I would give Athens Debate more than 5 stars if I could. Attending this debate program has been a transformational experience for my middle schooler. I would like to provide some background so you can put the 5+ stars into context. My daughter had a keen interest in speech and debate very early on in elementary school. I enrolled her in a few local speech summer camps at that time. As she entered middle school, I found out about another debate coaching academy called Young Genius, and I enrolled her in that program. She started off the program very high on self-confidence, but sadly, very quickly her confidence came crashing down. The YG program was not well organized, didn't teach the fundamentals of debate at all, and pushed students into big league debate tournaments with no efforts made to develop and prepare each debater to take on a real debate. Within 4 weeks of joining the program and barely learning the terms of Lincoln-Douglas debate, they enrolled her into a big league debate tournament. I told them she is too new and perhaps she could just watch and observe the debate this time so she knew what to expect the next time. YG said no, she must do the tournament. Not knowing any better, I agreed and enrolled my daughter in it. The worst thing I ever did to her. The night before the tournament, she asked me what a contention is, what a value criterion is and what a value framework was. It was Greek and Latin to me, I said "do you need to know this for the debate tournament?" She said she didn't know if she needed it or not. Not surprisingly, she crashed and burned at that tournament, and developed such low self-esteem- it impacted the dynamics of our whole family. She barely went to any more classes for the rest of the year (the expensive pre-paid yearly tuition was ofcourse non-refundable). Then, the summer after that year, I saw that a new debate program was coming to town- Athens Debate was having an open house close to my house, and I asked my daughter if she wanted to go check it out. Her first reaction was NO, she said she's so bad at speech, she's so bad at debate, she's a loser etc etc etc. I convinced her to at least check it out, and we got some of her friends interested to go to the open house with her. That one-hour of the open house was the start of an amazing and fantastic journey that we are still on and will continue to be on. Sachin Jain, the founder of Athens debate, spent an hour with the kids at the open house, talking to them about speech and debate, asked them about their motivations and passions, and by the end of that hour, my daughter said, I want to join this program. After just one hour! There was a gleam in her eye, an excitement for speech and debate in her voice that I had sorely missed seeing in her. I enrolled her in the Athens program, and it surpassed all expectations. Sachin and his instructors spend a lot of time really understanding each kids' strengths and they build on those strengths, and really delve into areas of development for each kid- they try to make the kid the best version of themselves. Sachin doesn't treat everyone in the class the same, he takes the time to understand each debater, and instils in them the love for learning. There are several prep sessions for tournaments, 1-1 facetime sessions for any kid that needs that extra help outside of class time. Sachin is available any time, all the time. Now knowing what I know about LD debate (well, the little that I know), I was horrified to think back to the time when my daughter went to her very first tournament with YG, and the night before she asked me what a contention/value criterion/framework was- UGH! These are the ABCs of LD debate!! But now, thanks to Athens and thanks to Sachin, she is a confident speaker once again, she has also placed well in some tournaments this past year and is looking forward to starting up the program again in this new school year after a short summer break. She has made a ton of friends through the program and through attending tournaments that she will forever cherish. Also, YG used to charge a flat fee of $100- $200 for tournaments, on top of the yearly tuition. Athens charges only what the tournament charges each kid, Sachin does not add any $$ to this to put in his pocket, like YG did. Very honest, very passionate, very diligent, very caring, and above all, a top notch debate training experience- that's my experience with Athens. So- if you are considering a debate program for your child, look no further, just reach out to Athens and have a conversation with Sachin. The rest will take care of itself.” - Tripthi Kamath, Parent of San Mateo Student
It's a great place for kids to learn superior debating skills. The first time my child went to the open house at Athens debate, she was beyond thrilled. Sachin (the founder) was able to transform 'debate' into a whole new world and make it fun. Originally, my child had always thought that debate was something that she could not do, because it was too complicated nor would she be good at it. Not just Sachin, but all the other coaches on the Athens team helped to bring out the strong debating qualities in her. To me, the only down side is that she now uses her superior debating skills against me too, at home! Sachin and his team surely did an amazing job :)
Throughout the year, my daughter has become a more insightful and confident individual, a quality that has helped her in other avenues as well, all thanks to Athens! It's not just the in-class training that they focus on, but prior to each tournament there are additional online sessions scheduled to address any pre-tournament questions and each Athens debate coach will spend hours and patiently go over any last minute details, with each kid that signs up. This is not something that I encounter commonly.
