Speech and Debate, Winterguard adapt to new circumstances, continue seasons


photo courtesy of Paul Jaycox

During a virtual Speech and Debate meeting on Nov. 6, the team discusses the logistics of their next tournament.

Sophia Wasson, Staff Reporter

Although the process of events has been backed up, the Speech and Debate team has already had their first tournament, the Clayton Tournament. Speech and Debate sponsor Paul Jaycox has not seen a drastic change in the way things are working, but of course, a couple of things have been shifted around for safety precautions.

“Many of the public speaking events have converted to an asynchronous or hybrid format, requiring participants to submit entries via external links (Loom or Google Drive). Debate does still occur in synchronous format through Zoom or a third party platform hosted by the National Speech and Debate Association,” Jaycox said.

Freshman Sarah Ebenezer, who placed second for the Varsity Lincoln Douglas Debate tournament, has only experienced the club online. 

“My biggest concern would be going back to in-person tournaments. I have never actually gone to an in-person tournament so there is still the question of whether I can speak in front of people. I am pretty sure that I will be just fine when we go back, but there’s still the whole idea of the differences between an in-person and completely virtual tournament,” Ebenezer said. “So far I’ve only debated from the comfort of my own home, but what if the feeling of the judge’s stares are more extreme than I imagined, what if my opponent is more aggressive and scary in-person? What if I get hopelessly lost in a hall and don’t make it to a round?”

One of the team leaders is junior Arjun Suresh, who has been on the team for three years. Suresh recognizes the setbacks this year has brought but remains optimistic for the future of the team.

“The team has consistently won at every tournament we’ve gone to, having our members place in the top six of their events. Despite the obstacles that have been given, the team has no problem still trudging through their competitions,” Suresh said. “I don’t have any concerns as to the well-being of the team, but I do think there are a lot of people [at Lafayette] who would be a good fit for our team but they just haven’t heard about the team due to the restrictions of being virtual. I would encourage anyone that is interested in acting, speaking or debating to join the team, despite their reservations.”

While Speech and Debate has been able to overcome obstacles that come with moving the team and competitions to a completely virtual format, they are not the only group. Lafayettes Winterguard team has also found that competing virtually, while it may be different, is relatively what they are used to as far as performing.

Senior Kate Blythe has been on Winterguard for four years (a total of eight seasons), and of course, this season is looking a little different. 

“COVID-19 has affected a lot about how we do things with our activity; for a while, we couldn’t rehearse together at all. Luckily, we are now able to get together and rehearse, but we must maintain a distance of at least 10 feet and keep our masks on at all times. This has been a large adjustment for us as a team because we are used to being very close and having choreography that places us right next to each other, sometimes even touching one another as part of what is choreographed,” Blythe said. 

Going into the last of her season, the routine is going to look a little different because of safety guidelines, but Blythe seems to think all will still go well with the power they hold. 

“This season we’re competing virtually, which is new, but we’re all excited for the opportunity to continue to perform and compete despite all of the challenges that the pandemic has presented,” Blythe said. 

Most all competitions are virtual now due to the virus’s impact but that does not stop the team from pursuing a routine virtually.                                    

Junior Caitlyn Hern has noticed some changes since years past. 

“We have to wear masks to practice, as well as being spread apart as much as we can. The masks have to stay on all practice which can make it a little harder to hear others. Also, being spread apart impacts how our drill is set up as we try to stay socially distanced in our performance as best as we can,” Hern said. 

Although things have changed, that has not stopped the winter guard from pursuing their routine. 

“It wasn’t as hard to adjust as I thought it would be since everyone easily follows what we are asked in order to avoid being shut down because of COVID. Further plans for us [include] participating in virtual competitions by taking videos of our show to show judges, who will still give us placements, as well as feedback to the performance,” Hern said.

Although most aspects of Winterguard are now virtual, Director Evan Coonrad believes that not much has changed outside of more safety precautions being in place.

“Our winter guard season is basically the same. We are still going to be competitive, we are still putting a show together, and we are still rehearsing like normal. The only things that are different are that we will not get to compete in person, only virtually, and we have to wear a mask,” Coonrad said. 

Competing virtually has not stopped the winter guard from fulfilling their season. 

“As a staff, we decided that we wanted to do our best to give the kids the best experience possible despite not having a completely normal season. The expectations of the season haven’t changed either. The kids are still expected to put forth the required effort and progress like we would through a normal season. But we are lucky. Not all programs are getting this opportunity. Many Winterguard programs throughout the country have had their seasons completely canceled and aren’t able to do anything. We are very fortunate that our district is letting us move forward with our season with a high consideration of the safety protocols,” Coonrad said. 

Although restrictions have been placed on our everyday lives, the district has not stopped students from fulfilling their last years of high school. 

“We have had, and will probably continue to have some setbacks but I told my team that we will not let COVID defeat us. We have to push forward and prevail,” Coonrad said. “These kids need normalcy and deserve to continue participating in an activity that they love so very much and have put numerous amounts of hours into. I’m very proud of my kids thus far this season, because they are, and will continue to be, resilient through this difficult time.”