A Note on Schools’ Judge Obligation at CDL Tournaments

In the National Circuit, and in many “traditional” debate circuits, there is a norm that schools can only register twice the number of teams as judges that they register. In other words, there is a hard cap placed on the number of students that can participate in these debate tournaments, and that cap is based on the 2:1 ratio of teams to judges that make up each individual debate round.

The RCC applies this restriction to its tournaments, since the RCC is integrated into the National Circuit, which one could make a good argument is headquartered in suburban Chicago. At non-RCC tournaments, the CDL views a school’s “judge obligation” — one judge for every two teams — as a guideline, but not a hard requirement. The CDL works to try to recruit and assign unaffiliated judges to non-RCC sites in order to increase the number of students who would otherwise be able to compete in and learn at academic debate tournaments. The CDL has been committed for five or six years now to significantly expanding the number of students and tournament debaters in our league, and we recognize that in order to do that, we need to provide assistance to and support for coaches’ efforts to supply tournament judges. And, in truth, the CDC’s role at the very beginning of the league was to recruit members of the community to judge at CDL tournaments, assisting burdened teachers in their debate program building efforts.

Four important caveats, however, to the above.


Schools must register their own coaches if they have not otherwise fulfilled their judge obligation. And this means that it is a full expectation that both (or all) coaches from a school will be in the judge pool both days if a school hasn’t otherwise met its judge obligation. The CDL limits itself in what it asks of coaches in regards to judge recruitment because we recognize the structural limitations (time, resources) that make this over-burdensome, but we do expect all coaches to be present and available to judge at tournaments that are fully written into the job description of CDL coach.


We do ask that coaches be conscious of the “judge obligation” and, where they can without over-loading themselves, seek to find a couple of judges for CDL tournaments. Parents, older siblings of debaters, alumni, possibly other teachers — these are all possible sources of judges.


As part of the community ethos that is part of the CDL in ways that it is perhaps not as prevalent in other debate circuits, we sometimes ask coaches from schools who have otherwise met their judge obligation to judge, making up for schools with “judge deficits.” This request is made in order to facilitate an educational experience for more students than would otherwise be possible. Nevertheless, coaches of whom this request is made have an unrestricted right to decline the request.


We do need one judge from each school to be available — even if we don’t call on them — to judge one round beyond the farthest rounds to which any of its teams advanced. So schools whose teams drop in the quarter-finals need to be prepared to provide one judge each for the semi-finals. This is another reason why having two coaches is so important — so that one can take all the students home, while the other stays to judge one final debate.

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