Forensics Speech and Debate reflects on its wins and losses as a team

Communication can prove to be one of the greatest strengths in life, and opposingly, a lack thereof can be one of the greatest obstacles to overcome. 

The Forensics Speech and Debate Team presents the opportunity for students to practice good communication skills. This competition season, the Liberty Forensics Speech and Debate Team has won 216 individual awards, 45 of which are first place, and 17 team awards, which includes eight first place awards. 

Professor Denise Thomas is the director of forensics and one of four members of the forensics team’s coaching staff. Thomas shares that there are three main categories of speech and debate in a forensics competition. Platform speaking, the first category, includes what people typically think of when they hear speech and debate: informative and persuasive speech, communicational analysis and after dinner speaking, “which is like a persuasive speech given by a stand-up comedian.”

Oral interpretation of literature, the second category, consists of events that are more theatrical in nature, and “students don’t write the speech themselves.” Thomas explained that the students “find material written by someone else and cut it together to address a certain issue or topic that they believe needs attention.” 

The third category is limited interpretation. This includes impromptu speeches, where students are given a quotation that they have to respond to; extemporaneous speeches, where students are asked a question about a current issue and must respond to it; and parliamentary debate. For all of the speeches conducted in this category, students are given an allotted amount of time to prepare before presenting the speech to the judges. 

“Forensics has not only refined my skills as a communicator, but it has also shaped my character, fostering a profound sense of purpose and conviction,” Lindsay Anton, a senior member of the team, said. “It has empowered me to speak with eloquence, poise and unwavering passion about important issues, amplifying my voice in ways I never imagined possible. These competitions have been a catalyst for me to fearlessly champion the causes that ignite my passion.”

“Our team is like a family,” Jenn Berkebile, a senior member of the team, said. “We support each other in competition and in life, but we also form inside jokes and memes, which adds a little bit of a lighter perspective to an event that could be perceived as serious or heavy.”

Though there have been many wins this year, there have also been hard losses. After a loss, Berkebile reflected that “God did not give me the ability to tell stories to win. He gave me the ability to tell stories to shed light on that which matters in eternity.” 

The forensics team does not stop at helping students become eloquent speakers, but it also helps them grow in their faith and recognize how their talents can be used in the world. 

“Competing with the forensics team has taught me two main things —  how to have fun and how to chase my passions,” Berkebile said. 

“The highlight for me of working with the forensics team is the opportunity to travel with the students,” Thomas said. “Usually it is a handful of students, in a van, going to a tournament. Getting to know them outside of the classroom and off of the campus, and see their personalities and learn about what they’re passionate about and what their dreams are … I love that.” 

Joining the team means students will be required to participate in at least one half-hour session with a coach and attend the weekly team meeting. 

“During coaching sessions, I edit my piece, practice my delivery and build relationships with my teammates,” Anton said.

“To me, forensics is day-before-competition laughs over pieces that just don’t want to work, long car rides that blast Taylor Swift’s latest album, late-night Bible studies in hotel lobbies and the lab,” Berkebile said. “Forensics is shrieks during breaks to finals and awards, tears in the lab over major life decisions, giggles over games of Spicy Uno that we just can’t win. Forensics is excitement and frustration and happiness all in one endless whirlwind.”

All majors can join Liberty’s Forensics Speech and Debate Team. To get involved, contact for more information.

Auld is a feature reporter for the Liberty Champion

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