In the world of college speech and debate, travel can be substantial, often involving crossing state lines. Because of the time and distance, many college teams often attend swing tournaments.
Swing tournaments are two complete tournaments hosted in one weekend. Typically, two schools agree to host together one weekend and work out schedules that allow teams to compete at both tournaments in that one weekend.
The swing tournament is also making a splash in the high school world, which provides more opportunities for students and also requires less money and time spent on travel. These swing tournaments can take many different forms.
First, two schools can choose to host a swing but use only one site for the actual tournament. This helps with logistical concerns. Attendees only have to travel to one site. Larger schools can pair with smaller schools to ensure enough space to host the myriad of events. For schools’ speech teams that are charged by their school district for staffing the tournament with janitorial staff or security, a swing would allow for sharing those expenses. Additionally, the responsibilities for concessions and hospitality can be shared by both teams.
The schedule can be designed in different ways. Preliminary rounds can be held for one side of the swing, followed by the other, before breaking out into elimination rounds. Rounds can be alternated, with Round 1 for host school A happening first and then Round 1 for host school B happening immediately afterwards. Whatever the case, every student entered could then have multiple rounds before potentially advancing, keeping the momentum going.
Another scheduling choice would be to host a complete tournament for each side, one on Friday and one on Saturday. This schedule allows for more students entering multiple events. If a site is not available all day on Friday, starting on Friday evening and finishing on Saturday morning for the first tournament would work. After a short break, the second tournament would commence.
Procuring judges is a shared responsibility when hosting a swing. Many tournaments strictly use volunteer judges. Programs that have smaller access to judges can benefit by pairing with another school with a larger judge pool.
Hosting a swing tournament also encourages those who are new to hosting or feel they lack the skills to host. By hosting a swing, coaches gain the knowledge and experience of partnering with a seasoned tournament host.
Students also benefit from competing at swing tournaments. They have consecutive opportunities to compete in events, increasing their chance to advance into an elimination round because this format helps them remain in the competition mentality.Students also have more opportunities to enter multiple events, since most swings allow the student to compete in different sets of events for the two sides of the tournament. Additionally, students who are involved in other activities get two occasions to compete at a swing tournament, leaving other weekends open for participation in other activities. In this way they are getting more of the practice they need for high-stakes tournaments like state and national qualifiers.
Swing tournaments require a little creative planning. However, the benefits extend not only to those who compete at the tournament, but also to those who pair up to host because of the camaraderie that is built between coaches and students.
Mellessa Denny of Amarillo (Texas) High School has coached high school speech and debate for 21 years, with students participating on the local, state and national levels. She is the past president of the Texas Speech Communication Association, and in 2018 was selected as TSCA Secondary Teacher of the Year. In 2019, she received the NFHS Section 6 Outstanding Educator Award.