2019-2020 Westlake High School Speech and Debate Team Student Handbook
Welcome to the Westlake Speech and Debate Team! Speech and debate, also referred to by its more formal name of forensics, has a decorated history at Westlake. In 1984 and 1988, Westlake High School hosted the Texas Forensic Association’s State Tournament. In 1995, Matt Wood won 1st Place in Humorous Interpretation at the National Forensic League National Tournament. In 2001, Alex Maldonado won 1st Place in Poetry Interpretation at the NFL National Tournament. In 1992, Jenny Hall won 1st Place in Dramatic Interpretation at TFA State. In 1993, Ashley Damron won 1st Place in Congressional Debate at TFA State. In 1998, Andrea Gatelum won 1st in Prose Interpretation at TFA State. In 2003, Maggie Hope and Dylan Van Dam won 1st in Duet Acting at TFA State. In 2008, Sarah Mullinix won 1st in Prose at TFA State. In 2009, Devin Race won 1st Place in Lincoln-Douglas Debate and David Mullins and John Baker won 1st Place in Cross-Examination (Policy) Debate. In 2012, Katherine McDoniel won 1st in Prose at TFA State. During the 2015-2016 season, Drew Burd advanced to the outrounds of the Greenhill tournament, the Glenbrooks, the Harvard Invitational, TFA State, and the NSDA National Tournament. Tim Basu Roy advanced to the final round at TFA State in both Congress and Foreign Extemporaneous Speaking, and he was a finalist at St. Mark’s and UIL State (Congress). Vinay Maruri and Kati Chen also advanced beyond the preliminary rounds at TFA State. In 2016, Alexander Davis advanced to UIL Regionals in Lincoln-Douglas Debate. Ali Slimi and Miles Sigel advanced to the outrounds in Public-Forum at TFA State. Amanda Chen qualified for TFA State in LD, along with novices Olivia Hardage and Miles Dintzner in PF. In 2017, six Public Forum teams qualified for TFA State (Miles Sigel and Ali Slimi, Miles Dintzner and Olivia Hardage, Michael Dodgin and Owen Robertson, Yasmine Daghestani and Anisha Reddy, Xuechen Yin and Rachel Li, and Nicolas Ho and Jason Luo). Amanda Chen and Andrew Lee qualified for TFA State in LD. Zakary Morris qualified for TFA State in Domestic Extemp. and Congressional Debate. Maddie Szoo qualified for TFA State in Original Oratory and advanced to the elimination rounds. Sigel and Slimi earned an invitation to the Tournament of Champions in PF. Szoo qualified for UIL Regionals in Prose. Last year, Slimi and Dintzner won the TFA State Championship in Public Forum Debate, advanced to the Octafinal round at the Tournament of Champions, and won The University of Texas Longhorn Classic, and closed out the Winston Churchill Classic with their teammates, Michael Dodgin and Miles Sigel. Szoo won fourth at the Glenbrooks Tournament in Original Oratory, second at The University of Texas Longhorn Classic in POI, and advanced to the NSDA National Tournament in POI. Slimi and Jason Luo advanced to the round of 52 at the NSDA National Tournament in Public Forum.
Students on the Westlake Speech and Debate Team are expected to uphold the highest ethical standards in the classroom, in the community, and in competition. Unethical behavior by one person reflects upon the entire group. An ethical reputation is difficult to earn and easy to lose. Good character and integrity are the most important things we teach, and both attitude and behavior reflect good character. Members of the Westlake Speech and Debate Team are to conduct themselves in a professional and mature manner at all times. By accepting membership on the Westlake High School Speech and Debate Team, you agree to perform to the best of your abilities and work together with your teammates and coaches in making this year’s speech and debate team the finest organization that our combined efforts can produce. We do not expect every person on the team to be a prodigy. However, we do expect mature, responsible attitudes and actions - and lots of hard work! All team members are expected to commit sufficient time to be able to perform to the best of their ability and to report promptly for all classes, practices and performances.
