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The Eagle

Speech and debate triples its size, begins to travel

“My junior year, there were maybe 13 people on the team on a good day. If you told me then that within three years we’d have upwards of 70 students, I might have laughed in your face,” speech alumna and assistant coach, Lauren Nieporte said.

The Speech and Debate team has gone from barely over a dozen kids to around 70. They fill up two buses, employ six coaches and run practices four days a week. The team has gone from being unknown in their own school to placing as a group in sweeps every weekend. However, there is a lot more behind the scenes leading to the group’s success. 

Every year the Speech and Debate team holds an interest meeting for potential members to come and see what being a speech and debate kid is all about. Following the previous years, there was a meeting fall of 2021 that JJ Lantz attended as a freshman. 

“When I went to the interest meeting I saw around 10 kids all of which I did not know.” Lantz said. “And I was just insecure at the time that I couldn’t get over trying something new.”

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Lantz did not end up joining in his freshman year, however he started competing as a sophomore and found himself at nationals his first year of speech. After the team gained new and talented people that were just too nervous to come as freshmen, the coaching staff realized they needed a new approach to recruit.

“Our biggest change in strategy was making sure that we intentionally spoke to all of the freshmen and sophomore English classes,” Head Speech and Debate coach, Megan Rea said.

The first few days of the 2023-2024 school year were filled with Coach Rea and the Leadership Team visiting all of the freshman and sophomores to explain how speech works and why everyone should join. 

The specifics were saved for a later date, but the students got to hear about the different categories, overnight trips, team activities and the friend group you gain from joining the team. 

But the main focus of recruitment this year was not just competing. In speech and debate you learn how to speak, act, express yourself and learn while developing skills that can be used in your professional life after school. The team put out a video of why you should join because “everybody talks” and just like that the numbers rose to a peak height. 

“This year we have 71 active students on the team,” Rea said. “Last year we had about 35 students on the team and the previous year, which was my first year coaching, we had about 20 students on the team.” 

 Rea competed at Jackson High School and has spent the last two going on three years at GlenOak sharing her love of public speaking. Her efforts, commitment and drive have been acknowledged by many as a huge part of why this team has grown and evolved. However, she is not the only newer coach, with the growth of the team comes growth of the staff.

In the past three years Megan Rea, Sam Alhadid, Abby Henry, Lauren Nieporte and Brianna DiMichele have joined Tom Mosberger with their own experience in high school Speech and Debate to create this year’s staff.

“[Lauren] works largely with our novice members and she has done a fantastic job,” Rea said. “And last year our Congress coach did not return this year so we are replacing him with Brianna DiMichele.”

Each coach has specific personal experience that makes them qualified to coach different categories and has helped the team rise up the ranks in team sweeps.

According to the Ohio Speech and Debate Association (OSDA) website GlenOak has placed 2nd, 6th, 2nd, 3rd and tied for 1st finding themselves on the board at every tournament in the season so far. Which is far better than last year’s record of 5th, 11th, 11th, 6th, 9th, 7th, 14th, 8th, 13th ,11th, and 2nd.

The team has changed its course in its rankings and in students’ lives.

“Competing in speech and debate was by far one of the best parts of my high school experience,” Nieporte said.

She had competed in three different categories during four years of high school: dramatic interpretation, duo interpretation and declamation. She commented on her previous coaches and how much they taught her and now she has stepped into that role.

“I’m really thankful for the opportunity to now get to coach these students and help them grow to love the activity, just like my coaches did for me,” Nieporte said.

Every student is required to come to practice twice a week. One of those days you spend 15-25 minutes with any coach. The other day is a session with a peer, students find another member and work through things with them or practice what they had learned from their coach. At the end of the week their notes are looked over to make sure everyone is prepared for the upcoming tournament.

“Each student has a binder with feedback papers in it,” Rea said. “And each week they are required to work, both with a peer and a coach in order to compete.”

The new system has created more organization and accountability in students practice schedules and practice makes perfect.

While the combination of new recruitment methods, coaches and practice methods have definitely led the team to growth and success in the Speech and Debate worlds, multiple people have agreed that there is a specific person to thank.

“I think a lot of the team’s success is due to the leadership and dedication of head coach Megan Rea.” Nieporte said. “She has put so much of her time and effort into the growth and development of the team, and it shows.”

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About the Contributor
Rachel Gortney, Web Managing Editor
Rachel Gortney (she/her) is a senior,  she has been on staff for three years. She is also the speech and debate team President, involved in OMUN, and Academic Challenge Captain. She loves to read and listen to music, my favorite artists are Noah Kahan and Taylor Swift. A fun fact is that John Green once replied to her tweet.
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