Each year, the Boston Debate League works with hundreds of dedicated volunteers to make sure that every student who comes to every tournament has the opportunity to debate. By sharing their time and talent, volunteers ensure access to the transformative benefits of debate and affirm the notion that young people have important and valuable ideas to contribute to society.
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Most BDL volunteers serve as volunteer judges, whose role is to listen to debates, share encouragement, offer advice for the next round, and inform tournament staff who won the debate. Some volunteers prefer to serve as tournament staff, whose role is to check other volunteers in, train judges, and run tournament logistics in the tab room. Whichever role fits your strengths and interests, we’ll train and support you throughout the day.
Volunteers serve in shifts of 4-5 hours, with each shift covering two or three debates. Most tournaments are on Fridays and Saturdays. First-time volunteers should plan to attend a virtual training on the Tuesday before their shift or complete a recorded version at their own pace. Volunteers tell us that they feel most confident and connected when they serve three shifts per season, but we can accommodate almost any level of commitment.
We welcome individuals and groups of any size from all backgrounds, identities, and abilities. No experience with debate or knowledge of the debate topic is necessary. Please contact us with any questions or concerns about your eligibility to serve or if you need accommodations to serve comfortably.
All first-time judges are required to complete New Judge training. Beginning in fall 2021, you’ll have the option of completing New Judge Training live over Zoom during the week leading up to each tournament, or completing a self-paced, virtual course that includes a series of videos, readings, and comprehension checks. For returning volunteers who would like to learn more about debate and strengthen their feedback, Intermediate Judge Training and Advanced Judge Training are available several times per season – dates will be shared here and with our email list as they are announced.
We are planning to host all tournaments during the 2021-22 Debate Season in-person, but we will shift to virtual platforms if necessary. Please refer to the Tournament Calendar for specific locations, as they vary.