RANDOLPH, NJ— The Randolph Speech and Debate Team competed virtually at the 28th Annual Yale Invitational Tournament from Friday, October 2 to Sunday, October 4, using Zoom and Tabroom.com, a National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) tournament management system.  

The NSDA holds the Yale Invitational in the fall. Usually the tournament takes place at the Yale University campus in Connecticut, but due to the ongoing pandemic, the NSDA held it online for safety measures. Team members had to adjust from staying in a hotel and walking straight to campus, to waking up in their own beds at home and finding appropriate online rooms in which to compete.   

 “This year at Yale has been very different, especially with covid and the tournament being all online this year, but it was as fun as the other years,” stated senior Brianna Nissel, the president of the Speech and Debate Team. “Of course, it was hard getting used to it, but I hope that everyone will still continue to have fun and create new memories as a team.”   

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 In addition to filling out the typical tournament forms, this year, all competitors and judges had to consent to being on camera. Testing the mic and the camera to see if the computer was functional and was well-prepared for the weekend was also necessary. 

Rounds appeared to be glitching early on in the tournament, but over time, everything started to run smoothly and effectively. Competitors were told to keep their cameras off, to improve their online connections, but judges had the choice of keeping them on or off depending on the person and the quality of their technology.  Competitors who faced technology issues during a round were encouraged to reach out to the Yale Debate Association (YDA), which had a room full of helpful staff for all related tech issues.  

All rounds were scheduled according to Eastern Standard Time. Since competitors from across the country joined this competition, the difference between time zones impacted some of them.  

 The traditional events still took place throughout the tournament. On the Speech side, events included Humorous Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation, Oral Interpretation, and many more. On the Debate side, events included Public Forum, Lincoln Douglas, and many more.   

 As in past years, individual competitors received codes, which used to be posted on paper in break rooms, but were shared virtually this time. These codes are assigned as individual identifiers of each competitor.  

Although competitors, especially high school seniors, did not get the full Yale experience one last time, they still had the opportunity to perform their pieces through some tough but manageable circumstances.   

“I will never forget the tournament experience, both virtually and physically,” said Senior Sean Wattman, who has attended the Yale Speech and Debate tournament for the past three years and reported on it for TAP. “I will miss performing in the college classrooms, hanging with my friends in the hotel room, and having amazing team meals at restaurants in the college town.”   

“I'm so proud of the team members who attended Yale this year, regardless of the technological challenges that we faced,” stated Katie Burke, the head coach of the Speech and Debate Team. “This is a brand-new era of Speech and Debate, competing entirely on different virtual platforms. Our students were able to adapt to this new method of competition, and also thrive, finding new ways to have fun with the weekend. I am looking forward to the rest of the season, and seeing even more success as we go!”   

The next event takes place virtually at Bronx Science on October 16-18. 


Editor's Note: Sean Wattman is a Randolph High School Senior participating in a High School Journalism program.