Forensics team sweeps competition at virtual debate tournaments

El Camino College’s Forensics Team has defeated its opponents at two virtual competitions this fall while adapting to online challenges through supportive coaching, new technology, and a drive to win.

After winning the Pacific Southwest Collegiate Forensics Association (PSCFA) Warm Up, the team also won the Crossman Invitational with a score of 78 points — more than double the points of the second-place finisher.

Community colleges and universities from across the country compete in these competitions.

35 community colleges and universities competed at the Crossman Invitational, including the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, San Diego.

Francesca Bishop, professor of communication studies and director of forensics at El Camino College, has been the head coach of the team for 20 years.

“We are very serious about winning, obviously, but we like to have a lot of fun and we don’t put a lot of stress on our students. I always send them off to the round and say ‘go have fun,’ because when you have fun, you tend to win more,” Bishop said.

To support the team with their technology, Bishop used some of their funds from the Associated Students Organization (ASO) to purchase microphones and ring lights for competitions.

To combat the difficulties of online practices and competitions, Bishop said the team purchased their team jackets early to feel connected.

“We’re trying to develop a team comradery, even by people who have never in the person, met each other,” Bishop said.

Jared Hipsher, vice president of the forensics team, thinks coaching sets them apart from other schools and helps them dominate against the competition.

“We’ve done really well this year. The reason for that is not only Francesca [Bishop] and Brittany Hubble, who are great coaches, but they create an atmosphere which, even after you leave the team, you want to come back,” Hipsher said.

Hipsher said that there are only four returning members on the team, and that he is excited that most of the first-year members have surpassed the novice and junior levels of debate to be open debaters, at the highest level.

“They really have something special going,” Hipsher said. “It’s cool to see them in practice and watch them get better and see where they’re at for just their first-year, it’s totally shocking.”

Brittany Hubble, adjunct faculty forensics coach, professor of forensics, and former member of the forensics team at El Camino College, said the team practices debating current issues, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, environmental issues and abortion rights, with an objective to win.

“We get students who come on the team that have a variety of different beliefs and political views on these issues,” Hubble said. “The objective is to win the debate, and sometimes you have to argue against things or on the side of things that you don’t necessarily believe.”

Bishop attributes the team’s success to a system that has been developed and improved over many years.

“We have a real system, a coaching and a recruiting system, that works so well and we know exactly how to do it,” Bishop said. “I’ve even run panels at conferences explaining our system because I want competition, I don’t want us to dominate every year. But nobody seems to be able to replicate it.”


The next tournament the team will compete in is from Nov. 13-15, the Griffin Invitational, hosted by Grossmont College.