Restarting speech team to learn and compete


William Schavee

The SPA speech team holds their third practice in preparation for competition day.

The students at Saint Paul Academy and Summit School have once again shown their ability to innovate and expand regardless of the situation they find themselves in. This year, the speech Team was officially established after being an unofficial club for a couple of SPA students last year. In the 2019-2020 school year, Michael Moran and Spencer Burris-Brown were the only SPA students involved in speech competitions but after one year of doing it on their own, they decided that they should start a team.
In tournaments, five to eight speakers present to a judge who compares their speeches and determines who moves on to the next round. Competitors are judged based on the content of their actual speech as well as their ability to present their speeches. There are many different categories for individual competitors to choose from ranging from Dramatic Interpretation to Informative Speaking. One of the most common categories for SPA students is domestic Extemporaneous speaking or “Extemp” for short. In this category, students are given a prompt that they will most likely have pre-researched information on. Then they are given 30 minutes to craft their seven-minute speech that answers the prompt.
Michael Moran competed in Extemp tournaments last year and plans to compete in that category this year as well. This year, however, he will not just have one fellow SPA competitor but a whole team along with him. For Moran having a team is very beneficial, “This year, we have way more people…you have a prebuilt evidence folder that is broken up into smaller evidence folders for specific topics and we have way more help this year compiling information.” Moran said.
For Domestic Extemp competitors having only 30 minutes to create a fully formed speech is not easy but having a lot of evidence that is clearly stated can make your speech writing process much more efficient.
Students can choose to compete in other categories or “cross-compete” in multiple categories at the same tournament. This might sound like too much information for one person to manage but Moran explains, “All categories have a commonality in the skills they utilize, primarily public speaking, presentation, and to a lesser extent preparation.” Moran said. This means that a competitor can practice in multiple categories and use skills learned in one category to help present a speech in another.
There is usually little difference between speech and debate, but speech competitions do generally focus on a competitor’s ability to actually present their arguments rather than just the arguments alone. US Debate coach Vincent Cheng was announced as the speech team coach after having a successful first season coaching the Debate Team.
“I am really excited to work with all of the new speakers, a lot of them did debate so I already know what kind of student they are, and I think it is a really cool opportunity to be at the ground floor of an SPA speech team as it is just starting out,” Cheng said.
For Cheng, coaching the speech team has been very different than coaching the debate team. “Debate is really just argumentative based, so I basically just try to help people formulate the best arguments ahead of time. For speech it is really more of a performance so it requires teaching a lot of ethos, I teach how to come across as a credible speaker,” Cheng said.
A student can know everything there is to know about a topic but could do terribly in a speech competition on that topic if they fail to execute their speech in a persuasive manner.
Moran explained why students should join speech team by saying, “I think anyone that wants to get better at public speaking should join, it can teach you how to formulate a speech quickly and we already utilize that skill at SPA so often. It is very common that something you are already learning is necessary to do well in speech,” Moran said.
The brand new speech team is hoping to have as many members as possible, from two students to ten the team is getting better with every new addition this year. For any student who is considering joining, you have a place on the team and your skills that you are learning in other classes can and will be very useful in your new speaking endeavor.