Speech and Debate Team Set to Take Stage

Skylar Britt, Editor

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Park University’s new speech and debate team is working hard to prepare for the upcoming, October 6 tournament in Manhattan, Kansas. This is the first tournament since the early 1900’s—the last time the school had an active speech and debate team before WWl shifted the focus to theater and entertainment.

The new team is made of eight members which exceeded, Associate Professor of Communication, Dr. Cohn’s goal of six. Cohn, along with Chris Tomas are the Directors of Speech and Debate and work to revamp the longtime dormant club to not only provide the students with a great experience, but also allow for a learning experience that can’t be found in a classroom. 

“You learn things in speech and debate that will help in life,” said Cohn. “You are more articulate, become a better critical thinker, are able to quickly generate ideas, and speed up thinking which aides in interviews and the job field.” 

President Gunderson initiated the revamping of the club to ensure Park students are offered the same experience he had during the time he was involved in college. 

“There is a real level of support here that’s unusual in other universities,” said Cohn. “Usually they are wanting to cut the program rather than fund and start a team. This is a special time and place because this opportunity doesn’t come along everyday.”

Having debated at Truman state herself and even marrying her debate partner, she contributes the experience to much of her success.

“It got me through grad school because it allowed me to think quicker and write papers faster,” said Cohn. “I probably would have out right failed in my first year of teaching if it wasn’t for this. I was able to problem solve quickly and not seem flustered when I really was.”

Many different types of majors are represented including that of United States history by sophomore Hailey Raw. With three years experience under her belt, she is continuing her research and putting the final touches together for the upcoming debate. 

“In high school, I needed a speech requirement so I chose debate and I fell in love with it,” said Raw. 

The years spent in the club has also brought along many tournaments and wins. 

“Winning is my favorite,” said Raw. “The brutal wins. I love when you know you’re better and the opponent knows you’re better.”

There are many different events to debate in such as limited prep, extemporaneous speaking, IE, known as individual events, and Lincoln-Douglas debate which is also a single person debate. 

“My favorite event now is improv,” said Raw. “You are given about two minutes to write a five minute speech. With the little time to prepare and practice, you get an adrenaline rush which is good for improving your quick reflex skills.”

This inherently brings along a lot of nerves and stress. Much like any job or career one faces, the success is often found in how one choses to react and handle the stress. Raw has found the perfect formula for her to remain calm before and during the debates. 

“I try to not allow myself to get nervous,” said Raw. “I usually only get about two to three hours of sleep before the event and combat that with a lot of coffee. The trick is to not think about how nervous you are and focus on the event.”  

For anyone considering to join the speech and debate team, Raw offers some advice to aid in the decision.

“As long as you are willing to put in a lot of work—as much as you would with a sports team—then absolutely do it,” said Raw. “It’s a great community. Talking to debaters and others involved in the community allows you to form strong and lasting friendships. It teaches you a lot about life and public speaking.” 

  Cohn also encourages the decision to join the club for the many opportunities it provides. 

“Literally anyone is welcome on the team,” said Cohn. “I didn’t want to discourage people from joining, I just wanted to give the experience of this club. We meet every Wednesday for one hour and then I individually meet with each of the members for an additional hour later in the week. I wanted to make it more student working friendly so it doesn’t become overwhelming.”

As of now, the team is budgeted to go to three tournaments in the Fall and three in the Spring. However, after the first year back, a welcome back year if you will, the budget and number of tournaments each semester may rise. For now, the team has it’s sights set on the opening debate which will allow them to both gage their success thus far and let the other universities know they are here to compete.   

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