RICHMOND, Va. -- The National Speech and Debate Association has selected the Richmond region as the host for the 2026 National Speech and Debate Tournament. The event is expected to bring 10,000 student contestants and visitors to the area.
The National Speech and Debate Tournament is one of the largest academic events in the country and will take place on June 14-19 in 2026.
The announcement came from Richmond Region Tourism and The Richmond Forum. The forum has led the Speech and Debate Initiative to grow interest and participation in Central Virginia.
“There is no better fit than partnering with The Richmond Forum's Speech & Debate Initiative to help usher in the next generation of leaders at the 2026 National Tournament," said Scott Wunn, Executive Director of the National Speech & Debate Association. “By partnering with The Richmond Forum, we can shape a brighter future for our students, our communities, and our nation while also creating a tremendous educational opportunity for our programs.”
Over the past five years, the Richmond Forum Speech and Debate Initiative says they have gotten more than one thousand students in speech and debate in the Richmond region. The region has also went from 9 teams to 28 and the regional tournament circuit has attracted 750 contestants.
“The Richmond Forum’s Speech & Debate Initiative has been cultivating new generations of students and teacher-coaches who are demonstrating tremendous interest in the critical thinking and communications skills speech and debate fosters. Attracting this prestigious tournament to Richmond is a crowning achievement for all of us,” said Heather Mullins Crislip, executive director of The Richmond Forum. “We look forward to hosting teams from throughout America, especially at a time when we are celebrating a milestone birthday for our nation.”
Coinciding with regional celebrations for America’s 250th birthday, the tournament will feature a United States Semiquincentennial theme.
“There’s no debating that landing this tournament is a major accomplishment for the Richmond region,” said Jack Berry, president and CEO of Richmond Region Tourism. “It will attract thousands of visitors at a time when we will be showcasing the richness of our history and diversity of our culture, and we look forward to welcoming competitors from all across the country.”
“Our great city is excited to welcome the 2026 National Speech & Debate Tournament competitors, judges, volunteers, and staff to the capital of Virginia. I have no doubt that these visitors from across the country will fall in love with all that Richmond has to offer,” said Mayor Levar Stoney.
The event will take place in 750 rooms across six schools in Central Virginia and several thousand local volunteers are needed to ensure that the tournament runs smoothly. Interested community members can find more informationhere.
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