Information for Current and Future Student Participants

Speech and debate is a wonderful activity!  You will improve your skills and confidence with each tournament in which you participate.  Your team’s coach is your primary resource for information on WACFL rules and tournaments. Coaches have access to details beyond what is available on this website. However, we have compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions by students.  This information should help you prepare to compete at your first tournament!

Choosing an Event

I want to participate but how do I decide which event is best for me?


What are WACFL MetroFinal tournaments and how do I qualify?

Debate Divisions

Should I be competing in the Novice, Junior-Varsity or Varsity division?

Debate Topics

How do I know what the topics will be for each of the debate events?

Tournament Dress

How should I dress for a WACFL tournament? Account

How do I create a Tabroom account and link it to my school?

Choosing an Event

With seven different speech events and four debate events, it can be tough to choose just one!  After gaining experience, some students compete in more than one event, but to start, it’s best to pick one. If you are interested in theater or acting, one of the three Speech interpretative events may be best for you. These center upon students’ selecting and performing published material and conveying emotion through performance.

If you are interested in current events, government or politics, one of the Speech public address events may be a good place to start. These events require students to prepare a speech that can answer a question, share a belief, persuade an audience, or educate the listener. For five of the speech events, you memorize material in advance and can perform the same piece for the entire competition season. But in two of the speech events (Extemp and Impromptu), you prepare your speech at the tournament.

Debate is what you expect: students receive a topic in advance of the tournament and prepare arguments both “for” and “against”.  Lincoln-Douglas and Public forum debates last about 45 minutes. A Policy debate and Student Congress “session” last approximately 90 minutes.

Most students join Speech and Debate with no previous background in public speaking. At tournaments, you won’t be presenting in front of a large audience. Typically, it’s just the students you are competing with and one adult judge in a standard classroom.

What are MetroFinals and how do I qualify?

The WACFL Metropolitan Championship (MetroFinal) Tournaments determine which students will advance to the National Catholic Forensic League Grand National Tournament held over Memorial Day weekend. MetroFinals are in late February /early March. In Public Forum, Lincoln-Douglas and Policy debate, there is no Novice division, just Junior-Varsity and Varsity.  However, only Varsity debaters can qualify for the NCFL Grand National Tournament. In Speech and Student Congress, students at MetroFinals will compete together, regardless of experience levels, just like at our preliminary tournaments.

Middle school students can compete at MetroFinals, but are not eligible to compete at NCFL Nationals. The NCFL is considering adding a virtual national tournament just for middle school students.

For full MetroFinal qualification details, click on the button to the right.

Understanding Debate Divisions

In general, Novice is for 1st year debaters, Junior-Varsity for 2nd year and Varsity for 3rd year debaters.  Some coaches choose to start all debaters in JV, feeling they will learn faster.  Most students should stay in Novice for only a few tournaments before advancing to JV.  In most cases, the choice of what division to enter is a decision made by the team coach and the debater(s). Speech and Student Congress do not split students according to experience.  All students in these events compete together.

At MetroFinals, there are JV and Varsity divisions, but no Novice division.  To qualify for the NCFL Grand National Tournament in Public Forum, Lincoln-Douglas and Policy, you must be a Varsity debater.  

In some cases, students are required to advance to the next division. The button to the left links to the WACFL guidelines on when students must advance to a higher division. Be sure to check out the second page of the document for a description of PF, PD and Policy debate tournament power-pairing.

Debate Topics

WACFL tournaments (with the exception of Student Congress) use topics selected by the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA).  Public Forum topics remain the same for September/October and November/December, but beginning each January, PF topics change monthly.  Lincoln-Douglas topics remain in effect for two months.  It’s important to note that WACFL does not use the NSDA Novice Lincoln-Douglas topic.  All LD competitor debate the same topic.  The Policy topic remains the same for the entire competition season.  It is chosen each Spring, adopted by the NSDA and posted on their website. 

WACFL officers choose Student Congress legislation topics, which change for each tournament.  Topics are available on this site and  Congress competitors can draft legislation on their choice of 9 topics, split between 3 categories:  Domestic, International and Economic. 

Click on a button on the right to see the current debate topics.  

How to Dress for a Tournament

WACFL does not have a dress code, but when competing at a tournament, students tend to dress professionally. The objective is to project a serious and respectful image. Think about how you would dress for a job or college interview.  Avoid casual clothing like jeans, fleece, flannel, or t-shirts. Wear shoes that are comfortable. You will be standing during your speaking time and walking much of the school to get to competition rooms. Make sure shoes are clean and polished. Avoid wearing flip-flops, sandals, or sneakers.

Creating a Account

Creating an account is easy and a one-time process.  Even if you change schools, you’ll keep the same Tabroom account. Go to and click on Sign Up at the top right of the home screen. Follow all the steps to completion. When the tournament is over, Tabroom is where you will see your ballots and read your judges’ comments.

Here’s some tips to ensure that the Tabroom account creation process goes smoothly:

  • We recommend that you use a personal (non-school) email address. Some school systems block external emails. On tournament day, Tabroom will email you details for each competition round.
  • Entering your cell phone number isn’t required, but is a good idea. Tabroom will text you with important notifications and will not send spam messages.
  • The last step in the process is to push the button that says Link your Account. This is what connects you to a particular school.  If you are unable to link your account, be sure your coach knows your email address. They can complete the linking process.