KAYSVILLE — As region champions for 10 consecutive years, the Davis High School debate team has a long-standing tradition of effective speaking and debating.
Last weekend, the squad proved it is among the best in the state, finishing fifth out of 20 teams at the 5-A state debate tournament at Weber State University in Ogden.
Debate team coach and Davis High School instructor LeeAnn Hyer said she honestly doesn’t know the secret to the school’s success.
But what she does know is that the team has what it takes to win.
“They win from the combination of their talent and their desire,” Hyer said. “I’m just here to guide them with encouragement and critique. But they do most of the work themselves.”
She said the students learn critical skills from debate that will help them in whatever career they choose.
“They learn how to craft and support an argument, and they learn how to think on their feet,” Hyer said. “I’ve been told countless times how debate prepared them for college and beyond, because they learned how to manage their time, how to do research and how to write.”
However, team co-captain Kallie Hansen, a senior at Davis High, had more in mind when she signed up for debate during her freshman year. She was hoping the debate competitions would help her overcome her fear of public speaking.
“I definitely got over my fear, and I fell in love with (public speaking),” said Hansen, who participates in the oratory portion of debate, in which students come prepared with a 10-minute persuasive speech.
Hansen remembered the moment she was no longer afraid of speaking in front of a crowd.
“During my first round at nationals last year, I realized that if I was good enough to be there, I had no reason to be afraid,” Hansen said. “I used to feel like I didn’t have anything important to say, but now that’s changed. I can stand in front of people and have them judge me for what I said.”
Debate season starts at the beginning of October and runs through the middle of March, requiring a grueling schedule for those six months. Davis High’s team of 80 students spends hours after school each day preparing for tournaments on the weekends.
“The season is long, and going to tournaments every weekend is tiring. But it is great seeing the students succeed,” Hyer said, adding that this season had the added pressure of maintaining the school’s region championship winning streak. “We all felt the pressure, but the best part was watching their reaction when they were announced the winner, because I don’t think they thought we’d win.”
The state competition marks the end of the season for the team, but it doesn’t mean the end of friendships for senior Katlyn Mease. The team camaraderie helps members endure the long hours of preparation, she said.
“It is so nice to talk to other kids about things that are happening in the world and about history,” Mease said.
An interesting aspect of their competitions, she said, is that everything they do, whether it is debate or a speech event, is done individually. But in the end, it’s all about the team.