Why do you need community judges?
Simply put, judges are the most important participant in a tournament. Without you, we cannot hold a tournament and students aren't given feedback that helps them improve their skills.

Why do you need SO MANY judges?
A friend once remarked that speech and debate is the only competitive activity where there are more judges than participants. In many ways that is true, but it is for a good reason. Each tournament consists of 7 debate rounds and 4 speech rounds. For each round we need to staff 15-20 rooms with at least 1 and up to 3 judges. This means that tournaments generally need between 150 and 200 judges to run smoothly.

What about the parents?
All of our parents are required to judge throughout the tournament whenever there are empty slots that we are unable to fill from the community. Our preference is to utilize community judges whenever possible to allow students the opportunity to present their cases (for debate) and speeches to new audiences.

Who is qualified to be a judge?
Generally, anyone who has completed high school and has been properly trained (don't worry - we provide this) can serve as a judge. Most judges fall into three categories of individuals:

Community volunteers
Parents and Coaches
Former high school or college debaters

What types of events will I be judging?
There are two basic types of events at our tournament - speech and debate.
In debate, students compete in teams of two to present and explain to a judge their ideas or proposals. Judges are asked to weigh the information that is presented and decide which side has the stronger case. Student ages range from 12-18.
Speech events run the gamut from prepared speeches to impromptu speeches where competitors have two minutes to outline a five minute speech. Some speeches are humorous, others are inspirational and others informative. Student ages range from 6 to 18.

I’m hesitant to judge because I’m afraid I’ll make the wrong decision. How do I make sure I’m making the right decision?

There are no right and wrong decisions! No tournament official, coach, judge or student should ever tell you that you made the wrong decision. YOU ARE THE JUDGE—the debaters/contestants are responsible for presenting their information and explaining it to you. Based on the evidence introduced in the round, YOU decide who had the stronger case! Several judges could watch the same round, and no two judges’ rankings or reasons for their decisions would likely be the same. Speech and debate is a “human activity;” we are all impacted by different things. One of the jobs of the debaters/contestants is to adapt to their audience. As the judge, you are the primary audience. It is the students job to ensure that they clearly introduce evidence into the round and ensure you understand its impact. You are the sole determiner of which speeches are effective, and which speeches are not effective. Your decision should not be questioned by tournament officials (and should never be questioned by coaches or other adults) unless you have failed to provide a clear explanation for your decision(s) on the ballot(s) for the round. You should keep in mind that there are rules and standards for each event. The training sessions cover those rules and standards. Following them—and making sure that student contestants follow them—will keep everyone on a level playing field, allowing you to make easier and more fair decisions.

Give me some idea of what I am I supposed to write as comments for each speaker.
Students can’t wait to read judges’ comments. What you say to them will have an impact on how they refine their piece for the next tournament. Be specific, be constructive, give pluses and minuses, and let them know how their speech made you feel. Remember, speaking in public is a lot harder than these kids make it look!

Here are a few examples of comments that were on recent ballots:
“Terrific characterization of “the girl” in your selection—wonderful facial expressions and voice. “The boy” was believable, but at times, I could not tell how he was reacting to the female character. Work on his expressiveness. This was a funny piece—cut to just the right length. It made me laugh and held my attention all the way through.”

As a judge, what should I bring to a tournament?
- Writing utensils, especially those that are easy and comfortable for you to use.
- If you are judging debate, it is helpful to have 2 different colors of ink.
- Paper or legal pads, especially for judges of debate events. (We often have several on hand for your use)
- A copy of your judge registration and instructions.

How should I dress for the tournament?
For judges, we recommend business casual attire. Our students will be dressed according our tournament dress code.

Should I talk to the contestants in the round?
It is absolutely fine to say hello to each of the participants when you enter the room. However, we ask that you are not overly friendly with one student you may happen to have judged before or know for another reason because this will cause other students to think that you will be a biased judge. In speech events, the round starts as soon as you are seated and ready to hear speeches. In the debate events, competitors will introduce themselves and shake your hand before taking their seats. They may also ask your background and experience judging and you are encouraged to share with them.

Following debate events, you are encouraged to share a few general comments with the students, but detailed comments should be saved for your ballot. Judges do not give comments to each participant after their speeches. In all cases, it is NOT permissible to talk to students after a round about how you voted/ranked their performances.

(Thank you to Miriam Lafferty of Vortex Excelsior for compiling this helpful information!)