Resolved: Fourth annual UCC Pro-Am Debate Tournament a great success

With a move online due to the pandemic, the debate club hosted an event that included students from British Columbia to Connecticut, and grew participation from 50 to 136 teams. 
"There’s no cap on a virtual tournament," says Lulu Wang, a chemistry teacher and one of the debate club’s advisers.

Hosting the annual event always requires all hands on deck from the debate club, which has 40-plus members. This time, club executive team members were required  to conquer unfamiliar debating software, a program called, humorously, Discord. 

"It’s currently the best platform there is," says Andrew Shi, a Year 11 student and co-chair of the club’s executive team, "but it did require a lot of data entry."

Shi, who began debating in Year 7, wasn’t able to participate in the debates; he was too busy with hosting tasks, although he did do some judging. Fellow co-chair Lucca Stanger, a Year 12 student who has been debating since Year 9, also performed judging and event co-ordination duties.  

"We’ve been planning this since last March and it was definitely a collective effort," Stanger says. "It’s very out of the ordinary to hold a virtual tournament. We’re used to travelling on weekends to compete from Friday night to Sunday."

Pro-Ams are structured so that the debaters are in pairs, with an experienced debater and a novice working together. The tournament was a one-day intensive on Dec. 6 that included four opening rounds for all participants. Then, the scores were tallied and only the top 16 teams continued on. The strongest teams competed in the Gold final and the remaining eight teams took part in the Silver final. Gold was claimed by University of Toronto Schools (UTS). 

"This was a great opportunity, because we have such a big UCC team that not all of our debaters get to travel to tournaments," says Natasha Mosdossy, a math teacher and club adviser. "It was a chance for everybody to get exposure and learn."

The faculty advisers were impressed with the way the student executive group — which also includes Randy Chang, John Papanikolaou and Daniel Lu — ran the tournament.

"They worked like a well-oiled machine," says Wang. "Without us intervening much, they were able to execute their roles and perform as a team."

For their part, the students enjoyed the challenge of planning and launching the tournament and are pleased with the result, but they’re also eager to start debating again themselves. Says Stanger, "We’ll be back into it in the new year."

Meanwhile, the fifth annual UCC Pro-Am will soon be added to the club’s schedule.
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