In response to the unfortunate correlation of means and performance in South African debating the SASDB created the “Academy” system with the express intent of identifying those speakers who were both exceptionally talented but unfortunately unable to gain access to top level debating and afford them this opportunity.
Debating is a sport which requires a base level of talent and incredible hard work on behalf of the speakers. It also requires access to decent competition, high level coaching and training materials in order for the talent and effort of speakers to be realised, as results and personal development of that innate ability. This has resulted in, very often, the best speakers being drawn from affluent schools with access to the above.
The Academy system is designed to broaden the opportunities of those speakers who are not so fortunate as to enjoy the benefits of well-equipped and established debating facilities at their schools and yet consistently attain a high level of performance, regardless.
Speakers are identified as being Academy eligible based on a minimum school fee amount and their access to coaches and debating tournaments in their regions. This pool of speakers are selected to attend the SASDB Academy based on their performances at our annual National Schools Debating Championships.
These speakers are then invited to the annual Academy week, at which they are hosted free of charge to ensure there are as few logistical barriers to entry as possible.
At the Academy week the speakers are given the highest level of coaching available. There is a head Academy coach, selected through a rigorous and competitive process, as well as two Assistant coaches, similarly selected. These coaches are assisted during the Academy week by a number of other select individuals, so as to ensure a favourable ratio of speakers to coaches, allowing for a high level of attention being afforded to each and every speaker whom attends the week.
The week serves a dual purpose – intensive, personalised training which has consistently proven to make a massive difference in the performances of those speakers who have attended the week but it also functions as a selection process. The performances and degree of improvement displayed by each speaker is constantly monitored and evaluated and at the end of the week the 5 best performing speakers are selected by the coaches and selectors to form the South African Academy Team – an official representative team of the SASDB, one of three such representative teams.
These speakers, along with the coaches, then attend at least one international tournament during their tenure, to further expose the speakers to debating at the highest level.
Academy is hosted annually in the province where most Academy participants are located (to cut down on transport costs). The SASDB development officer, Esihle Qangule, is responsible, along with the Academy coaches (Muazzam Takolia and Katlego Manthata) and the Academy assistant coaches.