The success of any organization is dependent on the dedication, leadership, teamwork, and cooperation of its members. Team unity is an essential part of the Westlake Speech and Debate Team. The team should operate in a similar way to a family, in which communication and cooperation are tantamount. In order to function as a member of the team, you must accept, try to understand, and work well with other members. We critique each other frequently in order to improve. Arrogance, selfishness, ingratitude and other boorish behaviors have no place on our team and will not be tolerated.
Certain rules, policies and procedures are necessary so that the overall goals of the group are met and the welfare of each individual member is best served. This handbook has been designed to inform team members of policies and standards necessary in running the Westlake Speech and Debate Team. We cannot possibly include every possible situation and question that may arise. However, a thorough knowledge of these materials is essential to the smooth operation and success of the team.
Westlake Speech and Debate students are expected to be committed to their studies as well as their teammates. Any organization is judged, in the eyes of others, by the actions of its individual members. Whenever you are at a speech and debate tournament, or wear clothing that identifies you as a member of the Westlake Speech and Debate Team (team shirt, etc.), your actions reflect on the entire team. You are expected to conduct yourself in a way that would credit yourself and the team, both in and out of the classroom.
Extra-Curricular Code of Conduct and Honor Code
The Eanes ISD Board of Trustees has enacted an Extra Curricular Code of Conduct that applies to all students participating in these activities. This policy regards the use of any illegal substance and actions of a serious criminal nature. The complete policy appears on page 28 of the Code of Conduct handbook. Westlake High School has also adopted an Honor Code. Any person from the Westlake Speech and Debate Team violating the Honor Code will not be allowed to compete in any competitions. Please refer to the district website for the complete version.
1. No work for other classes may be done on team time. Students who treat this class as a study hall or social hour will have their grade penalized and, after repeat offenses, will be asked to drop the course.
2. Students must be in class on time. We have a lot to cover in a short amount of time, so it is imperative that everyone shows up on time.
3. Students may not leave the speech and debate practice space (room 110 and surrounding rooms) without permission. If you need to go to the library, into another hallway or part of the school to practice, or to see another teacher, ask Mr. Uhler first.
4. Students must pay attention and be considerate during team announcements/meetings. Private conversations during team announcements are completely unacceptable. Students violating this rule will be warned, and after repeated offenses, will be asked to drop the course.
5. Students and teacher(s) must keep the rooms that we use clean and organized.
Grades will be generated using four categories: Tournament Preparation; Tournament Participation; Tournament Reflection; Class Participation; After School Practice (attendance and filling out spreadsheet)
After School Practice Policy
Practice is a crucial part of a student’s development in speech and debate. Practice not only prepares students for competitive tournaments, it also results in collaboration that will foster teamwork and trust. Practice should be taken seriously and students should remain focused throughout. If, at any point, you are not taking practice seriously, you will be asked to leave. Students are required to stay a total of three hours after school for practice per week. The students must stay at least two days during the week, so the students may not simply stay one day for three hours. Students may distribute their time however they see fit, in order to ensure that they fulfill the minimum three hours of after school practice. Although three hours is the minimum amount of time all students must stay for after school practice, students are highly encouraged to stay for more than the minimum in order to prepare for competition. In order to receive credit for practice, students must fill out the after school practice spreadsheet that will be sent out at the beginning of each week. Students should indicate the time in which they stayed for practice, what was accomplished, and the next tournament they plan on attending, by the end of class on Monday (or Tuesday, if students were not at school on Monday) or credit will not be awarded. Once a zero for the after school practice has been entered by Mr. Uhler in the gradebook, the student will not have the ability to raise the grade - it will remain a zero.
Special Circumstances Regarding After School Practice
Hendrickson/Pflugerville Swing Tournament (Aug. 30-31) – All officers need to stay for after school practice for at least two hours each day during this week (Monday-Thursday). All students competing at the Hendrickson/Pflugerville Swing tournament need to stay for at least one hour each day during this week (Monday-Thursday).
Grapevine (Sept. 6-7) – No school on Monday, Sept. 2nd. For those attending G’vine, after school practice on Tuesday and Wednesday from 4:15-6:30pm. After school practice on Thursday from 4:15-8:30pm. No after school practice on Friday, Sept. 6th. During that week of school, students not attending G’vine need only attend 1 ½ hours of after school practice.
