Information for Current and Future Speech and Debate Coaches

Coaches make speech and debate possible!  Every team is led by a coach, or group of coaches, who manage the team and teach students the skills they need.  Speech and debate participation is school based, but anyone can coach, from teachers to grandparents.  Former competitors make great coaches, but no prior knowledge or experience is required.  Over time, experienced students can become team captains, teaching new students how this activity works.  Many schools don’t offer speech and debate as an extracurricular activity because they are unable to find a coach.  If you are interested in coaching a team, contact us and we’ll help connect you with a school near you.

For New Coaches

Yikes!  I know nothing!  How do I start?

Judge Obligations

How many judges am I required to register?  What training do I need to provide?

Tournament Registration Deadlines

When do I need to register students and judges?

Congress Registration Instructions

How is legislation submitted and received prior to a tournament?

National Speech and Debate Association

What is the NSDA and am I required to join?

Membership Fees

How much does it cost to join WACFL?  What is the cost to participate in tournaments?

New Coach Information

Congratulations and welcome to this amazing activity!  If you are just starting a team, we’ve got two immediate recommendations.  First, talk with a WACFL mentor, who can describe what’s involved and answer your questions.  WACFL has many experienced coaches who are excited to share their knowledge with you.  Second, consider judging at a WACFL tournament. This is a great way to learn about each event and how tournaments operate.  You will see amazing students perform and you’ll gain a deeper understanding than just reading or watching videos.

Don’t take on too much immediately!  When starting a team, focus on either Speech or Debate.  WACFL has several coaches that hold both roles, but it’s more common for schools to have separate coaches for these activities.  If you choose to start with Speech, pick just a few events for students to choose from.  If starting with Debate, choose just one format.  Over time, as your team grows, you can add events and formats.  In your first year, you may have just a handful of students competing.  But as they tell their friends about the great experience they had; your team will expand.

The National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) and National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) have created free training materials for new coaches, which you can access through the links to the left.  There is a lot of information here, so don’t be daunted!  None of this is required to start your coaching journey.

Judge Obligations

At each WACFL tournament, teams are required to supply trained judges proportional to the number of student entries.  The number of judges varies by event.  For our in-person preliminary tournaments, here’s the ratios:

  • Public Forum and Lincoln Douglas:  One judge for every 4 entries or fraction thereof. (A PF team = one entry)
  • Speech and Student Congress:  One judge for every 5 entries or fraction thereof.
  • Policy Debate:  One judge for every 2 teams or fraction thereof.


Judge obligations are higher for virtual PF and LD  tournaments because we single-flight rounds.  Judge obligations are also higher for MetroFinals, as we assign two judges to each competition round.

Coaches are responsible for ensuring their judges are trained!  We understand that at each tournament, there will be many first-time judges, usually parents, who are likely uncertain and a bit nervous about their responsibilities.  Please take time prior to the tournament to explain the activity to them and answer questions.  The resources on this website should help judges get comfortable with their responsibilities.  On tournament days, between 8:00 – 8:15 am, coaches are responsible for confirming that your registered judges are on-site.  WACFL will hold a judge briefing at 8:30 am.  However, these 30 minutes are insufficient to fully train a judge. 

Tournament Registration Deadlines

Coaches register both students and judges in  If you are a new coach, the NSDA can help you create (or get added to an existing) school account.  Both judges and students will need to create individual accounts and link them to your school.  Creating an account is a one-time process.  Even if a student changes schools, they keep the same Tabroom account.

Registration opens 2-3 weeks prior to each tournament.  WACFL preliminary tournaments are always on Saturdays, so the below deadlines are for the week leading up to each tournament. stops accepting entries promptly at these times, so it’s important to not wait until the last minute to create your entries.

  • Tuesday at 9 pm:  Student entry deadline
  • Thursday at 9 pm:  Judge entry deadline
  • Friday at 9 pm:  Student entries can be dropped on-line in with no penalty.


