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.
Most of 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. Volunteer judges can judge in English or Spanish at high school tournaments.
Some volunteers prefer to serve as tournament staff (also known as operations volunteers), 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. We ask our tournament staff to have judged at least one debate tournament prior to serving in this volunteer role.
Volunteer judges 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 watch short a video before their shift and attend an in-person training built into their volunteer shift. 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 to volunteer as a judge. Other volunteer positions have varying requirements, which are listed in the descriptions linked above. Please contact us with any questions or concerns about your eligibility to serve or if you need accommodations to serve comfortably.
We are looking forward to working with you in the 2023-2024 Debate Season! Please click here to sign up as a volunteer judge. Before you attend your first shift, you will need to submit an eCORI background check and complete the training detailed in the section below.
Be sure to sign up for our email list to stay in the loop!
ALL judges (new and experienced) will are required to complete training.
New volunteers will be required to watch our New Volunteer Judge Training video, which is approximately 30 minutes. We will also require new volunteers to attend an in-person training that is built into the volunteer shift.
Returning volunteers, BDL alumni, and those with previous policy debate experience will be required to watch our Quick Review Volunteer Judge Training video, which is approximately 15 minutes.
We are planning to host all tournaments during the 2023-24 Debate Season in-person, but we will shift to virtual platforms if necessary. Please refer to the Tournament Calendar on our events page for specific locations, as they vary.