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NEW COACH 411 with Rick Dorn: Hosting a Speech and Debate Tournament, Part 5

New Coach 411 is a monthly column designed to give new Speech and Debate Coaches the lowdown on the world of coaching. In column #14, Coach Rick Dorn takes on last minute considerations for a home Speech and Debate tournament.

New Coach 411 - Column #14

Hosting a Home Speech and Debate Tournament, Part 5

Last minute considerations when Hosting

I think we can finally finish the series on hosting. I will bring up last minute items that could be forgotten, and I’ll bring up some of the stranger incidents to happen on my watch. Prior planning can’t solve everything, but it’s good to have some forewarning.

The thing I forgot most often is to have the congress docket available about two weeks out. Every area is different, so if you need competitors to send them to you directly, put that in the invitation with a deadline. Our state now has a pool of bills that we pull from based on which schools are attending. Be considerate of out-of-state schools that may not do it the same way as your state. You will need to have those printed for judges (or available online if you are doing the meet paperless). Don’t forget you will need additional legislation for the out-rounds of Congress. We usually pull ours from prior Nationals legislation. Examine those bills to make sure they are current enough to make a decent bill for those Super Congress competitors.

We line up donations ahead of time to save money on concessions/lounge items. We have a soda manufacturer in town who helps, but grocery stores, office supply stores, and hardware stores may be willing to donate. We also put out a list of area restaurants, and that makes your local businesses very happy. Coaches really like to know who offers delivery service too. Most towns don’t have an issue with this, but ironically enough, our town is small enough that we do have to clarify who delivers what.

Extemp topics must be created, chosen, and prepared for the meet. We have used suggested ones from NSDA and similar groups, but we’ve also created our own. Be careful when creating your own, because competitors complain if the topics are too specialized. Pick a knowledgeable student (or coach) to run extemp for you. Someone good at being organized and familiar with the event should do this. Extra outlets are a necessity for the extemp competitors using laptops for research. Previously, we would bring tubs of clipped articles, but with the NSDA easing the internet rules, this is much easier to do on computer now.

Impromptu topics, Extemp Debate topics, World School Debate topics, etc. must be prepared ahead of time. You will need a way for the topics to be handed out to competitors so plan that out ahead of time too. Basically, if the competitors are supposed to create a speech, case, or whatever at the time of the meet, you need to have topics ready for that event.

I’m sure I am forgetting something, but it wouldn’t be a speech meet if something screwy didn’t happen. The single most important thing to do is to make sure you have judges lined up. I’ve been to meets where the host didn’t realize the difficulty of not having enough judges, and you will have angry coaches if you have them judge every round. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 50. I especially recruit friendly supportive parents and area college age students. I find that some adults are scared of judging, but the 20-somethings are not. I have rules available and people able to talk judges through what events are like and what criteria they should be considering. Training ahead of time is beneficial if you can get judges to show up for it.

A newer consideration is reaching out to the speech community to have someone run an equity office for you. This can handle certain things for you such as rude competitors/judges or any kinds of harassment that could happen. When you are doing an event for teenagers and in this volatile political climate, you should not be blindsided that someone has a complaint about something that was said or done.

Finally, let me share some of the more interesting things that have happened at my meets, or at meets I’ve attended. I have had to call the police before because we had area teenagers who were not competitors refuse to leave. I checked with my administrators before doing it (via phone because I rarely have administrators at my meet), and I didn’t allow the person out of my sight while I dealt with the situation. Injuries and illness will happen, so finding a coach and then dealing with the medical issue is a necessity. If it is severe enough, you may have to call 911 for an ambulance. Meets will have issues causing them to fall behind, so do everything in your power to keep the tournament moving. If that means allowing extra kids to advance, then do it (as long as it’s not a formal meet like NSDA District or State contest). Check regularly with judges and coaches to make sure complaints are handled quickly and peacefully. If coaches are having a disagreement, try to serve as peacemaker or if too volatile, reach out to any area leadership that might be attending your meet. Make sure bus drivers are welcomed, and have area hotel numbers handy in case a driver pulls a no show (this happened at my meet once). Basically, be flexible, because what could happen will eventually happen. Having good people skills is a must in this profession.

I hope this series has helped you have a better understanding of what it takes to host. It is vital for meets to be held, and speech is one of the most difficult meets to hold. If I can offer any additional advice, please let me know!

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

Thanks for reading, and good luck!

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 November Wyoming Speech and Debate Newsletter:


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