Seven years ago, the IU Debate Team was defunct.
As the program has grown, the IU Debate Team now defeats teams from top debate programs around the country. The group returned home from a tournament two weeks ago, at Wake Forest University, where the varsity team finished 23 out of 340 competitors.
Senior Nick Gallina, president of IU Debate Team, was part of the two-man team that helped take down teams from Harvard, Cornell and the University of Southern California, bringing them to 40 in national rankings.
“It gives me extra drive to prove that the kid from IU can wipe the floor with these Ivy League schools just because I worked harder than they did,” Gallina said. “There's nothing that makes them better than me. It's all about who can work harder and prove it."
In 2010, IU Debate team was largely defunct. That year, current Director of Debate Brian DeLong was hired as a lecturer in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. As part of being hired, DeLong was expected to jump start the program. Gallina said he attributes much of IU’s newfound success to DeLong.
“I think his leadership, especially, has helped put us on the track that we're on now,” Gallina said.
IU’s success has picked up considerably in the past three years. IU Debate Team made it to the National Debate Tournament for the first time in 65 years two seasons ago. Last season, the team made it once again with a higher seed, and this year Gallina said it is on track to qualify once again.
“We are working our butts off to make the deepest run that we can at the national debate tournament in March,” Gallina said.
DeLong said their success is due to a mixture of everything they’ve done, including developing students like Nick Gallina who begin with no experience.
Another factor is recruitment of high school students from across the country. DeLong attends high school tournaments and keeps track of national rankings of students listed through the National Speech and Debate Association.
“Nick, having zero experience, in collaboration with some of the high school recruits we've brought onto the program, have allowed for a rapid development of students without experience in order to build a solid core of a program," DeLong said.
Gallina said the team’s hard work has also helped bring success. The team focused on common goals while researching, doing practice speeches and practicing constantly.
Gallina puts between two and three hours of work into preparation for his own debates every day in addition to leading the team practices. He reads law reviews and policy proposals, as well as books on historical proposals. After that, Gallina practices his speeches and debates.
“Even with all that knowledge, you need to present it in a way that can convince the judge and make it be more convincing than the other team,” Gallina said.
Despite all the success that has come to the team in recent years, Gallina said the atmosphere on the team hasn’t changed. The supportive atmosphere pushes him and everyone else on the team to be the best they can be.
Gallina also said traveling around the country with the team has created tight-knit bonds.
"There's nothing that helps make closer friends than having to sit in a car for eight hours or go through an airport," Gallina said.
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