The NSDA is proud to recognize the accomplishments of our students, coaches, and schools throughout the year.
Student members of the National Speech & Debate Association compete throughout the school year, but tournament wins and Honor Society points are just part of the recognition received from our organization!
Students may earn service points for the work they do both in and outside of the speech and debate community. These points can help them as they advance from one NSDA degree to another. For more information about service points for students, review this document titled Service Points: A Primer.
The National Speech & Debate Association is proud to offer honor cords for its members to wear during high school graduation ceremonies. Honor cords recognize member accomplishments and affirm their commitment to speech and debate education. If needed, here is a letter of support to principals from our Executive Director J. Scott Wunn.
Academic All American
The Academic All American award recognizes high school students who have earned the degree of Superior Distinction (750 points); completed at least 5 semesters of high school; demonstrated outstanding character and leadership; and earned a GPA of 3.7 on a 4.0 scale (or its equivalent). NOTE: If the GPA is between 3.5 and 3.7 on a 4.0 scale (or its equivalent), students also must have received an ACT score of 27 or higher, or a New SAT score of 1300 or higher. If a student is eligible, coaches will see a yellow box with “AAA?” under the Awards column on their Student Roster.
District Student of the Year
This award is presented to a graduating senior in each district who best represents the tenets of the Association’s Code of Honor: humility, equity, integrity, respect, leadership, and service. Nominees must also demonstrate strong academic credentials and a commitment to the speech and debate community.
William Woods Tate, Jr., National Student of the Year
Each year, six students who win the District Student of the Year award are selected as finalists for the William Woods Tate, Jr., National Student of the Year award. This annual award recognizes one individual out of more than 150,000 student members who best embodies the organization’s Code of Honor.
Speaking and Service Award
This award recognizes students who uphold the highest level of service by using their skills to help others. It is given annually to the students who earn the maximum number of service points (200) allowed in a given school year. Member students of any age are eligible for this award.
There are a wide variety of awards coaches and teachers may earn as members of the NSDA.
Donus D. Roberts Coaching Excellence
Coaches receive one point for every merit point earned by their students through competition, service, and leadership activities. Each point represents dedicated coaching and hours of practice, revision, and growth for students. Coaches earn Association membership and advanced standing at the same milestones as students, until they earn 10,000 points and the Donus D. Roberts Coaching Excellence Award.
Hall of Fame
The highest honor for any high school speech and debate coach is election to the National Speech & Debate Association Hall of Fame. Each year, nominations are sought from member coaches. In the month of April, current Hall of Fame members and coaches with at least three diamonds vote to determine which nominees will be elected members of this most distinguished body.
District Leader Commendations
Recipients are nominated annually by their peers for going above and beyond in the areas of leadership and service, which may include excellence in district communications or publicity, developing district programs and resources, and/or district membership and engagement support. Chairs may nominate up to two individuals for this commendation. The awards are presented at the National Tournament during the District Leadership Luncheon in June. In addition to District Committee members, other coaches, administrators, parents, or volunteers in the district may be considered for this award.
Don Crabtree Distinguished Service
Coaches who perform service for the Association, such as hosting tournaments, writing or presenting about the Association, recruiting a new chapter school, or writing an article for Rostrum, earn service citations. Those who earn 20 citations are given a special gold key. Those who receive 50 citations are presented with a bronze plaque. In 2018, the awards were named in honor of Don Crabtree, former NSDA Board of Directors president, nine-diamond coach, Hall of Fame member, and service citation record holder.
A Coach Emeritus is a former coach, advisor, or assistant who is no longer active in a speech and debate program who would like to continue their service and involvement in NSDA activities to serve the local and/or national community. A Coach Emeritus must have at least five years of coaching experience along with an active teaching certificate, fingerprint clearance card, or other background check verification.
Frank Sferra Directors Commendation
The Director’s Commendation is awarded annually for outstanding contributions by a coach.
James M. Copeland H.S. Coach of the Year
The National Speech & Debate Association’s James M. Copeland High School Coach of the Year award annually honors high school coaches who reflect outstanding leadership and commitment to speech and debate activities.
