July 21, 2022 – In many forms of debate, like the Policy division I competed in, you have a partner with you to tackle the pressing issues of the world. There is always someone by your side handing you cards to read, flowing alongside you, and defending your arguments during cross examination.
But what do you do when your partner cannot make it to the tournament and you are left alone?
In my novice year of debate, the night before a tournament, my partner sent me a message profusely apologizing, as she could no longer make it to the tournament. At that moment, panic began to overtake my body as I was afraid of what was to come. What if I didn’t know what I was talking about and made a fool of myself? How would I handle being on the negative and speaking back-to-back during rounds? I was bound to drop an argument and lose. I was filled with anxiety, but I had made a commitment to my team and was determined to attend the tournament despite my fear.
My heart was pounding as I entered the first round. Throughout the round, my fear increased as I struggled to read all the paper evidence, flow the opposing side, and stand my ground while facing cross-examination. As the round came to an end, the opposing side presented their last speech and I sat reflecting on my experience. I felt discouraged and did not want to finish the other two rounds in the tournament. I simply felt like I had not done enough to argue my point. Then, despite my self-doubt, the judge disclosed that I’d won the round.
I was beyond excited that I’d won the round as a maverick. But, more importantly, I realized I am capable. Suddenly, I understood that I had placed limitations on myself as a result of doubt – when all along I had the capacity to succeed.
Partnership may be a core component of debate, but on that day, debate taught me to be confident in my own abilities. It taught me that, when there is adversity, you must believe in yourself – and regardless of any doubt, you have the power to be great. Debate transformed me from the girl who was voted “Most Quiet in the Class” to the maverick competitor who won 2nd place overall in the novice division.
Erica Santos-Reyez is an alum of the New York City Urban Debate League. She is currently a Political Science major, with a concentration in International Relations, at Monmouth University in New Jersey.