Become a Debate Judge

The Baltimore Urban Debate League hosts two tournaments a month during the school year. At these events, as many as 300 students may attend to compete. This means we rely on at least 40 teachers, parents, college students and community members to volunteer their time to the League – for each tournament! In their role as judges, volunteers are asked to participate in a brief judge training workshop the morning of the tournament where you’ll learn to listen to arguments, give debaters feedback on their performance and ultimately decide the winner of the round. It is in many ways, a revolutionary experience for both parties. High school students, used to directed instruction and tests, get a chance to voice their opinion and guide their own learning. Adults get individualized interactions with kids and a chance to help them develop their speaking, critical thinking, and organizational skills. Become part of a program the Baltimore City Paper says is “catching the eyes of education activists” across the city.

Judges learn:

  • the format of a competitive policy debate (time limits, speech order)
  • the specialized jargon debaters might use (topicality, disad, kritik, etc.)
  • to take notes in a debate to make a good decision (learning how to flow)
  • to justify a decision, including how to complete a debate ballot
  • to discuss a round of debate afterwards with students common arguments on this year’s topic
  • to be prepared for common scenarios for what might happen in a debate

Judges say:

“I wasn’t at all sure that I would make a good judge. The training gave me the confidence that I could make a good decision and help students learn.”
“Judging in the BUDL is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I felt like I was really able to connect with kids. We learned together. It was really a positive learning experience that was quite different from school environments I’ve been a part of.”
“The judge seminar was very efficient. They really pack it in. You get everything you need in a short time frame.”
“I was amazed at the skills these kids have. They get very excited about some complicated stuff.”

Learn more:

You can learn more about what judging is like by downloading our Judging Manual (PDF).
BUDL’s tournaments are single day events.