Coach Recognition

Coaches at National Speech & Debate Association member schools are eligible for several awards that recognize their service to students, their schools, their communities, and the national organization. Learn more below!

Diamond Awards

Diamond coach awards reflect excellence and longevity in the activity. Coaches receive one point for every ten merit points earned by their students. Coaches then earn Association membership and advanced standing at the same milestones as students, until they earn 1,000 points and the Donus D. Roberts Quad Ruby Coach Award.

A coach’s next award is the First Diamond, earned when they receive 1,500 points and has been coaching in the Association for at least five years since achieving the degree of merit (25 points). Five years must pass between each new diamond award, and a certain number of points must be earned during each interval.

Coaches who have received diamond awards during the current academic year are recognized during the Donus D. Roberts Diamond Assembly at that year’s National Tournament.

Hall of Fame

The highest honor for any high school speech and debate coach is election to the National Speech & Debate Association Hall of Fame. Each year, nominations are sought from member coaches. In the month of April, current Hall of Fame members and coaches with at least three diamonds vote to determine which nominees will be elected members of this most distinguished body.

2017 Hall of Fame Inductees

2018 Inductees (from left to right)
Jack Tuckness, Mary Gormley, Greg Malis, Anita Boyd, and Mario Herrera

Nomination Process

Who Is Eligible?

Individuals with 25 years of NSDA coach membership, or who are retired from coaching and teaching, are eligible for this prestigious award.

How Do I Nominate Someone?

Keep in mind, your identity as nominator will remain confidential. Therefore, your coach biography (300 words or less) should be written in the third person and focus on the coaching history and qualifications of your candidate. Some topics to focus on could be awards, accolades, accomplishments, career highlights, character, and personal contributions. (Note: Only NSDA member coaches may submit a nomination form.)

Sample Biography

Jane Smith has been a dedicated coach of speech and debate for the past 30 years. A five-diamond coach from Blank High School, Jane is the epitome of integrity and dedication to the National Speech & Debate Association.

Competitively, Jane has qualified 11 students to the National Tournament. Her team has sent five students to the final rounds and has captured three national championships. During Jane’s coaching career, Blank High School has won the Largest Chapter Award and the District Sweepstakes Award several times.

Jane has had an outstanding career at the state level as well, directing her team to eight High School League State Championships in speech competition. In 2005, she won the Outstanding Speech, Debate, and Theater Award from ABCDE. In 2007, XYZ awarded her the Outstanding Individual in Speech and Theater. In 2009, the State High School League inducted Jane into their Hall of Fame.

Jane is generous with her time, evidenced by her extensive service to the Association and her state. For eight years, she has served as district chair. She is co-founder and co-director of her state’s debate camp. Jane has also hosted an invitational tournament for the past 10 years.

Her teams’ awards and achievements are only a snapshot of the important role that Jane plays in the lives of her students. Jane spends tireless hours not only to improve her students’ forensic skills, but also to be a mentor and role model teaching her students to be responsible citizens as well as worthy competitors. Jane exemplifies the true spirit of the Association’s mission to bring lifetime skills of language and communication to the youth of our country.

With three decades of exemplary coaching, teaching, and service to her students and colleagues, Jane Smith richly deserves induction in the National Speech & Debate Association Hall of Fame.

District Leader Commendations

Recipients are nominated annually by their peers for going above and beyond in the areas of leadership and service, which may include excellence in district communications or publicity, developing district programs and resources, and/or district membership and engagement support. In addition to District Committee members, other coaches, administrators, parents, or volunteers in the district may be considered for this award.

2018 District Leader Commendations

Margo Batha – New Mexico
Michelle Boswell – Tarheel East (NC)
Shawn Briscoe – Eastern Missouri
Michael Harris – Sunflower (KS)
Victor Jih – West Los Angeles (CA)
Robyn Rose – North Oregon
Wendy Shelman – Idaho Mountain River
Meykia Smith – Western Washington
Rhonda Smith – Lone Star (TX)
Steven Wang – Georgia Northern Mountain

Don Crabtree Distinguished Service Awards

Coaches who perform service for the Association, such as hosting tournaments, writing or presenting about the Association, recruiting a new chapter school, or writing an article for Rostrum, earn service citations. Those who earn 20 citations are given a special gold key. Those who receive 50 citations are presented with a bronze plaque. In 2018, the awards were named in honor of Don Crabtree, former NSDA Board of Directors president, nine-diamond coach, Hall of Fame member, and service citation record holder.

