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Q&A with speech and debate team captains on promoting positivity, friendship within team

Maia Alvarez (’24), Allie Yang (’25) and Shae Killam (’27) pose with an award after their Western Bay Forensic League tournament. Their tournament took place at Harvard-Westlake School March 2. Photo provided by Maia Alvarez.

Although speech and debate is usually an individual activity, Archer’s team captains Allie Yang (’25) and Maia Alvarez (’24) said the team finds ways to bond, which helps them prepare for tournaments.

The speech and debate team grows and changes each year, whether that be through the students’ interests or the coach. In a Western Bay Forensic League tournament March 2, Yang won first in the Impromptu section, and Shae Killam (’27) won first in the Original Oratory section. The speech and debate team’s State Qualifiers took place March 2 for speech and March 9 for debate. Yang will move on to the state tournament April 12-14 in Clovis, California.

The Oracle sat down with the captains to hear more about the team’s journey this year.

Can you tell me about the speech and debate team this year in general?

Allie Yang [AY]: This year, it’s been so fun to be the captain of the team because I transitioned from sophomore to junior year in a very mentor-esque role. It’s so cool to see the makeup of the new people on the team. I think, every year, it’s a little different, whether they’re wired towards speech or debate. This year, they’re definitely leaning towards debate. I can see people who are very assertive and confident in their own voice, so I think this year, the team is very much up for business. They’re up to face a challenge, they’re up to debate, they’re up to talk about any controversial topics. And I think this year in particular, the team is hitting the ground running, and they have a ton of courage and words to share.

How does the team prepare for tournaments?

Maia Alvarez [MA]: The adaptivity factor comes in much more, especially when you’re at a tournament, and you get a notification that your round is in 10 minutes, and you have to run all the way to the other side of the school. That’s common for a speech and debate tournament. Is it stressful? Yes. Are you running in heels? Yes, potentially. But it is a part of the experience. And so something we try to preface is how to prepare for a tournament but then at the same time we try to give as much practice as possible, whether it’s paces or whether it’s running the speech. But, ultimately, it’s also an aspect of supporting when you’re at the tournament because you have to experience it for yourself.

Can you tell me about your roles on the team?

[AY]: We’ve had, like, four or three different coaches. Every year the team looks different. Some people are committed, some aren’t. Some are in and some are out. And so I really think that this year, we want to solidify a familial feeling within the team — a feeling where it really felt like a united front. So I think shifting into a mentor role has been super interesting because I not only have gotten to see individual team members blossom and bond with each other, but also I think that the veterans are also bonded in a new way.

[MA]: I’m reminded a lot about like when I first started speech and debate, I had a background already in public speaking, but our first captain was one of the people to help really bring it out because she would have all of these really interesting exercises. We performed the fastest verse in a rap to be able to practice enunciation and speech presence, just for fun. So these wackier aspects of speech and debate, I feel, bring people in, but alongside that, being a pillar of encouragement for the other members because I know that we’ve had people being unsure about whether or not they want to go to a tournament because it is daunting.

How do you bring inspiration to your teammates?

[AY]: It’s the little things for me. The first captain that we ever had together, she just had … it wasn’t even any big award that she won or any like big shtick that she had, but it was just kind of her charisma and the positivity but also the honesty and the humor with which she approached the team, so we tried to treat them as friends first. And I think some are going to obviously rebut that strategy. But I think, at least in my experience, it’s been so much more beneficial because that relationship is definitely a foundation of respect. I think also, again, the little things. So competing in a suit for the first time, right — that’s such a confidence booster; you’re getting to wear heels and debate boys from Brentwood and Loyola. I mean, those little things that we can take for granted or really small parts of the experience are honestly what get people so excited and so motivated.

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About the Contributor
Phoebe Measer
Phoebe Measer, Staff Reporter
Phoebe Measer became a staff reporter in 2023. She participates in Volleyball and Track & Field, and is in her first year at Archer. In her free time, Phoebe enjoys baking, hiking, spending time with family and friends, and trying new foods!

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    Shae KillamApr 15, 2024 at 12:09 pm

    Such a great article, I feel the team dynamic, and you got great quotes… great job Pheebs!