Alumni Spotlight: Jack Thompson

Over the course of the past few weeks, I have had an ongoing conversation with OCDL alum Jack Thompson. We discussed how OCDL has impacted his life and what he has done since his last middle school debate through the league. 

Jack is currently a senior at San Juan Hills High School and started competing in OCDL through New England Academy when he was in 7th grade. He has been involved with the League ever since. In his 7th and 8th grade years, he placed in the top ten speakers many times and even in the top three speakers during his 8th grade year. After graduating from the middle school league, he decided to join OCDL’s high school league, at which he placed first place. He also helps coach middle school classes at his debate alma mater, New England Academy.

Jack’s passion for debate urged him to change the debate club at his high school. He took over the club and used the debate techniques he learned through OCDL such as the AREI format,  to help other aspiring debaters in the club. He still hosts regular debates and meetings through this club.

Outside of debate, he is involved in the Model United Nations program,  in which he has won many awards including the Best Delegate, which is the highest ranked award you can win in the program. He also started the Standardized Test prep club, which focuses on helping his peers prepare for the ACT and SAT exams. He also enjoys the outdoors and backpacking. He has backpacked in Mammoth, the lost coast trail, and the Sierra Mountain. He also is involved in the sport of Cross Country. 

Jack stresses the importance of debate in his high school career. He says that debate and the skill of public speaking has helped him tremendously in boosting his confidence, as well as in his college interviews, and writing essays for his applications. When asked one thing that he wants everyone to take away from this article, he replied, “I think the speaking skills, no matter what you do in life, will help you and how you present yourself in the future.”

Tips and Tricks – Adding Nuance to Arguments

At its best, debate is a space for open discussions. It inspires students to take initiative and learn about current events from a multitude of viewpoints. During rounds, speakers contribute to conversations that account for those perspectives, and each angle contributes to a different understanding of the topic. At its worst, however, debate can cause people to become defensive and unwilling to continue these conversations. As a result, being an effective debater also means knowing how to frame topics mindfully, especially when discussions include sensitive subjects. 

In every round, your priority should be to avoid alienating anyone in your audience; in the scope of a debate round, doing so could harm your chances of winning because your words could personally affect your judge and/or your opponents. 

Even more important, however, is the risk of causing people to close off from the discussion and possibly reinforcing the belief that they should avoid these conversations in the future.

Adding nuance to arguments is a key skill in preparing debate cases, and the following examples demonstrate how you can build narratives for your cases in an effective and respectful way.

For the middle school affirmative action topic:

Proponents of affirmative action believe that it increases diversity, partly remedies the nation’s history of racial injustice, and extends opportunities to minorities that they historically have been excluded from. Others, however, say that it leads to “reverse discrimination,” superficial diversity, and a continuation of stereotypes.

When discussing either side of this topic, please be mindful of your phrasing. Arguments surrounding affirmative action often tend to perpetuate stereotypes, such as the “model minority” myth for Asian-American applicants to universities. Make sure to also avoid misrepresenting your prop case as reasons why certain communities do not deserve to be granted preference; your arguments may want to advocate a position based on how affirmative action policies unfairly benefit some populations more than others, but saying that some people “do not deserve” something does not effectively convey your point.

For the high school 1619 Project topic:

The introduction of slavery to the colonies and subsequent organization of anti-slavery movements were a formative part of American history. As a result, it is important to begin your narrative in a way that acknowledges this rather than, for example, pushes for the topic of slavery to be excluded from school curriculums.

Historical narratives are constantly evolving, so you should familiarize yourself with not only the arguments but also the most common historical viewpoints supporting each side. When you incorporate these narratives into your points, represent them accurately because they can be nuanced; evidence for this subject may be less statistics-based, so make sure to avoid misrepresenting quotes and literature. Since the topic is open-ended, your team on the prop should also discuss specific, concrete ways to center social studies classes around the 1619 Project.

These two topics both explore multi-faceted arguments related to racial inequality. As always in debate, focus on the tone and implications of your assertions; the scope of your narrative extends past the timeframe of the round itself, which is especially true for discussions of racial inequality.

Your voice can only be a tool for change if you are able to convey your arguments effectively, so use it wisely.

2020 OCDL Holiday Tournament Results

On November 29, the Alumni Association hosted a Holiday Tournament Prep Session.

On December 5, 2020, the Orange County Debate League [OCDL] held its annual Holiday Tournament on the video communication platform, Zoom. 

Over two hundred students from different schools competed in four rounds of debate on the following topics: 

  • Defund the police 
  • People should not eat meat. 
  • Requiring video to be on during distance learning does more good than harm. 

This was the second tournament of the school year that was moved to an online platform due to a consistent rise in COVID-19 cases in the Orange County area. 

Prior to the day of the tournament, all judges, coaches, and students were sent a “live” document that included any necessary Zoom links, all online debate rules, and naming conventions. Judges were also sent a separate guide with all policies and rules that they would need to familiarize themselves with before judging. 

Easy accessibility to all necessary information allowed the tournament to run very smoothly. We experienced little to no delays and very few technical issues. 

Winners of the tournament, for both the novice and open division, were announced the following Monday through an email from OCDL Treasurer Ben Hughes. 

