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MN AA 2022 Speech Coach of the Year: Tom Lucas

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Tom Lucas
Heading to a Speech Meet

Tom Lucas, Bemidji, discusses the unique and rewarding experience of coaching speech.

… we try to prepare them the best we can. We give them the knowledge that we think they need. We present what we think are the best ideas that we get from critiques that we get from judges… we do the very best we can to prepare them, but when you get right down to it, their performance is their performance. We're not sitting on a chair shouting advice. When they're performing, they perform. You have to approach it that way from a coaching standpoint, knowing that I'm not going to be there. – Tom Lucas, Bemidji Lumberjacks Speech Coach.

Like many high school activities, speech teams across Minnesota and the nation are in competition mode these days. The Bemidji Lumberjacks, the Walker Talkers, The Hibbing Blue Jackets, The Grand Rapids Thunderhawks, and many others across the listening area spend their time preparing for weekly competitions much like sports teams do… with practice, preparation, assessment and more practice. Most Saturdays you’ll find speech kids dressed in suits at a high school, stress and exhilaration levels high, some spend down-time practicing their skills by talking to walls, others work with each other, others consider critiques with coaches, and everyone seems to encourage each other as these students take on something most people are terrified of… public speaking.

Coaching speech is a unique endeavor. Ego, nerves, confidence, ups, and downs… it’s a mixed bag of emotions. Tom Lucas has been a speech kid most of his life. He’s coached the Bemidji Lumberjacks since 2005 and this fall was named 2022 Class AA Speech Coach of the Year.

In this Area Voices segment, we learned what goes into preparing kids for such a unique activity, the emotional roller coaster of coaching speech, and the excitement and fun that goes with it, too.

To see the growth in the students from the first time you see them to the last time you see them and knowing that they're going to take that growth and they have the opportunity to build on that, beyond…We watch what happens to our students in the aftermath and in many cases going on to do really great things and have wonderful lives… The process of education for them is very fulfilling thing, as frustrating as it can be and as tiring as it can be-because it is a long season and it's a lot of hours and it's a lot of Saturdays and it's a lot of emotion, but… there are times when you feel just absolutely elated coming back on a Saturday and there are times where you come back thinking, wow, what can we do to fix this? And that's been going on for me for a long time, for many, many years. - Tom Lucas

Good luck to all the speech teams across the listening area this season!

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Katie Carter started at Northern Community Radio in 2008 as Managing Editor of the station's grant-funded, online news experiment Northern Community Internet. Since 2016, she's produced Area Voices showcasing the arts, culture, and history stories of northern Minnesota. She's our local host of NPR's All Things Considered and CBC's As It Happens every weekday from 4-7pm.