Debating is done by young and old. Earlier we spoke with Danique van Koppenhagen and Adrienne Huisman in Meet the Dino. This time we speak with someone who is at the beginning of his debating career: Frits Geelhoed. He is a high school student who is part of the Dutch delegation for the World Schools Debating Championships (WSDC). In this article, we learn more about him, the World Schools Debating Championships and the Dutch Schools Debate College of which he is a part.
Profile Frits Geelhoed
School: Utrechts Stedelijk Gymnasium (USG)
Debate achievements, including: Two times part of the Dutch delegation for WSDC, second-best speaker (English as a second language – ESL) at the WSDC tournament in Saskatoon (Canada), second-best speaker in Oxford Schools qualifying round.
Favourite tournament: Spatha Schools, a BP tournament for high school students in Nijmegen with a huge buffet of food.
How did you come into contact with debating?
At USG I immediately started in 1st grade. Then I started at Agora, the debating society for grades 1 to 3 (“onderbouw”). They visited all the years and then I signed up. So I spent three years debating at Agora. For example, I also won the Unicef Children’s Rights Debate Tournament in the Prinsenzaal. After that, I participated in the DSDC selection. I also joined Hybris, which is the debating society for grades 4 to 6 (“bovenbouw”). Hybris is a strange name; hubris means as much as overconfidence (from the times when people thought they could handle the gods). Agora, on the other hand, has a very good name: a central marketplace at that time.
You are a participant in the Dutch Schools Debate College (DSDC). What is DSDC?
The Worlds Schools Debating Championships (WSDC) takes place every year. DSDC is the organization that sends the Dutch delegation and trains 30-35 students to (possibly) go to WSDC. There is a weekly training session on Saturday for this. To become part of DSDC you participate in a selection day. Every six months there is a selection day for DSDC. Normally, it’s a physical event where you get training, do debates and coaches then judge what you show there. You will be notified later if you have been selected. When you become a member, you will be placed in one of the four tracks. Track 4 is the lowest and track 1 the highest. The tracks are reassessed every semester.
At DSDC you are part of the team that will participate in the World Schools Debating Championships. How is the selection procedure for the World Cup team?
The selection is made from the members in track 1. They look at the training sessions and how you do in tournaments. There are then special selection sessions with people who could potentially be selected (a sort of shortlist is created). Then, the coaches of track 1 choose who eventually ends up in the World Cup team.
Why did you decide to participate in the World Cup team?
Most people who sign up for DSDC don’t make it to the World Cup team so maybe people who only became a member for the training sessions. That’s a pretty good mindset, given the reality. It was always my goal to make it to the World Cup team but, of course, I took into account that it might not work out.
How is the training process at DSDC? What are some important lessons you have learned?
Every week on Saturday there is a training session, usually in The Hague on the campus of Leiden University. You have training from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and there you follow workshops and debates. When I first joined, there were many substantive workshops, such as market principles and information about international organizations. Later, more focus would be on debate technical items. Recently, I listened to my first speech at DSDC. Then, I barely made it to 4 minutes. Later, the speeches within the format become 8 minutes long and you fill that with the techniques you learn through the workshops. You will see progress; I am now easily able to fill the 8 minutes.
What will you do after you graduate? Are you going to study? And will you continue to debate?
I don’t know where I’m going to study yet. I applied to universities in the United States. I’m on the waiting list at the University of Pennsylvania. After 2 years you have to choose a major there, I lean towards Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. At Leiden University College, I am also interested in Economics and I also find Law interesting. The University of Pennsylvania and Leiden University both have debating societies so I plan to continue anyway.
How cool that you might be studying in the US! How did you come to want that?
In the 4th grade, I came up with the wish to do so; we had received a presentation about it at school and I read up afterwards. It’s a competitive environment that fits me well. Some people go to an average university in the US, but then I might as well study in the Netherlands for less money, so I’ve focused on well-regarded universities.
Mike is an alumnus of the Tilburg Debating Society Cicero and has served as the secretary of the Nederlandse Debatbond (2019-2021). He was vice-chair of Cicero (2015-2016) and in that function oversaw the newly set-up international branch. He also organized the Dutch Debating Winter School, a debating training week that attracted participants of over 20 nationalities.