New coach keeps the squad on course.
Ranking 19th among more than 300 schools at the World Universities Debate Championship in Turkey last month, the University of La Verne debate team has proved to itself and to the University that hard work and dedication pays off.
The team got a new coach this fall. Josh Martin, former debater and La Verne alumnus, was previously captain and then assistant coach to the team.
He took over from former coach Ian Lising, who stepped down because he was named chairman of the speech communications department.
“Since I’ve been around the La Verne team for so long, I have a lot of experience,” Martin said.
“Ian Lising handed the coaching position over to me and I am just building on what he has already created,” he added.
The debate team is successful because of its approach when given debate topics, Martin said.
The team uses the British Parliamentary format which “focuses on the importance of exploring ideas rather than beating the opposing team,” Martin said.
During competition, debaters are encouraged to debate in their own style.
“We are all great speakers, but we have different strengths,” said Ryan Mansell, sophomore political science and speech communication major. “Some of us use humor or passion, but I approach topics with organization because it’s how I am confident I get my point across.”
After the topics are assigned in the competition, the teams have 15 minutes to prepare and discuss key information so they can argue their side.
“During debate, when you are given your topic and side, you have to convince yourself that the side you have, despite your personal opinions, is right. In the end, you’re arguing for your side, not for what you believe in,” Mansell said.
As a team, the students have class on Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., and they get together on Friday nights for two to four hours.
During these sessions, the group studies history, politics, and current events to keep up on top of controversies they may have to argue.
Brittany Lokar, senior education major and theater arts minor, said with the work they put into searching for knowledge during practice, they are well prepared when competition comes around.
“The coaches are amazing at meeting each debater and tailoring to our needs,” Lokar said.
Briana Pride, senior political science and religion major, has been the captain of the team for the past two years.
“As captain, I help my teammates build on their skills and acquire new ones,” Pride said. “I assist in their research and work with the members individually.”
Pride said her favorite part about the competition itself is going into the difficult battle of the minds, even up against the Ivy League schools, as well as Oxford University.
“Statistics say more people are afraid of public speaking than death,” Pride said. “We are always accepting new members; it’s not as scary as you may think.”
Kristen Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.