The winners included: 


Team Awards

1. Fairmont HAC Red LTK

2. Fairmont AH Stripes NLS

3. Pegasus Senior QDS

4. New England Academy NHP

5. Pegasus Senior STY 

6. Pegasus Junior PSY

7. Heritage Oak PQ

8. Fairmont HAC Red SCK

9. Fairmont AH Stripes TSS

10. Fairmont AH Stripes CAP

11. Pegasus Senior PSY

12. Pegasus Senior ZSM

13. Pegasus Senior PJL

14. Fairmont HAC Red HS

15. Heritage Oak HTV

Distinguished Teams (alphabetical order): Fairmont North Tustin ABH, Fairmont North Tustin JGA, Heritage Oak DGL, Pegasus Junior TWE, Pegasus Junior YKL 

Speaker Awards

1. Noelle K

2. Everett Y

3. CJ S

4. Naomi T

5. Grace Y

6. Lance Y

7. Chloette H

8. Saara D

9. Ella T

10. Christian J

11. Rohan S

12. Tegan W

13. Bea E-C

14. Dillan S

15. Shaurya M

16. Courtney T-M

17. Olivia T

18. Ella W

19. Karan S

20. Willie T

21. Stavan S 

22. Christina V

23. Jinyu Z

24. Alisha Z

25. Rachel N

26. Austin K

27. Aashna S

28. Suraj S

29. Leo A

30. Alexis K

Top Speakers by Grade Level:

8th-grade Noelle K

7th-grade Everett Y

6th-grade Alexis K

5th-grade Arham S

Distinguished Speakers (alphabetical order): Sherine A, Sahiba C, Arjun G, Andrew H, Matthew H, Lance J-N, Roy K, Milania K, Dharma L, Ryan L, Joshua L, Jacob L, Krishna P, Nathan P, Justin P, Sascha P, Kayla R, Arjun S, Seleen S, Arham S

Squad Awards

Overall Squad Award :

1. Pegasus Senior

2. Pegasus Junior

3. Fairmont Historic Anaheim 

4. Fairmont Anaheim Hills Stripes

5. Heritage Oak

Tournament Award (Percentage of Wins by Squad)

1. Pegasus Senior

2. Fairmont Anaheim Hills Stripes

3. Fairmont Historic Anaheim Red

4. Fairmont North Tustin/Pegasus Junior


Team Awards:

1. Fairmont AH Solids GLC

2. Cogito CHS

3. Fairmont AH Solids THP

4. New England Academy GPS

5. New England Academy HL

6. Beatty Middle School LWG

7. Fairmont AH Solids GPW

8. St. Francis AFW

9. Fairmont AH Solids GSN

10. Fairmont AH Solids SKW

Speaker Awards:

1. Olivia W

2. Sophia W

3. Maya G

4. Shriya G

5. Ben H

6. Kingston H

7. Neil G

8. Akshna G

9. Baylen S

10. Jase P

11. Eva C

12. Lydia L

13. Adit S

14. Eli C

15. Kiera K

16. Nick C

17. Jordan D

18. Micah H

19. Sidney S

20. Aaron L

All in all, this was a highly successful tournament and we at the O absolutely cannot wait to see what is in store for this upcoming year. 

Tips / Tricks for the Scramble Tournament

The start of a new season looks a little different this year–breakout rooms have replaced classrooms, and teammates and opponents alike sit miles apart from each other. As the first tournament of the 2020-2021 OCDL season, the Scramble on the 24th is a unique opportunity for both new and returning debaters to  gain debate experience and connect with other debaters in the league. Here are some tips to create the best tournament experience possible!

Tip 1: Reach out to people

  Debate is a collaborative activity, and since the Scramble’s structure places students from different schools onto one team, it teaches you both the skill of teamwork and that of networking. Especially this year, the Scramble will allow you to get to know others within the league who you might not meet elsewhere, so take this time to get to know your teammates!

Tip 2: Keep track of feedback

As you should do in every tournament, take notes on your judges’ constructive feedback. Keeping these comments organized in one place will allow you to refer to them consistently as you prepare for future tournaments, which is one of the best ways that you can improve your performance. Have a paper and pen out or keep a document open before your disclosures!

Tip 3: Complete a tech check

It is now more important than ever that your Wi-fi works properly and your devices don’t run into any issues. To ensure that no technological difficulties arise when you are giving a speech, try out different setups before the tournament and figure out what allows you to best transition between giving speeches, flowing, and possibly timing yourself. Familiarize yourself with debating virtually during your school’s practices, and check with others on the call to see if you are lagging or cutting out. If you do all of this beforehand, you save yourself from extra stress on tournament day and ensure that nothing distracts from your performance.

Tip 4: Ask questions!

Don’t fall prey to the dreaded silence of Zoom. Your judges are solely there to help you, so after rounds, if you have any questions, please ask. This information will most likely help all of the other debaters and make everyone else more comfortable to ask their questions as well. The most important thing to remember is that debate is supposed to be a community and that the only way to be an active member of that community is to take initiative and build your connections with your peers. 

The start of the OCDL season is always an exciting time, and the Scramble is the perfect opportunity to practice your public speaking, receive feedback from experienced coaches and judges, and meet other students within the league. These tips and tricks will help you enhance your debate experience so that you can make the most out of this opportunity. Good luck and happy debating!