Speech team, new coaches assess successes at midseason

After all of the high school’s group speech teams earned Division I ratings and the large group of Meghan Kern, Heather Wolf, Alexa Balong, Clare Rolinger and Anna Hertz earned an All State on Feb. 4 at the state competition at Dubuque Senior High, coaches Margaret McCawley, Gabriella Holtzman and Chris Apling reflect and prepare for the upcoming individual speech season.

“I am so incredibly proud of all of the groups I had the pleasure to coach this year,” Holtzman said. “I was able to work with the three musical theatre groups we had compete. There was so much talent and effort that they put into every practice and at district and state competitions. One of the musical theater groups — “Next to Normal” with Abbie Lund, Joel Ochoa, Sam Schillinger and Sylvia Brown — even attained three I ratings at State, which is one of the highest accomplishments any group can ask for in such a competitive category. Also, the groups finished at State two weeks ago and our group mime was nominated for non-performing All State, which is an incredible honor.”

In speech team, the groups can get either a I, II, III or IV as a rating. The I rating is the best possible rating or “superior” and the IV means disqualified. Cedar Falls had groups compete in group mime, improvisation, musical theatre, short film, ensemble acting and readers theatre.

Besides the honors like All State, Holtzman said, “It’s so much fun to coach. You get to see the kids start an idea and build upon it throughout the season until it’s at it’s final performance where all of the thoughts are knitted together in a big masterpiece that they really orchestrate themselves.”

She comes with an extensive background of enjoying high school speech. “Prior to being a coach, I was involved in speech team all four years of high school in multiple categories, so I really got to experience the atmosphere and what speech is all about in Iowa,” she said. “Some people even judge the competitions before they start coaching to better understand how everything works behind the scenes. This is what I intend on doing next year.”

Unlike Holtzman, one of the team members in speech, Schillinger, said he came in this year with little experience. “I decided to go out for speech because I thought it would be a great experience,” he said. “I didn’t really have much experience performing, but I wanted to give it a try since I get a huge rush from performing, and I love doing it. I was not that confident heading into the season, but my confidence grew along with my appreciation and love for speech. With State … State was a crazy atmosphere. There was a plethora of talent there. I am so proud of how our team performed. We received superior 1’s across the board. It was a great day.”

Schillinger’s teammate, Lund, shared similar opinions.

“I did speech from my sophomore year to senior year, and it has been one of my absolute favorite things about high school. I went out for speech because I had always wanted to try acting, and all the people in speech are so sweet. I’ve made some really great friends through speech. Everyone is accepting of each other, and mistakes are expected. I for one had no experience in acting, but despite that, everyone still took me seriously and tried their hardest to make me into one. I also really love performing and singing for people, so it’s altogether a fun experience.”

To obtain the confidence to go with natural talents, Schillinger attributed the team’s success to the talented, dedicated coaches.

“Honestly they did a great job for their first year,” he said. “They really gave a lot of good feedback, both positive and negative for our group. I appreciate the time they put in to help us improve.”

Again, Lund backed up Schillinger’s views. “Through my experience in speech, I’ve had a different coach every year, but all of them I have loved,” she said. “Mrs. McCawley is just the sweetest person ever, and I’ve loved having her. She’s so funny, yet a very good coach with great insight. Mr. Apling is a very energetic coach with so many ideas, and I liked having him as well. Gabbie is a very experienced actor and made All State individual in high school. She has so many creative and fun ideas, plus she is just an amazing person and the light of my life, so I’ve loved having her as a coach. All of them are very nice and accepting and willing to work with you, and that’s all you can ask for in a coach.”

But one thing she really appreciated was that this year’s coaches also knew when to allow the team members to independently step into their roles. “In speech, we have a lot of freedom and responsibility in what our performance will look like. The coaches put us in charge of picking our own performances and setting up our own practice times. That can be helpful.”

Holtzman said, “My favorite part about coaching is working with kids who are so willing and eager to receive criticism and critiques. Sometimes it’s hard to give and take advice from someone not much older than you, but they really respected my opinion as a coach and used the ideas thrown at them to create a better performance and to focus on the details. This activity definitely helps young people to break out of their shell and utilize their creative sides. I would highly recommend that everyone do speech team because you will not regret it,” she said. “Especially if you’re on the fence, considering joining. There aren’t a lot of activities that are so diverse and focused on performing and public speaking that don’t involve a huge and terrifying audience, so helping young people to become comfortable about being themselves and talking in front of groups is one of the most important lessons that anyone can be taught.”

Schillinger also sees the skills he’s learned following into his future. “I hope to maybe find some speech opportunities after college to participate in. I really enjoy musical theater, with singing and acting. Who knows? Maybe I will try other categories of speech when I am older. Either way, I am glad I got to experience it this year with some amazing people.”

Lund remorsefully will not be able to fit speech into a future college option, but said, “It was so much fun, and it’s sad to think about how I won’t be able to participate in it next year.

“If you are thinking about maybe trying speech, my advice to you is that you definitely should. You meet great friends, and it’s an awesome experience — even if you’ve never tried acting. I’ve loved my three years of speech season, so you should definitely give it a try.”

The speech team will be in action next at the district competition for individual speech on Feb. 28 in Ackley at AGWSR high school.

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