The world of virtual competitions: Speech and Debate attends Jack Howe

Jonathan Kang and Diego Moreno

The Northwood Speech and Debate team competed in their annual Jack Howe Memorial Tournament online from Saturday to Sunday, earning multiple semi-final positions.

The team participated in numerous events including Policy, Congress and Lincoln-Douglas. Junior Shreya Shankar earned 4th place and sophomore Siddharth Kumar was a semifinalist in Oratorical Interpretation, while sophomores Amir Abar- ham and Rohit Rajesh were quadrafinalists in Public Forum.

“I was nervous because it was our first competition,” Shankar said. “You also can’t interact with as many people in-between rounds online, which made the experience more stressful.”

Jack Howe, the club’s first school-sponsored event, was run by the online communication platform National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) Campus, which allowed students to experience tournaments in a virtual format due to COVID-19 and alerted competitors of all important information and updates. Competitors joined virtual rooms through NSDA Campus and competed in a live format to simulate the regular tournament environment.

Students entered a call with both their opponents and judges for debate and communicated with their partners via text. For speech, students listened to others present while judges gave marks on the presentation.

“I’m just happy that they didn’t shut down tournaments completely,” sophomore Sana Hamid said. “When quarantine started, that was definitely a concern.”

Students have been competing on their own since the spring, using virtual platforms like Discord to engage in student-organized events. Others individually participated in virtual competitions by submitting a video of themselves performing.

Despite the smooth transition to online tournaments, there is a price to be paid with inherent drawbacks, such as technological issues and lack of enjoyment.

“Tournaments are not as fun as usual,” junior Alex Fu said. “A large part of tournaments is being physically present in the round with your friends.”

In spite of the immediate caveats, the use of NSDA Campus helped the tournament stay organized. For the next tournament, students hope to improve and earn better placings.

“I did pretty well but there is still room for growth,” Shankar said. “I’m focusing on bettering myself for the next tournament.”