Motivation for 2016-17: Reflecting on March


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

[With felt-board visual aide on stage…]

When I was growing up, my mom was a nursing supervisor at a local hospital.  Because this was a pretty important job, my sisters and I had strict instructions to never call her at work unless it was an emergency.  The trouble was it was always an emergency.  Serious stuff—like “I can’t find my blue socks!” or “We’re out of peanut butter!”

So we always had to call the hospital.  There was a woman who sat behind a giant desk, answering the phones.  And she did it so many times per day that she sounded a little bit like a machine when she said, “Richmond Heights General Hospital.”

“May I please speak to the nursing supervisor?”

And then she’d say, “Uh, thank you.”

We got to where all three of us could do a pretty good imitation of her, so one day we had an emergency—something like “How do I make chocolate milk?”—and I was elected to call.

“Richmond Heights General Hospital.”

“May I please speak to the nursing supervisor?”

“Uh, thank you.”

I looked at my sisters and repeated it: “Uh, thank you.”  But then the unthinkable happened: On the other end of the phone, I heard, “Uh, you’re welcome.”

So, in the spirit of that great lady who said thank you so many times each day, I would like to start with my thank-yous.  I’ll start by thanking you for indulging me as I publicly thank these people who have meant so much.

Two of Amy’s many fine talents that I have always enjoyed are: her dry sense of humor (which can be welcome when things get tense in a tab- or coaching situation); and (what has never ceased to amaze me) her ability to create order out of apparent chaos.  She is a master at that.

–Gay Janis, Gilmour Academy

First, to my children: Thank you, Theo and Charlotte, for being willing to share me with these other kids for 14 Saturdays each year and all the other stuff that goes with that.  It means so much to me that you are here with me today.

To my team: You are a wonderful group of people and I am grateful that I have gotten to work with each one of you.  To this particular group of seniors: I will really miss you.

To the coaches of Cleveland: Thanks for your fellowship and your creative energy and your support of me and each other, especially the Cleveland “tabbers” whom I work with every weekend.  I appreciate everything you have taught me.

Thank you, John Mercer, for the incredible introduction.  You only have to watch John in a tab room or working with kids for five minutes before you know that he is someone you want to emulate.

I need to say thank you to my administration for their unwavering support of our team.  (In fact, my superintendent asked us to bring him a t-shirt.)  Last year, when he tweeted, “Has anyone heard anything from Speech and Debate?”—my Congress colleagues said, “I don’t think my superintendent even knows we are at a tournament!”

Amy has always been a calming influence in the Tab Rooms in which she has worked.  Her level head and ability to defuse possible contentious situations has been evident for many years.  In fact, in the Tab Room at this year’s State Novice Tournament at Medina, there was a disagreement brewing between two thick-headed (and related) Cleveland coaches—when the strains of “Kumbaya” could be heard from the corner.  It was Amy trying to calm the moment, and other coaches from around the State were able to witness the veracity of John Mercer’s [HOF] introduction for Amy at Princeton just a week before.

–Fred Snook, Kenston

In my career I have been lucky to coach with two men who have let me do and try whatever I’ve wanted with the kids I was coaching; and so I need to say thank you to Mark Rotar at Mentor and Bob White from Shaker Heights.

In fact, I need to say just a little bit more about Bob White.  When I was in college, it was my dream to direct plays, but when you work at a place where theatre is what it is at Shaker or Mentor, that’s never going to happen for the Chemistry teacher like me.  Bob invited me to coach with him, and my “Next-Best Thing” has turned out to be an even better thing.

Bob has been a great colleague, mentor, and friend to me for 25 years.  He is an unshakeable, ethical compass in a tab room and has taught me to stay level-headed in there. (And he always keeps me laughing.)  When the time was right, Bob encouraged me into leadership roles in our district.  I don’t think I would have pursued those things without his support and encouragement.  Thanks, Bob.

One last thank you.  To my Mom:

One of my earliest memories is of my sisters and me sitting around the one phone in my grandparents’ house, waiting for news of how my mom did in a contest.  Eventually the phone rang, and it was her—she had won.

I was about 6 [years old] at the time and, looking back, I thought she had won something like Miss America.  When she came home from Columbus, there were pictures of her with a sash and flowers, so it looked like she had been crowned as the queen of something.  What she had won was a public-speaking contest; she had been crowned as the Ohio Spokesperson of the American Cancer Society.

