The Road to States: Another Look Back

Updated-headshotBW.pdfThis weekend’s Opening Ceremony will feature speeches from three new OSDA Coaches’ Hall of Fame inductees (Dolores Muller, Alan Bates, and Jason Habig).  In preparation for these upcoming speeches, here is a look back at one of last year’s inductees, Holly Custer of Wooster High School.

Can you remember a time when your life changed?

Maybe it was a big life event—like a wedding, a birth, or a death.  Or maybe it was a smaller change, like starting a new job or making a new friend.  We all have moments in our lives that help shape and define who we are and whom we will become.  For me, one of the most definitive moments of change happened in the spring of my eighth-grade year.  That spring, I said “yes” to speech and debate, and that decision completely altered the trajectory of my life. Continue reading The Road to States: Another Look Back

The Road to States: A Look Back

Penny HarrisThis weekend’s Opening Ceremony will feature speeches from three new OSDA Coaches’ Hall of Fame inductees (Dolores Muller, Alan Bates, and Jason Habig).  In preparation for these upcoming speeches, here is a look back at one of last year’s inductees, Penny Harris of Canton Central Catholic.

According to one famous comedian, “Life isn’t something you possess.  It’s something you take part in, and you witness.”  Thank you, Cleveland, for welcoming us to “The LAND.” The Land where we are all witnesses. Where Lebron James proved that a dream fueled by dedication, drive, and vision can be achieved.  How appropriate that The Land is hosting the OHSSL State Championship.

We may flex different muscles in speech and debate, but we share a few common denominators: similarities such as passion, competitiveness, and heart.  We are all witnesses to the power and effectiveness of speech and debate.  I am so honored to be standing here to join this group of individuals for whom I have the utmost respect, but no one stands alone in The Land.  Many people stand with me—including all of you.

We are all witnesses.  What I want to share with you now is my witness: how I got here; what I’ve witnessed; and why I love The Land.

I’m just a girl from Canton. Continue reading The Road to States: A Look Back

Rep Your Event 2018 Finalist voting is LIVE!

The Finalists have been selected and it’s time to vote for the winner.

Each competitor was tasked with doing his or her best to encapsulate, within a 1-minute video (perhaps with a slight grace period), what makes a particular competitive OSDA event great.  This year’s Finalists represent the events of International Extemporaneous Speaking, Public Forum Debate, and Original Oratory.

International Extemporaneous Speaking

submitted by Aditi Rajgopal, Mason High School (GMV)


Public Forum Debate

submitted by Grace Cousens, Laurel School (CLE)


Original Oratory

submitted by Natalie Zachariah, Olentangy Liberty High School (COL)


Now YOU get to decide who wins the $100 scholarship from the OSDA, and which event is best represented for the year.

Head to or click this link to vote.

One of these three finalists will be announced the RYE Winner at the State Finals Awards Ceremony in Sylvania.  Votes are limited to one per person/account, so get out the vote!

Voting will be open until sometime shortly before the Awards Ceremony at State Finals on Saturday, March 3, 2018.

Best of luck to you all!

Coaches’ Conversation


Hello and Happy New Year!

Last month NSDA held its first Twitter Chat that focused on strategies for hosting tournaments.  We stayed on that topic with two OSDA coaches who host large tournaments annually.



Coaches’ Conversation

featuring Dolores Muller (Wauseon, TOL) and Jessica Jones (Olmsted Falls, CLE)

How long have you been coaching?


20 years as a head coach; two years as an assistant


This is my fifth year coaching, all as head coach.

What are 2-3 of the most challenging aspects with hosting a tournament?

Continue reading Coaches’ Conversation

Is your team ready to represent?

Rep Your Event 2018 is here.

Contest Rules & Guidelines:

  • Create a 1-minute video encapsulating what makes your OSDA 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.

