Matt and Zubin on the importance of debate camp and LA Session 1

Zubin Aysola and Matt Salah from Nueva High School in California recently hosted a debatecast during which they discussed the benefits of attending debate camp, and especially why VBI’s flagship session in LA is going to be special.

Zubin Aysola (Nueva ’17) won the 2017 Berkeley Invitational. He will be on staff at VBI LA1.

Matthew Salah (Nueva ’17) will be on staff at VBI LA1. He won the 2017 Tournament of Champions.


Zubin: Hello, my name is Zubin Aysola, and I, alongside Matthew Salah, wanted to discuss why we think debate camps, and specifically VBI, are a fantastic experience. As a quick introduction, Matt and I have, between us, attended three different debate camps, competed across the country, and championed several National tournaments. This summer, we will be working together at the first VBI Session in Los Angeles (LA1). Together, we wanted to cover what we think makes VBI a great debate camp, and why you should go to debate camp in the first place.

On Camps Generally

Matt: Above all else, debate camp is incredibly fun. Both Zubin and I have had a fantastic time over the last few summers and we really want to share the joys of debate camp with others. We realize that going to a debate camp is both a large time and fiscal commitment, but we truly feel that it is worthwhile. By the end of your session, you will find yourself wishing you had more time, and VBI offers a large amount of financial assistance ($80,000 last year) for those who cannot afford the full price of camp.

Zubin: A lot of you might be wondering why you should go to a debate camp, a decision I faced a few summers ago. I decided to attend the Stanford National Forensics Institute (SNFI) because I could commute from home and it only lasted a week. While my experience was great, at the end of the week I found myself wishing both that the camp was longer and that I had stayed overnight. Debate camps offer instantaneous round feedback, deep and focused research, incredible coaching, and an intensive practice regimen. I truly believe, that if you want to improve at debate, there is no alternative to a debate camp. In one camp session you can go through more rounds than people debate in an entire season, and get more coaching than you’ve ever received before. Furthermore, interacting with diverse and talented debaters and coaches from across the country can help provide new perspectives outside of what you are exposed to at your school. At camp, I saw myself grow significantly, not only as a debater, but also as a student. There is truly nothing more helpful than spending a few weeks in the summer vigorously honing your debate skills.

Matt: On top of what Zubin mentioned about growing as a debater, one of my favorite aspects of camp was the strong connections I formed. At camp, you will meet dozens of debaters from across the country who share your love and passion for the activity, making it a perfect opportunity to make friends with people you are almost guaranteed to have a lot in common with. Late-night hang outs in the dorms, lab dinners, and chilling out between rounds were some of the best memories from both camps I attended. To be honest, I wish I could have spent more time at camp; it was a blast. On top of that, the friendships that began at camp lasted throughout my debate career and established an incredible community that I could meet up with at national circuit tournaments. Not only did this make tournaments more fun (who could pass up a trip to see far-away friends?), but also having a group of people I could turn to when I had questions about judges, arguments, or evidence contributed to my tournament success. Moreover, I got to know many staff members, especially my lab leaders, quite well during my time at camp. They’ve consistently been both my mentors and friends after camp, and I often reach out to my past them with questions and advice on everything from debate to fantasy football to college. These are relationships I will tend to and cherish for a long time to come. It is for this reason, I can confidently say that attending debate camp has had a lasting positive impact on my life.

On VBI

Zubin: Matt and I both think VBI is an amazing option for anyone who is considering debate camp this summer. I personally believe that one of the greatest things VBI has to offer is its wonderful and truly unparalleled staff, which features successful debaters and coaches from across the country. Many of the debaters working here are my good friends, peers, and even mentors. The staff consist of TOC Champions and Finalists, Champions of Octa-Bid Tournaments, and incredibly talented speakers. I am lucky to call these debaters my peers, and I truly looked up to them throughout the year.

I think the staff at VBI stands out for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the geographical diversity of the staff is unmatched. Many debaters will notice that the West Coast (best coast) debates differently than the East or the South. Debate camp should prepare you for all aspects of debate, and I vehemently believe that no camp strikes a more universal balance than VBI. The second way VBI stands out is the consistent commitment to providing opportunities to meet with staff. The Socrates Hour at VBI, where the entire staff congregates for students to meet with them is something I wish I had the opportunity to participate in when I went to camp. The ability to freely meet with some of the best former debaters in the nation and pick their brain is truly incomparable. While I have learned a lot from seminars, practice rounds, and coach feedback, I have always learned more by talking to debaters who I looked up to. For many, debate can seem a little confusing, and it might seem scary to talk to those who consistently appear in late outrounds at debate tournaments. That is why having the time set aside each and every day to learn from the VBI staff is incredibly important and powerful.

On LA Session 1

Matt: I agree with Zubin; I am impressed at the staff VBI assembled for this summer and am glad to call several of them my life-long friends. For me, two other things stand out about VBI. First, VBI’s top-notch Lincoln-Douglas (LD) program presents an exciting opportunity for Public Forum debaters to learn about progressive arguments. At other debate camps I’ve attended, I found that my opportunities to engage with other styles of debate were limited because the camps solely focused on Public Forum. At VBI, however, PF debaters have the ability to interact with highly-qualified LD debaters and staff. I think it is important for PF debaters to be exposed to a variety of progressive arguments (such as Kritiks and Theory) because they will eventually and inevitably pop-up in PF. Both Zubin and I have debated against theory arguments in PF rounds, and we can tell you, even a cursory understanding of how to respond can make a big difference.

Second, I think LA1’s generous three-week length is truly special. Since, at every debate camp, several days are taken out by the camp tournament and even more time is spent prepping the topic, LA1 offers substantially more than a 50% increase in flexible time compared to your typical two-week session. I would have loved to have an entire extra week when I was at camp to fit in more time for practice rounds, drills, one-on-one time with instructors, and fun with friends.

Zubin: There is still time to sign up for VBI this summer if you are interested. Registration is still open! You can register and choose your session on the VBI website. If you have any questions, or want to discuss debate, summer plans, or life, don’t hesitate to reach out to either of us on Facebook or via email (matsala@nuevaschool.org and zubayso@nuevaschool.org).