IN THEIR WORDS | “I think service is one of the single most important things we have to do—more than just coaching your own kids and worrying about your own team. When there are opportunities to present a workshop, or go to a conference, or help another coach who is starting a program, seize those chances. That service is how this organization grows stronger. And you gain so much from that as well.”

How to Earn Service Citations

Revised April 2018

Service Performed Citations Issued
Recruiting a new member school 2
Sponsoring a new chapter 2
Year as a District Chair 5
Year as a member of a District Committee (Not Chair) 3
Year as a member of the NSDA Board of Directors 3
District Tournament Tab Staff (Non-District Committee Member) 1
Holding a tournament for ten or more schools 1
Tabbing a tournament for ten or more schools 1
Volunteering at the NSDA National Tournament 1
Serving in Tab at the NSDA National Tournament 3
Chairing an Event at the NSDA National Tournament 3
Serving on the National Tournament Host Committee 5
Curriculum/Educational Support for National Office 1
Pre-Approved Speech and Debate Advocacy Events 1

Award Procedure

As of April 2018, the process for submitting Service Citations is entirely digital!
All citations must be submitted through a coach’s NSDA account.

To submit citations:

  1. Log in to your NSDA account on www.speechanddebate.org
  2. Click on the blue rectangle that reads View that is next to your recorded service citations.
  3. Select the appropriate category of service and provide a short description.
  4. Click that your submission follows the NSDA Honor Code and then click Add

Each citation is reviewed by Recognition Coordinator, Lauren McCool.
If you have any questions or concerns about this process, please contact her via email at lauren.mccool@speechanddebate.org.

Coach Emeritus

A Coach Emeritus is a former coach, advisor, or assistant who is no longer active in a speech and debate program who would like to continue their service and involvement in NSDA activities to serve the local and/or national community. A Coach Emeritus must have at least five years of coaching experience along with an active teaching certificate, fingerprint clearance card, or other background check verification.

Frank Sferra Director’s Commendation

The Director’s Commendation is awarded annually for outstanding contributions by a coach.

Congratulations to the 2018 recipient, Raphael Scott Waldrop, from Hattiesburg High School in Mississippi!

Raphael Scott Waldrop

Introduced in 2014, the Director’s Commendation is awarded annually for outstanding contributions by a coach. The Director’s Commendation is named after Frank Sferra, a longtime coach from Colorado. During his lifetime, Frank was a fierce champion of all speech and debate programs. He had a passion for providing assistance to all with a vision for building the activity. Upon college graduation, Frank founded the debate program at Bishop Machebeuf High School. He later began his tenure as the Mullen debate coach, which would span half a century. Over the years, Mr. Sferra served as a district leader in Colorado and President of the Board of Directors, earning many accolades including his seventh diamond and induction into the Association’s Hall of Fame. The Board of Directors voted unanimously to recognize Frank’s many contributions to the speech and debate community in 2015.

Frank Sferra

James M. Copeland High School Coach of the Year Award

The 2018 James M. Copeland High School Coach of the Year is Joni Anker from Eagan High School in Minnesota. Joni has been an NSDA coach since 1981 and is a member of both the NSDA and the Minnesota State High School League Halls of Fame. She teaches English and Speech and is the founder and head coach of speech and debate at Eagan High School. Joni’s colleagues describe her as an outstanding and creative teacher, director, and advisor.

IN THEIR WORDS | “Why after more than 40 years do I return to teaching and coaching speech? The answer is because it matters. Several years ago I was recruiting kids during lunch duty and I sought out one particular student. One of my captains said to me ‘Mrs. Anker, you are crazy. He’s a drug dealer.’ I responded ‘People can change.’ And he did. Speech gave him an outlet for his innate creativity, and today he credits speech with positively redirecting his life.” Read more about Joni »

Joni Anker

About the Award

The National Speech & Debate Association’s James M. Copeland High School Coach of the Year award annually honors high school coaches who reflect outstanding leadership and commitment to speech and debate activities.

The National Speech & Debate Association’s James M. Copeland High School Coach of the Year Award annually honors high school coaches who reflect outstanding leadership and commitment to speech and debate activities.

Each district committee may award a Coach of the Year to a deserving member coach in their district, and from those district-level award winners a the National Coach of the Year is selected.

