Debate: A Family Affair
By Trudy Richards, Speech and Debate | Friday, March 30, 2012 11:30 AM
Eleanor and coach Russell Kirkscey from Blanco High School. Coach Kristi Hodgkiss and Carver from North Lamar High School. Coach Angela Teachout and Hunter Hall from Farwell and Tra Hall from Munday High School.
Each year, several students coached by their parents make it to the CX State Meet. Their experience is in some ways much like that of their peers. They work hard and put in plenty of time and effort hoping to make it to finals. But in other ways, their experience is very different.
Eleanor Kirkscey vividly remembers her introduction to debate when she was so young she rode in her car seat on the bus to overnight tournaments with her father Russell Kirkscey of Blanco High School.
“I knew I had her hooked when, as a six-year-old, she listened to one of my Super Conference lectures and took notes,” Russell Kirkscey said.
Other students may have started their debate careers later, but they still got to spend lots of quality time with their parent researching and preparing their cases.
“Sometimes when we are hammering out an argument, we begin to say the same words at the same time,” said Whitharral coach Karol Albus about her daughter Deborah, a State qualifier for the past three years. “Then we look at each other and say, ‘We are the same person!’”
Parents who coach realize that debate teaches their children much more than argumentation skills.
“The tradition that I hope to have passed down to my debaters and my children is ‘Honor above all else,’” said Tra Hall of Munday High School, who coached his son Hunter of Farwell. “They should always honor their opponents and view debate as civil discourse and not all out war.”
Harrison Thweatt of Harrold High School also learned an important lesson from a phrase his father David Thweatt uses before each round: “Adapt or die.”
Throughout the experience of working together, parents and children develop a mutual respect for each other and for the sport of debate. Almost all agreed that in a debate round pitting child against parent, their parent would win.
“She has more experience being professional under pressure,” Glen Rose debater Elisabeth Wiseman said of her mother Marsha, who coached all three of her children to UIL State. “I am sure I could put up a good fight, but I have no doubt that she would persuade the judge to vote for her.”
Debate has made a profound impact on the lives of these students and parents and on their relationships with each other.
“I cannot imagine what my life would have been like if I had not been a debater. I would not have been as successful as a student, and I certainly would not have had the opportunities life is offering me had I not joined the debate team,” said Carver Hodgkiss of North Lamar High School.
His mother, Kristi Hodgkiss, also appreciates the opportunity to coach her son.
“Every day, I feel very fortunate to have shared this experience with him, and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world,” said Kristi Hodgkiss.
Committing to a “life of debate,” said coach Angela Teachout, got her son Hunter Hall of Farwell all the way to the State finals. “We couldn’t be more proud of the young man he has become because of UIL Academics,” she said.
Her son agrees. “My parents have taught me that debate and UIL Academics are important in life. The events teach you how to think critically in ways that some things can’t. Basically, debate equals life…when you aren’t debating, it’s just prep time!” Hall said.
The outcome for these family teams was exceptionally good at this year’s State tournament. At least one member from each of the Conference A, AA, and AAA champion teams was coached by a parent, as was one member of the silver medal team in Conference A. In addition, one member of the Conference AAAA champion team was previously coached by her mother, who now teaches at a neighboring school.
Congratulations go out to these families and all of this year’s champions!