Inspiration for 2016-17: Impact that Lasts a Lifetime

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2015-16: A Reflection

by Jordyn Zimmerman, Mentor HS (CLE) Class of 21016; 2015-16 National Speech & Debate Association National Student-of-the-Year Finalist; current Bobcat Speech & Debate team member at Ohio University

“Through speech and debate, we can create inclusive communities where everyone has the opportunity to tell his or her story.”

When I switched to Mentor High School for the 2015-16 school year, I never envisioned myself joining the speech and debate team.  However, that all changed when I addressed Mentor School’s staff on opening day and one of the coaches publicly asked if I wanted to join the team.

Although I thought she was joking at the time, the superintendent convinced me otherwise.  On the first day of school, I was unofficially a member of Mentor’s speech and debate team, and by October, I had an informative speech ready to go.

My first competition was in December. Even though I spent my time rocking back and forth, essentially ignoring the world around me, I was hooked within just a few minutes of being in my first round.  I walked away from my first tournament with some fairly good rankings, which I didn’t deserve.

For the first couple months, I wasn’t able to keep eye contact with the judges and simultaneously gesturing while using my iPad seemed nearly impossible.  Yet, every Saturday I competed and the Cleveland District embraced a new way of thinking. Continue reading Inspiration for 2016-17: Impact that Lasts a Lifetime

Motivation for 2016-17: Reflecting on March

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2016 HOF Inductee Amy Roediger (Shaker Hts.; Mentor, CLE)

The following is another memorable speech from March’s HOF Induction Ceremony in Princeton, given by Amy Roediger of Mentor (Cleveland).

May it inspire you and your team in preparation for the upcoming season.


March 4, 2016 – Princeton HS (GMV) – State Finals

Before I say anything else, I want to express my congratulations to Missy [Stertzbach, fellow inductee] and also recognize Pam Pesa, Dale Schilling, and Chad Ries.  I would be thrilled to be included in just a sentence with these people; to have shared the Hall-of-Fame ballot with them is such an honor.

A lot of people are talking this season about the use of visual aids in Informative Speaking, so it must be a little-known fact that visual aids have been allowed in Congress for some time.  In fact, a couple of years ago, I suggested to my Congress team that we start bringing a felt board to tournaments so that we could make spontaneous visual aids as we needed them.

We could place different-colored people on the board to match up with statistics like “Three out of five people support a piece of legislation…,” or use pieces of circles to make pie charts.  Well, I got that far before one of my Congress kids placed a circle on the board and said, “One hundred percent of us think this is a terrible idea.”

Somehow, though, when I would be the one speaking in front of 1200 people, they suddenly thought the felt board was a tremendous idea.  I guess there is no turning back now, so here are my 10 words and a felt board.

One of the many things I love about Amy is that she cares passionately about all of the students who do this activity, not just those from Mentor.  She often asks about a specific student of mine who just placed for the first time, or who is back competing after some time off, and it isn’t because she is being “creepy-competitive”—but rather because she really wants the best for every student.  Of her many amazing qualities, this is the best.

–Jason Habig, Hathaway Brown

Continue reading Motivation for 2016-17: Reflecting on March

Seeking inspiration for 2016-17? Look back to March

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Coach Stertzbach of Hoover HS (Canton), 2016 OHSSL HOF Inductee

As the 2016-17 Forensics season draws ever closer, the tasks of recruiting, auditioning, organizing, coaching, and hosting (among others) can seem daunting.

OHIOspeaks reminds coaches to be positive and to look back at States 2016 in Princeton for inspiration.  Remember, you can find videos of both the opening- and closing ceremonies at the OHSSL website.

Here is a closer look at one of the HOF speeches from this past March, from Missy Stertzbach of Hoover (Canton).  May it inspire you and your fellow coaches.


March 4, 2016 – Princeton HS (GMV) – OHSSL State Finals

For most of us in this room, it’s all about the words.  After all, that’s what we do.  We talk.

