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South Salt Lake Journal

Cottonwood speech team places second in region, becomes better communicators adapting to virtual competition

Jun 21, 2021 02:58PM ● By Julie Slama

A Cottonwood speech and debate team watch the sparring of fellow debaters. (Photo courtesy of Nizhoni Tsosie)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Cottonwood speech and debate team took full advantage of having its competitions virtual this year.

“It went incredibly better than we anticipated,” coach Adam Wilkins said. “We learned the more we do over Zoom, the more experiences the kids could do; some did at least one dozen tournaments. They learned to talk into the webcam, have solid presentation skills, have good lighting and background and deliver. It’s a skill they learned and practiced.”

For example, he said that students learned to communicate with their eyes and faces since that was what was showing on the screen.

“We practiced our diction and expression, making sure we weren’t scrunching our noses or looking off. The judges were paying close attention to presentation of material as well as to the presenter,” he said. “This has helped students to become better communicators as they have the skills to be more articulate, have clear diction and be able to project when they speak.”

That was an important lesson since the majority of the 30-member team is new due to graduations last year.

“Many members of our team are new so together we learned both speaking and how to virtually compete,” he said, adding that the team even hosted their own virtual competition last fall. “It’s utilizing 21st-century skills with Zoom calls to compete.”

During virtual competitions, students could compete against teams locally or nationally, Wilkins said.

“We could interact with students from across the country—Tennessee to Utah and learn different perspectives and options and hear different topics. It builds more camaraderie in the speech world. It opens up more ways to communicate and schools are more accessible,” he said.

The team took what they learned to place second in their virtual regional competition.

While Wilkins was happy with the team’s results, he knew it wasn’t a perfect year as there were glitches—technologically speaking.

“Sometimes, there is a harder, unforeseen problem as there are glitches or the lack of technology keeps some kids from participating,” he said. “Still, I think the virtual tournaments and the preparation for those helped us learn more about honing our skills and improving how we do things from our research to our presentation. Our team wanted to compete and that meant our work ethic doesn’t change; we just learned to adapt.”