Starting a New Debate Club

A young student named Kadence wrote to me telling me that they wanted to be a lawyer when they grew up and asking me how to start a debate club at their school. Here’s what I said:

Hi Kadence,

Thanks for writing. If you want to start a debate club at your school, the first thing to do is to find a teacher who might like to be the sponsor of the club and your debate coach. There are a few ways to do this. First, you might try asking individual teachers that you think might be good at coaching debate, or who might be interested in sponsoring the club. Or, you might consider making a presentation to a meeting of teachers at your school, maybe at a meeting of the social studies or English teachers - though math and science teachers make excellent debate coaches too. Another way might be to put handouts in teachers' mailboxes telling them of your plan and saying that you are looking for teachers to be coaches and club sponsors. You might even find more than one teacher, which would be great. Make sure you put the address of our website on the flyer, so teachers can look at what resources we have available. I'm also attaching a one page flyer about our program that you can use.

You should also schedule a meeting with your principal so you can tell them about your plan. They might be helpful in finding a teacher, and they may have some advice for you in organizing a club. Will you try to have scrimmages with other local schools? If you want to compete against other schools, you'll definitely want your principal's help in reaching out to them. See this post for more advice about that:

Teachers will want to know what you're asking them to do, so you'll want to think about that. Will you meet once a week after school? Most schools that have debate clubs do that.

Then, you'll want to sign up students who want to join the club. If your school has daily announcements, put out a call for members in that. Put up posters in the hallway advertising the new club. Have an information session so students can learn more about why the club might be fun and interesting.

Hopefully then you'll have a club! Once you have a teacher recruited, please share my contact information with them so I can help them figure out what they need to know to be a successful debate coach.