So, of course, I decided to start out by breaking it down by the numbers.

My speech-and-debate ride began 31 years ago: four as a student; two as a judge; and 24 as a coach.  I’ve coached over 500 students, with this many qualifiers and that many champions.  By the numbers, that about sums up my speech-and-debate career.  So, I guess I’m done here.  Thank you very much!

Okay, so about half of you were thinking, “Yes! She’s done!”  But those who know me well know that there is no way I am going to pass up the opportunity to force this many people to listen to me.

So—what do those numbers really mean?  For me, speech and debate has been so much more than those numbers.  It has made me who I am.  The lessons I have learned have, indeed, been life-changing.  Truthfully, it’s been some kind of ride and I have enjoyed every minute of it.

Lesson #1: Never let a bump in the road derail you from your ride.

My first coach, David (we’ll stick with just a first name here to protect the not-so-innocent), retired at the end of my freshman year, and when I think back, I can’t actually remember ever practicing with him—not once.  I realized, even then, that I wasn’t a priority; he didn’t think I had a future in speech and debate.  The fact is, that could have been the end of this entire journey.  Except up ahead on the road were Barbara Barthel (you’ve met her) and Angela Smith, who believed in me and showed me how great speech could be.  And…the rest is history.

So, David, look where my ride has taken me.

Missy has been a huge reason why the Tusky Valley team has been so successful as a “four-year team.”  Her support and knowledge as a mentor has given us the tools we need to grow.

— Carrie Spina and Cierra Spina, Tusky Valley

Continue reading Seeking inspiration for 2016-17? Look back to March

Toastmasters International Recognizes (Canton) GlenOak’s Nick Bollas

Submitted for OHIOspeaks by Vicky Nann, Toastmasters International District 10 Public Relations Manager

On Saturday, April 16, Toastmasters International District 10 (Northeastern Ohio) will present Canton-area resident Nick Bollas with the Communication and Leadership Award 2015-2016.  The Communication and Leadership award is presented by the District to a person in the community who is an outstanding communicator or leader.

Toastmasters International District 10 is recognizing Mr. Bollas’s decades-long outstanding achievements in promoting public speaking and leadership.

Nick Bollas

The award will be presented at the Toastmasters District 10 spring conference at noon at the Johnson Center, Malone University, in Canton.  The address is 2600 Cleveland Avenue NW, Canton.

A graduate of Mount Union University and Kent State University, Mr. Bollas has been a high school speech coach since 1974.  Since then, he has coached thousands of students, including 254 students who qualified for the National Speech and Debate Association’s (NSDA) tournaments, and hundreds who went on to compete in the Ohio High School Speech League (OHSSL) state tournaments, where seven of them won in their event competitions.

Mr. Bollas has received the Diamond Award, the NSDA’s award for coaching success, three times.  He has earned the NSDA’s bronze, silver, and gold District Chair citations.

Mr. Bollas served on the board of the OHSSL for 15 years, and was elected chairman of the board for three years.  He was inducted into the OHSSL Hall of Fame by his peers in 2006 after decades of successful coaching and mentoring other speech coaches.

About Toastmasters District 10: District 10 comprises more than 100 corporate and community Toastmasters clubs in Northeastern Ohio and is one of 96 districts world-wide.  To learn more about District 10, please visit:

About Toastmasters International: Toastmasters International is a worldwide nonprofit educational organization that empowers individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders.  Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organization’s membership exceeds 332,000 in more than 15,400 clubs in 135 countries.  Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people from diverse backgrounds become more confident speakers, communicators, and leaders.

For information about local Toastmasters clubs, please visit Also, you can follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.

“So, You Want to Host States, Huh?”

by Melissa Donahue, Mason High School (GMV)

 It was the eve of another OHSSL State Tournament….

 We were set to host over 1,200 competitors, coaches, and judges…. 

Teams would be arriving in less than 24 hours… Competitors were longing to talk to our walls… Only, I hadn’t made a single preparation….

