SPEECH AND DEBATE TEAM OFFICERS – Lilly Shea, McKenzie Jones, Brett Thompson, Bria Brattin and Chloe Ingle. Another officer, Fin Brown, was on a field trip when the photo was taken. (TIFFANY BOLIN PHOTO)

Webb City speech and debate team named district Leading Chapter

Officers get the credit for recruiting new members and encouraging them

The National Speech and Debate Association announced Tuesday that the Webb City High School speech and debate team has been named the Leading Chapter in the Carver-Truman District.

Being a leading chapter is the highest recognition a NSDA charter school can achieve. And there is just one per district each year. The Carver-Truman District takes in most of southwest Missouri.

Based on student participation, the award “represents a tremendous dedication to speech and debate education,” said J. Scott Wunn, NSDA executive director. “Our Leading Chapter schools understand the importance of speech and debate, and the life changing benefits of the activity. We are proud to recognize these hard-working schools with this coveted honor.”

Team coach Tiffany Bolin says she’s incredibly proud of her students for receiving the award but admits, “We didn’t realize it was something we could be striving for.”

The team is striving to achieve a lot of other goals.

Growing the number of students in speech class and participating on the debate team is perhaps the top goal.

The number of students involved has more than doubled since Bolin became the coach three years ago. She deflects credit, though, giving it to the team officers. They recruit and encourage other students to become involved.

“I love how much of a leadership role our officers have taken,” says Bolin. They run summer camp and this year they tackled creation of a 72-page handbook to show novices about the 20 ways they can compete.

“Our numbers have gone way up, in class and as a team,” says Bolin. The initial goal was to involve 50 to 75 students. There are now 90, “and we hope to break 100 before the school year ends.”

Another goal is to have more national academic award winners. Less than 2% nationally achieve the academic award because it requires being a junior in the second semester with 750 points and a 3.5 GPA.

Webb City has had only seven academic award winners, with the first two in 2015, two in 2018, and three in 2019. Bolin says she has one student who meets the qualifications except he has to wait until his second semester as a junior.

A goal was reached last year when the team achieved 200 strength points. “They were really wanting that to happen,” says Bolin.

The team also broke a barrier last year by being ranked 26th in the state and 256th nationally. 

The debate season lasts nine months and begins this weekend with a tournament in Willard.

On the bright side, tournament finals will be conducted live this year. 

They’re being called hybrid tournaments because pre-recorded entries will be judged in the opening rounds. Those advancing will travel to the site to compete in person.

Bolin looks forward to live competition again, for her students’ sake. There is only one senior on the team who has previously competed in the regular manner.

Live competition means “we’ll actually have awards ceremonies,” says Bolin.