Start a New Team

JDL Coaches must display excellence in two areas:


This is more important than anything else a coach may bring to the table.  If you say you are going to start a team, you must follow through.  If you start meeting with a team weekly, you must show up at that time every week or else give your students significant advance notice when you will not be able to make it.  Being a consistent presence amongst your team members, and proving yourself to be reliable and trustworthy, is the foundational requirement for running a JDL team.  If you cannot commit to your team members, do not apply.


The first couple of months of getting a new team started will entail a major learning curve.  As you spend more time in the prison, you will come to understand what needs your students have, prison culture, and how to best work with the prison staff.  You will grow in your understanding of the best way to run your team.  When starting a team, you must hold your expectations loosely and be willing to adapt to the needs of your debaters.  It might take a while for your team to really get established.  JDL coaches must be patient and flexible.

Requirements for JDL Coach Applicants

At least one year of debate coaching experience


Authority to enter the chosen prison*

(This requires a successful completion of background check, and passing both a drug and TB test.  Note that it is also difficult to receive permission to enter a prison if you are not a US citizen.)


Completion of application

*If you know that you want to start a team, but do not know which prison you want to work in, you may apply and we will help find a prison to place you in.

Relationship Between the League and the Coaches

Primarily, we envision building a community of incarcerated debate teams through partnering with experienced debate coaches who desire to start new teams in prisons. 


For new teams, we seek to provide the following assistance:

  • Pre-entry Training

  • Connection with a prison

  • Help in establishing a relationship with the prison employee who will oversee the team

  • Support and advice as the team is developing

  • Provision of a variety of instructional and research-oriented resources

  • Assistance with achieving membership status in your chosen organization (i.e. NSDA)

  • Support in working with the prison to facilitate the team’s participation in the broader debate community

  • Facilitation of the team’s participation in their surrounding debate community, specifically within a team’s given state


Any person currently coaching a pre-existing incarcerated debate team is also welcome to apply to join the League. Depending on the development of the given team, the League will provide teams and their coaches with any or all of the aforementioned assistance as necessary.


Additionally, every league coach will receive the following support from the League: 

  • Monthly check-ins via telephone, skype or other means of verbal communication with the director of the league (This is a minimum.  Coaches will receive as much support as is helpful or necessary.)

  • Support and advocacy when coaches come up against obstacles

  • Access to the supportive community of League coaches nationwide


In some circumstances, we are also willing to work with individuals who have no debate experience.  For example, if a person is already involved in a prison where the inmates have asked for debate training, and we cannot connect that person with an experienced debate coach in their area, we will work with that person to train them as a debate coach.