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Any adult who has an abiding concern for the creative education of young people can serve as a debate coach. Coaches do not need to be specialists with extensive training in oratory or logic (although training is certainly a plus). A debate coach is not expected to pass along a body of knowledge to his or her students the way that a chemistry teacher might. The rules and procedures of debate that must be taught are comparatively few. The coach's job, actually, is to foster the development of thinking skills. The coach is there to draw things out of the students rather than to pour things in. The coach must listen, question and react. The coach may guide discussions and give them direction; she may help students focus on the appropriate issues, but she should not be regarded as the repository of ultimate truth. Indeed, students need to feel free to disagree with the coach and to engage with the coach in the same way they would with anyone else involved in the discussion. The coach must also provide moral leadership for the team. Team members must understand that debaters will behave honestly and ethically in competition. Moreover, the coach must set the moral tone for the regular activity of the team. Students will disagree in discussions. If they didn't, the discussions would not be terribly productive. But the coach must ensure that disagreements do not become personal and that comments do not become insulting or demeaning. Students need to be able to take risks and test ideas in discussions; they must feel that they can do so without being mocked or disregarded. The coach must create a climate of respect, not simply by offering a model in his or her personal behavior, but by articulating and enforcing standards. In the classroom, the relationship between students and teachers is sometimes formal and impersonal. Coaching, however, requires a degree of personal involvement. Coaches must encourage and monitor the development of each debater individually. In effect, this means that coaches must act as judges for intramural debates and comment on the performance of participants. They must review and criticize written work. And inevitably, coaches become involved with students on a casual basis not only on the home turf of the debate room but also during debate tournaments. Many coaches have come to know their students well as they wait in hallways for a round to begin or for results to be posted. Coaches have more mundane responsibilities as well. The coach has the ultimate responsibility for managing the internal affairs of the team: its schedule, its membership roster and its finances. Finances may involve raising money as well as managing a budget. The coach also must handle its operations on the road: the coach decides who will participate in a given tournament, makes travel arrangements and handles all the administrative paperwork. Coaches must also recruit and provide the requisite number of judges when the tournament arrives. The coach also serves as a judge. It is standard practice that coaches never judge their own debaters, however.

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