I frantically awoke from a cold sweat the other night, realizing that my nightmarish dream was just that—a dream.

Fortunately, this year’s state tournament responsibilities will be dutifully executed by Alan Bates at Princeton High School, but with the State Finals returning to the Greater Miami Valley district this year, I’ve been reflecting upon my experiences as host in 2009 at Mason. Continue reading “So, You Want to Host States, Huh?”

OHSSL State Finals 2016: The T-Shirts Arrive

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This weekend at Princeton all competitors, judges, and coaches (anyone!) will be able to purchase these cool t-shirts for only $10 each!

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Once they’re gone, they’re GONE, so be sure to purchase yours while supplies last!

COACHES: Don’t forget to pick up your team’s tournament booklets at registration on Thursday night at Princeton High School.  And don’t forget to give them to your students and judges before the tournament begins!  These booklets include schedules, maps, and other important information (plus quality reading for downtime between rounds).

Program Covers 2016

(These look pretty cool, too.)


OHSSL’s “Rep Your Event” Video Contest (2016)

The Ohio High School Speech League is excited to announce a creative opportunity for all current OHSSL student competitors!

Contest Rules & Guidelines:

  • Create a 1-minute video encapsulating what makes your OHSSL competitive event great.  Voiceovers, interviews, and demonstrating the event are all allowed.  There are multiple ways to present your message, but performance clips are encouraged.
  • All videos must be appropriate for public display.  Use discretion.
  • DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES: Sunday, February 21, 2016

Winning Entries:

  • All Grand Prize-winning videos (number to be determined by OHSSL Executive Committee, not to exceed one winner per event) will be shown at the State Tournament in Princeton, and their submitters/producers will be recognized at the State Tournament Awards Assembly;
  • Winning entries will be posted to the OHSSL’s YouTube channel (which itself will be “released” with the winning entries of this contest);
  • One of the finalists will win a $100 scholarship, which will be determined at the State Tournament in March 2016.

DISCLAIMER: By submitting a video to this contest, or by assisting with production of a video submitted to this contest, you acknowledge that OHSSL retains the right to use any submitted video, or portions (including still images) thereof, for promotional purposes.

Lights!  Camera!  Action!  We look forward to seeing your creative visions.

New Year’s Message from Rich Kawolics – Chair of the OHSSL Executive Committee

Dear Ohio Speech and Debate Community:

As I opened my Facebook three days after Christmas, an item from Poland Seminary coach Jodi West caught my eye. Her post linked to a petition from former competitors in the Virginia High School League (VHSL, the state speech and debate organization) asking the League leadership to move the state speech and debate tournament from Liberty University, the private school that has hosted the event for the past several years. The petitioners were responding to comments made by Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. in which he encouraged his students to carry weapons as protection against the perceived threat from Muslims. Falwell later qualified his words – “If more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in” (1) – to refer only to “Muslim terrorists”, not to all Muslims. But for the petitioners, the implication of Falwell’s words, however qualified, was all too clear: Muslims are not welcome at Liberty University. Continue reading New Year’s Message from Rich Kawolics – Chair of the OHSSL Executive Committee

Revezzo Coaching Citation

At the DeceVezmber 2015 meeting of the OHSSL Executive Committee, a motion was passed to modify the John Revezzo Coaching Citation.

After implementing the original Revezzo Coaching Citation process, the Executive Committee discovered flaws with the means of awarding points towards conferring Revezzo Coaching Citations.

As a result, a more simplified approach will be taken:  The coach of the State Champion entry in each event at the State Tournament will have his/her accomplishments recognized with a Revezzo Coaching Citation Plaque. Continue reading Revezzo Coaching Citation

Welcome to the *NEW* Ohio Speaks!

The Ohio High School Speech League is excited to announce the beginning of a new format for our publication, Ohio Speaks!  Moving forward, Ohio Speaks will publish content regularly in this forum.  Watch for announcements, updates, articles, and other items of interest!