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NEW COACH 411 with Rick Dorn: Hosting a Speech and Debate Tournament, Part 2

Updated: Sep 2, 2022

New Coach 411 is a monthly column designed to give new Speech and Debate Coaches the lowdown on the world of coaching. In column #11, Coach Rick Dorn follows up the first part of his series with thoughts about hosting a home Speech and Debate tournament.

New Coach 411 - Column #10

Hosting a Home Speech and Debate Tournament, Part 2


It’s August, and that means it’s closer to starting back for the new school year. My school starts the third week of August, so it’s time to start planning my season. Some schools want to set it up for the year so hosting is a major consideration about now for us.

Last month, I looked at the advantages of hosting. For my program, it’s a tradition, and we have regular schools we can count on to attend. Not every school or program is in the same spot, so let’s talk about the pitfalls to consider before hosting a meet. I called it the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here are some of the problems (the "bad") to consider when it comes to hosting:

Before you host, you need to have the approval of your principal and your activities director. If they aren’t supportive, you will have major problems. The principal needs to be consulted because of calendar considerations. I’ve known of schools that would not host because of certain activities conflicting. For example, in our state, basketball is in full swing during the bulk of our season. Now, unless you are planning on using the gym, that is not necessarily a deal breaker, but ADs don’t always understand that. Personally, I enjoy hosting my meet while basketball games are happening because our concession stand does much better. If that happens to you, just make sure to claim concessions early.

Hosting tournaments costs a bit, but they can also be major fundraisers for your program. I’ve heard of a Business Manager who laid claim to all meet proceeds but still expected the speech team to fundraise to pay for Nationals, etc. In those circumstances, I’d struggle to host myself. An attempt at discussing the difference between hosting a speech tournament and hosting a basketball game might be helpful.

Other problem areas to consider include team size. If you have a small team of 5 or less, it could be difficult to host. Some teams are very successful at hosting with only a handful of students, but the coach picks up a huge amount of the labor in that case. The optimum size for hosting is 10-20 students. If you have less, your students need to be committed workers. I’ve had more than 20, and I have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to keep my students doing assigned tasks. You know your team best, so you can decide how effective they will be.

Another size issue that can end your desire to host: your school size. If you can gain access to about 20 rooms, you can host a small meet for 4-5 schools. Bigger meets typically need closer to 40-50 rooms. Be creative with room usage! I have access to some strange spaces that I can convert to competition spaces, such as stage dressing rooms, rehearsal rooms, offices, etc. If you have teachers being resistant to allowing their room to be used, having the principal step in is vital. I’ve seen schools of 250 host very successful meets by using two school buildings.

As a new coach, you will definitely want to reach out to other coaches. If you don’t have volunteers to run your tab room, you are dead in the water. It is improbable to handle the running of the meet while trying to tabulate results. Find those extraordinary individuals that are willing to take on that task, or don’t plan on hosting.

Those are the big considerations to decide if hosting is not for you. Admin support, team size, school size, and tab room volunteers are the initial things to factor in. Next month, I’ll fill you in on unusual examples of what kind of shenanigans you might face when you host. As always, email me if you have specific questions you’d like answered.

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.


Quick Lyle Addendum About A Timely Hosting Issue: The WHSFA will be pleading with all coaches to commit to hosting or co-hosting a tournament this season and future seasons, and for good reason. Travel considerations and state-wide cost issues will be at the forefront of WHSAA as they determine the future Speech and Debate seasons of Wyoming schools. The current draft schedule is a red flag; the Wyoming Speech and Debate community does not have nearly enough tournaments on the schedule to maintain the model we've promised WHSAA (numerous, regional tournament options every weekend). WHSAA could very well decide to reduce the amount of competitive opportunity to students if we do not make good on our end of the agreement. This is important to consider when making decisions about tournament hosting.

One Clap Newsletter Aug 2022
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