New Coach of the Year
The National Speech & Debate Association’s New Coach of the Year award recognizes an exemplary high school coach who is in their first year of NSDA membership.
Assistant Coach of the Year
The National Speech & Debate Association’s Assistant Coach of the Year award recognizes an exemplary high school assistant coach serving at an NSDA member school.
Middle School Coach of the Year
The National Speech & Debate Association’s Middle School Coach of the Year award recognizes an outstanding middle school speech and debate coach serving at an NSDA member school.
The National Speech & Debate Association highlights the academic value of speech and debate activities within school systems. Every year, schools from across the country are awarded for their commitment to speech and debate activities and the learning opportunities they provide to their students.
Becoming a charter chapter is the highest honor for high schools in the NSDA. A chapter is chartered after enrolling at least 50 degrees within a three-year period of membership. Small schools with 9th-12th grade enrollment of fewer than 500 students must enroll at least 25 degrees within a three-year period. If a charter chapter does not meet the minimum three-year strength requirements, it can apply for a one-year extension, or it reverts to member chapter status.
Leading Chapter Awards
Each year the top chapter in accumulated members and degrees, not more than one per district, receives the Leading Chapter Award. Leading Chapter schools are recognized based on student participation throughout the school year. Schools earning the Leading Chapter Award must have previously achieved Charter School Status in the National Speech & Debate Association. The award is presented at the district tournament. These speech and debate programs serve as an inspiration for new teams around the United States.
Top 100 Schools
Each year, the 100 chapters with the largest number of new degrees receive the Top 100 Schools designation
Bruno E. Jacob Trophy
The Bruno E. Jacob/Pi Kappa Delta Trophy is given to the school with the largest number of cumulative rounds at the National Speech & Debate Tournament. Each student in each round of a main event at Nationals counts as one point, and a school’s total is only reset when they win the trophy.
Club awards demonstrate outstanding commitment to teaching students essential life skills—including communication, research, listening, writing, and organization. Every year, schools can earn club awards for achieving degrees in the Honor Society. For example, The 100 Club recognizes a school that had a strength of over 100 points. The 200 Club honors a school that earned 200 strength points; and so on.
High School Administrator of the Year Award
The National Speech & Debate Association’s High School Administrator of the Year program began in 2011 as a means to recognize outstanding high school principals and administrators. The program annually honors administrators who have succeeded in providing high-quality opportunities for students in speech and debate programming as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession.
Middle School Administrator of the Year Award
The National Speech & Debate Association’s Middle School Administrator of the Year program began in 2016 as a means to recognize outstanding middle school principals and administrators. The program annually honors administrators who have succeeded in providing high-quality opportunities for students in speech and debate programming as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession.
The Unger Cup
This annual award, named in honor of one of America’s finest debaters and coaches, James Unger, is awarded to the school whose Policy Debate team places highest in six national tournaments: the National Speech & Debate Tournament; the National Catholic Forensic League; the NAUDL Chase Urban Debate National Championship; the University of Kentucky Tournament of Champions (TOC); the New York University International Public Policy Forum tournament (IPPF); and the National Debate Coaches Association (NDCA).
A variety of school awards are awarded annually to the top schools at the National Tournament:
Schools of Outstanding Distinction – recognizes the top 10 schools after combining both speech and debate points (must score points in both divisions).
Speech Schools of Excellence – recognizes the top 20 schools in total speech points that did not win a School of Outstanding Distinction Award.
Debate Schools of Excellence – recognizes the top 20 schools in total debate points that did not win a School of Outstanding Distinction Award.
Speech Schools of Honor – recognizes the top 21-40 schools in total speech points that did not win a School of Outstanding Distinction Award.
Debate Schools of Honor – recognizes the top 21-40 schools in total debate points that did not win a School of Outstanding Distinction Award.
Outstanding School Achievement – school administrators of the top six individuals or teams in each main event are sent an Outstanding School Achievement plaque, personalized with students’ names, school, event, place, and year.
Senator Karl E. Mundt Sweepstakes Trophy
The Karl Mundt Trophy, awarded since the first National Student Congress in 1938, is presented to the school with the largest number of cumulative participation points in Congressional Debate at the National Tournament.