Taking accurate attendance and checking-in promptly on Saturday mornings is vital for tournaments to run on time!  From 8:00 – 8:15 am, coaches must confirm that all registered students and judges are on-site or just minutes away from arriving.  By 8:25 am, coaches must confirm that all students are present or notify tournament managers of who should be dropped.  After the tournament begins, WACFL will levy fines for missing students and judges.

Congress Registration Instructions

In advance of each Student Congress tournament, coaches must upload one piece of student-written legislation in Tabroom for every two students registered (or increment thereof).  Legislation must be balanced across the 3 topic categories:  Domestic, International and Economic.  For example, if you have 1 or 2 students registered, they can choose any of the topic areas and you submit just one piece of legislation.  If you have 5 or 6 students registered, you will upload 3 pieces of legislation, one in each topic category.  Be sure students understand how to format their bills or resolutions.  The deadline to upload legislation is 9 pm on the Tuesday before each tournament, which is also the student registration deadline.

On Wednesday morning, WACFL tournament managers will consolidate all submitted student legislation.  Upon completion, packets will be uploaded in Tabroom and available to all.  We will notify coaches via email when the packets are available.  Printed legislation packets will not be available at the tournament.  For legislation packets to be created quickly and accurately, it’s important that students and coaches meet the upload deadline and follow the formatting rules for file naming and uploading. 

  • Ensure the author titles the legislation appropriately, using a number within the range assigned to your school.  (Contact us if your school doesn’t have a number range). 
  • Save each document individually as a PDF with the bill/resolution number only as the file name.  Each number must have a D, E or I prefix, corresponding to the legislation category Domestic, Economic, or International.  An example file name is E401.pdf.
  • Upload each PDF in Tabroom by clicking on the Legislation tab.  In Tabroom, you will include the bill/resolution number, a colon, and the full title of the legislation. For example: E401: A Bill to Fix the Universe.  Legislation not formatted correctly will be sent to the end of the packet.
  • Only the coach or and adult sponsor may upload legislation.  Students should not be doing this.
What is the NSDA?

The National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) was founded in 1925 as the National Forensic League, changing their name in 2014. The NSDA provides recognition and support for high school students and coaches participating in speech and debate activities.  Each June, NSDA holds a national tournament, bringing together hundreds of teams and thousands of students from across the United States.  WACFL and the NCFL largely follow NSDA rules for all debate events.  Our rules differ slightly for the Speech events, so be sure to understand the speech event guidelines, outlined on this website.  Students can earn NSDA Honor Society points for each WACFL tournament in which they participate.  Coaches can choose to link students’ and NSDA accounts, so Honor Society points will auto-post after each tournament.

Joining the NSDA is optional – schools and students are not required to become members.  The NSDA charges an annual school membership fee, but coach and student memberships are for a lifetime.  Many helpful NSDA resources are available at no cost on their website.  However, some content requires that schools to purchase a Resource Package for access.  After earning 25 Honor Society points, students who are NSDA members are eligible to participate in NSDA District tournaments, which determine who will advance to the NSDA National Tournament.

WACFL Membership Fees

Each year, schools joining WACFL pay an annual membership fee, based on the previous year’s entries. For new schools or schools returning after an extended absence, the fee is $100 for the year. (Such a deal!) WACFL does not charge individual student entry fees to participate in preliminary tournaments, however, there is a fee of $10 per student to compete at the MetroFinal tournaments.  Your school’s annual dues may increase or decrease each year, based on the number of tournament student entries for the previous school year.

WACFL works hard to not impose entry caps.  We want to give all students the opportunity to compete.  However, as our tournaments grow, we may need to limit the number of entries our largest schools can register.  This is solely because of host school size and the number of classrooms available for competition rounds. The deadline to register students for competition is always at 9 pm the Tuesday prior to each tournament. By Wednesday morning, we can tell coaches if they may need to drop entries in order to meet tournament limitations.