Seawolf debate team reaches semifinals in tournament

Robert Hockema and John Macy made UAA’s presence known at a highly competitive debate tournament in New York last week.

John Macy and Robert Hockema made UAA’s presence known at a highly competitive debate tournament in New York last week. Photo credit: Chase Burnett

The Hobart and William Smith Invitational consists of 108 debate teams from some of the most capable universities. Teams from Harvard, Princeton, Yale and more compete. All teams compete in six preliminary rounds that determine which 16 teams will advance to elimination.

Hockema and Macy placed second in the preliminary rounds, mere points below the top spot occupied by Harvard. Macy was also awarded the seventh best speaker out of 216 of the most competitive speakers in the country. After battling their way to the semifinals, they were unfortunately eliminated.

“This tournament is particularly important for two reasons,” Macy said. “It’s really the opening tournament for the season and everyone is trying to figure out who’s going to be competitive this year.”

Topics covered in the HWS IV vary widely and can range from politics and social justice to international relations. Topics are announced just 15 minutes prior to the round, leaving only a short time for preparation.

The partnership between Hockema and Macy began rather unsteadily two years ago. The two were paired for a world championship that “did not go well,” according to Hockema. They couldn’t agree on a cohesive strategy and were consumed by their differences. The partnership was abandoned until just two weeks before the HWS IV when it was revived by Steve Johnson, head coach for the debate team.

The two-year break allowed them to improve and grow as debaters and come back stronger.

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The pair capitalized on individual strengths for the tournament. Hockema first presents a magnitude of information that is difficult for the opposition to respond to. Macy will then respond to the material from the other team. Their unique constructive and deconstructive strengths work together to create a cohesive unit.

They also pointed to a committed practice schedule that contributed to their success.

“We practice a lot, more so than other teams in the country I would say. We practice six hours a week, mandatory, and then we attend office hours with our coaches,” Hockema said.

UAA has consistently proven its capability in debate over the past 20 years.

“We have been regionally dominant, nationally competitive and, to some degree, internationally successful,” Hockema said.

Over the past three years the Seawolf debate team has placed in the top 16 in the HWS IV. A second team from UAA placed 17th and nearly made it to the top 16 with Hockema and Macy.

“There’s always skill to improve upon in competitive debating,” Hockema said. “It requires a willingness to improve and there’s always room to do that no matter how much you win.”

The UAA debate team is open to anyone who wants to experience debate, improve their public speaking or in the case of more senior members, travel and compete. As well, the Seawolf debate team hosts several public events open to all students to participate in, including the Cabin Fever Debates coming up in January.

Robert Hockema is also employed at The Northern Light as an opinion writer.