Judge Confirmation

Thank you for your interest in volunteering as a debate judge! The Coolidge Foundation will be in contact prior to the tournament to provide you with more details. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please reach out to our Debate Director Jared Rhoads. Mr. Rhoads can be reached via email (jrhoads@coolidgefoundation.org) or by phone (802-672-3389). Thank you for supporting debate!

New to Debate Judging?

We want you to know that as a judge, you are an extremely important part of our program. Getting help from judges like you is what makes this debate league possible.

In case you are new to debate judging, or if you just want to read up on what judging for the Coolidge Debate League entails, we’ve assembled some basic information below to help prepare you for the tournament.

What is a Debate?

A debate is a competitive, structured discussion that allows for opposing arguments to be put forward. A debate focuses on a specific proposition called the resolution. Resolutions begin with the term “Resolved” and follow with a policy change, statement, or idea that is to be debated by the two parties participating in the debate. Some examples of resolutions are, “Resolved: The United States Federal Government should adopt a balanced budget amendment” and “Resolved: The United States should adopt a carbon tax.”

The “affirmative” debater (or team) is arguing in favor of the resolution. The “negative” debater (or team) is the team arguing against the resolution. Each team is trying to win the debate.

Debates have a particular order in which the debaters (or teams of debaters) take turns speaking. This is referred to as the debate format. Each speaking turn is allotted a set amount of time, for instance 4 minutes for an opening statement and 3 minutes for a closing statement. The particular details regarding speaking times may vary depending. One format that the Coolidge Debate League often (but not always) uses is detailed here.

How Does the Day Proceed?

Debate tournaments in the Coolidge Debate League are subject to vary, but in general the day proceeds as follows. In the morning, there will be student and judge registration/check-in. That is followed by an educational talk or presentation on the debate topic for the day, which is intended to give students and judges the opportunity to learn a little more about the topic that will be debated that day. After this, the first round match-ups will be posted, which will describe which teams are debating each other, in which location, and with which judge. After each round, the results will be collected, tallied, and then the next round of match-ups will be generated and posted. A typical Coolidge Debate League tournament will go three to four rounds, after which the winners will be determined based on their record and speaker points.

What is Your Role as a Judge?

As a debate judge, your main role and responsibility is to listen to each side make its case and then do two things: 1) render a decision about which debater (or team) won the debate, and 2) award individual speaker points.

Determining the Winner

When determining the winner, consider the following factors when making a decision:

  • Which speaker did the best job of putting forth good arguments for his or her position?
  • Which speaker did the best job of answering his or her opponent’s arguments?
  • Did either speaker fail to address an important argument by his or her opponent?
  • Which speaker provided better evidence and research to support his or her contentions?
  • Did the speakers speak at a reasonable  and understandable pace?
  • Which speaker was more logical?
  • Did the speaker stay on topic?

At the Coolidge Foundation, we believe in the power of citizen judges to be able to follow a debate and render a reasonable decision. Taking notes while listening is appropriate and encouraged. You won’t be able to write everything down, but you should be able to make a few notes on each side’s key arguments and identify whether the other side did an adequate job to address them.

Remember, there is no wrong way to judge a debate as long as you adopt a neutral stance about the resolution, and do your best to be fair, encouraging, and supportive to your debaters. They are here to learn from you, no matter what your experience level is!

Assigning Speaker Points

In addition to choosing the winner of each debate, judges must also award “speaker points” to each debater. Speaker points assess the quality of the presentation offered by each debater. This is entirely separate from the determination of who won the debate. Usually the side that wins the debate also receives higher speaker points. On rare occasions, you might award more speaker points to the loser of the debate if you believe that he or she generally spoke better but failed to address an important argument or committed some fatal flaw of logic.  Please consider the following factors when awarding speaker points:

  • Does the speaker present in a fluent and compelling manner?
  • Does the speaker use all available speech time and cross examination time?
  • Does the speaker properly reference opposing arguments and cite allusions to evidence?
  • Does the speaker address the opponent in a fitting refutational style (i.e., not abusive or demeaning)?
  • Does the speaker stay on topic?

Speaker points are awarded on a scale of 20 to 30 points as follows:

  • 29-30 points: Outstanding
  • 27-28 points: Excellent
  • 25-26 points: Good
  • 23-24 points: Weak
  • 20-22 points: Very weak or inappropriate

Background Checks

The Coolidge Debate League takes the safety of its student participants very seriously. All volunteers must successfully complete a background check before they are allowed to judge in a Coolidge Debate League tournament. Background checks are generally only good for a particular school/campus. If you have already completed a background check in the past for a school/campus where you will be judging, then you should be all set. If you have completed a background check in the past for a Coolidge Debate League tournament, but it was for a different school/campus than the one where you will be judging, then you may have to do another background check. We can help and answer any questions you might have.