Their Recent Success Is Not Up For Debate

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Their Recent Success Is Not Up For Debate

Malvika Mahendhra, Staff Writer

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Millions of thoughts swirl inside the debater’s head, and his palms feel sweaty as he quickly rubs them against his black suit and looks for reassurance from his team. However, after taking a deep breath, he dives into his speech captivating everyone in the room and fully immersing them in a world filled with politics, government action, war and more.

“Often, I am really stressed before a debate tournament, but once I get up there I ignore all of it,” senior Jerry Yang said. “My thought process is worry until it happens, and once it happens just let it all out.”  Debate, while assimilated within the school, can seem like an entirely different world. Despite the intimidation, debate may seem to impose, the event boils down to conversation.

“Debate is about talking to other people,” Yang said. “Debate is integrated in the way we communicate and our ability to persuade people on a day-to-day basis.”

Students in debate have found themselves finding their voice and the courage to speak up for what they believe in.

“Instead of being afraid, I use debate not only as a platform to express myself,” junior Pranay Dhondi said. “It’s a way to give voice to the voiceless.”

Debate goes beyond dressing up in suits and attending tournaments. Instead, debate reaches deeper within people and ultimately changes how a person perceives and understands the world.

“An important skill I have learned is to keep an open mind,” Yang said. “Being exposed in the debate environment gives me the skill to be able to listen to multiple perspectives and weave them together in one story.”

To be collaborative is equally important in being able to communicate effectively. In numerous debate events, being able to work with your partner is essential to being successful.

“My partner and I have completely different personalities,” Yang said. “We can be from totally different backgrounds and be totally different people. At the same time we can both be part of a cohesive unit that works together for one interest.”

There is a continued dedication to debate by students through either attending practices weekly or going to tournaments.

“There are multiple levels of goals,” debate coach Rhonda Smith said. “The first for me is for the students to learn that winning the right way is important and to learn confidence in themselves.”

While students on the debate team have varying levels of experience, majority of students are looking forward to the travelling tournaments.

“In mid-November around Thanksgiving we are going to Chicago,” Yang said. “In December, we are going to University of Texas at Austin and in February we are going to Harvard University.”

The travelling tournaments allow the team to grow closer together and feel like a family, and eventually the relationship between Coach Smith and her students turn deeper and more meaningful.

“Everyone calls Ms. Smith the southern mom,” Yang said. “That is exactly who she is in terms of how emotionally caring she is for each and every single one of us.”

Coach Smith’s dedication towards her students and the debate team extends to other realms of debate as she was recently inducted to the Texas Forensic Association’s Hall of Fame. This honor is given to coaches that not only have success as a coach, but also make significant service contributions to the organization.

“I have coached the Plano West debate team since 2009,” Smith said. “I enjoy the competitive aspect of it.”

While Smith enjoys competition, she urges her students to think about success beyond trophies and wins.

“The important things in life are not measured in medals and honors, but rather in integrity and relationships,” Smith said.

Debate is more than simply arguing. It is a combination of ethics, persuasion, communication and most importantly passion.

“Individual stories are lost and often ignored,” Dhondi said. “But I can tell these stories and fight for change.”

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