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The Groves Scriptor

The Groves Scriptor

Groves most successful sports team is not what you would think

Piper Meloche
Debaters Felipe Serrano and Kabir Kapu with debate coach; John Lawson. Photo provided by Groves Debate Instagram (@grovesdebate) and taken by Assistant coach Piper Meloche.

Groves debate team is one of the best in the entire state of Michigan. The debate team has been with Groves for 60 years while also becoming the most consistently great part of Groves. So let me be your guide into this dive into the history of Groves’ most prized jewel while also examining how expert debaters prepare and perform for competitions.

The Groves debate team just became 60 years old; being founded by Miss Joyce Malin during the 1963-64 school year. And there was only one individual who could speak about debate’s history; the man, the myth, the legend: Mr. John Lawson. His first experience with debate came in the late 60s while being a student at Southfield HS (now Southfield A and T). Mr. Lawson said “before districts we wanted to have a practice debate with Groves because they were in a different district, they weren’t in the same one and so my coach called up the coach at Groves and we had a practice debate”. So he was able to meet the coach at Groves, Ted Stanley, who was a teacher and the Groves tennis coach. Mr. Stanley continued to teach and coach tennis when Mr. Lawson first came to Groves. 

Though as we continued to discuss the history of Groves debate Mr. Lawson showed me that Groves had an inconsistent track record (to say the least. “The potential was always there, it’s just that the coaches for a while just weren’t all that into debate and were sort of disinterested”, as Mr. Lawson explained since most teachers only agreed to be debate coaches in order to get a job at Groves who were more interested in Speech or Forensic. Though the most interesting coach in the pre-Lawson era was a man named Dave Bassett who was a very successful coach at University of Detroit Jesuit High School, but since private schools paid less he wanted a different job for some more money. Now other coaches would coach at different schools to earn some extra money but Mr. Bassett took another step forward by coaching at 4 schools. Eventually someone (no one knows who) told the administrators about Mr. Bassett and he was shown the door in the 88-89 school year. And Mr. Lawson (who recently started as the co-director of debate) agreed to take the job; beginning a renaissance in debate.

Carl Xie and Vishwa Charabuddi; some of Groves’ best debaters. Photo provided by Groves Debate Instagram (@grovesdebate). (Piper Meloche)

The effect of Mr. Lawson is truly incredible and the Groves administration is very well aware. “I always kept up with the debate team because Mr. Lawson is such a fantastic human so he keeps me informed,” said Dr. Susan Smith. When we discussed debate she talked about how Mr. Lawson helped make debate one of the most incredible parts of Groves, gaining multiple titles and producing incredible students (like Rajiv Shah the head of the Rockefeller Foundation). This was due to the fact that Mr. Lawson encourages hosting a debate tournament every year while teaching debaters to do their own research.Of course debate isn’t perfect, with it gaining expense due to inflation, but even still Mr. Lawson tries to help. Dr. Smith says “Mr Lawson is great, he always applies for grants through our Birmingham education foundation and through the PSTA to make sure he makes it…the least cost prohibitive for kids as he possibly can”. Also we talk to Vishwa Charabuddi, a sophomore and one of the best debaters, who said “most tournaments we do really good in the prelims but at the out rounds and the elimination rounds we sometimes get eliminated for small reasons”. Luckily Groves has potential for reaching even higher levels as Mr. Charabuddi said “I think we have a bright future ahead. We have a great coaching staff and novices are putting in work and effort.”

Charlisa Penzak and Carl Xie holding the Michigan Debate Novice state trophy. Photo provided by Groves Debate Instagram (@grovesdebate). (Piper Meloche)

But how is debate performed by the great debaters of the school? Well it’s quite simple: you (and a partner) are going against 2 other people who will be judged by 1 or more person(s). Each round is a couple of minutes where they make a speech talking about their claim (which they have to say very quickly due to limited time and large amount of material to say) who will then be asked questions by the opposing team who tries to poke holes in their arguments. And the judge (or judges) decide which group has performed better and move on to the next round of a tournament. And there’s no time out so once you start you have to finish (or you could forfeit before). So in order to cope and succeed in debate you have to have a few qualities. As Mr. Lawson explained “They have to have a work ethic, you know they have to have to be willing to  research and prepare…they have to be inquisitive, they have to be willing to make arguments, and answer arguments that on face don’t seem what we call counter intuitive they don’t seem to be they seem off beat or crazy or wild.”

So lucky Groves will continue with debate for now but we need to step in. Even though debate is not the most fancy part of Groves it is still important so please try to see the good parts of debate and join if interested. After all, we need to help this incredible legacy of highs and lows which started 60 years ago.

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About the Contributor
Jose Serrano
Jose Serrano, Reporter
Jose Julian Serrano is a freshman at Wylie E. Groves High School and a reporter for the Scriptor. Jose is very enthusiastic to improve his writing by working with the Scriptor. Upon coming to Groves, he decided to participate in Model UN and Green Club. Jose enjoys watching soccer, martial arts, and classic movies outside of school. Upon graduating, Jose will look forward to continuing his education to eventually gain a Doctorate in Biology.
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