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Debate: Adaptability to Overcome Disappointment

December 10, 2020
By Olivia Reardon, 11th Grade Student

During a normal year, the Rockbridge Academy debate team would travel to Virginia and stay at the Lawings’ grandparents’ home for a weekend of debating at Summit Christian Academy.  However, it has become exceedingly obvious that 2020 is anything but a normal year.  Due to Covid-19, the three schools participating in the tournament were already restricted to Zooming into the debates from their respective school buildings.  But a last-minute Covid-19 closure at Rockbridge meant that all our debaters were forced to pivot once again and debate from their homes.  As a first year debater and student used to Covid related disruptions, I prepared myself for a disaster.  But Rockbridge debaters made it happen, communicating with their partners on the phone during prep time and presenting their cases from their home offices, bedrooms, and basements.  Despite this unpredictable year, the debate team has had a rewarding and successful start. 

So many things have changed this school year, but the benefits of debate have remained steadfast.  Whether you are a novice, JV, or Varsity debater, there are opportunities to learn and hone skills.  Trinity Jordan, Rockbridge eleventh grader and first year debater, said, “It definitely brings me out of my comfort zone because I don’t like to put my opinion out there a lot, but debate has caused me to be more confident in what I say.” 

Being able to think logically and compose winsome arguments are extremely beneficial skills.  As Michael Grube, Rockbridge ninth grader and second year debater, put it, “People these days don’t really argue what is true; they just argue what they feel.  So debate is really good at teaching you how to argue truth through reasoning and support for your arguments.”  In just my first few months of debate, I have become much more confident in my ability to think and respond on my feet. 

Luke Sweeney, Rockbridge senior who has been in debate since eighth grade, said, “It definitely helps with listening and being able to compose clear, coherent arguments on the spot, because in almost every debate you get an argument that you’ve never heard before and in the next speech you have to give a refutation.”  In other words, you have to be adaptable.  Debate teaches students how to think on their feet and adjust quickly to new information or an unforeseen situation.  I truly think that the training and preparation we did in debate class better prepared the team to pivot last minute and make debating from their homes work.  Doing debate serves so much more of a purpose than just filling the elective slot. It prepares you to think critically and respond persuasively in real life.

Despite the less than desirable circumstances, the Rockbridge debate team has had a successful year thus far.  In Varsity, Luke Sweeney and Jack McLaughlin won third place. In JV, Michael Grube and Kait Atwood won first place and Nash Bailey and Olivia Reardon won third place.  Perhaps the biggest success however, is how the debate team has been able to build community with one another despite Covid-19 restrictions.  Going outside, playing games to improve our speech and improvisation, and preparing for the tournament with one another has brought students from all different grades and debating experiences together.  Jordan said, “It is a really uplifting community.  I especially noticed it when we were doing our practice debates; they give us a lot of constructive criticism but in the nicest way possible.”  The Rockbridge Academy debate team was able to overcome unanticipated obstacles and participate in a successful debate tournament by allowing our plan to be adapted to God’s perfect one.

Olivia Reardon, ‘22, loves to write and can usually be found reading a good book.  She is part of a dance company and enjoys spending time with friends and eating ice cream.

Posted in Upper School

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