“First Take” Sports Debate Club

“First Take,” Malvern’s sports debate club, presents a March Madness tournament style bracket with fast paced debates each week.

“First Take” Sports Debate Club

Ryan Todd, Sports Editor

First Take Club started during Covid last year when founder and moderator Mr. Matthew McDonald noticed how their students loved to argue about sports topics.

“During last year’s COVID year, we noticed a lot of the sophomores love to argue and debate, but as soon as you call something academic, they kind of peel back and they don’t want to do it anymore. We had the idea to start a Sports Debate Club, just to trick kids almost into debate. We call it the “First Take Club,” like “First Take” on ESPN with Steven A. Smith. This is our first real year, and it is still associated with our Speech and Debate Club, but it’s a separate club within the club. Our club is mainly sophomores and freshmen with a few juniors scattered in as well. We have probably two seniors that show up regularly, which is to be expected because it really started with the underclassmen last year,” McDonald said.

This club not only allows students to learn speech and debate skills, but they are also able to pick sports topics in which they are already familiar rather than a heavier topic. 

“It gets these kids to learn to craft their arguments and learn their persuasiveness skills,” McDonald said. “When you get into Speech and Debate, you might be talking about more political things or more economic things, healthcare, you name it, which is a little deeper,  and more serious. Since sports is lighter, it interests students in debate without the heaviness of some of those topics, creating a perfect intro.”

The March Madness tournament-style bracket will feature 28 students, ranging from all grade levels. This year, the younger students are really taking advantage of joining the club and getting to know what it’s all about.

“There was an idea at the beginning of the year to start a bracket, and that is how we’re going to determine the First Take champion. Last year’s champion was Carson Meyers, making him the #1 seed; however, seeding doesn’t really mean much because student officers are always seeded at #1 through #4 and the rest is random,” McDonald said. “The four student officers holding leadership positions this year will choose 27 different topics for the members to debate and have also decided to compete in this tournament.”

“Our student officers are Carson Meyers, Jack Fury, Michael Geary, and Pat Keenan, whose roles are to help explain what exactly a First Take debate looks like and to decide each of the different topics for the bracket,” McDonald said. “They’re also reaching out to our guest judges, where each round of debates, we’ll have a different guest judge to pick a winner.”

Evidently, McDonald has high hopes for the club, thinking it may even be able to expand outside of Malvern and will help kids become involved in Malvern’s actual Speech and Debate Club.

“The next step is just getting the word out there, making this tournament is going to be the bread and butter going forward and hopefully draws the most attention to what we think is a great opportunity to network our club,” McDonald said. “Another step would be finding a way to stretch this beyond Malvern. I don’t really know what that looks like. I’ve heard rumblings that Episcopal has a similar club. We haven’t really fact-checked that, I’m not really sure. Really, I don’t know what the ceiling is for First Take, we’re still kind of figuring that out as we go.”

The first round will start on February 9th and the finals are scheduled for April 20th.

“For the first round, there will be about three to four debates a week until we get to the second round. Our finals are scheduled to be on April 20th. Debates are mostly going to take place during community times on Wednesdays, and for the beginning rounds, we have to spread out a little bit because there are so many debates that have to happen,” McDonald said.

All participants and judges are excited to get debates underway and eventually crown a champion. Spectators are encouraged to come and show support and enjoy these fast-paced debates on students’ favorite sports topics. Although this may be the club’s “First Take,” the sky is truly the limit.