Speech team adjusts to new coach, online format

Recording persona
Speech senior Cathryn Johnson records her poetry piece for an online meet in October.

Savanna Winn

Recording persona Speech senior Cathryn Johnson records her poetry piece for an online meet in October.

  2020 put daily life on hold, but it also sparked a new beginning for the speech team which got a new coach and a new way of competing.

  Seminole alumni Savanna Winn was hired as the new speech coach after Danny Stottlemyre retired in May. Winn trained under Stottlemyre when she was in high school and also served as the debate coach several years ago.

  “The idea of a new coach was both saddening and exciting,” speech senior Reese Cooper said. “Stott was incredible, and it was with him where I found my love for speech. But in all honesty, I could not wish for a better coach than Ms. Winn. She has determination and spends every hour of every day to push us to not only be brilliant performers, but extraordinary people. She has more compassion than anyone I have ever met, and loves us with every ounce of her being. Even when she’s frustrated, it is never in vain. Ms. Winn only expects us to wake up and be the best human beings possible, and she chooses to see the good in all of us. Even after viewing us at our worst. She has drive, passion, and extreme empathy for her students.” 

  Senior Micah Smith said he still feels at home when he is in the speech classroom.

  “It hasn’t changed that much,” Smith said. “It’s a totally different situation, but I still feel the love I did before.”

  Although the speech team was strong before, Winn is prepared to let it blossom to levels it has never reached before.

  “It’s definitely nice not having to start from scratch, but what’s even better is that I’ve worked with Stott for a long time, and I believe we handle the team in the same ways; we have the same expectations,” Winn said. “I am excited to expand the program and let what was here before grow, and allow it to become a staple in the community. It has been so exciting to work with the students I have worked with in the past, and especially with the new faces. I feel very connected to this program, and this is a position I’ve been wanting for a long time.”  

  Winn is a familiar anchor in what has developed into uncharted waters for the team which was used to traveling over dozens of weekends during the year. All competitons have moved to an online format.

  “Competing has changed so drastically for me.” senior Alayna Amen said. “I’m used to looking at a judge or competitor in the eyes as I perform, and since we’ve been doing virtual tournaments, that important factor has since been dropped out.” 

  The emotional tolls are not the only factors  to deal with as technical difficulties can be extremely stressful and devastating as recordings buffer or judges leave without hearing pieces.  

  “The screen turns black, and it feels like you’re talking to no one and not conveying a message,” Smith said. “It’s good when I realize that in reality I am talking to someone.” 

  One positive that Winn established was a leadership team elected from within the speech team. 

  “My hope with establishing the leadership team is not just to compete and be successful, but to give speech and debate a platform to reach new uncharted levels in the community,” Winn said. “I think that’s the best way to keep the amazing qualities of speech growing.” 

Senior Cathryn Johnson was elected as the leadership team president and has felt the pressure of having new responsibilities to the team.   

  “As president of the leadership team, I have personally felt an increase in the workload,” Johnson said. “With a leadership team we are able to get involved in the community more, and pursue the ideas that are typically just spewed out without any actual pursuit. We are hoping to bring something to the table for Seminole within the upcoming years, and make an impact in the community.”

  Through out the challenges of the new year, Winn has kept the team on track.

  “Ms. Winn has handled this year with great organization, and a passion for the team that leaves a lasting impression on the students’ view of the speech world and more importantly their view on life itself,” Johnson said. “She has built on the foundation that previous coach, Danny Stottlemyre,  set in place, while also establishing her own unique twist on the team. It has changed, no doubt, but I believe that it is the change that the Seminole speech team needed.”