St. Mark’s (Oct. 17-19) – For those attending Mark’s, after school practice on Tuesday and Wednesday from 4:15-6:30pm. We will be leaving from Westlake at 7pm on Thursday evening. Students attending Mark’s must plan on practicing from 4:15-7pm. During that week of school, students not attending Mark’s need to attend 3 hours of after school practice.
Florida Blue Key (Oct. 30-Nov. 5) – After school practice for those attending Blue Key on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 4:15-7:30pm. We will be flying out of Austin on Thursday morning (very early). No after school practice on Thursday, Oct. 31st or Friday, Nov. 1st. Students not attending Apple Valley need only attend 1 ½ hours of after school practice.
The Glenbrooks (Nov. 21-26) – After school practice for those attending Glenbrooks on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 4:15-7:30pm. We will be flying out of Austin on Thursday morning (very early). No after school practice on Thursday, Nov. 21st and Friday, Nov. 22nd. During the week of Glenbrooks (Mon.-Wed.), students not attending Glenbrooks need only attend 1 ½ hours of after school practice.
UT Austin (Dec. 6,7,8) – For students attending UT Austin, you should plan on staying every day (Mon.-Thurs.) of the week to practice. However, if you are not able to stay all four days, you must choose three of the following four days on which to stay for after school practice from 4:20-6:30pm - Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. No after school practice on Friday, Dec. 6th. Obviously, if you are able to stay all four days, that is better, and you will definitely be better prepared and more confident during the tournament. So, students attending the UT Austin tournament must stay at least a total of 6 1/2 hours to prepare for the UT tournament.
Fall Semester Exam Week – After school practice is optional and must be approved by parents.
Churchill (Jan. 10-11) – No school on Monday, Jan. 6. After school practice for those attending Churchill on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday from 4:15-6:30pm. No after school practice on Friday, Jan. 10. Students not attending Churchill must attend 1 1/2 hours of after school practice.
James Logan MLK Jr. Invitational (January 16-19) – After school practice for those attending Logan on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 4:15-7:30pm. We will be flying out of Austin on Thursday morning (very early). No after school practice on Thursday, Oct. 31st or Friday, Nov. 1st. Students not attending Logan need only attend 1 ½ hours of after school practice.
Westlake HS/Chaparral Star (Jan. 31-Feb. 1) – In order to ensure a successful tournament, students will need to stay after school to prepare our school for hosting. Officers must stay from 4:15-6:30pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and from 4:15-8:30pm on Thursday. Officers must also stay for the entire tournament. All other students must stay a total of three hours during the week leading up to our tournament.
Capital City Round Robin (Feb. 7-8) – In order to ensure a successful tournament, students will need to stay after school to prepare for hosting. Officers must stay from 4:15-6:15pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. All other students must stay a total of three hours during the week leading up to our tournament.
Harvard Invitational (Feb. 14-18) – After school practice for those attending Harvard on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday from 4:15-7:30pm. We will be flying out of Austin on Friday morning (very early). No after school practice on Friday, Feb. 14th, or Monday, Feb. 17th (no school on Monday). Students not attending Harvard need only attend 1 ½ hours of after school practice during the week of Feb. 10-14. During the week beginning Tuesday, Feb. 18th, students must attend 2 ½ hours of after school practice.
TFA State (March 4-8) – After school practice for those attending TFA State on Monday and Tuesday from 4:15-7:30pm. We will be leaving Austin on Wednesday afternoon. No after school practice on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. Students not attending TFA State need only attend 1 hour of after school practice.
In the Spring semester, there are many weeks in which students are given a holiday on a Monday. On those weeks, if we have a tournament on the following Friday, students not attending those tournaments need only attend 2 hours of after school practice. Students attending the tournaments on Friday need to attend 3 hours of practice. If we do not have a tournament on the following Friday, students need to attend 2 ½ hours of after school practice. Additionally, we have the NSDA District Tournament and a variety of UIL Meets (District, Regionals, State). Students attending these tournaments need to attend 4 hours of after school practice during the tournament week. Students not attending these tournaments need to attend 3 hours of after school practice. During the month of May, there will be no after school practice.