She had spent two years traveling around the state, speaking at bowl-a-thons and swim-a-thons and spreading a message of hope.  So she planted the public-speaking seed early in me.  My mom is also famous for saying that “You don’t get to choose the activities that your kids will love, but once they choose, you have to get entirely on board.”

And so my mom has been a great debate judge, and the person who organized food at tournaments.  (You’ve never seen anything until you’ve seen my mom make a salad in a hefty bag!)

Thanks, Mom, for being entirely on board with speech and debate since day one.

Last year, before the Mentor tournament, I screwed up setting my alarm and missed my bus WITH MY KIDS ON IT.  They got to Mentor and Amy took care of them.  She got them all of the materials they needed, got them to their rounds and kept them relaxed until I got there.  Many times event managers are running around with their heads cut off and have very little time to see to small personal details.  Amy DID take the time to make this situation her priority when she didn’t have to.  This reinforces that Amy cares more about the PEOPLE on all speech and debate teams than Speech and Debate itself.

–Mark Kimball, Orange

And now a little homework for all of you.  At some point this weekend, find a moment and say, “thank you” to someone.  Not just “thank you” like when someone holds the door, but really tell someone “thank you” for what they have done to help you.

When I was in high school, I didn’t compete in speech and debate because we didn’t have a team at Mentor then.  Instead, my life was all about show choir.  At first glance, speech and debate and show choir seem dissimilar (examples and hands); but when I became a coach, I realized that a lot of what I do are things that I saw my director and his wife do while I was in show choir.  Each of you will, at some point, leave this activity—and as you go, I’d like you to think about how you can “pay it forward.”

Of course, we will be thrilled if you will give your time and energy back to our League.  Coach a team, volunteer at a camp, judge every year at Districts.  Every little bit helps.  But even if you wander away from Forensics, find a way to use your incredible skills, especially your public-speaking skills, to make a difference to a nonprofit organization.

Amy is what I hope to be as a coach.  She minimizes the importance of winning and prioritizes the importance of personal growth.  She revels in successes while still championing the little incremental successes in her team.  She’s my sister from another Mister, and a huge reason why Saturday tournaments are enjoyable.

–Devon Snook, Vermilion

At the beginning of 2016, there was a movement on Twitter (#oneword) where people were encouraged to choose one word that would sum up their 2016.  I am going to ask you to do that now.  Choose one word that describes why you joined the speech and debate team—and then we are going to shout out those words.

Ready?  [One-word shouts fill the auditorium.]  Okay, I’ll come back to those words in just a moment.

I know that I will be remembered as the “Congress Lady.”  My last three words are what I would really like to be remembered for, and they came out of my work with a Congress kid.

It’s five years ago and I am coaching one of my most difficult ever students.  And he is hyper-focused on winning, sometimes at the expense of his teammates, which is a big “no-no” with me.  I started using a phrase with him all the time to try to help him see what was important about this activity—and that phrase is “Skills, Not Scores.”

The trouble with wanting to win is that, and I tell my team this all the time, the best kid doesn’t always win.  And part of it is because, in a room full of Hall-of-Fame coaches, we wouldn’t always agree on who the best kid is.  The State Tournament is a thrilling, anxiety-filled weekend—but the worst part about it is that most everyone who competes will not win.  There will be only 16 State Champions, and that means 884 “Not Champions.”

I adopted Amy’s focus on “Skills, Not Scores” for my team at BBH.  Amy showed me that Speech and Debate [as a collective activity] is not just for the elite students.  Speech and Debate benefits every student and it should be an inclusive activity for all students.  I applaud Amy for her passion and humor in guiding competitors and other coaches to promote Speech and Debate.

–Mark McCandless, Brecksville-Broadview Heights

When I asked you to shout out a word that describes why you joined your team, no one shouted “medals!” or “plaques!” or “trophies!”—or even “winning.”

And that is critically important—because you should never lose sight of what you thought you’d love about Forensics.  In fact, the best, most important coaching I have done has been with students who didn’t win.

As you compete this weekend, please keep thinking about my nine words: say ‘thank you’; pay it forward; skills, not scores.

And [remember] your one word.

Those are the things that will make you a winner.

Thank you. #

For as long as I’ve known her, Amy has been the conscience of the Cleveland District. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone in speech and debate who is more focused on the students and the learning opportunities this activity provides them.  Amy’s mantra—”Skills, Not Scores”—is one we should all take to heart.

–Rich Kawolics, Laurel