Seeking inspiration for 2016-17? Look back to March

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


Lesson #2: Winning AND losing make the ride worthwhile.

So, I eventually found myself in Foreign Extemp—or as you young folks call it, International Extemp.  Now, keep in mind, I found listening to the news…drudgery…and I had no interest in current events.  ZERO!  But I was good at it.  And I liked winning.  You were probably expecting me to just encourage you to do what you love.  Well, I am.

I loved winning.  And I don’t apologize for that. It motivates us to be our best.  But, nobody wins all the time.

So, it’s my senior year, we are at McKinley High School, and I was the alternate to nationals behind my teammate who didn’t work at it at all.  I was devastated.  But with the example of my coaches, I realized that one day didn’t erase my success or change who I am.  Losing can be hard, but it makes the successes so much more meaningful.  And, I hardly ever twitch anymore when I think back to that day—hardly ever.

Now I do still twitch when I think about the U-turn that took me to NYC to coach for eight years.   I often refer to this time as “The Dark Years,” surrounded by coaches motivated only by trophies.  Yes, I like winning, but sometimes the most important victories occur when a student earns a “1” for the first time or delivers his or her first Extemp speech that’s over five minutes.  I have come to understand that what I learned from the NYC detour is important: I learned what kind of a coach I didn’t want to be, and I learned that, in the words of Dorthy, “There’s no place like home.”

The ride back to Ohio is one part of the journey I will never regret.  I am so thankful to coach in a state where we value this activity because of what we know it does for students, trophies aside. Winning is great, but losing can be just as meaningful.  And it helps us enjoy the whole ride.

So, here’s a secret—can we keep this just between us?  I went to college to be a speech coach.  It was fantastic to find myself as the new assistant coach at Hoover while still in college.  And this part of the ride began—straight uphill.

Lesson #3: Never underestimate your ability to pedal harder and get the ride completed.

During my first meeting with the new head coach, she asked me what I knew about debate.  I replied with, “Well, I competed in Extemp.”  Her reply?  “Close enough!  You’ll coach debate.”

So, there I was, coaching the superintendent’s kid…in debate.  I did the only thing I could—I promised her that we would learn together.  I lurked in hallways outside of her rounds.  When she emerged, we would pour over her flows together.  It was a true collaboration and somehow we figured it out.  Three years later, she was an octofinalist at Nationals.

That part of the ride was fun (really, really fun).  Did I mention that I like winning?  It does make the ride more fun!

I am a speech and debate coach, but one of the hardest things for me is one-on-one communication and personal interaction.  So what I have to say to Missy may be comprised of things I have not expressed to her verbally.  What I would like to tell her is that I truly am blessed to coach alongside her.  I am a better coach because the quality of her students pushes my students.  I am a better person because her passion, enthusiasm, and joy for this activity give me hope and rejuvenate me.  I speak in total sincerity when I say: Missy, you are amazing.  I am truly blessed by you.  We all are.  Congratulations and much love.

— Manny Halkias, Canton McKinley


Lesson #4: You’ll make some wrong turns; just don’t take them too seriously.

Several years ago, I found myself expediting the Little District Tournament with my partner in crime John Weaver.  Things were sailing along smoothly when Nick Bollas appeared at the door and informed us the Humors were wondering when their round would be posted.  We calmly told him to tell them to relax, that there were two other categories waiting for their Round-3 postings, too.  He then informed us, in his calm, Nick-Bollas way, that the humors were still waiting on Round 2.


I could let you believe that is the only mistake I’ve ever made.  Unfortunately, many of your coaches know differently.  In fact, many were around when I played a part in botching up Sharen Althoff’s debate tournament…two years in a row.  Yeah, there was that!

But this is what I’ve learned about the moments of imperfection: own them, fix them, and move on.  It’s the only way to enjoy the ride, even when botching up someone else’s tournament or forgetting about an entire category of funny people.

So it is with this idea in mind that I need to take a moment to publicly apologize to Amy [Roediger, fellow HOF inductee]; for those of you with booklets in which her name is misspelled…all me.  And I am deeply sorry, Amy.

