Bella is a senior, a co-captain, a competitive debater, and a natural leader. She is excited about her new role – coaching the novices. But, as the debate season progresses, Bella is torn between her own ambitions as a debater and prioritizing her duties as captain. About to start to Brown University, Bella reflects on a vital lesson learned: “There is a huge progression from Freshman to Senior year – from how to build your own success in debate to asking yourself ‘how can I help the team?’”
Hannah is a first generation American whose parents are refugees from Vietnam. Hannah feels an intense obligation to seize every opportunity her parents have created for her, especially debate. “Speaking up about politics and my beliefs is a privilege that my parents never had.” As a Sophomore, Hannah, paired with the much more experienced Bella, sometimes feels isolated in an activity that prioritizes team partnerships. The following year, when Hannah pairs up with her close friend Dan, she starts to feel more integrated within the team, begins to hit her stride as a debater, and enjoys helping the younger, shy novices.
Gil was born to Israeli parents and is an identical twin to Noy. As a Sophomore, Gil grapples with her soft, “feminine” voice that gets continually called out by judges. She wonders if she will ever have what it takes to make it as a champion debater and fulfill her dream to become captain. With her sister cheering her on, Gil finally starts to experience success.“There are winners and losers in debate, and I was just losing. But, then, it just pissed me off.”
Gaby’s sports-obsessed family teases her about her new “nerdy” obsession. A natural born athlete, Gaby is a promising novice who understands the rigor that fierce competition demands. A gifted researcher, quick to grasp the intricacies of each monthly debate topic, Gaby struggles to find the confidence vital to winning. “I have always been super hard on myself…I have a fear of failure, of not being enough.” Throughout her debate career, she remains steadfast in her determination, while also exhibiting superb sportsmanship — cheering on others’ success, including her close friends Jay and Anika.
Encouraged by her mother to join the debate team, initially Anika is reluctant but soon falls in love with the activity and throws herself into the world of debate. When Anika and her partner Jay make it to the final JV round at the prestigious Harvard tournament, they quickly become the “novice team to watch”. Yet, with success comes pressure, and Anika starts to struggle with health issues. “I don’t ever want to disappoint my friends, my family. I know how every debate matters, every tournament is so important.” As juniors, when Anika and Jay arrive for the second year in a row at the TOC (Tournament of Champions), Anika is already exhausted from a demanding debate season. But, when she and Jay make it to the final round, the whole team is on pins and needles. Will Anika be the first female to win TOC in nine years?