Speech and Debate Teams merge


Combining practices and tournaments, 50 students on the Speech and Debate Team will join-together this fall after a decision from Nick Gehl, Fine Arts Dept. Chair.

“By offering one organization we can better recruit students, better manage our budget, and we can better offer students a broader experience,” said Jeff Hannan, Debate coach. “They can do more types of forensic activities.”

The merger comes after the unprecedented success of last year’s Debate Team, which saw two state champions, six national qualifiers and won a national championship.

The decision to combine teams, explained Hannan, “is a reflection of our growing team and national presence.”

Merging teams is great in theory, but there are still concerns. While the Speech Team focuses more on theater skills with events like Humorous Acting, Prose and Improv, the Debate Team emphasizes argumentation, logical reasoning and public speaking with events like Public Forum, Lincoln-Douglas and Congressional.       “I’ve always felt the two teams were very different,” explained Speech Team captain Caitlin Westerfield, senior. “There is a different atmosphere in the two teams.”

In addition to adjusting to new social dynamics, scheduling practices and tournaments will be a challenge. In the past, Speech Team members met only in the winter and required members to attend seven tournaments, whereas Debate members met all year and could choose to attend tournaments.

“It’s a big logistical undertaking. The speech team last year had eight tournaments, which you’re adding to our debate team last year which had 30 tournaments.” added Hannan.

Still, members of both teams are optimistic. “I do speech events on the debate team, so I think it will be awesome to have more kids in that capacity to practice with and against,” stated Debate Team captain Logan Pearlman, senior.

For coach Hannan, the merger is an opportunity to expose new students to Speech and Debate and invest in new talent.     “We have 50 students returning, and we’re aiming to get to 80,” he explained.

Both teams have had successful seasons, but while staying competitive is important, it’s not the main goal of the teams.

“The goal for debate is just to learn new things. To become a better speaker and a better writer,” explained Nina Kaushikkar,   sophomore.