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NEW COACH 411 with Rick Dorn: Hosting a Home Speech and Debate Tournament, Part 1

New Coach 411 is a monthly column designed to give new Speech and Debate Coaches the lowdown on the world of coaching. In column #10, Coach Rick Dorn writes the first of a multiple-column series about hosting a home Speech and Debate tournament.

New Coach 411 - Column #10

Hosting a Home Speech and Debate Tournament, Part 1

To Host or Not?

Hello and welcome back! I hope everyone is having a great summer! I also hope you had a great experience at Nationals. This is the time for you to get some rest before we jump back into the stress of a new season.

For this month’s article, I decided to start a series of articles discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly about hosting a Speech and Debate meet. Since your new season schedule is still being set up, this is the perfect time for you to consider if you should host or not. It’s not as clear cut as it seems, and there are many pieces to consider before hosting.

Speech and Debate is unusual in the vast span of activities in that if we don’t have tournaments, we can’t do much of anything. Travel and associated costs are significant, so it is something we consider more than just about any other activity. The answer state leadership would say every time is “Yes! Of course you should host.” I understand the enthusiasm of those folks because it is completely necessary for multiple meets to be offered whenever and wherever possible for programs to get necessary competition. But as a new coach, you need to do what’s right for you and your program. A big cause of the burnout problem for speech coaches is taking on too much too soon.

For this month’s article, let’s start with the good: Hosting is a great way to get more knowledge about the activity. Hosting an annual tournament is the best way to keep in touch with both your community and your alumni. It builds relationships between you and other coaches. Your students can have complete buy-in and ownership. It’s also a great way for your students to have input in the program. It can be the best fundraiser you do. It saves you money because your students aren’t traveling that weekend. For me and my program, hosting tournaments is well worth the effort, and I host a tournament (or two!) every year.

In my program, my students are trained to do different jobs, and my administration is prepped and ready for hosting, because hosting is a tradition in our school. I have a regular database of community judges and graduates from the program that I reach out to every year. It keeps our profile higher in the community, and it makes my students proud to be involved in a successful meet. The area restaurants and hotels look forward to the meet, because they get extra business out of it. We have a concession stand, and we have signed up to work it and have it open for our meet. We have even been able to host it while the school was hosting a sporting event, which means we made money off of the athletic event attendees too. Our teachers are trained on how to have their classrooms set up, and we adjust our schedule for the day. Many teachers and parents volunteer their time to help with judging. Some parents help with hospitality for coaches and judges, and it’s a good way to involve folks that are nervous about judging.

We’ve been able to add unusual events and features to make our meet stand out, and the students have a lot of say about what we do. I have some wonderful coaches who assist every year with running the tab room for me, so I can troubleshoot and supervise the actual meet. We are fortunate to have a successful meet that is viewed as a traditional destination for many school programs. I have a large team, so I’m able to assign students to different jobs during the meet. It makes my life easier that I have upperclassmen who know how to run a ballot table and push ballots, and they take on training underclassmen to learn how to do that job in the future. For my team, hosting is a highlight of the season.

In future articles, I will discuss the pitfalls to avoid when hosting, and then, I will give you step by step instructions on how to do it. Next month, I will discuss the considerations of hosting if you are starting a brand new chapter, or if you are a brand new coach. Hopefully, it will help you make an informed decision on if you want to host this year or not.

If you have any questions or topics you would like explored, please email me at

Till next time,

Rick Dorn

Worland High School

Biography: Rick Dorn is a two diamond coach who has been teaching some kind of speech or theatre since 1992. He has been named Wyoming 3A Coach of the Year twice and has coached numerous students to national competition.


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