Debate Tournaments

Throughout the year, Ready Set Debate hosts and attends a variety of virtual and in-person speech and debate tournaments, at which debaters compete to win awards for their speech and debate skills.

How debate tournaments work

Debate tournaments feature a field of teams, composed of one or more debaters each, facing off in an organized series of debates. Tournaments are typically broken into two phases: preliminary rounds (“prelims”) and elimination rounds (“elims”). In prelims, all teams compete to accrue a record of debate wins and losses, as well as rankings in “speaker points,” which are generally intended as a separate assessment of public speaking skills. Judges’ decisions are typically not revealed during prelims. Based on their overall performance in prelims, a certain number of debaters advance to elims, which are a series of debates in which the losing team is knocked out of the tournament. The number of elims varies by the number of teams registered in the tournament. The last team standing is the champion, and the top debaters and speakers typically receive awards.

Upcoming tournaments

Ready Set Debate Summer Open 2024

Date Saturday, August 3, 2024
Speech and debate events available
“The U.S. should adopt an age limit for President of the United States.”
Participant eligibility
Ages 10-17, or current Ready Set Debate club member
Volunteer judging requirement
Each competitor must bring a volunteer to judge two debates; can pay waiver fee instead – see full policy in FAQs below
Registration fees
$35 USD per competitor
Other fees
If no volunteer judge, waiver fee of $17.50 to $35 per competitor, based on team size
Early registration deadline
Tuesday, July 30, 2024 (11:59pm CT)
Late registration deadline
Thursday, August 1, 2024 (11:59pm CT, if space remains)

Debate tournament FAQs

These FAQs pertain to online debate tournaments hosted by Ready Set Debate. To learn more about an external debate tournament, visit the organizer’s website or contact us

Tournament topics are determined by a vote of current Ready Set Debate club members, choosing from a list of resolutions set by Ready Set Debate coaches. Typically, members will practice with the tournament topic for the two club meetings leading up to the tournament. 

Hopefully it’s as simple as, “I need to provide a judge for my next debate tournament on Saturday, April 10th. Would you be willing to consider being the judge I provide? The judges don’t need to have any prior experience with academic debate, and everything is explained in the  orientation packet you’ll get. You wouldn’t actually judge any of my debates. You would be judging other students – one or two debates total. The debates are about 35 minutes long, with an extra 25 minutes so you can complete a ballot with your decision of the winner.”

You will need to follow the Ready Set Debate format, but you are otherwise free to bring in your own debating style.

Ready Set Debate will provide a full refund for tournament registration fees and judging waiver fees until 7 days before the tournament start time, and a half refund until 72 hours before the tournament start time. Within 72 hours of the tournament start time, no refunds will be offered.

Younger competitors may be admitted if they are a current or former Ready Set Debate club member, or if they are approved to compete by the tournament director. Please contact us for more information.

The tournament has a minimum of three preliminary rounds, plus any other preliminary rounds we may add to the schedule. The number of elimination rounds varies based on how many competitors are in the tournament. 

You can arrange with other people who meet the tournament eligibility criteria to be teammates, or ask for assistance from your coaches in finding a teammate. If you do request your coach’s teaming assistance, please list others you would willing to partner with. Teammates may register and pay separately; simply make a note of who your teammate(s) are in the appropriate fields on the registration form.

Each team is required to provide one volunteer judge who can commit to judge up to two debates during the tournament, or purchase a judging waiver, which will enable us to hire a judge for two debates. If your volunteer judge does not show up, you will be charged the judging waiver fee plus a $25 penalty. Judging waivers can be purchased for $35 USD per debater on a single-person team, and $17.50 USD per debater on a two-person team.
Judges must be fluent in English and be a high school graduate or beyond, and/or a current or former Ready Set Debate club member. They do not need to have expertise in debate or in the subject being debated. All judges are provided with our judge orientation packet prior to the tournament. For finding volunteer judges, we suggest asking a parent or other adult family member or family friend. You can forward our Judge Orientation Packet to your potential volunteers, to help them understand the expectations. We think they will enjoy the experience!

The early registration deadline for each Ready Set Debate tournament is 11:59pm Central Time on the Tuesday prior to the tournament. Registrations after this deadline may be granted at the tournament director’s discretion. Please contact us for more information.

The tournament schedule and postings will be distributed via email in the days leading up to the tournament. Below is a sample schedule, and may differ from the actual tournament schedule. All times are in Central Time.
Prelim 1 – 9am
Prelim 2 – 10am
Prelim 3 – 11am
Prelim 4 (if needed) – 12pm
Elim 1 – 12:30pm or 1:30pm
Elim 2 – 1:30pm or 2:30pm
Elim 3 (if needed) – 2:30pm or 3:30pm
Elim 4 (if needed) – 3:30pm or 4:30pm  

Identified spectators are welcome to observe the tournament at no cost. We ask that spectators arrive five minutes early for the debate(s) they want to watch, keep their cameras off, and remain muted, except in limited circumstances such as when requesting recording privileges (see next policy). Spectators should rename themselves to something like “Tim’s mom” or “Jayel’s guest” prior to joining the video call, so we know who they are and which debate room to add them to. Unidentified and/or disruptive spectators will not be permitted to enter or remain on the video call. Please contact us if you are interested in observing a tournament.

Tournament hosts may or may not be able to create and distribute recordings of some or all of the debates that occur at the tournament. Tournament attendees (debaters, judges, identified spectators, etc.) are permitted to make their own recordings. Attendees who wish to record should request that they be granted recording privileges. It is best to make a verbal request for these privileges prior to the debate begins. Attendees who choose to record are requested to refrain from stopping and starting their recordings during the debate.