Speech and Debate Team has successful season

Haven Speech and Debate is coming to the end of its season as students continue to excel in their events.


Photo courtesy of the Speech and Debate Team

The Speech and Debate Team, at a competition at William Tennent High School

Elise Molloy '24, Contributor

As the school year begins to wrap up, students on the Speech and Debate team are working hard to end their successful seasons by achieving an important goal—a Nationals win.

Haven Speech and Debate has a very successful history. Members of the team acknowledge that this is due to the workrate of students, dedication of advisors and mentors, as well as the positive and supportive environment of the team. 

At Speech and Debate tournaments, there are multiple events, highlighting different skills among the students. Depending on how well they do in their respective events throughout the year, students have the opportunity to qualify for a National competition. 

There are two Speech and Debate leagues that Haven competes in. The first is the Catholic League, who will host their National Competition this May in Louisiana. The second is the National Speech and Debate Association, which will be hosting their National competition this June in Phoenix, Arizona. 

Both leagues host different events throughout the year that all students have the opportunity to compete in. Multiple Haven students competed at the Tournament of Champions this April, which they qualified for by succeeding in multiple tournaments throughout the year. 

For students participating in speech, they have been researching, reworking, and revising their speeches throughout the year with the goal of improving each time. As the National competitions get closer, their speeches are reaching their final state. 

On the other hand, debate students have a variety of different topics assigned to them either every month or every other month, depending on the event. 

“They’re constantly starting from scratch and relearning a whole new issue, doing all this research, repair, figuring out what everybody else is going to say,” Haven Speech and Debate advisor and social studies teacher Mr. Jefferey Kahn said. “The kids who succeed are the ones who put in the effort.”

Mr Kahn’s support for the team has played a vital role to their success. It was the support that Mr. Kahn provided for his students that contributed to his own win of “Coach of The Year” at Districts. 

“The main thing that I do is make sure they can get to all the places they want to go,” he said. “So if there are tournaments they want to get to, if there’s goals that they have, then we make a plan to get them to that spot.”

The team is also very supportive of one another, utilizing peer-coaching as a tool to grow. It is especially important for upperclassmen to mentor and support the underclassmen, using their own experiences to assist the younger students on how to become the best they can be. 

“I don’t think I would be nearly as good as I am today if it weren’t for the seniors when I was younger, who helped me through it,” senior Supraja Sudarsan said.

As a senior, Sudarsan feels she has grown a lot since her first tournament. 

“I’ve become more comfortable with myself as a person because of it,” she said. I’ve grown as a speaker, significantly, and my research has gotten better, I’m able to actually articulate my thoughts and put it into words. And most importantly, I’m comfortable speaking in front of people and…between college interviews and class presentations, it’s so so important in the future.”

Sudarsan also acknowledges that confidence plays a crucial role in success when it comes to speech. 

“Honestly, it’s just like, being able to block everyone else out and just being confident in yourself,” she said. “You have to fully commit in speech…when you’re not afraid of what other people think, that’s when you break that barrier and go for it.”

Sudarsan has had a notable season and has qualified for three different National tournaments this year, one of which only the top three students in the district qualify for. She encourages anyone who is interested to give it a try. 

“Speech and Debate is what you make of it and you have to make sure that you’re doing something you love, whether it’s an event, or just, you know, going to the smaller tournaments where you can spend more time with the team,” Sudarsan said. “if Speech and Debate is something that even remotely interests you, you just have to try it out and not be afraid. Because that fear is always going to be there.”  

Mr. Kahn agrees with Sudarsan, noting that Speech and Debate helps develop important skills and it’s never too late to give it a try. 

“There’s so many different events, we’ll find something that you like, and the team is open for people who want to win nationals and people who just want to try it once,” he said. “There’s something that anybody can get out of it. So if you want to do well, it’s going to take time and effort. You have to put in effort like for anything else, but you can show up with what you probably learned in class and do a debate and give a speech and just see what it’s like.”

Junior Meredith Seidman attributes a portion of the team’s success to their team chemistry. 

“We’re a really good team,” Seidman said. “We are all pretty good friends with each other and at tournaments we all hang out and talk. We’re all very sociable with each other and we just get along really well. We do a lot of team bonding, like after tournaments we’ll go out to eat dinner sometimes and it’s just a lot of fun.” 

Overall, excelling in Speech and Debate requires dedication, commitment, and confidence. But at the end of the day, it is about having fun. Haven Speech and Debate students have been so successful because they enjoy what they are doing and continuously find passion in their events.

“I think that we have had some really dedicated kids each year, who have taught other people how to be dedicated kids,” Kahn said. “Some of them go to camps, some of them just go to lots of tournaments, they work together. But they just kind of get addicted to it like people do in any activity. And then it’s just fun.”

CORRECTION: The spelling of Meredith Seidman’s name was incorrect in a photo caption in the the May print issue. We regret the error.