I remember quite poignantly the drive back home after our final debate round. It was nearing midnight and the whole group was exhausted- yet the team's collective support and pride was tangible in the air as we recounted the events of the day.
As students at the International School of Beijing, Max and I are stuck in an interesting conundrum when it comes to debate opportunities. On one hand, we're too far removed from the US to actively compete on the well-established NFL circuit. On the other hand, as native speakers we are not welcome at the local tournaments in China. So despite taking full advantage of our school's debate resources, we still lack the ability to fully explore our potential on a larger scale. AGDebate effectively removed that dichotomy.
I was initially contacted on a whim, by a representative who wanted to know if I was interested in participating at the China Nationals. I would later find out that I was not eligible, but in the process I discovered another outlet: the Winter Programs at Stanford and Harvard. I saw this as an opportunity to connect with the US circuit, something I had always coveted but was never able to achieve.
We travelled to Stanford not knowing what to expect- indeed, not expecting much of anything. "It's a national tournament"- the biggest tournament I'd previously competed in had 18 teams. This one had 160. "They're all varsity debaters"- the teams we previously debated were just as inexperienced as us. Yet David's coaching and encouragement pushed us to stay up late and wake up early each day to refine our cases, write creative blocks, and close loopholes.
The drills were incredibly challenging, almost painful at times, but the overriding optimism of AGDebate and our team members kept us going. And we were successful, in the end. But the process we went through to get there and the camaraderie of the team marked the true value of the program. Regarding that team spirit.
Perhaps the most telling sign of the success of AGDebate was not in the trophies we accumulated, but the fact that the entire team- bar none- came out to watch our final debate at 11 o'clock on a Sunday night. People will remember the trophies and the speaking awards, but what I gained from interacting with our 13 team members will endure far longer. AGDebate does a wonderful job organizing an event that combines college visits, debate experience, learning, fun, and friendship. It's something I would recommend to anyone.