Coach's Corner

Welcome to the CHSSA Coach’s Corner. This blog will be updated by members of the CHSSA council with materials for the classroom, to help build your competitive teams, and to provide insight into what coaches across the state are doing. Look out for new information to be added throughout the school year.

Chris Wardner

Chris Wardner

Hall of Fame Nominee

CFL Hall of Fame Nominee - Chris Wardner

The Coast Forensic League nominates Chris Wardner to the CHSSA Hall of Fame for his long commitment to service, excellence in forensics, and creative problem-solving. 

            Chris Wardner first experienced debate when his English teacher offered extra credit for participating in a debate tournament. After this first experience, Chris was hooked and competed throughout high school. This passion led to a B.A. in Communication Studies from San Jose State University and more than 20 years of teaching.

            To share this passion with others, Chris began his coaching career at Pinewood School. A small but comprehensive team, Pinewood was recognized at both the state and national levels. He continued this trend of excellence when he joined Leland High School as a coach in 2007. Ultimately, he guided nine students to the top six at the national tournament, including two national champions and five state champions.

            In addition to his accolades as a coach, Chris uplifted others through his public service in forensics. He has been a CHSSA proxy, secured Mission College for the 2016 State Tournament, and served as vice president and co-president for Coast Forensic League. He believes that engagement with others who share his passion for speech and debate has made him a better educator. Chris has taught over 1,200 students in the fundamentals of public speaking and over 200 of his middle school students have participated in high school forensics. Because of Chris, eleven different Coast Forensic League schools have Almaden Country Day School alumni on their teams.

            For these reasons and all the others that could not fit on this page, the Coast Forensic League supports Chris Warder for his induction into the CHSSA Hall of Fame.

June Read

June Read

Hall of Fame Nominee

CVFL Hall of Fame Nominee - June Read

As June Read’s successor, and the current coach of the EDHS Speech and Debate Team, I feel uniquely qualified to nominate her to the Hall of Fame. I saw her not only as a coach but as the kind of coach I wanted to become.

In 1994, June Read started a Speech and Debate Club that quickly turned into an award-winning team. Under her tutelage, her team qualified at State and National competitions every year until she retired in 2014, including a State champion in Congress.

During her 20 years as coach, June served as president of the Capitol Valley Forensic League and achieved the rank of Second Diamond. But June wasn’t just a great coach, she made a real difference in the lives of her students. “I wouldn’t be the speaker I am today,” one former student said, “if it weren’t for June Read.”

It was never about a winning season, it was all about engaging, educating, and lighting the fire of love of speech and debate. She was fiercely protective and a pseudo-mom to all of her teams. There isn’t a student of hers that does not swell with pride when they say, “June Read was my coach!”

-Deborah Nicholls in memory of June Read

Karson Kalashian

Karson Kalashian

Hall of Fame Nominee

SVFL Hall of Fame Nominee - Karson Kalashian

Karson Kalashian is an example to all of us of what a coach, educator, and friend ought to be. While one could outline all of Karson’s coaching successes (of which there are many), what truly defines Karson is that he believes that forensics matters and should be accessible to every student in California, regardless of their circumstances.

Throughout his career, Karson has worked tirelessly to build large, incredibly inclusive programs at schools with high migrant, high poverty populations. Literally thousands of young, diverse people from the Central Valley have had the chance to go to the world’s best colleges directly because of the guidance, mentorship, and opportunities that Karson worked to provide. For a decade, Karson has advocated on the CHSSA Council for equality in opportunity for all students across our state. Always there to volunteer to put in the work necessary to make opportunity a reality, Karson has been a defining voice and advocate through his service to all in our community.

Forensics helped Karson find his voice to advocate for California’s kids, so it’s only appropriate that our community honor him. The SVFL is proud to nominate our friend and President for the CHSSA Hall of Fame.

VP Activities Message – February 2019

Angelique Ronald

Angelique Ronald

VP Activities, CHSSA

Taking on Hunger

With State seaon rapidly approaching , we have a lot we could talk about: deadlines, tournament schedule changes, rule interpretations, and every other piece of valuable tournament minutiae is totally necessary, but also makes your eyes completely glaze over 15 seconds in. But instead, today I would like to take this space to briefly talk about a new program that is very close to my heart and that will be offered for the first time at State 2019.

