Stoa prides itself on the freedom provided to families in planning their own schedules and involvement. While Stoa organizes the annual NITOC Championship, Stoa allows considerable autonomy within chapters to plan their own meetings, host and attend tournaments, and utilize training resources as they see fit. The answers below represent typical averages, but families are free to consider other options as occurs with the flexibility that comes with home schooling.
The Local Stoa Club
What is a Club?
While Stoa is a nation-wide organization, its heart is found in the hundreds of individual clubs established locally. When families join Stoa, they have the option of joining an existing club in their area, or starting their own group. Each local group has the flexibility to determine their own time, day, length, and place of meeting. Each club has its own unique personality and dynamic, as diverse as the families who join and participate. Coaches and parents use club time to guide students as they learn and practice the skills needed for competition at Stoa tournaments. Far more than just being a classroom, clubs provide opportunities for teamwork, fellowship, and friendships that last a lifetime. Stoa clubs are small communities, where coaches, parents, and alumni alike work together to train students toward the goal of Speaking Boldly and Changing the World for Christ.
How often do clubs meet?
Many clubs meet one day or evening a week, with meetings lasting from two to four hours. Some clubs meet only once every two weeks, and a few meet once a month. Some of the clubs that meet for longer hours have a ‘cafeteria plan’, where families pick the classes in which they want to participate. Some clubs only coach speech, some coach only debate, and many coach both.
When is the speech and debate season?
Unlike some sports which have an on and off season, the speech and debate season occurs during the entire school year. Most clubs begin meetings in August and wrap up the year in May. Many students use their summer months to build a foundational understanding of the new debate resolutions or read literature and research concepts for speech topics. There are a number of camps offered each summer around the country coaching both new and returning students in preparation for the upcoming season. The tournament season begins in October and generally finishes in April. NITOC (the National Championship) is usually held in May. Families may choose the extent and level of their own participation.
What skills are developed through speech and debate?
Students who participate actively in Stoa gain a wide variety of benefits. These include, but are not limited to, improved critical thinking, higher grades and test scores, advanced research skills, confidence in public speaking, and leadership. Parents and younger siblings also benefit tremendously. Many Stoa students have been accepted into elite schools and offered college scholarships thanks to their speech and debate achievements in Stoa. Stoa is proud that its alumni have seen great success whether attending college or not. Former students have become fathers and mothers, church leaders, pastors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, teachers, missionaries, engineers, doctors, economists, nurses, business men and women, and other walks of life. Some have been elected to public office. Stoa’s alumni are Speaking Boldly and Changing the World for Christ!
How are students developed relationally by participation in Stoa?
Communication is inherently a relational skill. Students develop relationally through the process of learning to think critically, research, write, organize, conclude, persuade, inform, and entertain. They must take risks to speak about ideas and issues that matter to them, receive and respond appropriately to criticism, and congratulate others. In a club, these acts are done in community where students find safety in the confidence of respectful relationships. Additionally, students who choose team events must work closely with their peers researching, writing, and practicing. Students in Stoa tend to develop relationships not only with local friends and but also with fellow competitors in other cities and states. These relationships have lasted well beyond graduation and have blossomed into life long friendships.
What is a typical tournament like?
Like in any competitive event, a tournament is a time to execute and exhibit the fruit of the hard labor sown over many months. Tournaments are hosted by clubs across the nation and are open to all Stoa members, regardless of residence. Each tournament possesses its own style and focus, but typically they are conducted during a 1 to 3 day period. Some tournaments offer just speech or debate and many offer a combination of both speech and debate. A growing number of tournaments are also offering junior events for students under 12 who are too young to participate in the main events.
What is the tournament schedule and what does it cost?
Speech and debate is a very flexible activity that can conform to fit most budgets and schedules. Stoa provides an open tournament structure, where families may participate in any tournament around the country. Families can view the Stoa Calendar to see what events are offered in their area or in any area they might choose to visit. Register for the tournaments that fit your family schedule and your family budget. As a family you can choose how many tournaments you’d like to attend – there is no minimum or maximum limit. The initial cost consists of an annual membership fee to participate in Stoa. This membership covers your entire family, and all children who wish to participate. Membership gives you access to local and national tournaments, helpful resources, voting privileges and support as you embark on this exciting journey. After that, costs will vary based on your local club (coaching fees) and local tournaments (registration fees). Stoa and its members work hard to keep these costs as low as possible. Tournament entry fees may be as little as $5 per event per student, but may climb to over $100 for a family with multiple students entered in multiple events. Many clubs offer scholarship options to help fund students who earn invitations to the National Invitational Tournament of Champions (NITOC).
What is NITOC?
NITOC, pronounced NIGH-TOC, is Stoa’s National Invitational Tournament of Champions and is the grand finale for Christian homeschool speakers and debaters. It is the World Cup of Stoa, and is also a time for friends and families to come together after a year of competition in a celebration of forensics excellence. NITOC is open to students from all Christian homeschool speech and debate organizations and is the largest Christian homeschool forensics competition in existence.
Where and when is NITOC?
NITOC is moved each year to different part of the United States to make it accessible to families from around the country. It is held in late May or early June each year, depending on scheduling and venue availability.