The YDA's Coaches


Throughout much of the history of the Yale Debate Association, the organization was led by a coach who was a full time member of the faculty. Most notably, the YDA was coached by the late Rollin Osterweis, who successfully led the team for decades. Dr. Osterweis gained notoriety during the 2004 elections, when he was credited with teaching both John Kerry and George W. Bush the finer points of debate and public speaking. This picture shows both Dr. Osterweis (back row, first from left) and Mr. Kerry (back row, third from left), along with the rest of the team.

Since the early 1980s however, the organization has been entirely student run. A student elected board is charged with managing the team's tryout process, finances, tournament selections, and all other important decisions. However, the team still has regularly obtained the help and advice of formerly successful debaters that are still part of the Yale community at the Law or Graduate school to help guide the team. Although these coaches do not always play a direct role in the day to day operations of the team, they have played an important function in helping to develop skills and run tournaments.

Current coaches

Adela Lilollari is currently a JD student at Yale Law School. She graduated from Yale with a B.A. in Ethics, Politics, and Economics. Adela was the President of the YDA and competed in APDA and BP. Adela was 3rd TOTY, APDA and BP Nationals quarterfinalist, Worlds octofinalist, and NAUDC semifinalist. 

Alex Johnson graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pennsylvania in 2019 with a B.A. in Philosophy, where she was a two-term President of the Penn Debate Society. She will matriculate at Yale Law School in 2021. As an undergraduate, Alex was thrice ranked in the top 10 Speakers of the Year. She was also a Nationals quarterfinalist, a NAUDC semifinalist, a North American Championships octafinalist, and a two-time WUDC double octafinalist. She also served as APDA President from 2017-2018. Alex won the Jeff Williams award for most -OTY performances and the Distinguished Service Award. She currently works as a Senior Legal Assistant at the public interest law firm Sanford Heisler Sharp, where she focuses on employment discrimination cases. 

Brian Wong is a DPhil in Political Theory candidate at Balliol College, Oxford, and a Rhodes Scholar from Hong Kong. As a speaker, Brian has 53 breaks, having made the semifinals and ranked within the top 13 speakers at the World Universities Debating Championships 2020, and previously qualified for the Cambridge IV 2019 Open Quarterfinals, LSE Open 2019 Open Semifinals, and EUDC 2017 Open Quarterfinals. With over 85 judging breaks, Brian has been the DCA of USUDC 2020, NAUDC 2019, and EUDC 2019, and have chaired/judged the Grand Finals at WUDC (2019, 2018), Australs (2019, 2017, 2016); EUDC (2019, 2018); ABP (2018), amongst other tournaments. Brian is the current Director of Training at the Oxford Union, and has been coaching Eton College for the past two years.

Miriam Pierson debated for Swarthmore for four years and won Speaker of the Year and Team of the Year in 2018 and the National Championship in 2017. She is currently in her first year at Yale Law School and previously worked in NYC government.

Coaches Emeritus

David Vincent Kimel is the head coach emeritus of the Yale Debate Association.

He graduated Summa cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard University in 2005 with a BA in Classics, concentrating on Greek and Roman history. In that same year, he and his partner became the first top ranked TOTY pairing in the history of Harvard debate. (Coincidentally, he tied former YDA coach Rory Gillis for 6th place Speaker of the Year.) A two-time winner of Harvard's Coolidge Debating Prize, he served as the Chief Adjudicator at the North American Championship in 2007.

Following graduation, Kimel worked at the POSCO steel factory in Pohang, South Korea and eventually started his own business with former Harvard Speech and Parliamentary Debate Society President Scott Lichtenstein. "Imperial Publishing" provides English language material and instructional materials in debate to schools in East Asia. To date, Kimel has published a translation of Plautus' Menaechmi and several textbooks for children (such as Ancient History from Augustus to Zoroaster and The Renaissance: Or How I Learned to Stop Praying and Start Loving Naked Statues). 

Alex Worsnip was a PhD student in philosophy at Yale. His coaching expertise is mainly in British Parliamentary style, having competed on the BP circuit for four years for Oxford before coming to Yale. Amongst other things, he has been a Grand Finalist at the World Championships, a Grand Finalist at the European Championships, the winner of the International Mace (the British and Irish joint national championships), and the best speaker at the Cambridge IV. As a judge he has been Chief Adjudicator of the Oxford IV and Yale IV, amongst other tournaments, and chaired numerous elimination rounds at Worlds and Euros. Before coaching at Yale, he coached Oxford's Development Squad for two years as well as coaching the Welsh team at the World Schools Debating Championships to their first ever semi-final.

David Trinh was 2nd TOTY in 2012, 10th TOTY in 2011 and 7th SOTY in 2012. Known for focusing on law and economics, Trinh was the author of notable cases such as "Trills," "Debt Brake" and "Citizens United v FEC was wrong decided." Trinh also currently holds the record for the most number of national qualifying points in APDA history. In 2012, Trinh graduated magna cum laude from Yale College with a B.A. in economics and political science (and distinction in both majors). While at Yale, David was also the founder and editor of the Yale Undergraduate Law Review. He currently works at a hedge fund in Westport, CT where he serves as an Investment Associate.

Alex Taubes graduated from Yale Law School in 2015. Alex graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science in 2011 from Boston University where he was President of the Boston University Debate Society. In 2011, Alex was the first APDA debater since Yale Debater Brian Fletcher, class of 2001, to win APDA's Team of the Year (TOTY), Speaker of the Year (SOTY), and National Championship in the same year. Alex also served as President of APDA from 2010-2011 and Vice President of Operations from 2009-2010. Between college and law school, Alex worked in the chambers of Judge David S. Tatel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In addition to coaching the team, Alex provided advice to Mayor Toni Harp during her mayoral campaign, along with head coach David Kimel. Alex enjoys Major League Baseball, reading, and commuting between New Haven and his family's home in Madison, CT.

Nick Cugini graduated from Yale in 2015. During his time on the Yale Debate Association, Nick competed extensively in both the American and British Parliamentary styles. In APDA, he reached the final round of APDA's National Championships, the semi-final round of the North American Championships and won 9 individual tournaments. He was 2nd Team of the Year in 2011, in the top 10 Speakers of the Year in 2011 and 2012, and was the Novice of the Year in 2010. In British Parliamentary, he reached the semi-final round of the World Championships and the Oxford IV and was a two-time finalist at the HWS Round Robin. Nick also served on the Executive Board of the YDA as Membership Director in 2011.