The Parish Episcopal Speech and Debate Team can be described in three words: small but mighty. The team isn’t large enough to take down school sweepstakes awards but it certainly does well representing the Panthers individually.
Speech and Debate Coach, Jason Warren, says it’s the first season he hasn’t had a senior on the team, so he considers this a “building year.” Currently the 10 member team includes five varsity and five first-year competitors. The oldest is a junior.
“It’s going to be a year of expansion and a year of a lot of learning and I think our students are rising to the occasion. I’ve already seen so much growth from last year and so much growth throughout the course of this year and we’re only three weeks into the season,” said Warren.
The team has traveled to tournaments in Longview, Plano and Grapevine this season. Paris Bland, Class of ’17, was the first student at Parish and in Texas to qualify for state in two events, U-S Extemporaneous and Congressional Debate.
“I’m thankful and grateful that I was able to qualify for state so early in the year. It adds pressure to help prepare my fellow teammates and myself for larger competitions, but I think I’m up to the challenge,” said Bland.
Students also performed well at the 4th annual Camp Panther Classic Tournament held September 18 and 19 at Parish Episcopal. 20 schools, including one from Louisiana, were on campus for the tournament. 52 debate teams competed in the Public forum, more than 40 in Congressional debate and an additional 200 students participated in Public Speaking and Acting events. The tournament is an integral part of PARISHarts which strives to give students valuable life skills.
“Every college will tell you that communication is an essential skill, that’s the reason why most colleges require a public speaking course. I feel like our students are far better prepared when they go to college and far better prepared when they get out as a result of forensics [Speech and Debate],”said Warren.
Speech and Debate can help fine tune those public speaking skills IF one can stomach the competition. Parish is in a tough region; four of the top five ranked schools in Texas are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
“When we go into a competition, it isn’t easy… that can be discouraging if you’re starting out,” noted Warren.
“Every weekend we’re going up against the best of the best in the hardest district. It has helped me improve, but it gets tiring,” said Bland.
The competitions are both exciting and exhausting. Students wake up at 5 a.m., debate all day and leave at midnight; they get back up the next day and do it again. Those who stick with debate and put in the hard work will not only see the rewards at tournaments but they’ll benefit in the classroom as well. Warren says debaters tend to be more confident, organized and less fearful of public speaking; they offer stronger analysis and presentational skills.
“They have a better sense of who they are and how they project themselves to their peers,” he added.
Parish Speech & Debate team members continue to fine tune their arguments and speeches as they get ready for future tournaments, including national competitions in Florida and California.
“We still got a long way to go until we go to state in March and the national tournaments in April, May and June, but if they keep working at the rate they’re working then I think we’ll get there,” said Warren.