The last one standing: Senior reflects on years of debating

December 7, 2016 — by Austin Wang and Elicia Ye

Senior's debating leaves him with great experiences

“Renewable energies are a far better alternative than nuclear energy because … umm …”  the freshman boy stuttered as he tried to summarize his evidence.

“Start over.”

Asking this boy and the six other freshmen to repeat their cases, senior Siavash Yaghoobi encouraged them to practice until they got through the 6-minute speech without pausing or using filler words a single time during a debate practice in room 505 on Monday night from 6-8 p.m..

As the only senior in speech and debate this year, Yaghoobi has taken on the responsibility for teaching underclassmen while improving his own performance in both Lincoln Douglas debate and Public Forum debate.

“The other seniors probably left because they had other commitments they just didn’t really become passionate about debate,” Yaghoobi said. “It only gets interesting when you set goals for yourself and do better at tournaments.”

Yaghoobi alternates between Lincoln Douglas debate, a solo event based on debating morals, and Public Forum debate, a partner event based on debating current issues. “I enjoy debate, so I see it as something I do to compete, learn and have fun,” Yaghoobi said.

This wasn’t always the case. Yaghoobi started doing debate in middle school after his parents forced him to attend a debate class, but quickly lost interest and quit until he rejoined again freshman year.

“In middle school my parents would try to get me to sign up every year but I would always plead with them not to make me join,” Yaghoobi said. “Even when I did join freshman year, I didn't like it and only went to one novice tournament the entire year. “

As a sophomore, however, Yaghoobi gave debate another shot because some of his friends joined the club, and Yaghoobi started to attend tournaments, where the excitement of winning a round motivated him to keep practicing.

In contrast to his participation in freshman year, Yaghoobi now goes to almost every practice and has become the co-captain of the Lincoln Douglas debate team. Despite the stress and workload of first semester of senior year, Yaghoobi has increased the amount of effort he puts into debate this year in order to make the most out of his high school debate career.

“There are certain goals, like qualifying to the Tournament of Champions, [a prestigious tournament for the top debaters in the country], that I want to reach before I graduate,” Yaghoobi said. “Knowing that this is my last year to do so pushes me to manage my time well.”

Beyond personal success, Yaghoobi hopes to extend this passion to teaching others by teaching underclassmen the skills of the trade.

“Teaching underclassmen about an activity that I myself have spent a lot of time on is pretty enjoyable,” Yaghoobi said. “Winning rounds is nice but being able to help underclassmen grow and improve is just as exciting.”

Yaghoobi’s passion for helping new debaters has pushed him to go beyond the scope of regular captain duties and volunteer outside of school. On days without debate practice, Yaghoobi often edits students’ debate cases on Google Drive and uses Facebook to send advice and evidence to his students.

Yaghoobi even uses weekends to help his students; at the CFL novice debate tournament in Cupertino on Oct. 4, Yaghoobi volunteered to help students prepare for their rounds and go over how each round went.

Despite the energy and time Yaghoobi has devoted to debate, he does not regret this commitment and believes that the skills he learned from debate will help him in the future.

“Some people think debating is just arguing well, but it's really much more,”  Yaghoobi said. “Debating teaches you research, critical thinking and speaking skills.”

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