During the team’s weekly meetings, they participate in activities to build public speaking skills and practice for upcoming events. ((Photo Credit: Sofia Girgenti/Used with Permission))
During the team’s weekly meetings, they participate in activities to build public speaking skills and practice for upcoming events.

(Photo Credit: Sofia Girgenti/Used with Permission)

AHN Speech and Debate Adjusts to Covid-19

October 20, 2020

Due to Covid-19, extracurricular clubs at Academy have been made to adopt new practices to keep students safe. Among these clubs is Academy’s Speech and Debate team, who have found new ways to practice and compete.

Due to Covid-19, the team’s 2019-2020 season ended early, with all local and national tournaments being cancelled. Due to this cancellation, there was uncertainty surrounding the 2020-2021 season and how it would take place. Both the Academy team and the Florida Gulf Coast Catholic Forensics League (FGCCFL), the league Academy competes in, have made changes to ensure that the season can continue safely.

The team started their season in September, with their first meeting looking different than in years past. The meeting took place on the third floor commons, allowing students room to social distance. Meetings take place every Tuesday from 2:45 to 3:15. Students are able to practice their pieces and do research for upcoming events. However, during these practices students must wear their masks and social distance. 

The club participates in a socially distanced mock debate during a meeting. (Photo Credit: Sofia Girgenti/Used with Permission)

Normally, competitions take place at local high schools with many students competing in the same room. This year, competitions are taking place online through the National Speech and Debate Association’s online platform. This ensures students do not have to wear a mask while competing, as it would muffle their voice and affect their performance. To keep the camaraderie of competitions, Academy students have been offered the opportunity to compete from Academy’s campus.

Speech and Debate moderator and Learning Resource Specialist Dr. Julie Omodio-Griess said, “This season has adapted quite well. The goal of our league is not to cancel any tournaments, but to adjust according to the new normal. They are all hands on deck when it comes to finding a way that our season can continue despite all the challenges we have faced.”

Competitions are judged by volunteers, typically the parents of students participating in them. This year, judge training is also being completed online. This helps prepare judges to judge online specifically, as both parents and students will be adjusting to this new platform.

The club has also split into two parts this year. The first is the team, whose members compete in at least three competitions and is designed to participate in the FGCCFL. The other is the club, which is not designed for competition, but rather to help girls enhance their public speaking abilities.

Anna Reins, junior representative of the team, said, “The club has grown to 29 girls this year and has been made into two separate parts. It’s very different than usual, and we’re all excited to see how we adjust.”

The team will compete for the first time this season on Oct. 24, with students partaking in the categories of Dramatic Performance, Oral Interpretation, and Declamation. While competing virtually, they will be able to do so at the Academy.

“I’m excited to see how things turn out. It may be a little strange, but it’s interesting to see a new way of doing tournaments. I think they’ll be a little less nerve wracking and more comfortable,” said Sophomore Isabella Pearson.

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