The Ohio Speech & Debate Association (formerly the Ohio High School Speech League) is a non-profit organization of public, private, and parochial high schools and middle schools in Ohio and is organized exclusively for educational purposes. The purpose of this organization shall include, as far as personnel, facilities, and finances permit, these major objectives:

  • To provide guidance and aid to Ohio high school and middle school directors of debate, speech, and drama, henceforth referred to as forensics, in the development of their curricular and co-curricular work in those areas.

  • To provide opportunities for the effective speech training of high school students as outlined below.

  • To encourage practice tournaments throughout the state.

  • To supervise the conducting of BQS, PDQ, District and State Tournament in competitive communicative arts.

  • To recognize excellence of performance at these tournaments.

Since its activities in promoting interscholastic forensics competition are educationally sound, worthy, and timely, and contribute directly to the educational, civic, social, and ethical development of the students involved, this organization endorses the guiding principles and criteria established by the Activities Committee of the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators.

The objectives of the forensics training opportunities provided by this organization include:

  • Educational development - to develop the skills of analysis, research, critical thinking, and informative and persuasive communication, understanding and appreciation of literature, oral interpretation of literary, dramatic, and oratorical selections.

  • Civic development - to develop understanding of public issues on local, national, and global levels, to prepare for the responsible exercise of citizenship rights and duties, especially to prepare for articulate and informed civic leadership.

  • Social development - to develop better understanding and tolerance among students of different schools and communities, to stimulate interest in the solving of social problems, to develop well-balanced personalities in competitive situations.

  • Ethical development - to develop personal qualities of truthfulness, fairness, and tolerance in bearing the ethical responsibility of public speakers to be honest, and to learn to win or lose graciously.


The Ohio Speech and Debate Association is comprised of the membership of Ohio high schools and directed by a Board of Directors and an Executive Director.

All matters of basic OSDA policy shall be determined by the Board of Directors, which consists of twelve members elected by one voting representative of each member school. This voting representative shall be an active coach or forensics director, as designated on the registration. Only a debate, speech, drama coach, or forensics director so designated shall be eligible for nomination to the Board of Directors.

The Board of Directors shall elect a Chair, Secretary, and Financial Secretary for a term of one year or until their successors are elected. This election shall take place at the first meeting after the Board election results are known. No Board member may serve more than three consecutive terms in any one of the aforementioned offices.

The Board is accountable directly to Association schools, and any Board member may be removed by a majority vote of member schools.

The Executive Director shall be appointed by the Board of Directors to serve for a period of one year. The Executive Director will administer the work of the OSDA and attend Board meetings.

Annual membership fees, the State Tournament fees, and other monies received by the Association shall constitute a fund known as The Ohio Speech and Debate Association Fund.

The Financial Secretary shall provide to the members of the Board the reports of the financial situation of the Association at regularly scheduled meetings. The Executive Director and Financial Secretary shall submit an annual written report of receipts and expenditures at the close of each school year to the Board of Directors and to the members of the OSDA.

Competitive Events

The OSDA conducts BQS, PDQ, District, and State Tournaments in the following events as regulated by the Tournament Operations Manual:

  1. POLICY/PUBLIC FORUM DEBATE - Each event shall consist of teams of two (2) persons prepared to debate both sides of the resolution. To train students in cross-examination debating proficiency, which includes research of the resolution, organization of materials, logical thinking and analysis, soundness of argument, use of evidence, adaptation to opponent’s case, force of rebuttal, and effectiveness of delivery.

    1. POLICY DEBATE is the traditional debate. Rounds last roughly 70-80 minutes, and students debate one topic per year, with the topic going through a selection process. The OSDA has a PDQ (Pre District Qualification) process for policy debate, whereby teams can qualify to state before the District Tournament.

    2. PUBLIC FORUM DEBATE is a newer debate, originating in the early 2000's. Rounds last approximately 40-50 minutes, and students debate a monthly topic, selected by a vote of members of the National Speech and Debate Association, relating to a timely topic in the news.