All students on the Westlake Speech and Debate Team are required to attend at least three tournaments during the Fall semester and at least two tournaments during the Spring semester. Tournaments limit how many students a school can enter in each event. Some are very strict. Sign up as early as possible, so Mr. Uhler knows who wants to attend. If you fail to sign up in a timely manner, do not complain when there is no space for you or when somebody less experienced is attending instead of you. If you have to drop out of a tournament, do so as early as possible. Drop fees, for which the student is responsible, grow steeper the closer we get to a tournament and can increase up to triple the entry fee on the day of the competition.
Who Will Travel?
Many highly competitive tournaments place strict limits on the number of students each school may enter into a tournament. Mr. Uhler has no control over these limits. The following guidelines will be followed in choosing students to travel:
- Students who attend after-school practice sessions will be selected to travel over students who do not.
- Consistent competitive success will be used to help determine who travels. However, Mr. Uhler has the final say in evaluating a student’s record and potential for state and national competition.
- Seniority will be considered but is not a determining factor when it comes to traveling with the team. Upperclassmen will not automatically beat out underclassmen. Older students who do not maintain their work ethic will lose their traveling spots to younger students who continue to work hard. Just because you have been awarded with top traveling spots in the past doesn’t automatically mean you will keep those spots. Don’t take this for granted or feel you are entitled to a traveling spot.
- What you do this year will influence your standing on the team next year. Younger students who don’t travel this year will earn their chance in the future based on what they do competitively this season and the character they show.
- Any student who throws a round, forfeits a round or is a no show will lose traveling privileges.
- Any student who violates team rules will lose traveling privileges.
- Any student who does not participate in fundraising activities will lose traveling privileges.
- Any student with unexcused absences or chronic tardiness will lose traveling privileges.
- Any student who is disrespectful to Mr. Uhler, or any other adult coach/chaperone will lose traveling privileges. If you are a source of stress, you will be left at home no matter how successful you have been as a competitor. Be nice to one another and be nice to your coach(es)!
In addition to the penalties listed below, rule violations may result in permanent dismissal from the team, loss of all traveling privileges, a parent conference, and/or referral to Westlake High School administration for further disciplinary action.
1. Students must abide by the Team Handbook and all EISD rules while involved in any debate-related activity.
2. Be patient with your coaches and teammates. We all put in long hours, may be experiencing stress, and may lack sleep. Respect your relationships on the team and use common sense/maturity in handling problems.
3. Students must be prepared to compete ahead of time. Students who are unprepared tournament week may be dropped, or a substitute may be found to take their place. Students who are dropped due to lack of preparation must pay associated fees, and their grade will be adjusted accordingly.
4. No complaints about judges, opponents, ballots, or the tournament will be voiced at the host campus. Please preserve your reputation and the team’s image.
5. If a student drops or is dropped by Mr. Uhler from a tournament for any reason (lack of preparation, ineligibility, citizenship, etc.), the student will forfeit entry fees and travel expenses. The student will be responsible for any financial penalty levied by the host school, which may be up to triple the original entry fee. Judges are hired, chaperones recruited, rooms reserved, and transportation organized based on each entry. Be considerate of the team.
6. If the team is attending a tournament out of town, students may not leave the campus or hotel without permission. Students may not “hang out” or “prep” in hotel rooms with students of the opposite sex. Students are encouraged to “prep” in common areas, like the hallway or the lobby of the hotel, until the time designated for lights out.
7. The team has a zero tolerance policy toward alcohol and drugs. Students who violate this rule will revoke their right to travel with the team for the remainder of that competitive year. If the incident occurs at the end of that year and the student is not a senior, the student will revoke their right to travel the following year. This includes TFA State, NSDA Nationals, and any TOCs. Violators will be referred to the WHS administration.
8. Respect all campus and hotel property. Students must clean up after themselves and will pay for any damage they cause.
9. Students, not coaches, are responsible for their own items (backpacks, clothes, etc.) at a tournament. Make sure you keep our team area clean and organized.
