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.

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

Hall of Fame Memories 2018

Ron Underwood

Ron Underwood

Historian - CHSSA

Hall of Fame Memories

In a Hall of Fame career there will be many ups and downs. Three CHSSA Hall of Famers have shared a few of their “ups”
Current CHSSA President Reed Niemi  (CHSSA class of 2011) remembers:

“The only way to survive as a forensics participant is to be able to reflect back and laugh. Our activity is not easy. However, when looking back through the years (okay, decades) one event that sticks out to me occurred during the first day of the state tournament in 2003 in San Bernardino, while I was serving as Vice President of Activities. At the time, hosts still had a large requirement to provide judges, and the last round of Friday night we were short about 35 judges. I figured the only way to actually run the round was to empty the tab rooms, and pull in as many coaches as possible that were not assigned a round. What was most impressive to me at the time was the fact that not a single coach turned down a ballot and all three tab rooms and both judge houses, emptied their workers for a ballot (including pit-bosses). As some of the most impressive judge panels I have ever seen (Brasher, Montgomery, Cummings, Ballingall, Cardoza, Underwood, Kamel, Green, Keller-Firestones) walked out to their rounds, I was left alone in charge of both judge houses and all three tab rooms in complete silence and solitude. Besides the historic moment in the most qualified and successful coaches in the state taking prelim ballots (if I recall, Chuck judged impromptu with Mr. Underwood, for instance), the fact that all the renowned coaches stepped up to the request, without a single, “I can’t”, or “I don’t want to”, showed me firsthand the commitment of coaches around the state to do whatever was necessary to assure the students had their experience at state. It  was refreshing, invigorating, and definitely one of the funniest experiences I can remember while directing the state tournament.”

Students of most recent inductee (2017) Mikendra McCoy have some lighter memories to share about this dynamic woman.

Chris Colfer:  “Food was the core of our team … we had everyone bring snacks, and for some reason, you would forget your script, but you had your snack with you … so we were certainly the team to make friends with … but there was no greater moment that showed dedication, necessary craziness and the need for sustenance then the time that you walked us through the In and Out drive through at 12:30 in the morning, because the lobby was closed and we were on a bus …now that is  “…what a memory is all about!”

Sierra Tenyenhuis: “I don’t remember a time when we were not laughing with McCoy, from the first day that she projectile dumped a bucket of markers on the floor when we had to create “positive pockets” and name tags for them; to putting in the most awkward White Elephant gifts for the Winter Party, like the washing machine from the housing complex next to the school … she let us be us, so there was always laughter.”
Eloy Robles :” Everything was done with a flair, the puns in the day to day conversations, the cards that were written at each tournament, the room themes and the big reveal of them … we begged to know what was coming … it was a surprise because every year her classroom changed, it was “The Game of Life, play it well…” Board games were all over the room … Or “Coffee, cause every human bean matters” and the starbucks coffee house was created … Comic books and cartoon characters cause, “Every character has something to say, whether it be serious or silly!” … one year, it was “Gatsby’s Mansion” and she literally purchased an upright piano from San Jose, carted it back to Fresno, up to the second floor to her classroom and up on the counter top, so that she could mount it to the wall (which by the way she got the freshman football team to do as part of their summer conditioning) … it was creative and captivating and it created a home!”
David Matley (CHSSA class of 2012) has some lighter memories from Nationals.
“I believe it was my second trip NSDA Nationals.  When I left the room after judging semi-finals, my assistant coach came running up to me and insisted that there must have been a tabulation error.  They had just printed the prelim results and one of our girls should have advanced in oratory.  I raced to the tab room to find out what had happened.  I found the oratory table.  The gentleman was sitting there with a giant stack of cum cards in front of him.  He located her card, scratched his head a bit and discovered the error.  They had added up her ranks incorrectly.  Semis had just finished.  There was nothing to do but apologize.  Now the hard part.  I had to break the news to our girl.  Driving back to the hotel, I rehearsed in my mind how I would break the news to her.  No one on the team knew except for myself and my coach.  When we got back to the hotel I pulled her aside to explain.  I remember sitting on the chair across from her and explaining as clearly and delicately as I could.  When I finished, I fully expected her to start crying.  Instead she looked at me and said in the most matter of fact voice, “You have a hole in the crotch of your shorts.”  I looked down and when I looked up she just started laughing.  We both laughed hysterically.  There was nothing we could do but laugh.”
Stay tuned for more updates from our Hall of Fame coaches.

