The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

ECC Forensics team prepares for a season of virtual tournaments

When El Camino College shut down due to the Coronavirus Pandemic in March 2020, the Forensics team was in Illinois in the middle of a National tournament. After an abrupt end to their season, the El Camino College’s Forensics team is now preparing for a season of virtual tournaments.

The team is looking to defend its title as the 2019-2020 National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence Champions. They are also defending their title as the 2019-2020 National Parliamentary Debate Association Champions of two and four-year schools.

By their third practice, the Forensics team is already in a Zoom rhythm. The green speaker frame hovers around Director of the Forensics team and Professor of Communications, Francesca Bishop, as she gives instructions to the students and explains how the practice will go. The 22 students, all with their video cameras on, peer into their computers to hear what’s next for practice and what’s next for this unprecedented season.

“My big hope would be that we would be live by March and we could do our two major national tournaments in person,” Bishop said.

While Bishop remains hopeful, the Forensics team is preparing for a season full of virtual tournaments. There are many logistical elements for virtual tournaments that are still being sorted out as the first tournament at the end of September quickly approaches. Elements such as having enough virtual rooms, there are 80, and having an online ballot system are crucial to how these tournaments will run.

“We did, over the summer, go to some workshops and demos and they worked out okay, but they did have some glitches,” Bishop said.

Bishop plans to attend a coaches’ conference that will provide more details on running and participating in virtual tournaments.

A virtual season has also brought new opportunities to the Forensics team. Previously limited by traveling costs, the Forensics team was able to participate in two National tournaments and a couple of local tournaments.

“Now the tournaments are virtual, we can go to a tournament we would have never been able to go to,” Bishop said.

President of the Forensics team and political science major Michael Wagreich, stays optimistic while noting the unusual turnout this year. Out of the 24 students on the team, only four of them are returning from last year’s team.

“We have a lot of new faces this year,” Wagreich said. “Not a lot of returning people, so it’s about getting as much practice in as possible.”

While the team mostly consists of new members this year, even the returning students are struggling with getting accustomed to an online platform. Among those adjusting is 20-year-old Josiah Edwards, a political science major and a returning member of the Forensics team.

“We had a demo debate that my partner and I participated in and it was very weird. It was like my first debate all over again,” Edwards said.

Some of the key components in Forensics are communication, engaging an audience and in some events, like parliamentary debate, working with partners. According to Wagreich, being online creates new challenges in all these areas.

“Being online, we don’t get that face to face with our partners and when we give a speech we can’t look around and get a good feel for the audience,” Wagreich said.

The Forensics team primarily competes in parliamentary debate but students have the opportunity to compete in different events as well. Parliamentary debate requires teamwork and the ability to have private communication with your partner while the other team is speaking. According to Wagreich, being online will change the Forensics team’s approach to this.

“It’s typically a lot of passing notes and whispering, which is something you just don’t get online,” Wagreich said. “We will probably end up texting each other or private chat through Zoom.”

Communication isn’t the only challenging part of being online. Students are now spending countless hours working on computers at home. The different environment can create focus problems.

“It’s distracting. It’s definitely distracting, and not to mention the Zoom fatigue,” Wagreich said.

According to Edwards, Forensics is about more than just competing. Despite the Coronavirus Pandemic’s impact on clubs and teams, it’s been an experience for him to grow and an opportunity to connect with people and make friends.

“It’s a powerful thing to be a part of the debate team because it’s not just an activity that helps you with communication skills but it is also a community,” Edwards said.

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