  2. LINCOLN-DOUGLAS DEBATE - To train students in "one-on-one" argumentation where the debaters attempt through effective analysis, evidence, reasoning, refutation, and delivery, to convince the judge of the acceptability of their side of a proposition of value. Resolutions of value should take forms such as moral value resolutions, political value resolutions, or artistic value resolutions. Value debating is more analytic (logical) than policy debating which is more empirical (factual/statistical).

  3. CONGRESSIONAL DEBATE - Where students simulate an actual Congress in which they must research, write, and present effective legislation, engage in parliamentary procedure, and exhibit intelligent delivery and argumentation

  4. EXTEMPORANEOUS SPEAKING - To train students to speak intelligently on questions pertaining to current events, which includes research and maintenance of information files and oral presentation of that information in an organized, analytical, and fluent manner in a restricted period of time.

  5. ORIGINAL ORATORY - To train students in creating, organizing, developing, and presenting original thoughts into a truthful, coherent, worthwhile speech.

  6. INFORMATIVE SPEAKING - To train students in informing an audience about a topic of interest through creating, organizing, developing thoughts into a truthful, coherent, worthwhile speech.


    1. DECLAMATION - To train students not only to present the speech but also to recreate the thoughts, emotions, and effects of an original oration.

    2. DRAMATIC, HUMOROUS, and DUO INTERPRETATION - To train students in the art of oral interpretation by recreating the character(s) in the selection.

    3. PROGRAM ORAL INTERPRETATION - To train students to interpret prose and poetry selections in such a way as to arouse intellectual and emotional responsiveness in an audience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the Ohio Speech and Debate Association?

A: It is a non-profit organization of high schools in Ohio which field a competitive forensic program. Public, private and parochial high schools are eligible to join. Junior high schools may join if ninth grade is "housed" in the junior high, but only ninth graders may compete.

Q: Who runs the Association?

A: A Board of Directors of twelve active coaches is elected by the head coaches of the member schools; this is a voluntary position with a term of office of three years. There is a part-time Executive Director who runs the day-to-day operation of the Association; the Executive Director is reimbursed for his/her expenses.

Q: What is a forensic program?

A: This activity involves four types of debate and nine types of speech events in competition among schools. Each coach determines for himself/herself what events he wants to coach; some schools just compete in debate, some just in speech events.

Q: What are these events?

A: The four types of debate are 2-Person Policy Debate; Lincoln-Douglas Debate; Public Forum Debate; and Congressional Debate. The nine types of Speech Events are International Extemporaneous Speaking; U.S. Extemporaneous Speaking; Original Oratory; Declamation; Informative Speaking; Duo Interpretation; Humorous Interpretation; Dramatic Interpretation; and Program Oral Interpretation.

Q: Where can I find information about these events?

A. Our Web site (under "Manuals") contains the OSDA Tournament Events Manual with descriptions of these categories and information on how to coach and judge these categories. Judge Ballots and Critique Sheets can be found under "Judging". The Association has a good network of coaches helping beginning coaches. The Association hosts an annual one-day coaches' workshop in the fall and, periodically, a longer summer workshop.

Q: What costs are involved for the schools?

A: Membership in the OSDA has an annual fee of $125, due by November 1 or before a team competes at its first OSDA tournament. Each tournament requires a participation fee for each student; the tournament host sets those fees, anywhere from $3 per student at the beginning of the season to $17 for State Tournament. Coaches may have to pay their judges, either a negotiated flat fee or a per-round fee. Coaches may have to purchase materials for their teams or pay transportation costs to tournaments. These are the minimum expenses. (Note: Because of the OSDA Endowment Fund, it may be possible to waive the membership fees for the first year for a new school program.)

Q: What kind of monetary support does the OSDA have?

A: Membership fees provide the bulk of the budget for OSDA. There are also fees for the State Tournament. Individual donations can be made to the Endowment Fund, which was created to provide security for the Association, help new programs by paying their membership fees the first year, help existing programs that may have problems, and provide $100-scholarships to seniors at the State Tournament.

Q: How does a school join the OSDA?

