What to look for

Before your trials, you should also ask yourself what kind of debaters you are looking for. Even if your trials consist of an actual debating tournament, as many team selections do, we don’t advise that you merely choose the top five debaters off the tab. Debating is a team sport and there are a number of factors that are important when choosing the team itself.

Generally, compatibility is of the essence, on both a social and debating level. Debate compatibility means that these three, four or five individuals should complement each other on a team. You want debaters who can fill the roles in the debate. Some debaters are very flexible speakers and can adapt to different positions easily where as others may only suit one position but are consistent in their performance. There are lots of ways to make up your final team and if you are lucky you will find a group of debaters who are all capable of speaking in every position but that doesn’t always happen! You may also find a “prep room debater” This is someone who might not be as natural a speaker as the others but who is very useful contributing facts or leading discussions during debate preparation.

It is not always necessary to choose a full team of five. The minimum requirement for a WSDC team is three debaters but due to the pressures of such a competitive environment and the simple fact that two heads are better than one as they say, most nations usually bring either four or five debaters. Therefore you might also consider reserving your fifth place for a younger student who may not be up to the same standard as the rest of the team and therefore is unlikely to speak in every round but who you expect will gain a great deal from the experience and maybe an asset on the team at the following tournament.

Moreover, you want debaters who are compatible on a social level. Team members will need to spend a significant amount of time together both before and during WSDC and if they are at each other’s’ throats at every occasion, they are unlikely to perform to the best of their ability. While you don’t want to only accept debaters who are best friends with each other, which might cause a clique within the team, it is worth identifying any notable social issues before making your decision.

Other contributing factors may include the debaters’ age. If you select a team of four 18 year olds and one 14 year old you might find that they have difficulty relating to each other. Similarly younger debaters may have less experience spending time away from home which could create its own set of concerns. You may wish to secure parental consent in advance so that you know you have their full support. All these considerations should help you when looking at your top candidates.

Of course, you also want to make sure that you only accept WSDC-eligible debaters to the team. All debaters must be enrolled in a secondary institution, they must be passport holders of your nation, and they must be between the ages of 14 and 19 (refer to the WSDC Tournament Rules  for full details on the eligibility criteria). This is very important because if you choose and train a team for several months and then try to register them, you’ll get a nasty surprise in the form of “sorry, you can’t bring so-and-so because they aren’t eligible”. Again, this happens more than you would think!