Speech and Debate holds informational meeting

Speech and Debate kicked off the season with an informational meeting with new coach.

An enthusiastic group of students gathered for an informational meeting for West High’s 2018-19 Speech and Debate team on Tuesday, Sept. 4. The meeting was held in English Teacher John Cooper’s room, 133. Cooper will be taking over the role of coach this year after the previous coaches, Social Studies teachers Travis Henderson and Megan Johnson stepped down. 

Natalie Dunlap
Students meet after school for the speech and debate club’s informational meeting with Mr. Cooper on Tuesday, Sept. 4.

The room was packed with students from all walks of life, including experienced debaters and underclassmen who haven’t participated in a debate activity before. Throughout the meeting, Cooper introduced guidelines for the group, including what he described as the team’s motto for the year ahead. It was a quote from Ernest Hemingway, stating, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

— Ernest Hemingway

Kyle Kopf, a freshman at the University of Iowa, is also lending a hand to the team. Along with him, a junior named Anna Correa, and West High Alums Mason Wang ’18 and Brandon Burkhardt ’18 will provide assistance in different coaching areas. Cooper described Burkhardt’s role as crucial in that he knows what to expect from judges.

“As a performer, he’s aware of what it takes it to project your character forward, not just in the physical sense, but also in an emotional sense, as well as just basic performance cues,” Cooper said.

There’s absolutely a legacy.

— Mr. Cooper

Cooper’s own experience started from his work as a performer in high school. Using this as his starting point, he did Speech for one year and ended up being the regional champion in original comedy. 

“It’s a small pin, but it’s one that I like to wear a lot. Proverbially, there’s no real pin,” Cooper said.

After that, he coached at his alma mater for college for four years. For a time after that, he worked in St. Louis before he came to Iowa City.

“When I got to Iowa City and started subbing here … I kinda set it as a back burner dream that I may be able to land a job here and get to work on the speech and debate team,” Cooper said.

With the long run of success after years under the previous coaches, taking up the reins is not an easy task. 

“There’s absolutely a legacy,” said Cooper, “I’m taking over the program from two of the most inspiring teachers that I’ve ever worked with. Megan and Travis showed me quite a bit of what this program has been for the last six or seven years … [they established] that you show up to win, this is a competitive event, we don’t just show up and goof off. On top of that though, they had a group that had a lot of fun and did well.”

Though the task is a daunting one, Cooper is optimistic about continuing the legacy. “I’m looking forward to recreating or even extending that line of success. But it is scary.”

Speech and Debate practice will take place Mondays and Wednesdays after school in Mr. Cooper’s room, 133.