10. Hotel room assignments made by Mr. Uhler may not be changed.
11. No student may walk alone around any tournament for any reason. Students must be in groups or with a chaperone. Students must stay in constant communication with Mr. Uhler if they are not in round competing or watching.
12. Rule violations on tournaments out of town may result in the student being sent home at the family’s expense.
13. Remember, we travel to compete. STUDENTS MUST GET REST SO THEY MAY PUT FORTH THEIR BEST EFFORT!
Other Tournament Information
Students are expected to dress professionally for competitions. You will be judged on how you look, as well as on how you speak. You need to dress tastefully and conservatively. A good guide is to look like a lawyer entering the courtroom. When we attend tournaments it is important to remember that the way you dress presents who you are. We believe you should dress in a way that authentically represents yourself. Dress your personal best! That said, it’s important to remember these factors when determining what you wear: Clothing that endorses violence, guns, drugs/alcohol, etc. is not allowed. Remember that you need to be able to get around the tournament facility (room to room; building to building) so consider what will be comfortable and weather appropriate. Clothing should not be a distraction from your performance.
Be at your assigned room before your round is scheduled to begin. Debaters should be pre-flowed when they arrive on campus. Don’t make judges wait for you and avoid asking them for prep time prior to starting a round. Competitions never stick to their original schedule. Plan for this. It is not uncommon for students to be at tournaments from late Friday afternoon (debaters) until after midnight, only to return early Saturday morning. Students should bring money for food or pack a lunch. Schools will usually sell breakfast, lunch, and snacks at concession stands.
The “no pass, no play” rule applies to all speech and debate competitions. Students must be passing all classes at the end of each nine-week grading term in order to compete. Eligibility is based on nine-week averages, not on semester averages. Students who lose eligibility can regain it after three weeks if they are passing all their classes. Students should not sign-up for tournaments if they know they are ineligible. If a student has to be dropped from a tournament due to ineligibility, the student will be responsible for any registration and/or drop fees. Students may only miss the classes from which Mr. Uhler has excused them. When students miss classes due to competition, it is their responsibility to make up all work missed. Students should make every effort to get assignments in advance. There is time at tournaments to do homework. Each student needs to maintain positive relations with their teachers in terms of missed class. How you handle this issue affects the entire program, not just you. Please avoid being absent the day after a debate trip. Don’t let your choices jeopardize your ability to participate.
Understanding Breaks (Advancing at a Tournament)
When a student advances past preliminary rounds into elimination rounds, we call it “breaking” because the student has broken from the pack to rank among the top competitors.
- Debate Events: Typically 4 preliminary rounds; Ties are broken and seeding determined by “speaker points,” which are awarded by judges for speaking style.
- Individual Events: Extemp, Oratory, Interp; Typically 2 preliminary rounds; Students are ranked in prelim rounds and advancement is based on the combined total of these ranks.
Never enter a classroom without a judge. Doing so will get you disqualified. Students in oratory and interpretation must stay in rounds until all participants have finished presenting unless cross-entered. When cross-entered, politely ask to be excused to participate in your second event as soon as you finish your first. Debaters, judges will not always disclose or critique. Do not insist that they do so. Never argue with a judge or opponent after a round. If the judge gives a critique, listen quietly, take notes, thank him/her, and then leave without any show of frustration if you have lost or celebration if you have won. If you feel you have been the victim of a bad decision or of rude conduct, save your complaints until you leave the host campus or quietly speak with Mr. Uhler outside of the room. The debate circuit is small. Avoid making enemies. Your behavior will come back to haunt you as you will see many of your judges and opponents again and again. It is vital that we are not only a team with talent but also a team with character. No matter how other people behave, the Westlake Speech and Debate Team will show respect at all times for what we do and for ALL people involved no matter their level of experience or role.
There will be a lot of time between rounds. We usually stake out a table in the host school’s cafeteria for the team. The team’s shared space must be uniform (no rogue tables). You may eat, visit, study, etc., as long as Mr. Uhler knows where you are. Students should return to the cafeteria table that we have claimed after they finish their rounds. There is no reason to wander around the school between rounds. Do not leave the tournament without permission. You are responsible for keeping track of the time. There are strict penalties for missing rounds, including grade reductions and loss of all tournament participation and traveling privileges.
