Liberty Speech Team Gains New Coach and New Goals

After losing their head coach, Brad Borrsion, Layne Sheetz, a paraeducator at Liberty, has stepped up to help lead the team for the 2019-2020 school year alongside Gabrielle Kouri, social studies teacher.

After weeks of preparation and practice, the time has finally come. The category is improvisation. You are given three characters and two scenarios and are required to think of a story on the spot for two of the characters using one scenario. Standing in front of a row of judges with your teammates in the back silently cheering you on, you begin.

The speech team at Liberty has a new head coach after Brad Borrison, English teacher, quit. Layne Sheetz, a one-on-one paraeducator, is joining as the head coach with assistant coach, Gabrielle Kouri, social studies teacher. Sheetz has had a long history with speech that led him to take on the head coaching position on such short notice.

It gave me an outlet to explore who I was, and I think that’s really important.”

— Layne Sheetz

“When I was in high school, speech was probably the most life-changing part for me in terms of the team building, and when I was a freshman, I could really feel like I had a place,” said Sheetz. “It gave me an outlet to explore who I was, and I think that’s really important.”

The assistant coach, Kouri, also had exposure in high school with speech. Her team had a lot of success and she found it very meaningful. 

“It brought a lot of different people together who all liked literature, language, storytelling, and acting,” said Kouri.

The club is hoping to focus on team building and creating a safe space for students to express themselves. They are also hoping to attract more participants as they help the members develop their public speaking and performances. 

“[This year] we want to see more of our members make it to state. Around half or more of our members made it last year, but we want each member to make it in one category,” stated Kouri. 

A few categories that students can pick from include improvisation, acting, musical theatre, mime, and radio broadcasting. After picking a category or categories to participate in, the students then work with the coaches to schedule times to practice. Students can choose to participate in either individual or group events depending on their comfort level.

Elizabeth Davis, senior, has been a member of the speech team at Liberty for two years and participates in both the improvisation and acting categories. Last year, Davis received a perfect score in improvisation during the state meet and knows first hand what it feels like leading up to a performance. 

“It’s pretty nerve-wracking leading up to walking in to the room where you perform,” stated Davis. “Weirdly, I’m more anxious right before I go on, rather than when I’m delivering my piece because I can stop worrying and just focus on what I know how to do. Performing is, for me, the most rewarding part of speech. Getting a judge to laugh or nod along with you is the best feeling.”

There are three main competitions that speech team students participate in: Districts, State, and All-State. Districts are held at a selected school each year where students can be voted onto the state-level by the judges and from there can be voted onto the All-State level. At the school of which the competitions are held, students compete in different classrooms that are divided by category. The classroom mainly consists of speech team’s cheering on their teammates, family members, and judges, although all performances are open to the public. 

Performing is, for me, the most rewarding part of speech. Getting a judge to laugh or nod along with you is the best feeling.”

— Elizabeth Davis

For some students, the time commitment consists of once a week for a few months, whereas others may need to practice more often. Speech members can pick the number of categories they would like to participate in allowing a lot of flexibility with creating one’s own schedule, making it a good club to join for highly involved students. 

“Compared to most other clubs, the time commitment is pretty minor. Since practice with a coach is one on one, and usually only one time a week, you can pick a day and time to fit in your schedule. The most important work is independent: putting in a few minutes a day to write or rehearse your piece,” said Davis. 

“It’s a great opportunity to try something new. If you have never done theatre, or if you’re interested in doing public speaking. It builds skills that you will use forever; I use the ability to improv a lot…” said Sheetz. “Whether you’re teaching or in business, you have to be able to think on your feet and being able to be comfortable in front of people is just a really good foundation for anyone, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.”