Debate team welcomes new coaches


Amanda Tu

This year, the debate team will be under completely new adult leadership.

At the end of last year, the team’s former sponsor, Ms. Connie Wilcox (English) announced that she would be stepping down. The 2012-2013 school year had been her first exposure to high school debate. “I didn’t feel like it was a good fit either way,” said Ms. Wilcox. “I was very inexperienced, and with my teaching load, I didn’t have the time to devote to getting up to speed. The team needed more than I could give them.”

Additionally, assistant coach Mr. Dean Johnson moved to Tennessee, leaving the team without any sponsors.

Team captain Kate Garrett (12, VA) took charge of the hunt for a new coach. “After Ms. Wilcox resigned, I put up a job listing on the JCPS website and reached out to many contacts in the debate community, but I only received a few false leads,” she said. “ At that point, I scheduled a meeting with Mr. Mayes, who was extremely helpful, as he had previously taught here during what was arguably the height of our debate team’s competitive success. He quickly recruited Coach P as head sponsor, and then Ms. Brennan, who had previously coached at Waggener. I also received an offer from Mr. William Cooper of the Kentucky High School Speech League. Having three individuals to share the demands of the debate team was more than I would have dared to imagine, and it’s proven incredibly successful thus far.”

The reason  the debate team can thrive under multiple coaches is because there are two Manual teams debating under different structural formats–the Lincoln-Douglas team, coached by Mr. Cooper, and the Public Forum team, coached by Ms Brennan. Coach P will provide administrative leadership to support all debaters.

“I’ve known duPont Manual debate at least vaguely from when I was coaching in New Jersey and Massachusetts, and certainly from the time I arrived in Kentucky in 2011,” said Mr. Cooper. “I traveled with the team for one tournament last year. Kate and I started talking over the summer because I thought I saw an opportunity to keep a strong program strong.”

Less established than Lincoln Douglas debate for Manual students is the Public Forum format. “Manual only started a Public Forum team at the end of last year, so I think that everyone is really happy that things are more organized,” said Ms. Brennan.

As Mr. Cooper and Ms. Brennan will be focusing on coaching and strategy, they will be in great need of organizational assistance. Coach P has stepped in to fill this role. “I have always been intrigued by public speaking and debating and I look at it as a chance to broaden my horizons, continue coaching in some facet and hopefully help the groups achieve success,” he said. “My role will be that of an administrative coach and a cheerleader.”

Debaters are largely excited about the shift in administration. “The coaches seem to have an ambitious vision of how they wants to team to train,” said Emily Hu (10, HSU). “This will certainly keep practices more organized and productive.”