2010 President's Report Web Extra

A tradition of winning

The Bradley University Speech Team has a longstanding reputation as a national powerhouse. The team has built a dynasty with 37 National Forensic Association and American Forensic Association championships since 1978. Bradley has won as many championships as all other schools in the nation combined.

Becky Suhr ’11 of Palatine, president of the 2010-11 team, is proud of her team’s outstanding national reputation. “On campus, a lot of people don’t know much about the speech team. At tournaments, tell someone you’re from Bradley University and you instill fear.”

Speech coach Dan Smith said team members pressure themselves to keep the outstanding tradition alive.  He involves speech alumni in the coaching process, even utilizing Skype for online mentoring sessions.

“Alumni feel they are still part of things,” said Smith, who has coached the Bradley team since 1994. Several former students are now forensics professors and coaches at the high school and college levels. Now, students coached by these alumni are enrolling at Bradley. “I figure these are my speech grandchildren.”

Smith said participating on the speech team teaches students several life lessons. Since they receive critiques of their speeches at tournaments, students learn to handle criticism. He noted that all contestants are outstanding by the time they reach the national level, but not everyone is going to win. Therefore, students in forensics learn that life is subjective. They also learn to articulate and to manage time. Many are members of Greek organizations and work part time.

“Being on the speech team helps with interpersonal communication and confidence,” Suhr said. She also has learned to balance school, speech team commitments, and a social life.

Most speech team members have a part-time job; travel every other weekend with the team; practice with coaches and peers 15 hours a week; and are involved in Greek organizations, honoraries, and other campus activities. That’s all on top of carrying a full load of classes.

“These students are certainly getting the most out of their Bradley Experience,” Smith said.

Individual  champions in 2010 include Amanda Voirol ’11 and Jared Boyer ’10, duo (AFA); Amanda Voirol ’11, dramatic interpretation and individual sweepstakes (AFA); and Patrick Campbell ’10, persuasion (NFA). Champions in 2011, all at the NFA, include Elle Pratt ’14, dramatic interpretation; Blake Longfellow ’12, informative; and Jacoby Cochran ’13, persuasion and pentathlon.