Explore Membership

Explore Membership

Why Become a Member?

Speech and debate is an academic activity typically available to students in middle school, high school, and/or college. Similar to athletic sports, speech and debate activities are challenging, competitive in nature, and require regular practice, coaching, dedication, and hard work.

As the largest interscholastic speech and debate organization in the world, the National Speech & Debate Association provides an extensive array of member benefits, including resources, tournament opportunities, professional development, scholarship opportunities, exclusive partnerships, and more.

Member Benefits

As a member of the National Speech & Debate Association, you are instantly connected to a robust community of professionals passionate about speech and debate. With more than 3,000 member high schools, 600 middle schools, and 5,200 coaches across the country, it’s easy to network with fellow speech and debate advocates in your region. Whether you are a student, starting a new program at your school, coaching for the first time, volunteering your time to a local program, reconnecting with alumni, or advancing your skill set—we’re here to support you every step of the way!

School Benefits

As a member of the National Speech & Debate Association, schools receive:
 

  • Online roster management and points tracking (our system receives points automatically from the tournament tabulation systems Tabroom, Joy of Tournaments, and Speechwire)
  • Eligibility for school awards based on the team’s participation including Leading Chapter, Club Awards, Top 100 schools, etc.
  • A student Honor Code, Coaches Code of Ethics, and Honor Society to provide your team with standards for ethical competition and participation
  • Opportunity to vote on nationally-determined debate topics for the school year
  • Ability to register students in their district tournament and qualify for Nationals
  • Access to our Big Questions fundraising program and a discount on Edco fundraising service fees
  • A full-color printed copy of our quarterly magazine, Rostrum, and our Nationals Chronicle
  • A searchable database of speech and debate resources, from online textbooks and lesson plans to full final round videos of outstanding performances in each event at past National Tournaments
  • Access to a searchable legal database through our partner HeinOnline
  • A free three-month subscription to Foreign Affairs magazine
  • Hosting a tournament? We offer member discounts on tools to make your tournament easier and more affordable, including competitive questions/prompts and trophies
Coach Benefits

In addition to the benefits provided to member schools, coaches also receive:
 

  • Career membership in the largest interscholastic speech and debate organization in the world
  • A membership certificate, with the ability to earn foil embossed seals as your students earn points
  • Access to online resources through the school’s membership
  • Discount on registration to the National Speech & Debate Conference
  • Eligibility for national awards including Distinguished Service, Coach of the Year, Educator of the Year, and more
  • Weekly communications from the National Speech & Debate Association
  • Access to a professional coach accreditation program
Student Benefits

In addition to the benefits provided to member schools, students also receive:
 

  • Lifetime membership in the largest interscholastic speech and debate organization in the world
  • A membership certificate, with the ability to earn foil embossed seals for participation and service
  • Ability to compete in districts and qualify for the National Tournament, where thousands of dollars in scholarships are awarded each year
  • Opportunity to vote on nationally-determined debate topics for the school year
  • Eligibility for national awards including Exemplary Service, Student of the Year, Academic All American, All American, and more
  • Monthly newsletter sharing speech and debate opportunities and resources
  • Access to online resources through the school’s membership

This is the best association you could possibly be a member of! I love speech and debate. Speech and debate has been the best experience of my high school career. It builds confidence and has helped me become the person I’ve always wanted to be. I wouldn’t change my experience for the world.

Mina Hoffman

Alum

Administrative Support

Looking to start or maintain a speech and debate program at your school? Download these letters from principals and administrators across the country. Share their words with local administrators and school board members to help build your case for support!

