How does Speech and Debate build success?

Speech and Debate posters outside of their practice area – Jingyuan Chen ’23

When you speak to others, maybe you feel nervous and scared, or maybe you just like to argue? No matter where you are in terms of how well you speak, or how much experience you have, you can always improve your skills. 

Among the choices on campus, such as Robotics or Model UN, stands Speech and Debate.

Fourth Former Mason Wiegand, the current undefeated captain, joined the club in First Form. “My history teacher was running it, and I really liked her and she said I would be good at it,” Wiegand said. 

Wiegand competes in “extemporaneous speaking,” in which he has “30 minutes to prepare on a topic for a seven-minute speech.” 

“These are world event topics that are current,” Wiegand said, “and I have to create an opinion and argue that opinion during the speech.” 

“Extemp” speakers must use the skills of improvisation and quick research and thinking that can help in fields that are presentation heavy, such as business or finance. 

One, it serves as a sports credit, and two, it gives [him] valuable life skills such as public speaking, being social […], and getting out of your comfort zone.

Luca Aloi ’25

Fourth Former Luca Aloi joined Speech and Debate because “one, it serves as a sports credit, and two, it gives [him] valuable life skills such as public speaking, being social […], and getting out of your comfort zone.” 

Spanish teacher Mr. Javier Lluch and history teacher Mr. LaJuan Foust serve as team coaches. Mr. Foust has been involved with Speech and Debate for around 25 years and started as a high school student. 

“I had a classmate who thought I would do really well in the event,” Mr. Foust said. “I didn’t win, but I really enjoyed the experience, so I stayed!” 

Speech and Debate’s environment is supportive and enjoyable—the reason Mr. Foust and so many others decided to join its community. It builds bonds. 

Mr. Foust said, “My best friends right now are folks I’ve met either as a competitor in high school or college or as a coach.” 

The Speech and Debate world is extremely varied but also interconnected. There are many different forms of speech, such as impromptu and extemporaneous, which help students make and think of speeches on the spot, building their confidence and improvisational skills. These competitions usually concern current events and well-known topics. 

Mr. Foust mentioned that one year, as a judge for a tournament, he “threw in all random quotes from Star Trek: The Next Generation.” 

While many types of speeches in the sport are prepared beforehand, the types that force students to learn about a new topic quickly and deliver a well-informed speech on it are beneficial not only to the basic skills of speaking, but also to expose students to new topics they may not have explored.

Taking risks, building confidence, and learning about new topics and current issues are skills that all students can learn.

This rigorous but manageable schedule sets Speech and Debate students apart from other activities. 

Aloi said, “[The team] practices every Thursday and occasional tournaments on Thursdays as well and sometimes have tournaments on weekends, such as the Pennsbury tournament on the weekend of February 4.”