National Tournament FAQ's

NCFL sponsors the annual Grand National Tournament on Memorial Day weekend, offering six forensics events and four debate events. The National Association of Secondary School Principals has placed this program on the NASSP National Advisory List of Student Contests and Activities.
    Where is it?
      The 2019 tournament is in Milwaukee, WI.

      Please see www.ncflnationals.org for details of our upcoming tournament.

      The Grand National Tournament is held at a different site each year. NCFL Grand Nationals has been held in Omaha, Chicago, Milwaukee, Boston, Arlington VA, Pittsburgh, and New York City. The competitions have been held in colleges, universities, high schools, government buildings, and hotels.

      See the home page for future sites of the NCFL Grand National Tournament.

    What are the deadlines
      Schools joining through a Local Diocesan League, must submit their Membership Forms and Dues to their Local League according to their Local Diocesan League deadlines.
      • December 10 - New and Existing Local Diocesan Leagues must submit all membership forms and dues ($50 per school).
      • January 10 - New and Existing Local Diocesan Leagues may submit late membership forms and dues ($55 per school).
      • January 10 - New Leagues must submit membership information.
      • January 10 - Schools requesting Individual Membership.
      • Mid-March - Tournament Registration materials will be sent to all enrolled Leagues and Individual Schools.
      • April 15 - Tournament Registration must be completed, and fees paid.

    How much does it cost?
      The fee to participate in the Grand National Tournament is currently $50 per student (thus a Duo Interpretation entry, Policy Debate team, or Public Forum team is $100). There is a $50 surcharge added for each entry that is not staying inside the NCFL Tournament hotel block. This does not include local and national membership fees (per school). These costs do not include travel costs, late fees, penalties, or fines, or other fees or surcharges that may be imposed by a local league.

      Also, each league must provide judges (coaches or other qualified people) to the tournament to cover their entries, which are currently
      • 1 judge per 2 interpretation/speech entries
      • 3 judges per 2 policy debate teams (or 2 judges for 1 team)
      • 1 judge per Lincoln-Douglas debater
      • 1 judge per public forum team
      • 1 student congress judge for the entire local league if there are any student congress entries.

    What is the tournament format?
      Registration by league directors is on Friday afternoon. Directors arrange to distribute registration materials to coaches and judges from their local leagues on Friday night.
      • In interpretation and speech, each student competes in four preliminary rounds on Saturday. Each round, students will compete against 6 others in front of 3 judges. Judges will rank all entries in their section. The top 48 entries in each event advance to the octo-final rounds held on Sunday morning. Quarter-final and semi-final rounds continue throughout the midmorning and afternoon. Late Sunday afternoon, the top six entries in each category compete in the final round, judged by 5 judges. An awards ceremony is held Sunday evening for all events.
      • In Policy Debate, Public Forum Debate, and Lincoln-Douglas Debate, students compete in five preliminary rounds on Saturday. Each round will have 3 judges. In public forum and lincoln-douglas debate, all 4-1 teams will advance to a play-in round. After that the top 32 entries will advance to double octofinals. The top 32 entries in policy debate will advance to the double-octofinal round held on Sunday Morning. Elimination rounds continue until the final round on late Sunday afternoon. An awards ceremony is held Sunday evening for all events.
      • In Student Congress, 3 sessions are held on Saturday, with each session lasting about 3 hours. The top 6 students from each chamber (as selected by the students), for a total of 48 students, advance to the 3-hour semi-final session on Sunday morning. The top 24 semi-finalists advance to the final session on Sunday afternoon. An awards ceremony is held Sunday evening for all events.

    How can a student qualify to compete?
      The student's school must be a member of an NCFL Local League. These leagues are geographically distributed across the United States. Each league develops its own qualification system for the national tournament. Some leagues use a point system while others hold a qualifying tournament. League quotas represent the maximum number of entries in each category that can advance to the Grand National Tournament from each local league.

      View a list of NCFL Local Leagues and contact information.
      View information about forming a new league.

      NOTE: A school that is not a member of an NCFL league may enter as an independent school for one year only. As such, that school could send one entry to the Grand National Tournament. After that, the school would have to join an NCFL league in order to continue participating. Only schools that are not geographically near an existing local league can apply for individual membership. Application for this membership should be made to the President via email, not later than December 10 each year.

    What are a participating coach's responsibilities?
      The coach must become familiar with all rules and procedures of the NCFL. Certain categories may be unique to the NCFL, or be slightly different from those of one's state or region. NCFL coaches must also arrange to pay all fees and provide all required judges. A significant fine will be assessed to any school who fails to provide a judge after registering for the tournament.

    What awards are given?
      • In interpretation and speech events, the top 24 contestants or duo teams (quarter and semi-finalists) will receive trophies at the awards ceremony. The top six will be recognized individually. The next 24 (octo-finalists) will receive medals.
      • In debate events, trophies will be awarded to the top 4 teams in Team Debate and Public Forum Debate, to the top 4 Lincoln-Douglas Debaters, as well as to all octo-finalists and quarter-finalists in debate. Double octo-finalists in debate will receive medals.
      • In Student Congress, trophies will be awarded to all finalists, and semi-finalists will receive medals.
      In addition to the above individual awards, a variety of team and league sweepstakes awards are given.

    What is a typical tournament schedule like?
    How can a student or coach find out the results of the tournament?
      All results are announced at the awards ceremony, held Sunday evening. After the ceremony, each diocese will receive one copy of the overall results, along with the copies of all contestants' individual critique sheets. The results from the tournament are also posted online.

      See the home page for the results from Past Grand National Tournaments.

    Go to top


Sweepstakes Awards

Debate: trophies to the top 5 schools based on the points earned by the school's top three entries in Team Debate and/or Lincoln-Douglas Debate and/or Public Forum Debate and/or Student Congress. These trophies shall be named the Eleanor E. Wright Awards of Excellence in Debate.

Speech: trophies to the top 5 schools based on the points earned by the school's top three Speech entrants. These trophies shall be named The Founders Awards of Excellence in Speech.

Student Congress: one rotating trophy shall be awarded to the first place school. The award shall be named the Dr. Paul E. Ward Memorial Trophy. A permanent award shall also be given to the school which wins this rotating trophy.

Overall: trophies to the top 5 schools based on points earned by the school's top three entrants as follows:
  • Best Debate entry (Team, Public Forum, or Lincoln-Douglas) or Student Congress entry
  • Best rhetorical entry (Extemporaneous or Original Oratory)
  • Best interpretive entry (Declamation, Oral Interpretation of Literature, Dramatic Performance, or Duo Interpretation of Literature)
These trophies shall be named the Daniel S. Masterson, Jr. Awards of Excellence in Forensics. The Cardinal Wright Memorial Diocesan Award shall be presented to the diocese whose top ten entries accumulate the most sweepstakes points at the National Tournament that year. The Cardinal Cooke Memorial Diocesan Award shall also be based on the top ten entries from a diocese, but it shall be a cumulative total award. Each year, the recipient will return to a total of zero and begin to accumulate points again. All other dioceses will carry their totals forward to the following year.

Go to top


Hosting Future Nationals>

The National Catholic Forensic League is a national organization and as such encourages any local league to think about hosting the national tournament.

The executive committee and our events planner are willing to work with leagues to look at the viability of hosting the national tournament and will work in conjunction with the local board to put together a bid package.

Please review the following Bid Package for Leagues (2016).

Go to top