Speech Team invigorated by the high interest for the upcoming season


Photo by Fernando Calvillo-Morales

Speech Team members await their turn at a tournament last fall.

By Michael Birdsell, Senior Reporter

This month, the Speech Team at West Chicago Community High School began to prepare for their upcoming season, with auditions starting today and continuing through tomorrow. Competition begins in November.

The Speech Team at WEGO is a competitive, performance-based activity that teaches students how to better speak in public environments. Students participate in individual events, and earn awards for competing. Additionally, those awards count as wins for the team, similar to track and field, as explained by Head Coach and English teacher, Paul Lichy. 

Members of the team compete in a plethora of events including, small partner scenes, solo drama reenactments, and topics like reading poetry or an event akin to radio broadcasting. Impromptu presents students with a question, and they then have a limited amount of time to write and then perform their speech to an audience. These topics cast a large net of student interest, with some categories being more serious than others.  

Team members provide feedback during practices. (Photo by Andrea Hernandez)

“It really does have the capacity to address so many people’s interests and styles. You know, people that are like I’m an actor and I want to do Speech because I can brush up on my acting or become a better actor. There are people who are really academic and I like the challenge of, you know, being challenged to create rhetoric and argue a point,” said Lichy.

To get into competition, the team competes in the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) division, generally early on a Saturday morning at a random school in the DuPage County area, and sometimes in Kane County. 

Once they arrive at the school, they have three rounds of competition, with around six to nine competitors in one round. The speeches last approximately eight minutes, and each student gives their speech for whatever topic they have. 

When rounds end, people gather in the cafeteria or a similar area, and assess and communicate with each other in between rounds. After all three rounds end, the points are tabulated, and then if the competitor does well enough, they progress to a final or semifinal round. 

If the student performs to a high degree on that final round, then they may get a trophy as a reward. The team then heads out after and gets back to the school, usually when it is already dark out again, according to Lichy.

“My favorite thing about Speech Team is spending so much time with all of my teammates. We end up spending nearly 12 hours together every Saturday, so we become a little family. The speech community is also very supportive, which makes competing so much more fun” said junior Mia Valliquette.

Coach Paul Lichy shares insight with the group as they prepare for competition season. (Photo by Andrea Hernandez)

The team engages in a series of tournaments throughout the season. In the 2021-22 season, three Speech Team members attended the IHSA Sectional competition at Wheaton Warrenville South High School, including Valliquette and junior Chase Pechman.

“It was really nerve wracking, because I was surrounded by a bunch of people who knew what they were doing and I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, at least compared to them. I was nervous, but in the end I was happy to be there,” said Pechman.

The team recently had their first informational meeting on Sept. 21. They plan to hold auditions later the next week on the 28th and 29th.

They usually meet once a week as a whole, with members meeting with their respective coaches one-on-one to hone their skills as public speakers and writers. English teacher Mark Begovich, and Social Studies teacher Nicole Stadler, round out the coaching team. 

Speech Team has been experiencing a burst of high interest, as compared to seasons in recent memory. They mainly attribute that increase in interest to lightening up on COVID policies, and the fact people want to improve how they speak to the public: calmly and confidently.

“Why it’s in high demand, I think it’s just mainly word of mouth for the most part. A lot of people say, ‘Hey, I’m doing this and that,’ and with people who are social about speech, it lets people know about this whole world of speech and how much it could mean,” said junior Sebastian Alarcon.