NSDA: Two Sides to Every Coin

From June 13th to June 18th, Courtney and Kelon competed in the 2016 National Speech and Debate Tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah. Their DUO, "To Every Coin," by Gregory T. Burns, couldn't have been a more fitting grand finale to their high school speech and debate experience.

I have coached Courtney and Kelon for the past two years, and although their DUO embodies the two sides of a relationship, I would like to take a moment to embody the two sides to their growth as speakers and as young adults.  This is important because speech and debate is not primarily about enhancing oratorical skill; rather, it is about developing as a person, and I am proud of how they have developed over the past two years.

When I met Courtney, it was obvious she possesses tremendous speaking talent and skill.  She captivates her audience through the oratorical deftness of her delivery and content.  But aside from her speaking ability, her tender heart for people is equally apparent.  As I took over as the new coach, I became aware of her internal struggle: how to effectively manage her time, negotiating her needs with that of the team, and as president of the club, she made everyone's speaking success her top priority.

Over the past two years, I have seen Courtney grow in her ability to negotiate her personal success with that of her team.  I have seen her selflessly give of her time in order to mentor other speakers.  I have seen her speak hard truth to her team when they needed redirection and encourage them in their personal successes as she witnessed their growth.  Above all, I have seen her grow in confidence as a leader.  There are two sides to every coin, and for Courtney, she has journeyed from an awareness of her potential to the realization of her potential.  When I began coaching, our first conversations were about why she hadn't competed at nationals.  Now we talk about her experience in nationals.  Our first conversations were about how she kept the team together.  Now we talk about the team she built.  Our first conversations were about having confidence in herself.  Now confidence is assumed and the goal is the focus.  The process of speech and debate has given her more than improved oratory - it has been the crucible where she has gained access to the confident, independent, empathetic leader she is striving to become in both college and her future career aspirations.  Courtney's peers on the speech and debate team see this in her and respect her for it.

​It was obvious, when I first met Kelon, that he is a big guy, and even more noticeable than his large stature are his ginormous aspirations.  He dreams big, he thinks big, he is big.    But aside from his visionary thinking, he has a big heart and is extremely loyal.  As I took over as coach, I became aware of his internal struggle: he needed to see me believe big for he and the team.  He needed to trust me as the new coach so that he could embolden the team to follow my lead.

Kelon was the first to verbally express that I could take the team where it needed to go.  He may have seen the vision for the team before I did, and as I have seen Kelon grow in his visionary thinking, I have also seen Kelon grow in patience.  The two sides of the coin, for Kelon, is that he has been learning to patiently wait for his vision to materialize into reality.  When I first began coaching, our conversations were about team cohesion.  Now we talk about team legacy.  Our first conversations were about personal accomplishment.  Now we talk about servant-leadership and the team's potential.  Our first conversations were about awards and local tournaments.  Now we talk about competition in national tournaments.  The process of speech and debate has given Kelon more than a greater theatrical repertoire in communication - it has enhanced his focus, expanded his vision, and enlarged his awareness of how to set goals and how to embolden others to think big(ger).  Kelon's peers respect him for this - they believe he will bring out the best in them.

As the speech and debate coach for Phillip O. Berry Academy, the past two years have been some of my fondest and best years as an educator.  Courtney and Kelon have been well paired as the two sides of Cardinal Speak - the president and vice-president of the speech and debate team; they have also been a central part of the two sides of my experience as a coach, helping me to be the best coach I can be.  More importantly, they have empowered everyone on the team to be a more caring, stronger, better group of people.  If I had a coin to wish upon, I couldn't have picked a better one to flip into the well of circumstance.