Speech season is starting up again, with the Rugby Speech Team traveling to Rolette this weekend for a first-timer's meet, which Coach Kyle Vareberg said is a "glorified practice."
Twelve new kids have joined the team this year, making the total 36, 37 or 39 members, according to Vareberg. "I don't really know [how many we have]. The growth in the program has been outrageous, but I think it's awesome that we have so many interested in Speech," he said.
Vareberg said he spends a lot of his time recruiting younger members for the team, those in seventh and eighth grades. "It's fun when they realize it's fun, but if they don't know, they're not going to try it [when they're older]," he said.
Students on the Rugby Speech Team prepare for upcoming competitions
After a successful season last year, Vareberg said he would like to continue the streak. The team ended the season by placing seventh out of 77 teams at the state competition.
"My goal for every kid, every season, is for [he or she] to do better," Vareberg said. "For the kids who shake onstage, are intimidated, who constantly receive scores of five, which is the lowest one can get in Speech, I wait for that moment when they get a score of four. To me, that's a successful season."
This year, there are 14 total events, with a 15th trial event that the team will be preparing for. Vareberg said he has mostly been working with the new and younger members of the team, while the older students are doing more independent training. Vareberg has brought in some past students to help assist him this season. "It's a team effort," he said.
Vareberg said some of the speech topics he is looking forward to are an inform speech on the Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, a speech by Kate Heidlebaugh on her biggest fears, and a speech from My Sister's Keeper.
"I tell my students that what they put in is what they'll get out," Vareberg said, explaining that he did not always have this philosophy prior to this season. "Some of the older kids are definitely more nervous because I'm not holding their hands this season, but I think they can do it. I really do."
Heidlebaugh, in her third season, will be competing in the categories of Storytelling, Entertain, Humorous and Humorous Duo this year.
"With the categories I'm in, I get to be very expressive and loud. I get to entertain people and make them laugh, which I love to do," Heidlebaugh said. "I'm looking forward to seeing what's going to happen [this season]. You never know where you stand amongst other people because there are always variables and different aspects in Speech. It's unexpected."
Senior Jacob Christianson will be competing in his second season this year, in the categories of Radio Broadcasting, Humorous and Serious Duo.
"I like the social interactions I can get out of hanging out with people [at Speech]. I'm most looking forward to going to meets and trying to stay qualified," Christianson said.
"Speech is awesome," Vareberg said. "It really is a treat for these kids to open up in a way. It's challenging and hard, but I go back to my experience in Speech, and it was so rewarding. I've had past students who have said that Speech was the best decision they ever made, and that makes it all worth it. The kids are extremely talented, and I am so fortunate to get to work with them."
The first official tournament will be held in Rugby on Jan. 21, with around 19 schools coming to compete.