Finally, Lesson #5: No one achieves anything meaningful alone.

I’ve been reminded of this through the support of so many friends like Sharon, Debbie, and Angela (who even made the trip to be here today).  But let’s remember this ride started all the way back in high school; my teammates gave me a home at school.  For that I will be forever grateful.  In fact, I would challenge each of you to thank your teammates for challenging you, for supporting you, and for being on the ride with you.  And I’ve had amazing coaches on the ride with me—from Barbara and Angela back in high school—to the coaches who taught me how to be a coach: Nick, Sharen Althoff, Debbie Warstler, Diane Swink, and Elaine Fippen—I learned more from them in those early years than I can even articulate.

Which, of course, brings me to the wonderful coaches of the state of Ohio with whom I share this ride every day.  From the comradery of running tournaments to impromptu tab-room dance parties—the ride is worth it.  It would be impossible to mention all of the coaches who have impacted that ride, but to Kathy, Penny, Holly, Alzana, Leslie, Carrie, Brandon, and Jim—your friendship, advice, and the occasional “kick in the pants” (especially from you, Kathy) are so very much appreciated.

Jen—what can I say?  You make me seem organized and together and you have talked me off more ledges than I can count.  Thank you, my friend.  Oprah Winfrey once claimed that “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”  So to Barbara, Nick, Tom, and John—thanks for being the best friends a woman can have and for riding the bus with me during this past year.  You have forgiven me my moods, propped me up when I needed it, and made me laugh when I thought it wasn’t possible.

I was so happy for Missy as I watched her be inducted into the Hall of Fame!  The purpose of the award is to recognize coaches in the state who go above and beyond in their dedication to speech and debate—and Missy is the embodiment of the award.  She is one of those coaches who devotes all of her time and energy to not only her team, but to Speech and Debate in general.  She is always thinking about how to make her students better, or how to move the activity forward so that more students can get involved and be successful.  Thanks.

— Jen Manion, Hoover HS


I never would have imagined that I would deliver this speech without either of my parents looking back at me, yet here I am.  My dad was a baseball dad.  He didn’t really get this whole speech thing.  But he participated in my ride, literally.  My dad was the one who got up every Saturday and drove me to the bus, humming along to the radio.  When I think of my dad, I often think of those Saturday mornings.  And Mom—she was my team’s biggest supporter.  She would buy cakes for our kickoff celebrations; she would help me shop for clothes for big tournaments; she even judged.  But most of all, she would listen to me talk about my team forever.

Sometimes I miss her most on the bus rides home—when I would have called her to tell her about our day.  I never doubted whether she was proud of me.  That is one of the best gifts my mom gave me and all of my siblings.

Which brings me to my sister Jamie.  She now gets more than she bargained for when she asks how my team did.  Seriously, she has proven that she will ride with me day in and day out.  Even when I call for the fifth time that day, she’s there.  AND she makes awesome treat bags for my team.  I am grateful for her and for all of my siblings for always being on the ride with me.  And for giving me the most awesome nieces and nephews who make me feel like the cool aunt.

(BTW—for those of you who are patient with me showing you pictures of Tate and Tyce, my wonderful niece Megan brought the live show!)

Working with Missy has made me a better coach.  She has helped me when I hit a wall and needed ideas.  She has encouraged me when I just “wasn’t feeling it.”  She has made me step up my coaching game because, quite frankly, her kids “bring it!”  She has listened to me whenever I have needed her.  She is an incredible coach, a fantastic district chair, but most important, a fierce friend.

— Penny Harris, Canton Central Catholic


Now, finally to each of you: YOU are the reason WE do this.  I have been blessed to have so many students who have let me be a part of their ride; students who have challenged me and made me a better coach.  Thank you to every student I have ever coached, including my incredible students with me today.  And thank you for making your coaches’ rides worthwhile.

Now do me a favor, and remember this: speech and debate won’t always be kind to you.  No, it won’t always be rainbows and butterflies, and at times it will feel like an uphill battle.  But at times it will be a thrilling downhill race.  Whatever you do, just remember: hold on, learn the lessons it has to teach you, but most important, please enjoy the ride. #