You may not leave a tournament until you are excused and have checked out with Mr. Uhler. Remain ready to compete until excused. Mr. Uhler takes this extremely seriously. If you do not tell Mr. Uhler when you are leaving (assuming Mr. Uhler has given you permission to leave the tournament), you will be warned. If it happens again, you will be asked to drop the course. Mr. Uhler will distribute ballots to students when we return to Westlake (in speech and debate class on Monday, or the first day in which we return). Please do not ask for your ballots before that time. All ballots must be returned to Mr. Uhler after you have looked at them, and recorded the comments (on the same day in which they were given to you). Debaters should save their flows for class discussions, and extempers should write down the questions they saw at tournaments. These two responsibilities will be tied to grades in the class.
Concessions & Closeouts
It is common for our students to be matched against each other in elimination rounds due to the large number of competitors we tend to “break” in debate events. This situation may arise in other events, as well. When students from only one school remain in elimination rounds, having knocked out all other competitors, this is called a “closeout.” When this happens the team should celebrate! This shows the depth of talent on our squad. When a closeout happens, students do not debate each other. It is up to the coach to rank them for the official tournament results. The guidelines below have been established to assist in these situations. Our goal is to qualify as many students as possible to championships. Individual recognition is easy to focus on in debate, but one of the strengths of our squad is that we try to spread success to as many students on the team as possible. The focus shouldn’t be on the trophy brought home from one local competition but on the team’s overall ability to compete at the highest level.
1. If one student is already qualified for TFA State and the other is not, the student needing points will advance.
2. If one student will qualify for TFA State by advancing to the next round, but the other will not, the student who will qualify will advance.
3. If one student is close to qualifying for TFA State and the other is not, the students with the most TFA points will advance.
4. If both students have a similar number of points, the student who is the higher seed will advance.
5. If records are similar, the student who is the higher seed will advance.
Additional Class and Tournament Information
- Tournament Preparation & Classroom Participation: includes in-class practice, peer feedback, and other assignments based on event, such as case writing, cutting pieces, or maintaining extemp files. Class assignments will have deadlines specified by Mr. Uhler. Assignments that are not completed before the day of the upcoming tournament will receive a zero. Students who are chronically unprepared or who waste class time will be asked to drop the course.
- Team business & events: Students are expected to participate in team events, including team-related responsibilities, after school practice, the tournaments that we will be hosting this year, and fundraising activities.
- Consequences for Forfeiting Rounds: Forfeiting rounds will not be tolerated! When you fail to show for a round, you impact the organization of the entire tournament and negatively impact the reputation of our whole team. When you sign up for a tournament, you are agreeing to compete in your rounds, show up on time, and to stay at the tournament to support the team if you are eliminated. If you cannot do this, you should not be competing. Students may not “throw” rounds for any reason. Students may not concede to their opponents without the approval of Mr. Uhler. Consequences for throwing or forfeiting a round is as follows: The first time you fail to compete in a preliminary round, you will lose 10 percent of your nine-week’s grade. If you fail to compete in any elimination round, you will lose 15 percent of your nine-week’s grade. The second time you fail to compete in any round, you will lose an additional 15 percent of your nine-week’s grade. You will also lose all traveling privileges. The third time you fail to compete, you will be removed from the course. If you “no show” for a tournament, you will lose 15 percent of your nine-week’s grade.
- When you compete at a tournament, do not assume that you will fail to advance. You must wait for breaks to be posted. This means that sometimes you will have to wait around for an hour or several hours to find out if you advanced. Waiting is part of the activity, and tournaments almost always run behind schedule. Students who do not advance to outrounds are responsible for staying at the tournament until after they have watched at least one elimination round. Students, you must count on this when planning your weekends. Do not sign up if you cannot stay the course.
- Exceptions to the forfeit rule only will be made in the case of emergencies that Mr. Uhler can verify with your parents. Schedule conflicts that you knew of ahead of time and your failure to wake up on Saturday mornings do not count as emergencies. If the tournament charges a drop fee, you will be expected to pay it regardless of the reason.