VP Activities Update 2018

Angelique Ronald

Angelique Ronald

CHSSA VP Activities

VP Activities Updates 2018

The beautiful thing about the California High School Speech Association is that all of us, regardless of our position or tenure, stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before us.There is no problem that exists, or circumstance in front of us, that has not already been solved by someone else in some other time. Knowing that, I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to recognize our outgoing Vice President of Activities, Nermin Fraser. For 13 years, Nermin served CHSSA, with a dedicated focus always on what is best for our kids and coaches. As a coach, I spent years standing in awe of Nermin’s calm, measured, masterful management of all things State and, now that I have had the chance to peek behind the curtain and step into her shoes, I can not even fully describe the respect I have for everything she did. The debt of gratitude CHSSA owes Nermin for her years of dedication is innumerable; after all, it is the hard work of people like Nermin that affords our organization the opportunity to touch so many lives. Thank you, Nermin.

Today, our students face unprecedented challenges that speech and debate educators are uniquely suited to help with. Our community is inspiring in its resolve, but that integrity, character, and service is not just limited to our coaches. In a time characterized by political strife, cultural division, and a rapidly changing social landscape, it is increasingly important to celebrate the positive leaders and role models of tomorrow. At our 2018 State Championship Tournament, the California High School Speech Association is introducing a new way to honor those deserving students who have demonstrably gone above and beyond the competitive elements of this activity: the CHSSA Student of the Year. Our annual Student of the Year award is intended to honor individuals who set outstanding examples in terms of their leadership, dedication, creativity, and service, both in forensics and in their greater communities as well.

There have been many debates about what exactly CHSSA ought to be. While I will never be so presumptuous to assume to know the answer, I do know that lately, when I am faced with a conflicted choice, I ask myself three questions. Does this help students? Does this help coaches? Does this make the State Tournament better? These three questions are the same that have guided every good decision this organization has ever made. We are carrying on a proud tradition as we both honor and expand on the work of the forensics giants who came before us. If we remain principled and productive, I know we will do them- and thousands of young, future leaders- proud

Congress Update 2018

David Matley

David Matley

Congress Committee - Chair

Sharon James

Sharon James

Congress Committee - Member

Bob Stockton

Bob Stockton

Congress Committee - Member

Congress Update 2018

Student Congress serves a unique role in forensics competition as it brings together the skills of both speech and debate in a real world setting.  In today’s political climate the ability to listen, interpret and respond to each other through civil discourse is paramount.  As we move forward, the CHSSA Congress Committee will continue to seek ways to improve the quality of discussion and debate in Congress.

Our three main priorities for improving discourse in Congress at the State Tournament involve accountability and integrity in use of evidence, greater use of communication technology and the streamlining of rules and procedures to be consistent with local, state and national tournaments.

Honesty and integrity are of utmost importance in legislative debate.  Clear guidelines regarding use and citation of evidence are key to upholding these values.  We recently established Article XIII, Section 17 in the CHSSA By-Laws to lay the foundation for use and misuse of evidence in Congress.  These principles will be further clarified in our Congress Manual distributed to all state qualifiers.

Modernization of Congress through greater use of technology keeps Congress relevant to today’s generation and provides a greater opportunity for students to participate, listen and respond.

Our recent by-law revision regarding the use of computers in congress allows Congress competitors to better organize and access evidence during the round.  We will also continue to incorporate technology so that students have a greater voice in the determination of timely legislation that reflects issues important to them and society.

Consistency of rules and procedures across local, state and national organizations provides greater ability for new students to access the activity in a meaningful way.   The recent addition of precedence and recency in determining speech priority is consistent with speech priority used at many invitationals and national championship tournaments.  We will continue to work to streamline Congress procedures to align CHSSA with leagues and national organizations.

As we continually strive to ensure that Congress provides students with an engaging, relevant and purposeful legislative forum, we are dedicated to make this event one where they can achieve their highest potential as speakers and leaders in a democratic society.