From the Soccer Field to the Debate Circuit: A Profile on Adam Kesselman

Kaden Alibhai and Laird Burke

In the past year junior Adam Kesselman has quickly become one of the top 50 Lincoln-Douglas debaters in Texas. While currently preparing for an extremely prestigious debate tournament, the National Tournament of Champions, he remembers how he began his extracurricular journey with club soccer.

Kesselman’s love for soccer started in preschool when he played recreationally with friends at his temple.

“They had a soccer team that we were required to play for,” Kesselman said. “I started there, and I really liked it. And then that kind of just progressed throughout lower school to middle school to upper school.”

According to Kesselman, in middle school, while many of his friends played “just for fun”, he felt as though soccer was something he could pursue.

He decided to try out a club team in fifth grade and had a good experience.

“Between fifth and ninth grade, the culture was pretty inclusive. Your friends are in it, the coaches are nice and everybody gets along well as a team,” Kesselman said.

Part of Kesselman’s love for the sport spurred from the team environment and community he built with his teammates, so in tenth grade when the culture changed, it had a significant impact on him.

“It just really started going downhill for me because the culture became toxic,” said Kesselman. “It becomes cutthroat, and the coaches only care about wins and getting kids into college. I think that’s why so many people start quitting in high school.”

After realizing his love for soccer was fading, Kesselman decided to make the switch from soccer to debate. “If I want to invest time into something I can’t just be in it; I have to be passionate about it,” he said.

According to Kesselman, the schedule for club soccer in upper school is extremely demanding.

“You need to be in the gym after school every day. You need to be watching what you eat. You can’t be hanging out with your friends every weekend. You have to be at practice and games,” Kesselman said.

Towards the end of the 2021-2022 season, Kesselman knew it was time for a change.

After over a year of conversations and evaluating options, he decided that it would be an optimal decision to leave soccer behind and make the transition to debate. He consulted his parents, Director of Speech and Debate Aaron Timmons and Middle and Upper School debate teacher Rodrigo Paramo.

“It wasn’t necessarily like me pushing more or my parents pushing, it just came to that mutual point where it was the right thing to do,” he said.

He started debating in his freshman year, but his growth was stunted by online classes and the lack of tournaments. Fortunately, that did not stop him from making connections.

“Ninth grade was online, and that was really tough. However, I started to build relationships with some people on the team and get close with them,” Kesselman said.

His debate career got off to a rocky start after failing to qualify for the Texas Forensics Association (TFA) State Tournament and the Tournament of Champions (TOC) in his first two seasons. However, he persisted, taking the challenge head-on, and attracting the attention of his teachers.

“I think really, he just said ‘I’m going to direct all the energy that I have historically directed into soccer and into other extracurriculars into debate.’ I mean the reality was just that he committed 100%,” said Paramo.

He has also made connections on the team, with junior Seth Lee being one of the stronger bonds. “I spend most of my time with Seth probably. We do most of the prep for the team, and so I’ve become really good friends with him,” said Kesselman.

“[Kesselman] and I have gotten quite close as we work together closely, spending many late nights together talking about topics ranging from philosophy to governmental policy,” said Lee.

Kesselman has also become a leader for his younger peers.

“He wants to be the leader and teammate that he never had,” Paramo said.

Recently, he competed at the TFA State Tournament and finished in the top ten percent of all competitors from around Texas, and he looks forward to competing in two upcoming national tournaments in the spring, where he will face the top competition from around the country.