Rebuild Year: Speech and Debate Adapts to New Structure


Speech and Debate participants after a successful tournament at Hendrickson

Rebuild Year: Speech And Debate Adapts to New Structure

Brock Sutter, Editor-In-Chief 

Standifer at a Thursday Independent Event practice

Following the graduation of many veteran debaters and the retirement of the former coach, the VRHS Speech & Debate Club is rebuilding and looking forward to success in tournaments this year. To gain some insight on how the club is now operating, this reporter spoke to Mr. Johnathen Standifer, the new head coach of the club.


“I did Speech and Debate for years in high school, and while I’ve become a teacher I’ve also always been very passionate about S&D. So I’ve done a couple of programs before and the previous debate coach retired, which meant the school needed a new one and I was more than willing to help out.” Standifer said.


The Speech and Debate program allows students to attend tournaments in which they may compete in a variety of competitive events, including Public Forum debate, Lincoln-Douglas debate, Dramatic Interpretation, Poetry, Extemporaneous Speech, and more. These tournaments are hosted by other schools, many of which also participate.


“Coaching other schools is definitely a lot different than it is here. You guys have a lot of support here for stuff like this that I didn’t have a lot of in other schools. You guys are really lucky to have, like, not just funding, but time being put in, staff support and everything here. We spent more on our first debate tournament here than I had as a total budget in my last school. It’s really good.”  Standifer said.


Every event has something to offer to an aspiring debater, and the number of events lets participants experiment with their strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. The most popular events are Public Forum debate, Lincoln-Douglas debate, and Cross-Examination (or CX) debate. However, one man’s trash may be another man’s treasure, and vice versa.


“CX debate is my least favorite event. It’s the most cut, dry, dull and boring event. Judging a CX round is probably one of the worst experiences there is in debate, specifically. Which is funny, because CX was the first debate event I ever did. [My favorite event] is one that I never got to do, which is Humorous Interp[retation]. I love watching aspiring comedians make fools of themselves onstage at a tournament.”


Sometimes, new participants may find that they have skills in an event that they never before thought existed. Speech and Debate can be hard work at times, but the rewards often outweigh the work.


“[My least favorite experience] would be doing paperwork. I’m not very good at paperwork. So signing up for tournaments, handling money, it just adds work to your plate that I couldn’t care less about. But my favorite experience would go to me coaching last year. I had a freshman girl show up and we didn’t have a class, we had volunteers, and she showed up after school. Her very first competition ever was our District UIL competition where she got 1st place and made regionals, where she barely didn’t qualify for state. It was incredible.”


Part of Mr. Standifer’s role as coach is to support and advise aspiring debaters so that they can be the most successful they can be. In his opinion, there’s just one important skill that all debaters must develop:


“The most important skill for a debater, specifically, is to be able to think on your feet and come up with answers. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if something gets thrown at you during a round and you don’t have an answer, you need to be able to be quicker on your feet. A quick thinker. “


Speech and Debate is a highly rewarding activity for its participants, many of whom end up highly successful in tournaments. For more information, the VRHS Speech and Debate Instagram account can be found at @vrhs_debate, and meetings are held most days of the week in Mr. Standifer’s room. The program is going for gold this year, and Mr. Standifer is excited to be a part of it!


“You guys had a solid program when I got here, so I’m just looking forward to getting involved this year. But y’all are going to be successful whether I’m here or not. Go Rangers!”


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