By Greg Carannante
City & Shore Magazine
There’s one point student debaters Giorgio Rabbini and Nicholas Mancini probably wouldn’t argue: It’s going to be hard to top last year.
In just their junior year, the boys became North Broward Preparatory School’s first national champions in speech and debate — twice. They not only took home the National Debate Coaches Association Championship but also the Baker Award as the nation’s top policy debate team in the regular season.
As if that’s not enough, the victories also make Rabbini the first African-American student to win either award. And he and Mancini are the first team to hold both award wins since 2007.
“What impressed me most was their consistent dominance throughout the season as juniors in a senior-dominated field,” says Shree S. Awsare, their coach and the director of forensics at the Coconut Creek school. “The students have simultaneously exhibited an obsession with winning and a genuine curiosity in the issues that they research that has been unparalleled in my 10-plus years of coaching debate. Before important national competitions, they would stay at school until 10:30 or 11 p.m. to ensure they were adequately prepared.”
Rabbini concurs: “I think the thing that was most responsible for our success was our drive to out-research and out-prepare our opponents. Every day we would spend about two to three hours going through different databases, scholarly journals and local libraries looking for arguments that would give us the extra push in our high-level debates.”
That extra push propelled them past the 188 students from 45 schools across the country competing for the title at the 2018 National Debate Coaches Association National Championship, hosted by Marist School in Atlanta last April. In capturing the regular-season Baker Award, the students won first place as a team at seven national competitions and as individual speakers at 10 tournaments.
The topic of the team’s national championship-winning debate was U.S. federal education policy. Rabbini and Mancini gave the affirmative argument that civic education intensifies a racial hierarchy that stunts the development of black elementary and secondary students.
“I think something that really stimulated our success was the level of focus that North Broward brings to tournaments,” Rabbini says. “During the breaks between rounds, we would always be scouting other teams, talking with coaches about previous debates, or writing new strategies that would help us on elimination day.
“Nick and I worked together perfectly throughout the season. He handled all affirmative preparation for the resolution while I was in charge of negative argumentation. This balance and equal division of research, coupled with a lifelong friendship, really took us to the next level as debaters and partners.”
Their coach had similar feelings about working with the boys. “My experience with the two champs has been positive,” says Awsare, who helped to refine the team’s argumentative strategy and execution. “They always make class extremely lively, and as you might guess, the world-class arguers love to argue with me constantly about the political and philosophical controversies of our time.
“My expectations for the debate team this year are high,” says the teacher, beginning his third year at the prep school. “Nicholas and George have set the bar high in terms of their standard of excellence, and have spent the entire summer before their senior year improving their debating skills at summer institutes held at Wake Forest University and the University of Michigan.
“I am optimistic about their chances for a repeat victory and looking forward to raise a new generation of champions to follow their footsteps.”
PHOTO: Giorgio Rabbini and Nicholas Mancini