Speech Team continues competitions

OPRF’s speech team prides itself on its community. So when the IHSA announced their season would go forward, albeit via Zoom, Head Coaches Patt Cheney and Lynette Welter felt extremely lucky.
“We’re very fortunate that we can actually compete,” Welter said. While it is difficult for other teams at OPRF to have improvised seasons during the pandemic, Speech Team can easily compete virtually.
In this year’s non-traditional Speech Team competitions, students supply coaches with a recording of their speech, which is then submitted to the tournament and judged through three rounds by three judges. Students who advance to the final round compete in live Zoom breakout rooms.
Competitions consist of 14 events, including oratory speech, impromptu, and dramatic interpretation. Each event features various topics chosen by students, except for extemporaneous speech, where students have a choice of three current events topics and half an hour to prepare a speech.
Given inevitable technical difficulties, however, a completely virtual Speech Team season faces considerable challenges. Fortunately, coaches are on top of any problems. They have the accessibility of being able to asynchronously record speeches for the preliminary rounds.
“As far as our (recordings), we’ll go through and review the links from each of the students on the team and make sure they’re not having lag issues, or (dropping) out so that they can’t be heard,” Cheney said.
“We all have different technology, we all have different levels of confidence with technology,” said senior Alex Shrader, Speech Team co-captain. “There are a lot of things (such as body language) that you don’t catch as well on a Zoom call as you would in person.”
However, Shrader said most judges are compassionate, allowing competitors extra time to ensure they are heard and seen clearly during live rounds.
While the Speech Team’s ultimate goal is to make the state competition, coaches and captains prioritize self-improvement over ranking. Coach Welter emphasized how the flexibility of Speech Team’s season during the pandemic has helped their goals remain fixed.
“Because we have this virtual option … our goals are the same as every season,” Welter said. “To recruit as many students who are interested in becoming better speakers as can join us, and to help them become the best speakers they can be.”
“My overall goal in Speech Team is to become a better, more confident speaker,” said senior co-captain Brigid Parker. “I joined as the shyest person ever, (but) I’ve developed so much confidence from being able to write about things that I love and perform them in front of people who have no choice but to listen.”
“When I was a freshman … I didn’t like speaking in front of the class or in front of crowds, and I got super nervous every time I had to perform,” Shrader said. Speech Team “has really helped me grow as a performer.”
Both Shrader and Parker hope to pass the growth obtained from Speech Team to underclassmen, and encourage anyone to give it a shot, whether they have little or ample experience with public speaking.
“The best comparison I can draw with speech would be between Speech Team and Track Team,” Parker said. “Everybody has their own different events, but you’re still competing together, as a team.”