A: Once the school board and principal give permission for a school to have a forensic program and select a coach, the coach can then go to the "Member Schools" link to learn more about applying for OSDA Membership through SpeechWire. There is also information regarding the OSDA New Program Grant on that page.

Q: Where can I get more information?

A: Contact Paul Moffitt, Executive Director. You may also contact any of the members of the Board of Directors listed on the "Leadership" page.

History of the OSDA (OHSSL)


Birth of our parent organization occurred in the fall of 1927 when the OHIO HIGH SCHOOL DEBATING LEAGUE was originated by the public speaking Division of the English Department of the Ohio State University. Glenn Ross enrolled twenty-five schools. In the first State Debate Tournament, Youngstown East High School won over Marietta High School.


Membership in the League rose to 67 schools, with Hicksville High School winning the State Debate Championship over Ravenna High School.


Professor Donald Riley directed the League of 88 schools and Troy High School edged Marysville High for the State Title.


Director James Carrell announced that 145 schools were in the renamed Ohio High School Speech League. Competition in Extempore Speech was added. An Osborn-Bath student won First place over a Massillon High School contestant. (But Massillon High students won this title in four of the next five years.)


With 165 member schools, Director Walter Emery added four new contests. Columbus North High repeated as State Debate Champion by winning over Marysville High School. First champions in the new events were:


A future TV star (as Captain Binghampton of McHale's Navy), named Joe Flynn of Youngstown Rayen High School, placed second in Humorous Interpretation. This year, schools began competing in large and small school divisions in Debate, with Lima Central High School winning in Class A and Marysville High winning in Class B.


World War II had begun. Class A and Class B competition continued in Debate and was extended to Extempore Speech. All other speech events had no State finals during the war years (1942-1945).


Dr. W. Hayes Yeager became Chairman of the Ohio State University Speech Department. Full-scale competition resumed in all events in Classes A and B, with a County League division added for four years. Louisville High School won the County League Debate title each of those four years.


In Extempore Speech, boys continued to compete in the same group with girls. Bob Good of Dayton Oakwood High School placed second for two years before winning the Championship in 1950 over John Miday of Canton McKinley High School.


Separate competition was introduced for boys and girls in Extempore Speech in both Class A and Class B. The Brush-Moore Newspapers donated a silver loving cup as a rotating trophy for the State Debate Champions in Class A to be retired to a school winning it three times. Port Clinton High was the first winner.


Director James Gibson drafted the ten member OHSSL Executive Committee to help conduct State Tournaments. Cleveland St. Ignatius High won the Debate Championship in Class A; Avon Lake High won in Class B.


After questioning all member schools, the OHSSL Executive Committee grouped all schools into one class again, and since then, school size no longer determines its competitors in the State Tournament.


Toledo Whitmer High School retired the Brush-Moore rotating trophy by winning the State Debate Championship for the third consecutive year. In June, Toledo Whitmer debaters captured the National Debate Championship of the National Forensic League for the second straight year.


League headquarters moved to Ohio University in Athens under the sponsorship of the School of Interpersonal Communication. Prose/Poetry and Duet Acting were added as competitive events.


The Executive Committee voted on and accepted a State seal to represent the Ohio High School Speech League.


In an effort to increase interest in participating in debate technique, the Lincoln-Douglas style of debate was instituted as a part of the State Tournament competition.


An honorary Hall of Fame was established to recognize coaches of speech and debate for their excellence in communicative skills of teaching and coaching.


Following the lead of other states (New York and California), Ohio became a trend-setter in the Midwest by allowing two-man debate teams to qualify for the State Tournament via pre-district qualifying tournaments. During a special presentation ceremony at the 1982 State Tournament, the first initiates to the Coaches' Hall of Fame were honored. The charter members were...