Food insecurity is a serious problem that impacts many in the forensics community. In California, 1 in 5 students will go to bed hungry tonight. This insecurity becomes even more pronounced for students who are traveling away from home to attend tournaments, often with few – or no – resources to feed themselves throughout the weekend. Hungry kids are stressed and less focused, putting them in a bad place physically/emotionally and at a disadvantage at our competitions. We have to do better about serving this vulnerable population.

For these reasons, we are implementing a new program at State this year where food insecure students will have an opportunity to have their meals completely covered by CHSSA and our generous donors. Here’s how it works: a student or coach needs to fill out our Google Form (Click Here) indicating the need for assistance. At registration Friday morning, I will make sure that each student has an envelope of vouchers placed in their team’s registration packet, which they can then use at our food trucks throughout the weekend. Because we don’t want any kids to be singled out for their need, we will also be giving out food truck vouchers to students who complete the games in the program or who go above and beyond in service to the tournament over the weekend.

Finally, I’d like to highlight the young woman who inspired this new CHSSA policy: NSDA National Student of the Year Elena Cecil from Larue County High School in Kentucky. Over the years, I have had the privilege of serving on the National Speech and Debate Association National Student of the Year selection panel. While serving on this panel is always a truly inspiring highlight of Nationals for me, Elena’s advocacy regarding food insecurity (and how it impacts forenscis students) truly challenged me – and us – to do better. As Elena said, “I believe my reason, my obligation, is to do what I can do to help other people while I’m here.”

In honor of Elena and the countless other kids who are fighting to make our little corner of the world a better place, I ask that you join me in this service. Call on tournaments to offer programs to help food insecure or economically marginalized students, work to create programs that equalize inequality, and – if you’re able – donate today to help pay for a student who can’t.

If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to CHSSA to help fund this program, please email or today.

Find out more information about this program by clicking here.

Sign up for vouchers by  clicking here.

President’s Message – October 2018

Reed Niemi

Reed Niemi

President, CHSSA

President's Message - Oct. 2018

It is with great excitement that I share what CHSSA has been working on the past year. 2018-2019 promises to be an exciting year for California forensics!

Under the leadership of Gay Brasher and Ron Underwood the groundwork has been established for CHSSA’s first Middle School State Champs that will take place at Leland HS on May 17-19, 2019. CHSSA is hoping to be able to also add World Schools Debate for high school students to be held at the same time. Due to room constraints, while Worlds cannot be added to the State Champs, we hope that we can add it with qualification left to leagues to determine. CHSSA also hopes that this helps teams that are attending Nationals, to have a “warm-up” prior to June.

Our Bulletin has had a reboot thanks to CHSSA Editor Ben Cummings. Check out the issues on or check CHSSA’s Facebook for updates.

Due to the diligent work of the Debate Committee, next year will see “debate parity” for the first time. This specifically is something that has been discussed since Public Forum and Parli were added as CHSSA events. This is exciting given California continues to be a leader in high school Parli debate, even though the NSDA has been attempting to add a debate similar to, but not quite, Parli.

We will be asking for some demographic information from member schools so that we may better serve our members in the state. Watch for the new assessment form, and if your school rolled their bond over while at State Champs, you will still need to fill out the assessment and send it the respective Area Chair.

CHSSA is in the midst of incorporating as a nonprofit. Hardly an easy task given CHSSA’s 60+ years as an association. Member schools will be asked to vote on incorporating in the beginning of August. It is imperative that schools vote within the timeframe and send their ballots to CHSSA’s newly hired outside counsel.

Area IV has a new Chair, and Sarah Sherwood. Congratulations!

Iain Lampert has been appointed the Coordinator of Public Relations for CHSSA. Welcome!

Karson Kalashian has accepted the appointment of CHSSA Debate Chair. Good luck!

2018-2019 will be exciting in California forensics, as we continue to grow and reach out to populations previously not served by CHSSA and find new avenues to allow speech and debate to flourish inside and outside the classroom.



Reed Niemi

President, California High School Speech Association