Program changes will not stop Simpson Speech & Debate


Submitted to The Simpsonian

Simpson’s 2019 Speech and Debate Team gathered for a team picture with their national tournament trophies.

by Morgan Parrish, Staff Reporter

The Simpson College Speech & Debate Team will be competing in the national tournament via Yaatly, an online tournament platform, from March 18 through March 21. 

The Speech & Debate Team is a cohesive unit that includes public speaking, acting, and argumentation in a competitive setting. Students gather knowledge about provided topics and present their arguments to their competition or audience. This program allows students to participate in intellectual discussions and explore new ideas from other people. 

Simpson’s Speech & Debate Team consists of over 70 members and will have 40 members competing at nationals this year. Spencer Waugh is the director of Simpson’s speech, debate and mock trial program and has helped it grow tremendously. In 2011 the team consisted of only four members and was not ranked, and now the debate team won the National Team Championship in Debate in 2016, 2018, 2019 and runner-up in 2017. The team did not have a ranking or national tournament in 2020 due to COVID-19. 

Outside of team competitions, the program members have also received several individual student national champion awards and tournament trophies in both speech and debate from across the country. In 2019 the two teams combined had a national ranking by the Pi Kappa Delta Tournament at 3rd and are looking to fight for the number one spot this year. 

“Practice started at the end of August 2020. We have practiced twice a week plus individual meetings with coaches during the week, every week since then. Debate and speech have separate meetings. There are 11 different speech events and five different styles of debate,” said Waugh.

Nationals were set to take place in Texas this year, but all tournaments have been moved online. This year will be the first national tournament held online. Students are still required to dress in a business casual outfit for competition and have their own academic space to safely perform on campus. Simpson will compete against approximately 80 other colleges and universities and each event will be participated in by a Simpson member. 

“This year will be a challenge for the debate team. We graduated a great group of seniors. The tournament eliminated the junior varsity and novice divisions in three of the four debate divisions due to small entry sizes. We had some very strong entries there,” said Waugh.

Students that were anticipating competing in the junior varsity divisions will now be moved to the varsity division. “That will put our younger team at a disadvantage this year but will be a great learning opportunity for all of our students,” said Waugh. 

Waugh is supported by multiple coaches who help teach the members how to break down concepts, find supporting material, interpret information, critical thinking and teamwork skills needed to win competitions and be successful outside of the program. Coaches include Deano Pape, Assistant Director, Steven Gill, LD coach, Eduardo Magalhaes, Debate coach and Tyler Buller, Mock Trial coach. 

Junior,  Faith Leonard, human services major, is an undergraduate assistant for the speech team and will be competing in nationals. Leonard has several techniques to prepare herself for competitions. 

“I prepare for competitions by running events through my head as I walk to places and listen to my programs each once a day to keep it fresh in my head. I also will record my events on my phone to listen to on headphones for easier access to my piece. I try and get as much homework done ahead of time to eliminate some extra stress or commitments on me,” Leonard said. 

Leonard said that speech and debate have taught her to a better leader, teammate, friend, and much more. 

“I have been pushed to expand my knowledge and step outside of my comfort zone. I think the biggest gain I have from speech and debate is educating myself to be a better version of myself and that it is okay to admit your faults,” Leonard said. 

Leonard says she’s excited about the national tournament because she enjoys hearing various viewpoints from others around the nation.