  • Arlene Akerman (Fairmont East)

  • Dennis Barrett (Youngstown Cardinal Mooney)

  • Phyllis Barton (Cincinnati Princeton)

  • William Dykins (Boardman)

  • Leah Funck (Fairmont West)

  • Esther Kalmbach (Toledo St. Francis)

  • Louie Mattachione (Massillon Perry)

  • John Miday (St. Ignatius)

  • Florence Powell (Middletown)

The League endorsed (with sponsorship being a possibility in the future) the first State Novice Debate Tournament scheduled for March 12-13, 1982, at Upper Arlington High School in Columbus. This innovation was the result of the inspiration of some dedicated debate coaches throughout the state.


The Executive Committee revised the Constitution and catalogued the histories of the League. Additional initiates to the Coaches Hall of Fame were honored.


The State Tournament was held for the first time at Austintown-Fitch High School. This was also the first year for four rounds guaranteed competition in individual events.


The Extemporaneous category was changed from Boys and Girls to one Extemp category.


The Extemporaneous category was divided into two events -United States and Foreign Extemp.


A new League Executive Director, Mrs. Arlene Akerman, was appointed and the League Headquarters was moved to her residence at 4393 Tangent Drive, Kettering, Ohio, 45440.


The League celebrated its 60th Anniversary and instituted computerized scheduling for the State Tournament and a Coaches' Summer Workshop. A combined Executive Committee and district coaches meeting was held for the first time in the fall.


The State Tournament was held for the first time at Sandusky High School. The first successful Coaches' Workshop at Salt Fork Lodge in August of 1988 prompted the planning of a second Coaches' Workshop for August of 1989.


The 63rd State Tournament was held at Kettering Fairmont High School. The second successful Coaches' Workshop attracted numerous coaches to Salt Fork in August of 1989. A completely revised Constitution and By-Laws was made available to all member schools.


The 64th State Tournament, held at Austintown Fitch High School, was dedicated to the memory of Phyllis Barton, longtime coach at Cincinnati Princeton. The League instituted Debate Speaker Awards at the State Tournament in her honor. The third Coaches' Workshop was held at Salt Fork in August of 1991. A seminar was held in May of 1991 for Ohio's National Qualifiers.


The 65th State Tournament was held at West Carrollton High School. The fourth Coaches' Workshop was a huge success at Salt Fork in August of 1991. Awards were presented for the first time to semi-finalists in Individual Events at the State Tournament to recognize their achievement. In addition, a cumulative Sweepstakes Award was created to present to outstanding Ohio teams. A fax machine was obtained by the League office.


The 66th State Tournament was held at Canton GlenOak High School. A seminar was held in June of 1993 at Fairborn High School for Ohio's National Qualifiers. An 800 phone number was obtained for the League Office.


The 67th State Tournament was held at Findlay High School. To accommodate the size of the tournament, three buildings were utilized successfully. Two workshops, one for Ohio's coaches and one for Ohio's national qualifiers, were conducted. At the National Forensic League National Tournament two events were won by Ohio competitors: Danny Beaty from Miami Valley captured the national title in Dramatic Interp, and Brian Ralston and Rosylyn Rhee from Centerville captured the national title in Policy Debate. A complete Constitutional revision was updated and provided for League members.


Austintown Fitch was once again the host school for the OHSSL's 68th State Tournament. The summer nationals workshop and coaches workshop were held again with great success. Long-time Executive Committee members Louie Mattachione and R. Lynne Stover Rhodes ended their terms, with over forty years of combined service to the Committee.


This year, the new Wooster High School hosted the largest State Tournament with 740 competitors. Duo Interp, a trial event for 1995-96 was added, and the first ever state champions were Khaled Tabbara and David Weldele of Austintown Fitch. The Wooster Brush Company was responsible for underwriting the State Tournament booklet. Pre-district qualifying in all events was adopted in April to begin in 1996-97. The League also reviewed its financial status and raised its membership fees for the first time in seven years.


The 70th State Tournament was held at Kettering Fairmont High School. The Reynolds and Reynolds Corporation of Dayton printed the State Tournament booklet while Dayton's Mead Corporation sponsored the Extemporaneous events. Duo Interp was added as a separate and equal event. The Joe Kuldau Award was instituted to honor the outstanding contestant in Humorous Interp. Centerville High School closed out the semi-final and final rounds of 2 Person Debate.


