Debate coach argues
for greatness
Posted October 21, 2005
Kourtney Brumfield
As chair of the World Debate Council, Assistant Professor of Speech and Debate Ian Lising maintains a reputation as a winning debate coach at the University of La Verne. Lising earned his bachelor of arts degree in political science from Atneo de Manila University, located in the Philippines, before coming to La Verne. Lising currently teaches argumentation and debate, results-oriented interviewing, public controversy and criticism and rhetorical theory at the University.

Ian Lising, assistant professor of speech communications and debate, has wise bespectacled eyes, a warm and inviting smile and an aura of peace and serenity.

Despite his renowned status, he is ironically shy, extremely patient and completely humble, as victory is far from No. 1 on his list of priorities.

“Ian is really down-to earth and friendly,” said Jessica Soria, junior speech communication major and member of the debate team.
“He always says our first priority is to debate and have fun.”

“When you have fun, you do well,” she added.

Lising’s passion for debate first sparked when he was a student at Carney High School in Carney, Neb.

“I felt debate was a great form of finding balance,” Lising said. “Debate is the activity that helps us become more resolute in our actions and, more importantly, to understand our reasons for doing them.”

Lising was offered a position at the University of La Verne while heading the World University Debating Championships in January 1999, and he began his stint as coach of the forensics team in the fall of the same year.

Prior to his decision to come to ULV, Lising had been coaching the well-known debate team at the Atneo de Manila University in the Philippines, where he also received his bachelor’s degree in political science.

“It was disappointing that if we did well it was just expected because of the school’s overall success,” Lising said. “I wanted to have the challenge of taking part in a school that Worlds did not recognize as a powerhouse.
I wanted to help build the program.”

Lising’s achievements as debate coach have greatly surpassed his initial aims.

Upon Lising’s decision to head the ULV debate team, it achieved instant success, taking second in Worlds. The team is currently 67 members strong, has held the first place ranking in the USA for British Parliament style debate and the 11th in the world for five years running and has established a name for itself across the globe.

Lising was unanimously voted to head the World Debating Council in 2002 and he is the longest standing council chair to date.

He has also been granted the honor of adjudicating the World Grand Finals for the last four consecutive years, which is a position reserved only for the best judges in the world.

Lising’s manner of coaching is far more laid-back and less stringent than that of most coaches.

“Some coaches program their debaters,” Lising said. “I give them a plethora of experiences so they can make decisions independently.”

Brenna Lampson, senior double major in philosophy and speech communications and captain of the debate team, referred to Lising’s pressure-free method of coaching as “the sink or swim mentality.”

His infamous coaching technique has often improved his students’ autonomous thinking and problem solving skills, ultimately molding them into better people.

“I don’t have expectations or visions for (my students),” Lising said. “I help them to achieve visions for themselves. (The team’s success) is not a reflection of what I’ve done; it’s something the students have accomplished and I’m just lucky enough to be a part of that.”

His students, however, are quick to point their fingers in his direction.
?“Ian has really turned the debate program at ULV into a very large and successful team that can compete with the best at any tournament that we attend,” said Josh Martin, senior double major in speech communication and political science and debate team member.

“Ian is the foundation for our team,” said Allison Fernandez, sophomore double major in philosophy and speech communications and team member. “He challenges us to do our best and puts enough trust in us to know we’ll come (through) with our parts.”

Lising said he believes everyone has the potential for greatness in the debate field and he strives to bring this quality out in each of his students.

“Debate brings out the best and the worst in people,” Lising said. “I really enjoy trying to help people find the best of themselves.

“Some say, ‘But I don’t speak very well’ or ‘But I don’t know very much about the world,’ and helping them to discover that they do is a challenge and ultimately my goal in life.” he added.

Lising also said his greatest triumphs have arisen from the individual successes of his students.

“My greatest successes haven’t been found in a debating chamber, but in how successful my students become in their lives,” Lising said. “Since debate is an interdisciplinary activity, they’ve been able to find success in the classroom, work place and society in general.”

Lising does not quantify his student’s successes according to anything beyond what they have learned and gained from their experiences thus far.

As a result, Lising has been an ongoing inspiration to his team.

“It’s really fun working with him,” Soria said. “When you work with someone who loves what they do, you yearn to be a part of it.”

Jessica Bell can be reached at

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