How to Submit: 

Post your video to YouTube and send a link to the OSDA at

Deadline for Entries:

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Winning Entries:

  • Finalist videos will be voted on via online voting before (and their submitters/producers will be recognized at) the State Tournament Awards Assembly at Sylvania in March 2018;
    • Finalist entries will be determined by the OSDA Board of Directors;
  • The Grand Prize Winner, who will be determined at the State Tournament in March, will win a $100 scholarship (and be forever recognized as the winning video producer for that year).
  • The OSDA reserves the right to award additional prizes.

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

2016 Winning Video: Melissa Liang (Sylvania Southview, TOL)

2017 Winning Video: Amelia Mainzer (Highland, AKR)

2018 Winning Video: Yours?

Question Mark

Lights! Camera! Action! We look forward to seeing you represent.

Coaches’ Conversation

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend, the Ohio Speech and Debate Association’s Board of Directors proudly unveils what we hope is a new, regular feature in OHIOspeaks—something we’re calling “Coaches’ Conversation.”  {The title still is in alpha testing, but that’s its name for now!)

We as coaches certainly have much to appreciate as our teams finish the first third of the OSDA regular season.  We appreciate our competitors for their effort, their willingness to learn and develop skills through practice, performance, and patience; we appreciate our judges who selflessly donate their time and talent on Saturdays so that we can provide students (and each other) with this life-enriching activity.

Not to be forgotten, your dedication and commitment as an OSDA coach inspires not only your students—but also your peers.  Periodically throughout the season, we’ll try to feature 1-3 coaches’ perspectives on various matters ranging from team-building strategies, to lasting memories, to opinions on OSDA policies.

Whether you’re a grizzled, veteran head coach of 15+ years’ experience—or a first-year assistant still trying to figure out just how the heck Policy Debate works—this is an opportunity to showcase our OSDA family by sharing some insight, and through simply getting to know each other a little better.

We give thanks this week especially to Carrie Spina of both Tusky Valley & Fairless (Canton), and to Jeri Neidhard of Centerville (GMV), who each took time to share responses to several questions.

Continue reading Coaches’ Conversation

Reflections on the benefits of the 2017 NCFL Grand National Tournament

by Marie Wetzel, Head Coach, Whitmer High School (Tarhe Trails)

As a first-year coach in the Fall of 2013, joining the world of Speech and Debate seemed much like being a first-year teacher, what with all of the acronyms that rolled easily off the tongues of the experienced—as my team just tried to remember which ones stood for our events.

So when I was introduced to yet another acronym (“NCFL”), I initially blew it off as something I could learn about later. After all, as a new coach with a new team, I still thought that qualifying for OHSSL State Finals was the pinnacle for which we aimed to achieve. After qualifying a student (to States) my first two years—with the second qualification being through a “Bigs” final round—I decided that perhaps it was time to look further into what the world of Speech and Debate had to offer.

I had heard grumblings that the National Catholic Forensic League’s (NCFL) Grand National Tournament “isn’t a real Nationals” or worth my time, yet my experience has been that the tournament is what you make of it. Personally, I offer the opportunity to compete at “NCFL” only to those on my team who absolutely have proven that they deserve to be there. For my team, that means (at minimum) success throughout the season and State-qualification, as well as successful achievement of various team expectations related to behavior and teamwork.

While I have found that not everyone in the country shares my perspective, I have also found that the NCFL tournament provides a variety of challenging experiences for competitors. In fact, this year’s 2017 NCFL Grand National Tournament—fondly referred to as “CatNats”—was an amazing example of such opportunities. Each of my qualifiers represents a different way in which NCFL can benefit competitors.

Continue reading Reflections on the benefits of the 2017 NCFL Grand National Tournament

The Feminist Kritik (Part 2)

Part 2

by Joan Reardon, Grace Haddad, Alexis Santor, Carley Francis,

with technical assistance from Jen Gonda,

Cardinal Mooney High School (Youngstown)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Part 2 of a two-part series. Part 1 was published on May 6, 2017.  You can read Part 1 here.