Berea and Midpark High Schools hosted the 71st State Tournament. Jack Bowen long time Extemp Prep Room moderator from Massillon Perry and Derran Wimer Principal at Midpark High School were given the Friend of Speech Award for their support and dedication to Ohio forensics. An Endowment Fund to augment the League was established. Numerous Cleveland coaches and schools honored competitors and coaches by sponsoring several tournament events.


This year’s State Tournament was uniquely opened by a bona fide Town Crier. For the first time in the League’s history two independent high schools worked together to host the State Tournament: Sylvania Northview and Southview. The Hall of Fame Reception hosted by Rotary International, was held at Lourdes College Franciscan Life Center and highlighted a Sylvania Student String Quartet.


Massillon Jackson High School, in the Canton district, hosted the first state tournament of the new millennium. For the first time, a special dinner for Hall of Fame members preceded the reception and registration. A referendum of member schools resulted in the elimination of PDQ tournaments in Lincoln Douglas Debate and Individual Events. The League entered the technology era by conducting electronic registration for the first time and by purchasing two laptop computers to be used for financial statements, debate scheduling and Constitution updates by the Chairperson and Financial Secretary.


This year schools qualifying for the State Tournament held at Boardman High School in Youngstown district were able to register their qualifiers using the League's new electronic forms program. In the Individual events, revisions for determining quarter-finalists, semi-finalists and finalists were well-received. A critique sheet for individual events was used throughout the State for practice tournaments.


Wooster High School was the host for the 75th Annual OHSSL State Tournament. The tournament was dedicated to Arlene C. Akerman in honor of her fifty-three years of service to the League. Mrs. Akerman retired as Executive Director of the League. In addition, a special state tournament award for the top speaker in Dramatic Interpretation was added in her name. Linda Miller was named to replace Mrs. Akerman as Executive Director.


Princeton High School hosted the 76th Annual OHSSL State Tournament. Linda Miller successfully assumed the duties of Executive Director. Impromptu Speaking became a very popular full-fledged event at the State Tournament. A new Debate event, Controversy (aka Ted Turner Debate), was established on a trial basis. A well-attended Coaches' Workshop and Meeting was held at Wooster High School in the fall.


Berea and Midpark High Schools once again hosted the 77th Annual OHSSL State Tournament. Controversy Debate was adopted as an official event and renamed Public Forum Debate. In addition, the Executive Committee, in an effort to trim the size of the State Tournament, eliminated Duet Acting as an event and eliminated NFL District Tournament qualification to the State Tournament. GlenOak High School hosted a very successful Coaches' Meeting in the fall.


A lively Coaches' Meeting was held in the fal at Sylvania Northview High School. The 78th Annual OHSSL State Tournament was held at Sylvania Northview High School and Whitmer High School in the Washington Local School District (Tarhe Trails OHSSL District). Perry High School (Stark County) won the state championship for the second consecutive year. Marie Dzuris and Mike Burke were indcuted into the OHSSL Coaches' Hall of Fame. Mike Amstutz and Kathry Patron retired from the OHSSL Executive Committee and were replaced by Alan Bates (Princeton HS) and Kathryn Stone (Jackson HS). John Mercer (Olmsted Falls HS) and Thom Williams (Howland HS) were reelected to the committee. The Executive Committee reinstated NFL District Qualification to the State Tournament.


At the Fall Coaches' Meeting held at Jackson High School in Canton, coaches were WOWED by a new membership video based on the 2005 State Champtionships! Executive Committee Member Trish Sanders of Notre Dame Academy was responsible for the final product. The 79th State Tournament was held at Hoover High School in North Canton and GlenOak High School in Plain Local. Wooster High School was crowned the team champion for 2006. Nick Bollas and John Mercer were elected to the Hall of Fame. In May, Fred Snook and Darren Smith completed their service on the Executive Committee. Paul Moffitt (Sylvania Southview High School) and Elaine Fippin (Our Lady of the Elms High School) were newly elected to the Executive Committee. Nick Bollas and Lyle Linerode were re-elected.