Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX student Will Fraser helps coach high school students to national debate win

May 17th, 2017
Will Fraser

StFX student Will Fraser has helped coach a local high school team to a national debating title.

Just a year after graduating himself from Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School in Antigonish, NS, Mr. Fraser, a StFX honours history student taking a subsidiary in political science, helped coach students from that school, Brooklyn Frizzle and Asta Stalker, in French debating to the national title at the Confederation Cup in Ottawa April 28-30.

Four teams are chosen from across the country to compete in the national tournament after undergoing two qualifying selection rounds.

“First, we had to prepare and record a video of Brooklyn and Asta debating whether the government should pay reparations to Indigenous peoples, which was judged by the organizers of the tournament,” says Mr. Fraser, the president external of X-Debate.

A few teams from each region were selected to be interviewed, he says. The interviews were conducted on Skype and involved questions about debate experience, techniques, as well as a demonstration of their debate abilities. Then, one team from each region was selected to compete at the finals in Ottawa.

“I was so proud of them, seeing as they had faced so many barriers financially and because of work-to-rule. It really means a lot for a team from Dr. J to win a national competition, since public schools are generally at a disadvantage when it comes to funding and resources. To defeat students from more heavily funded teams, who have more experience debating at this level of competition is really amazing,” he says. 

Mr. Fraser says he really appreciated the opportunity to give back to the debate team.

“The year wasn't always easy, especially during work-to-rule, when we were unable to hold practices at the high school with our teacher adviser and coach Effie Boutilier. At the time, (sociology professor) Dr. (Lynda) Harling Stalker was amazing in booking a room in the Annex where we could practice. Without her help, we definitely wouldn't have been able to get this far.”

He says political science professor Dr. Yvon Grenier was also a great help to the team, providing support with knowledge of political systems and French presentation.

“I think it's amazing that faculty members are willing to contribute their time and experience to local programs like debating. The involvement of faculty members in the local community really helps contribute not only to the university but to everyone in region. Personally, knowing that my professors are so open and caring makes it easier to approach them outside of class, and encourages my communication with faculty.”

Mr. Fraser says the debaters themselves were very committed.

“All of the debaters were willing to come to X during work-to-rule, taking additional time out of their days for the activity that they love. I really enjoyed the ability to interact with the students who I had been debating with last year, now in the role of a coach. I also appreciated having the ability to give back to the team, especially since they have contributed so much to my own life.”

Mr. Fraser has been involved in debating for seven years, starting in Grade 7. He was involved in other public speaking activities in 4-H, and says he enjoyed the idea of having the ability to debate important issues with other students. From there, he debated for two years at St. Andrew Junior School, four years at Dr. John Hugh Gillis, and for one year so far at StFX. 

He coached a debate team at the junior school last year, and has been involved with coaching the high school team since the beginning of this year. As well, he’s been involved in judging debate across Nova Scotia, and has conducted a seminar at the Junior National Debate Tournament in 2016. 

“I think this experience helped me to develop my coaching skills, and I was able to learn and practice some leadership techniques that I had never had an opportunity to use before. I also feel that I've improved as a debater because of this experience. Being able to see debating from the outside as a coach or judge really shed light on what is effective, and what techniques work best,” he says.

“I was able to see my own debating reflected in the debaters I was coaching so I was almost able to assess myself through the assessment of my debaters.” 

Mr. Fraser joined X-Debate this year, and says he really enjoyed the experience.

“I attended four tournaments as part of the team, CUSID East Novices, which I was part of the champion team with Olivia Ells; the U4 Debate competition as part of the Maple League; CUSID East Championships; and CUSID Nationals. I enjoyed meeting all of the amazing people on the team, and I was able to grow so much as a debater myself this year.” 

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