The novice narrative

How are speech and debate newcomers handling this club virtually?

Because of the pandemic, connecting with other students has been a struggle for many freshmen at Carlsbad High. Dozens of ninth graders have gravitated towards the Speech and Debate Team in order to meet people and improve public speaking. 

In seventh and eighth grade, Romie Coffler took speech and debate workshops at Carlsbad High School and instantly fell in love with it. Now that she’s a freshman, Coffler competes in a variety of events that she chose specifically to help her with her debating skills and the ability to speak on the spot, including Congress, Public Forum, National Extemporaneous and Impromptu. Although her first competition in Public Forum was nerve-wracking, she feels more prepared to compete in tournaments in the future.

“I can already see a difference in my speaking,” Coffler said. “I’ve already seen how I’ve improved, and I know it’s because of speech and debate, because that’s where I’m getting this practice from.”

All practices and tournaments are being held virtually through platforms like Google Meet and Zoom. The meetings will continue online indefinitely, and many members of the team have expressed their desire to gather in person. 

“I know that it’s much easier to form a connection when you’re in person and going to practice everyday after school,” Coffler said. “And also the travel tournaments… I’m assuming they’re going to be cancelled, but those are the times where you have the most bonding. That’s just kind of what got cut off because of the COVID situation.”

Speaking is a very important skill that you need in life, and if you can improve on that skill by doing speech and debate, or by doing something in school, it helps”

— Varun Venkatesh (9)

Freshman Varun Venkatesh, whose brother, Arjun, is one of the captains of the Speech and Debate Team, joined the club to meet new people and improve his public speaking. After his first competitions in Public Forum, Original Advocacy and Original Oratory, Varun exhibited confidence about his performance as a novice and the value of participation in this club in the long run.

“Speaking is a very important skill that you need in life, and if you can improve on that skill by doing speech and debate, or by doing something in school, it helps,” Venkatesh said.

The award winning Speech and Debate Team was a deciding factor that led ninth grader Rylan Hoffius to Carlsbad High. He competes in Lincoln Douglass, Public Forum, National Extemporaneous and Impromptu, events that engage his interests in politics and philosophy. Although Hoffius expresses a desire to meet his teammates in person, he recognizes that this club offers more opportunities virtually than others.

“I definitely think socialization is a big part of it. I think there’s something about being in a room with people, and being able to have a discussion with them face to face instead of through chat,” Hoffius said. “However, I will say speech and debate is probably the best thing that you can do online, out of all electives…”

Varun Venkatesh also demonstrates a similar viewpoint when it comes to congregating on campus. When asked about the possibility of meeting physically, Varun was skeptical about students staying safe while gathering in person, even if they are masked and socially distanced.

“Obviously, I would love to have the experience of meeting all these cool people in person, but we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and I don’t think we should be doing that during this time; I don’t think it’s a priority,” Venkatesh said. “I think saving lives, staying home and being safe is a priority.”