Letters in Support of Speech and Debate

Letter from Austin Brown (Mississippi)
Principal from Madison Central High School and the 2017 NSDA High School Administrator of the Year

Letter from Carlos Castillo (California)
Principal from Wawona Middle School and Bullard High School and the 2016 NSDA Middle School Administrator of the Year

Letter from W. Donald Clayton, Jr. (Alabama)
Principal from Mountain Brook Junior High School and the 2017 NSDA Middle School Administrator of the Year

Letter from Dr. Robyn Kaiyal (Florida)
Middle School Director from NSU University School

Letter from Jason Kline (Iowa)
Principal from John F. Kennedy High School

Letter from Ann V. Klotz (Ohio)
Head of Laurel School

Letter from D. Scott Looney (Ohio)
Head of School from Hawken School and the 2018 NSDA High School Administrator of the Year

Letter from Dr. Joseph H. Murry, Jr. (Louisiana)
Principal from Holy Cross School and the 2015 NSDA High School Administrator of the Year

Letter from Michael O’Toole (Pennsylvania)
Principal from La Salle College High School and the 2016 NSDA High School Administrator of the Year

Letter from Dr. Stefanie Phillips (California)
Superintendent of Schools for the Santa Ana Unified School District

Letter from Dr. Polly Reikowski (Minnesota)
Principal from Eagan High School and the 2014 NSDA High School Administrator of the Year

Letter from Dr. Douglas S. Wine (New Mexico)
Former principal from East Mountain High School and the 2013 NSDA High School Administrator of the Year

The NSDA doesn’t just build skills for competition; it builds skills for life. I coach speech and debate because I feel it’s our responsibility to shape our leaders for tomorrow. Kids who participate in speech and debate are the most exceptional kids at school and this activity enhances their many talents.

Regina Jennings

Coach

What Is Speech and Debate?

Each event in speech and debate features a different form of public speaking and requires a unique skill set and talent. While students often develop a passion for specific events, many compete in multiple categories throughout the course of their academic careers.

Speech involves a presentation by one, two, or sometimes a group of students that is judged against a similar type of presentation by others in a round of competition. Speech events range from limited preparation events that require extensive knowledge of current events to dramatic and humorous interpretation, which challenge students to find powerful moments in literature and recreate them for an audience.

Debate involves an individual or a team of debaters working to effectively convince a judge that their side of a resolution is, as a general principle, more valid. Students in debate come to thoroughly understand both sides of the resolution, having researched each extensively, and learn to think critically about every argument that could be made on each side. See the current topics our students are debating.

Membership in the National Speech & Debate Association is very meaningful because it gives you the opportunity to connect on a national level. We have a rural program, so we don’t always get the chance to interact with other coaches in our state, let alone anyone outside of that. Having national support and knowing what is going on in our community across the country is extremely helpful.

Connie Hollin

New Coach

Academic Skills

Speech and debate changes lives. From building confidence, improving communication, and increasing critical thinking skills to better preparing students for college, speech and debate activities provide life skills vital to a young person’s success in the future.

Speech and debate activities focus on the four core zones of literacy: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Utilizing these skills inside and outside of the classroom teaches students the value of critical thinking, the ability to clearly articulate thoughts and ideas, to answer questions logically with clarity, and to think on one’s feet. Additionally, students develop interpersonal skills such as conflict resolution, assertiveness, and listening to peers. These important life skills empower youth to become engaged citizens, skilled professionals, and honorable leaders in our society.
Schools that provide speech and debate programs report:

  • Increased attendance
  • Higher tests scores
  • Rise in college acceptance
  • Unique benefits for at-risk students
  • Reduced drop-out rates

Speech and debate prepares students for college, a career and their future.

Speech and debate gives my students skills and opportunities that I couldn’t provide to the same extent within the four walls of my classroom. My students can’t wait to sign up, practice for and compete at upcoming tournaments. I’ve never seen such a passion and fire ignited in my students. Speech and debate gives students control over their learning and provides an authentic environment for its application.

Ariana Gonzalez Greene

Teacher and Coach

Over the past 20 years of teaching AP Language and Composition, I have observed that students involved in speech and debate are better prepared for my classes. Due to their relationship with language, experience composing and deconstructing arguments, and practice researching and gathering evidence, these students really excel.

