The King's Debate Society

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to try out to join the team?

Not at all. You’re welcome to join us at any of our practices to see what we’re all about. If you want to give it a try, just keep attending practices, find a partner, and come with us to a tournament. The King’s Debate Society exists to train all students to advocate truth in the marketplace of ideas. We wouldn’t be fulfilling our mission if we turned people away.

Can I participate if I have no debate experience?

You don’t need experience to join The King’s Debate Society. Many of our members had never debated before they came to King’s. Our coaches have plenty of experience working with first-time debaters, and new debaters usually find that debate is far less intimidating—and more fun—than they expected. Many tournaments offer a separate novice break during elimination rounds, for those debaters in their first year of college.

What if I really don’t like public speaking?

If you’re terrified of public speaking, KDS is an ideal way to gain confidence! Every year, KDS welcomes numerous debaters with zero experience in debate or public speaking. In the Society, you’ll be surrounded by teammates who deeply care about helping you grow and coaches who are dedicated to giving you tools to express yourself. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice in a safe, constructive environment. Some of our top debaters started out disliking public speaking, and grew to excel through the community of KDS.

I can’t commit to attending every practice and I might not be able to travel on weekends for competitions. Can I still debate at King’s?

Yes! Practices are always open for anyone to attend, and every semester we try to include one local tournament or scrimmage in or near New York City to make it easy for all students to attend. If you have work or athletics that prevent you from participating for an entire year, you’re also welcome to join us just for a semester. We’d love for you to be involved in whatever way you can!

Does it cost money to participate?

No. The King’s Debate Society will cover the cost of registration and travel for tournaments you attend, and attending practices with us doesn’t require any special supplies or fees.

How many tournaments should I expect to attend?

You will never be forced to compete in tournaments. The King’s Debate Society actually needs people who are willing to attend tournaments as judges, which is how many new debaters get their start. When you feel comfortable, though, we will encourage you to debate!

KDS travels to around 12 competitions per academic year, with the average King’s debater attending about 3 tournaments. We have to be more exclusive about who can attend some tournaments, because of expensive flights and extended hotel stays (which KDS pays for). While you probably won’t attend every tournament we travel to, we prioritize having at least one tournament every semester that is nearby and widely available. In short, we will make sure you have ample debating opportunities.

What is required in becoming a member of The King’s Debate Society, and why should I consider it?

Membership requires students to attend at least 11 practices over the course of a semester and participate in at least one intercollegiate event. You do not need to be a member to participate in The King’s Debate Society, but only members may travel internationally, vote in elections, or run for student leadership. We also prioritize members for more selective tournaments.

What if I don’t know what I believe about politics, philosophy, or religion?

If you’re still trying to figure out what you believe, debate is a wonderful tool to explore new ways of thinking about the world and to test those ideas out. Whether the resolution is about art, business, ethics, relationships, or politics, the practice of debate challenges us to develop our own beliefs and to become more understanding of the views of others.

Will I be asked to argue for things I don’t believe in?

Well, yes—unless you have no strongly held opinions on anything. We believe that being effective advocates requires considering both sides of the issues. To truly counter our intellectual adversaries, we should be able to demonstrate that we understand their positions as well as they do.

Aristotle wrote in Rhetoric (1.1.12), “One should be able to argue persuasively on either side of a question . . . in order that it may not escape our notice what the real state of the case is and that we ourselves may be able to refute if another person uses speech unjustly.”

That said, the decision whether or not to debate in any given context is up to the individual debater and we will support you in your decision.

Can I earn credit for debate participation?

Yes. If you plan to participate in debate, you can enroll in the Debate Practicum and earn up to one college credit per semester for up to three semesters of participation, as long as you meet the minimum requirements. Email for further details.

I’m eager to join! How can I prepare before I arrive at King’s?

The skills of speech and debate are largely transferable, so even if you don’t have a Worlds Parliamentary program near your school, you should join a speech or debate or public speaking club in your area to get practice crafting arguments and get comfortable speaking in public. You can learn more about the Worlds Parliamentary format through the Debating and Judging Manual, or watch some of the best debaters in the world debating each other at the HWS Round Robin.

I still have more questions. How can I contact you?

Please email us at