Transition year for SPASH debate


The Mirror reporter

The Stevens Point Area Senior High (SPASH) debate team is going through a transition year due to the retirement of Joe Klopotek, last year’s head coach.

Klopotek coached for 15 years during which SPASH established a reputation for being the most consistent debate team in the state.

After Klopotek retired last year, there was no real thought about the future of debate team.

“It was hard to prepare for this year because at the end of last year I was retired as the head coach with no real thought about coming back as the assistant coach but then the shortage of people for the head coach position also funneled into not having an available assistant coach,” Klopotek said.

Klopotek added that the debate team needs the district to be a little more committed to having more coaching personnel. Klopotek stays involved by helping new head coach Lee Bendtsen. “It’s going to be a learning process like it was for me. I did not have anyone else there to teach me so I am hoping that I can help make that transition smoother,” Klopotek said.

The transition has been an easy one according to Bendtsen with the exception that he does not have any prior debate knowledge. The learning curve is the biggest of the challenges Bendtsen faces. “I don’t have enough knowledge to help, right now I am learning form the debaters,” he said.

The debate team is going through a rebuilding year on top of a transition year. “It is a rebuilding year especially at the varsity level. We don’t have people who were in varsity last year and we also don’t have people who went to debate camps so we are kind of behind,” Klopotek said.

The debate team is beneficial to students. Bendtsen said, “Public speaking is just a fantastic skill.” He added, “Debate is a wonderful way to teach strategy and strategic thinking.”

First year debaters (novices) have been doing fairly well. “I would say were at or above expectations for the novice so far,” but the varsity is a little behind, Klopotek said.

Bendtsen added, “We had essentially two debate tournaments I think they were both great learning experiences.”

SPASH has gone to Madison, Waukesha and Brookfield for tournaments so far, placing very well.

Madison Eggers, a junior at SPASH and a novice, is doing pretty well, going 7-2 for novice matches and 2-1 for varsity. To gain more experience, it is not uncommon for novices to debate varsity rounds so they are better prepared for the novice state tournament.

Eggers advises, “Be prepared to put in the work. It is a lot of fun if you go in with an open mind and work hard. I should add that it isn’t an easy class, not to dissuade anyone,” Eggers said.