Jaimie Crawford

Teacher

Resource Package

We offer the best resources around for coaches, debaters, interpers, extempers, and more—all for one low price. Check out the amazing videos, classes, textbooks, and other items available to you below.

Learn more about purchasing the Resource Package for teams or individuals!

Event Membership Benefits Resource Package

All Events

  • Live Webinars
  • National Tournament Videos through 2017
  • Professional Development
  • Lesson Plans
  • Honor Society Membership
  • HeinOnline - Research Tool and Legal Database
  • Communications from NSDA
  • Ability to Purchase Team Resource Package
  • Discounts on Tournament Services, Including Trophies & Awards as well as Extemp Questions, Impromptu Prompts, and World Schools Debate Motions created for your tournament
  • 2018 National Tournament Final Round Videos (High School and Middle School)
  • Recorded Webinars
  • 2018 National Conference Recorded Sessions
  • Deeper discounts on Tournament Services
Additional Resources Per Event

Debate Events

  • Lincoln-Douglas Topic Analysis
  • Public Forum Topic Analysis
  • Policy Debate Starter Files
  • Teacher in a Box Curriculum for Public Forum, Lincoln-Douglas, Policy Debate, and Big Questions
  • Advanced Research Guide on each Lincoln-Douglas Topic
  • Monthly advanced Public Forum Research Guide
  • Public Forum Online Textbook
  • Discount on World Schools Debate Motions created for your tournament

Speech Events

  • Free Extemp Practice Questions
  • Original Oratory Lesson Plans
  • Tips for Writing Persuasive Speech
  • Extemporaneous Speaking Textbook
  • Monthly Advanced Questions and Research Guides for Extemp
  • Interpretation Online Textbook
  • Original Oratory Research Guide
  • Original Oratory Online Textbook
  • Original Oratory Speech-writing Guide
Included with school membership!

High School $149

Middle School $75

+$199*

*Cost of the Resource Package is in addition to the membership fee. All member students and coaches in your program will receive full access to resources with the purchase of one package.

 

Tournaments

Tournaments occur at the local, district, and national level and enable students to earn rewards for their practice and dedication to one or more of our competitive events.

Local Tournaments

In most parts of the country, there are local opportunities for students to practice their events at tournaments throughout the school year.

Once you have become a member of the Association, the best way to get involved in speech and debate is by competing! Members may access our wide range of resources to help prepare for competition, and then use our Tournament Calendar to find a tournament. Other resources for finding tournaments and software options to help run tournaments:

  • Tabroom.com: registration website with listing of tournaments; software available to run tournaments.
  • Joy of Tournaments: registration website with listing of tournaments by date or by state; software available to run tournaments.
  • SpeechWire: registration website with listing of tournaments; software available to run tournaments.
  • State Organizations: many state associations/leagues sponsor local tournaments throughout the year as well as their own state tournament series.

District Tournaments

The district tournament is a student’s gateway to earn the right to compete at the National Speech & Debate Tournament, the largest academic contest in the world!

National Speech & Debate Association district tournaments are held each year to determine the qualifiers to the National Tournament in speech and debate events. Each district tournament is hosted by an Association district, which is made up of a set of schools in a given geographic region. Like many tournaments of the National Speech & Debate Association, district tournaments are annual tournaments.

District chairs must submit the dates of their district tournaments to us by November 1; those we have received are listed on our Tournament Calendar.

National Tournament

The National Speech & Debate Tournament marks the capstone of middle school and high school speech and debate activities for more than 150,000 students around the country. To attend, students must place among the top competitors at their District Tournaments. Qualifiers compete for college scholarships in a variety of speech and debate events. The National Tournament has been hosted by cities across the nation. Final rounds are judged by blue ribbon panels including CEOs, former Cabinet members, stage and screen celebrities, sponsors, and acclaimed community members.

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