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Talking the talk

Moffat County High School speech team finds success in competition, classroom

Samantha Johnston

They practice hard every day. They compete every month. They are funny, sad, bitter, satirical, and they are, in their own words, different.

They are all kinds of people, with all kinds of personalities who are all committed to their team.

Instead of donning a uniform, they modify their expressions to match their moods, and make their faces match their performance.

Their sweatshirts read: “We talk it’s getting us to be quiet that’s the hard part.”

They are the Moffat County High School speech team.

The speech room is filled with famous people and quotes, individual goals, elements of stage fright, maps and other items that suggest adventure, culture and a desire to learn and grow. Nobody is afraid to speak up and everybody listens when a teammate is performing.

Speech is about the opportunity to learn and grow with long-term benefits, such as college scholarships and a competitive edge when students enter the job market, said Mary Quinn, assistant speech coach. The ability to communicate and articulate are qualities that many young adults don’t have.

“Not only do they become better students, but they become better people,” Quinn said.

Becoming better doesn’t always mean competing against each other in a rivalry situation, but competing against yourself to become better than the week before.

“When you are on a basketball team, it’s always competitive and you are always against somebody,” said Teneil Jayne, co-captain of the MCHS speech team. “In sports, Steamboat and Craig are huge rivals. In speech, you become best allies and you make a lot of connections.”

“You know that no matter where you go in the state, you’ll know somebody through speech,” she said.

But speech doesn’t only help students to become better speakers, it helps to make them better students and better thinkers.

“They say that speech is language arts in action,” speech coach Amy Coleman said. “It’s probably one of very few extracurricular activities with real world application.”

Coleman said she is proud of the fact that her students all learn to become better critical thinkers and analysts.

“They learn team work, how to become better writers and this helps them to overcome stage fright,” Coleman said. “They are witty, too. Other teachers always know the students who are in speech because they have quick comebacks and always think on their feet.”

And from a student’s perspective, speech is about much more than becoming a better public speaker.

“It helps you with everything in school,” Jayne said. “When I was taking STOP tests and other tests, when it comes to writing, you really excel. And I haven’t always been a good student. If I hadn’t taken speech, I probably wouldn’t have gotten out of the rut I was in.

“What’s cool is that you don’t even realize that you’re learning. It helps me to be more organized in other classes, too.”

Jayne, who started the program as a sophomore in high school, wishes that she had started the program earlier.

“When I was in middle school, the high school speech team did a skit for us and it seemed like so much fun,” she said. “When I got into high school as a freshman, I didn’t have time to join. But now I wish I would have started earlier.”

Speech can be intimidating to those students who don’t know what the program is about and don’t understand what it takes to become a successful speaker.

“You don’t necessarily have to have any skills to start. You have to be willing to participate and work hard,” Quinn said. “Speech is intimidating because people don’t know what it is. People think you stand up and give speeches, but it’s so much more than that.”

For the most parts, speech students get to choose their moods and decide what they want to perform.

“They don’t realize you can be sad or funny or whatever,” Quinn said. “You can pick things you feel very strongly about and share it with other people.”

Perhaps the captive audience is one benefit of speaking in public.

“You have an audience, and you get to stand up and talk about whatever you believe in and people have to listen,” Jayne said.

Jayne admits that the actual speaking competition isn’t always as interesting as the things you see while you are at the competitions.

“Down time is the most interesting part of the competition because you get to see 20 different

people talking to a wall, practicing to be perfect when it’s their turn,” she said.

The excitement of watching others at the competition also can be inspiring.

“When you see a novice from our team, or any other team, and they are so nervous to make a fool of themselves, it feels so good when they do well,” Jayne said. “Being so excited for other people, even if it’s from other teams, is just so much fun.”

And then there are the awards to be won at different levels of the competition.

Each time a contestant competes, he or she is awarded points that go to the National Forensics League. The more points a contestant earns, the more expensive the jewel in the pin that they receive.

“The judging is very complicated,” said Loren Viske. “But, the judges comments are helpful so when we practice, we can get better.”

One of the best things for Coleman as a coach is what a good group of students she has to work with.

“We allow these kids a lot of independence, but they respect that,” she said. “Other speech coaches tell me that it would be a lot more fun for them if they had the group of kids that I have.”

Coleman also knows that her students are destined for greatness.

“It teaches them to be very professional. You see them acting in different ways than just being kids. I wish I could see all of the kids in 10 years to see the senators and the mayors,” she said. “These kids are going to be something.”


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