of 16-20 weeks of debate camp in high school. These camps take place during the summer and happen for about 7 weeks, usually at universities outside of Utah. Rowland Hall debaters commonly go to UC Berkeley or the University of Michigan for almost their entire summer. These camps have intensive 9am-to-7pm schedules that include many practice debates and even more lectures. Debate camps require debaters to give up the majority of their summer to improve at the activity.
Along with debate camp, the best debaters also go to many tournaments. Before Covid, Rowland Hall debaters would frequently fly to two or three different states in the span of a month. However, following the flying restrictions, the debate community had to improvise. Almost every tournament was online for the entirety of the 2020-2021 school year. Despite most people being disappointed, the positive part of this change was that teams could go to tournaments all over the nation while staying at their homes. This last year, the team could be in tournaments in Illinois and California at the same time. During Covid, the team was able to go to many more tournaments due to a lack of traveling.
Next, as expected, being one of the best debaters in the nation takes an absurd amount of work. Cutting articles for hours a day and sacrificing many weekends just scratches the surface of what debaters do. Some of the most competitive debaters spend 2 to 4 hours every day on debate on top of their schoolwork. Many also go to tournaments every other weekend. Doing this requires sacrificing the weekend before to prepare for the next tournament. Mike Shackelford, Rowland Hall’s head debate coach who has coached many of the best high school debaters of their time says that “D.E.B.A.T.E. stands for dedication, energy, boldness, analysis, thinking, and empathy.”
Debaters sacrifice their social life, sleep, and normalcy to be the best of the best. Their passion for the activity drives them to change their lifestyles so that they can dedicate lots of their energy to debate. Debate is one of the most difficult and fulfilling activities that a high schooler can take part in, and now hopefully more people know much work goes into being a phenomenal debater. In the words of Mike Shackelford, "Great debaters rise up, dig deep, and stay centered."