Grand National Tournament

Grand National Tournament

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 for 2018.

Where is it?

The 2018 tournament is in Washington, DC. 

Please see for details.

The Grand National Tournament is held at a different site each year. Recent cities have included 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.

Future sites of the NCFL Grand National Tournament:

  • 2018 Nationals will be in Washington, DC.
  • 2019 Nationals will be in Milwaukee.
  • 2020 Nationals will be in Chicago, IL.

For 2020 and beyond Leagues interested in hosting, should refer to the Hosting a Future Nationals page.

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.  To participate in next year’s Grand National Tournament:
  • New and Existing Local Diocesan Leagues must submit all membership forms and dues ($50 per school) by December 10.
  • New and Existing Local Diocesan Leagues may submit late membership forms and dues ($55 per school) by January 10.
  • New Leagues must submit membership information not later than January 10.
  • Schools requesting Individual Membership must apply not later than January 10.
  • Tournament Registration materials will be sent to all enrolled Leagues and Individual Schools in mid-March.
  • Tournament Registration must be completed, and fees paid, by April 15

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, and 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 & 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. The top 32 entries in each event will advance to the double-octo-final rounds 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 & 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.

All student competitors receive a certificate of participation.

In addition to the above individual awards, a variety of team and league sweepstakes awards are given.

What is a typical tournament schedule like?

The exact schedule for the tournament varies slightly each year, depending on the facilities and the tournament locations.

View 2006's Chicago tournament schedule (PDF).

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.

View the results from Past Grand National Tournaments.