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NEW COACH 411 with Rick Dorn: Hosting a Speech and Debate Tournament, Part 4

New Coach 411 is a monthly column designed to give new Speech and Debate Coaches the lowdown on the world of coaching. In column #13, Coach Rick Dorn discusses some of the forgotten challenges and considerations for a home Speech and Debate tournament.

New Coach 411 - Column #13

Hosting a Home Speech and Debate Tournament, Part 4

Forgotten Considerations When Hosting


I hope your year is going well! This month, I’m continuing my series on things to consider for hosting a speech tournament. We’ve talked about recruiting judges, counting rooms, lining up student workers and tabroom volunteers, and food considerations. Let’s consider the things that are most likely to be forgotten.

First, you will want administration approval. I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. Your principal and athletic/activities director need to be consulted before hosting. It should be clarified about things like room usage, potential conflicts with other activities, school schedules in case of the need to shorten the school day, and who keeps the funds. I’ve known of schools that were not allowed to host if the school had a home basketball game. It may take some convincing, but I don’t find having both simultaneously to be a problem. If you are in a bigger school, you should be able to find other areas to use. If your school is too small, this could be an issue.

I’ve seen schools who have allowed teachers to take their rooms out of circulation during a meet. Maintaining a good relationship with your administrators can help alleviate that. In my school, it’s understood that we will need to use every single possible space. Originally, I had a few teachers try to tell me no, but with my principal backing me up, I was able to alleviate their concerns. Be a good guest, and work hard to return the room to its original condition after the meet, and do your best to make sure nothing is damaged, and with time, this problem fades. If you hear concerns about confidentiality being sacrificed, politely remind them that anything confidential shouldn’t be out on desks ever under FERPA. I even had a chemistry teacher tell me there were dangerous chemicals out, and I assured them that under OSHA, those must be locked up. They weren’t happy but they did back down. If you are not in the school full time, this will be trickier to navigate, and the administrators can be your advocate.

Next, work with your custodial staff to make sure doors are unlocked, and things are set up the day of your meet. They will be an amazing help at returning the school to normal after the meet. Respect and prior planning is the key here. I also would recommend talking with whoever handles concessions or the cafeteria if you plan on using those facilities. Your technology coordinators must be consulted ahead of time due to the large number of guests who will need access to the school wifi. Access to a printer/copy machine is also extremely important for tabroom and your ballot table. I always try to have extra ballots printed besides the ones necessary for the tournament.

You will want to have a location for tab, a coach/judge lounge, and extemp draw. I put my tabroom in a teachers’ lounge with a copy machine, but school office meeting spaces can work too. My lounge has moved a bit, but we really like using our Home Economics room for access to the ovens and refrigerators. My extemp draw is usually in a bigger space, like a gym or a library. Tables are a must in this space. We have a large commons/cafeteria, so we set that up to be the school campground area. Some schools put it in a gym or even down bigger hallways. Extra seating is a must. I keep my judging ballot tables by the front door to the school so community judges see us as soon as they come in. I also put extra seating there as well.

You will want to set up an account with your tournament software. is the NSDA’s official site, and you need to give them a few weeks’ notice before you expect it to be open. There are other sites that do the same thing, but I would try to find out what your area uses the most. I work with my tabroom volunteers to make sure the website for my meet is set up correctly. I’m not great with technology, so I depend on others who are more talented than me for this part. You will need an invitation to include with information such as events, rules, costs, and any additional information you will need such as food options, entry limits, or bonus things you’d like to do. I always look at other invitations to figure out what I need to include in my invitation. This could take some time, so don’t procrastinate!

I will continue next month with last minute things to take care of when hosting! 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.


Check out the 2022 October Wyoming Speech and Debate Newsletter:


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