A former St. Gregory’s University professor is the new speech and debate coach.
Dr. Josh Young, director of forensics and adjunct instructor, was hired as the debate coach this semester, replacing Eli Brennan, who left his position at the end of last semester.
Brennan was the head coach for one semester. He took the place of former coach Garrett Castleberry, who accepted a full-time position at Mid-America Christian University in Oklahoma City, but agreed to remain at OCU as assistant coach.
Dr. Scott Davidson, professor of philosophy, is overseeing the speech and debate team during the staff changes. He said he is not able to discuss personnel matters.
“It is true that we have had a lot of changes on the coaching,” Davidson said.
Young’s coaching responsibilities consist of leading the team in individual events and practice, as well as teaching members the best ways to debate a certain topic or win an argument.
Young served as the communication program director at St. Gregory’s, where he was responsible for managing the communication curriculums as well as hiring adjunct professors to assist in teaching the curriculum.
Young has a Ph.D. in communication and public discourse from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. He was the assistant coach of debate at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, as well as some high school teams.
Young said OCU reached out to him through email to see if he was interested in teaching public speaking after St. Gregory’s officials announced the school’s closing in October. He later was offered the position of director of forensics. He teaches three public speaking classes.
“I don’t really know what happened between the school and Eli and between the team and Eli,” Young said. “My style of leadership is that it’s not productive to dwell on the past. We’ve got to see where we are and go from there.”
The speech and debate team has about 10 debaters, Young said. The team competed in the Cowtown Classic tournament Jan. 19-20 in Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, where they placed third in overall sweepstakes out of 25 schools.
Pierce Gordon, political science/philosophy senior, placed in the semifinals and won fourth speaker overall. Blayne Childers, acting sophomore, won fourth place for a dramatic interpretation that received a No. 1 ranking from one of the judges.
“Our first couple weeks, there’s been a lot of enthusiasm,” Young said. “A lot of people are very excited about what we’re doing so far. Overall, I would say the strength of the team is very good. The enthusiasm for the events is really good. I can’t see us doing anything but great things from here right now.”
Megan Poole, acting freshman and speech competitor, said she considers Young a welcome change in personnel.
“I love Josh. He’s so sweet and so nice,” Poole said. “He’s definitely way more organized. We actually got to a competition, they plan to go to more, and we saw results.”
Poole said a big improvement with Young is that she and other students competing in speech categories are able to participate in competitions, whereas her specialization in speech previously prevented her from doing so.
“Josh’s main focus is debate, but he knows a little more about speech, so I, personally, have seen a change because I got to go as a freshman, versus just sitting in a rehearsal room.”
The speech and debate team is scheduled for seven tournaments this semester and almost 30 different events. The next tournament will be in Salina, Kansas, and will feature schools from Kansas and Oklahoma. Nine debaters are scheduled to attend.
“I think we have a team that’s bigger than ever, and I think we have a lot of talent, so I think our semester is going to go really well,” Davidson said.
The speech and debate team is set to compete in an international tournament in March in Canada.
This is not the first year the team has competed outside the country. The team also competed in Peru last year under Castleberry’s leadership.
The team has practice from 4-6 p.m. or 7 p.m., depending on necessity, every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Editor’s note: Proofreader Tyler Patton is a member of the speech and debate team. He took no part in writing this story.