The first step to identify or support an issue is to gather data, and this was precisely what the analyzers were attempting to do by evaluating 333 ballots. There definitely are limitations to this study because the research team was comprised entirely of women, and each round was looked at only once. It is suggested that another debate team interested in this issue evaluate the ballots following the steps outlined above to see if the results correlate. In doing so, the issue of female debater perception can be analyzed by more debaters in an attempt to problem-solve this situation.

Continue reading The Feminist Kritik (Part 2)

The Feminist Kritik

by Joan Reardon, Grace Haddad, Alexis Santor, Carley Francis,

with technical assistance from Jen Gonda,

Cardinal Mooney High School (Youngstown)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Part 1 of a two-part series, with Part 2 scheduled for publication next week.


by Rich Kawolics, Chair of the OHSSL Board of Directors

Is there gender bias in debate judging?

Why are male debaters and extempers so much more successful in competition than their female peers? Those of us who coach girls in debate and analytical speaking have long been perplexed by the apparent disparity in success between male and female participants in these events.

We have been concerned that as many as 80 percent of the top places in Policy, Public Forum, Lincoln Douglas, and Extemporaneous Speaking at major tournaments have gone to male competitors, while the number of female competitors in these events seemingly has plummeted. We have shared story after story of our female debaters being criticized for being too aggressive while their male competitors are praised for the same behaviors. But until now, we have had very little data on which to base our concern, and we have certainly had no idea what to do about it.

But now, Coach Jen Gonda and four of her debaters from Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown have taken the first step in putting hard data around perceptions of gender disparity in debate. By carefully analyzing published debate ballots, they have found startling and concerning evidence that female debaters are subject to judges’ criticism for assertiveness far more frequently than are male debaters.

“Coach Jen Gonda and four of her debaters…have taken the first step in putting hard data around perceptions of gender disparity in debate.”

Moreover, they also find that male debaters often are encouraged to be more assertive, while female debaters only rarely receive the same encouragement. Any of us involved in teaching and coaching debate and extemp should be concerned by these findings.

Jen’s (and her team’s) study is not comprehensive, and it is far from conclusive in demonstrating a causal link between gender bias and competitive success. However, it does present a crucial first step in documenting and understanding how gender perceptions and stereotypes may be impacting our female students. If gender bias is diminishing female students’ interest in debate, and if those female students are giving up because they believe the deck is stacked against them, then all of us have a problem.

I commend Jen and her students for their work in bringing this issue to light, and I hope that their work will spur further research into the issue of gender bias in speech and debate so that, ultimately, all of our students can be treated fairly and equitably.


The Feminist Kritik

Part 1

For female debaters, the situation described by sophomore Alexis Santor is all too familiar.

“Being a woman in Public Forum Debate is difficult. I love debating, but I am held to a separate standard than my fellow male debaters. My partner is male and when we are in especially heated rounds, he is complimented for his ‘dominance’ and praised for being assertive, whereas I am critiqued on being ‘rude’ or too aggressive. Once a comment on my ballot said, ‘Alexis, stop being so aggressive, it comes off as rude.’

“The (male) judge failed to comment about how many times I was interrupted, or the behavior of any other debaters in the room, all of whom were male; nor did the judge offer any constructive advice on how to better myself as a debater. My behavior in the round was no different from that of my male competitors or my partner, yet I alone was called rude. That was not the first time I had been singled out on a ballot.” Continue reading The Feminist Kritik

Fixing Congressional Debate

By Tyler R. Parsons

Vermilion H.S. (CLE) Assistant Coach and Experienced Congressional Debate Parliamentarian

Congressional Debate is an event which I love very much; I competed in it for four years, have judged it for three years, and have coached it for one year.  It has positively affected my life and the lives of many others who have competed in the event.  However, because I love Congressional Debate, I’ve come to realize that it is a flawed event and in need of an intervention.

Through my own analysis of the situation (and vibrant discussions with other Parliamentarians), I have come to the conclusion that Congressional Debate needs a comprehensive, foundational overhaul—specifically regarding the legislation, the scoring system (base), and how speeches/speakers themselves are judged.  Only through rebuilding this flawed foundation will the event operate effectively and generate truly great debate. Continue reading Fixing Congressional Debate