I am a debate coach, a debate camp instructor, and a parent of a successful debater. For the past three summers, I’ve chosen to send my son to NSD, and we will be sending him again this summer.

Like most parents, my first concern is always my son’s safety and well-being. NSD employs a residential life staff — adult professionals who monitor students’ experience, check them in and out so that someone always knows where each student is at, takes care of them when they are ill, enforces the rules, and helps them when they have any of a variety of problems. NSD employs several people solely for this function — these are not camp instructors pulling double-duty.

Conal Thomas-McGinnis and Assistant Coach Christian 

Conal Thomas-McGinnis and Assistant Coach Christian 

As a coach, my primary concern is always the quality of my students’ educational experiences, and as a proud dad, that concern is magnified! The two best aspects of NSD are the quality of its instructors and, vitally, the quality of the student body. 

My son, Conal, first attended NSD after 7th grade. He was very new to debate. Yet his lab instructors were all top-flight debaters and coaches; all three of them had attended the TOC and two of them had attended multiple times and “cleared” to TOC elims. This was a “low” lab, meaning a lab for relatively inexperienced debaters; but at NSD, every lab is coached by champion-level instructors. In addition, outside of lab time, Conal had the opportunity to interact with every instructor at the camp through lectures and individual mentoring sessions. He could choose to work with anyone from a recent TOC champion to a PhD candidate in philosophy.

Conal and Teammate Kyle at the Apple Valley Tournament

Conal and Teammate Kyle at the Apple Valley Tournament

Possibly even more important is the fact that NSD attracts many of the top debaters in the country. The caliber of my students’ colleagues at camp drives my students to learn more. NSD hosts students from all levels of debate — from novices to national champions. The fact that the top level of debaters at NSD are among the best in the nation is a huge benefit to the entire camp, because it raises the bar for everyone involved.

This year, after Conal’s third NSD experience, I asked him if he might want to try an alternative camp, for a change of pace. He flatly refused, telling me that hs summers at NSD were among the main reasons that he qualified to the TOC as a freshman and, as a sophomore, has accumulated four TOC bids. 

Many of these advantages apply to other camps you might find around the country. But over the course of a 21-year coaching career, I’ve had experience with all of them. Only NSD combines all of these characteristics. 
 

-David McGinnis

Head Coach at West Des Moines Valley High School