What is Speech and Debate?
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.
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.
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.
Why Become a Member?
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. 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.
Members join a community of thousands dedicated to increasing access to speech and debate. Connect with coaches who share the same needs and goals, and get access to exclusive partnerships, from team fundraising opportunities to research tools, scholarship opportunities, contests, programs, and online tools.
From new coach webinars, to finding and cutting a piece, writing and analyzing legislation, and meeting Common Core State Standards—members have access to hundreds of webinars and instructional videos.
Novice, intermediate, and experienced students and coaches will find everything they need to succeed in speech and debate events including textbooks, a vast script database, sample legislation, argument preparation, choosing a speech topic, the basics of blocking, and more.
Coaches and teachers have unlimited access to the tools and resources they need to help their students thrive. From lesson plans to running a practice, recruiting students, or fundraising for your team, we’re here with the resources and support you need.
Regardless of your level of experience we have summer training, online sessions, coach clinics, and countless opportunities for you to network with peers in the speech and debate community.
The National Speech & Debate Association 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
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
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)
Letter from Carlos Castillo (California)
Letter from W. Donald Clayton, Jr. (Alabama)
Letter from Robyn Kailal (Florida)
Letter from Ann V. Klotz (Ohio)
Letter from D. Scott Looney (Ohio)
Letter from Dr. Joseph H. Murry, Jr. (Louisiana)
Letter from Michael O’Toole (Pennsylvania)
Letter from Dr. Stefanie Phillips (California)
Letter from Dr. Polly Reikowski (Minnesota)
Letter from Dr. Douglas S. Wine (New Mexico)
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!
To purchase the Resource Package, log in to your account at the upper right and use the link on your school profile.
|Event||Membership Benefits||Team Resource Package|
|Additional Resources Per Event|
Included with school membership!
*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.
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.
- 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
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
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 3,600 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.
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
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.
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.
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.