Below is my daughter's review in her own words:
"I started debating at the beginning of the school year. The open house was extremely fun, but I was not sure if the classes would stay that way. For all I knew, everything could just be boring and not something I could do. As soon as I had stepped into class, I knew that I was wrong. This class was going to stay fun and interesting.
I have seen Sachin, and all the other instructors in Athens help each and every individual until their case is polished and well done. Athens doesn't make stars, they make stars that shine. Sachin makes sure that you know the material and understand it, so you are not confused from the very start. Being a beginner at debate, I was quite nervous. But because Sachin made sure that I knew my case inside out, my nerves would always calm down. At my first tournament, I distinctly remember walking out and thinking that it was an amazing experience, something that I wanted to do every week!
After my year was over, I really took a step back. I concluded that debate was and is a big part of my life, something that I will never forget, something that I always wanted to do. When asked by my parents if I wanted to do it next year and continue Athens the following school year, you can imagine my response.
All thanks to Sachin and the Athens Team. If it weren't for Athens you could say my life would've been a whole lot different!" - Twinkle Mehta, Parent of San Mateo Student
Sachin is a debate whisperer. The past year with Sachin has shown them that intellectual discourse can be both invigorating and fun. The sessions have helped the kids grow intellectually and build confidence. The tournaments reflect that growth and are fun. Yes I said FUN. I had kids who were apprehensive however, with the willingness to stick it out and Sachin's guidance, debate is now something they don't want to miss. I am not sure what debate with any other teacher would look like I do know that with Sachin, debate is an extraordinary experience" - Allisia Koffman, Parent of Palo Alto Student
My daughter has always had a gift for arguing. Through Debate, she has learned the skills to communicate, effectively, assertively and precisely. Debate gives her confidence that when she is talking, she can express her ideas in an organized and well supported manner. These are tangible life skills that will help prepare her for interviews, writing essays, and best of all bolster confidence that she can and will be able to make her voice heard. Thank you Sachin!" - Sarah Adler, Parent of Palo Alto Student
Sachin is a great coach and he brought out the best in every debater. They learned analytical skills, public speaking techniques and how to craft strong arguments. They really tested themselves, competing in high school tournaments, and emerged as confident and enthusiastic debaters. I strongly recommend this program!" - Joanna Strober, Parent of Palo Alto Student
The after school debate class offered by Sachin Jain's program in Palo Alto has been an extremely stimulating and invaluable experience for our boys. We have seen them engage, learn and thrive as their writing, command of the language, critical thinking, oratory and debate skills have all blossomed. Most importantly, they are enjoying the class and are looking forward to future topics, discussions and tournaments. We highly recommend this class." - Parent of Palo Alto Student
With his inspirational, knowledgeable and gentle approach, Sachin has created an extraordinary experience for our children. Sachin's debate program has taught our children how to learn, practice, present, persevere (and argue!) while in a warm, supportive environment. We are very grateful for the experience." - Andrew Koffman, Parent of Palo Alto Student
Mr. Jain reinforces difficult concepts in a simple, yet effective manner through his solid analytical skills and his passion for teaching. He is unlike any debate teacher I have ever had because he really believes that we can learn way more than what others and even ourselves think. He cares so much about working with each student to make sure they succeed. Whenever I had a problem in my debate case, Mr. Jain would work with me until I fully understood how to fix the problem. He has really helped me acquire new skills and grow as a debater. I always enjoyed and looked forward to attending Mr. Jain’s class, as there was always something new to learn. His teaching really helped me strengthen my thesis and essay-writing in my middle school years, and I am sure these skills will come handy in the years to come. Overall, Mr. Jain is the best debate teacher you could hope for and hope you get the chance to learn from him.” - Aadit Trivedi