To be eligible for nomination, a high school coach must:

  • Currently work as a high school speech/debate coach in a National Speech & Debate Association member school.
  • Have completed five consecutive years of experience as a high school speech/debate coach at an NSDA member school (experience need not be in the same school).
  • Plan to continue working as a high school speech/debate coach next year at an NSDA member school.
  • Agree to be nominated.
  • If selected as the winner, be able to participate in the National Speech & Debate Tournament, held June 16-21, 2019, and/or be present to accept the award on Thursday, June 20, in Dallas, Texas.

Nominees must be coaches who:

  • Are known for their adherence to the National Speech & Debate Association’s Coaches Code of Ethics.
  • Encourage speech and debate education through active support of curricular and/or co-curricular programming.
  • Foster cooperation between the speech and debate program and the rest of the school, showcasing students and their achievements with administrators, school board members, and the community at-large.
  • Lead a continuing dialogue with students, parents, faculty, and staff members to sustain and grow speech and debate participation.
  • Encourage team spirit and play an active role in the speech and debate program.
  • Demonstrate leadership and exemplify committed support to the speech and debate program’s livelihood.
  • Advocate for speech and debate activities within the school and the community at-large.

As part of the district-level nomination process, nominators will be asked to provide a nomination letter and basic contact information. Coaches may be nominated by their students, their fellow coaches, team parents, and/or community members. Coaches may not nominate themselves. These materials will be submitted here, and submitted nominations will be provided to district chairs for review by their committees.

From the submitted coaches, each district committee will select their District Coach of the Year. The district level award winners will be reviewed by a selection committee comprised of members of the National Speech & Debate Association Board of Directors and the Executive Director.

District level award winners must be submitted by April 1, 2019. The National Speech & Debate Association’s James M. Copeland High School Coach of the Year Award recipient will be announced May 7, 2019.

The High School Coach of the Year will be recognized in Rostrum and online. Nominees and finalists may be recognized in Rostrum or through other publications. All nominees and nominators must consent to the use of any nomination materials including photos in NSDA publications.

Middle School Coach of the Year Award

The 2018 NSDA Middle School Coach of the Year is Monica Salda from Sacred Heart Catholic School in Mississippi. Monica was nominated for her mentorship and empowerment of her students.

FROM THE NOMINATING ESSAY | “Ms. Salda cultivated something very powerful in my young daughter—she taught her to use her voice to impact those around her. In a culture where young girls often hide themselves, Ms. Salda, and the experiences she provides through speech and debate, taught my daughter that her voice and her ideas matter and that speaking up, being confident, taking chances, working hard—these values matter. Ms. Salda is exactly the role model I would have chosen for my daughter, and I will be eternally grateful that as she emerges into a young woman, she will do so with the grace and strength fostered by Ms. Salda’s mentorship.” — Bonnie, Sacred Heart Catholic School Parent

Monica Salda

About the Award

The National Speech & Debate Association’s Middle School Coach of the Year award annually honors middle school coaches who reflect outstanding leadership and commitment to speech and debate activities.

2019 Selection Process

A selection committee comprised of members of the National Speech & Debate Association Board of Directors and the Executive Director reviews nominations submitted by member schools. Nominations are accepted through April 1, 2019.

Nominees

To be eligible for nomination, a middle school coach must:

  • Currently work as a middle school speech/debate coach in a National Speech & Debate Association member school.
  • Have completed five consecutive years of experience as a middle school speech/debate coach at an NDSA member school (experience need not be in the same school).
  • Plan to continue working as a middle school speech/debate coach next year at an NSDA member school.
  • Agree to nomination.
  • If selected as the winner, be able to participate in the National Speech & Debate Tournament, held June 16-21, 2019, and/or be present to accept the award on Thursday, June 20, in Dallas, Texas.

Nominees must be coaches who:

  • Encourage speech and debate education through active support of curricular and/or co-curricular programming.
  • Foster cooperation between the speech and debate program and the rest of the school, showcasing students and their achievements with administrators, school board members, and the community at-large.
  • Lead a continuing dialogue with students, parents, faculty, and staff members to sustain and grow speech and debate participation.
  • Encourage team spirit and play an active role in the speech and debate program.
  • Demonstrate leadership and exemplify committed support to the speech and debate program’s livelihood.
  • Advocate for speech and debate activities within the school and the community at-large.
Nominators
  • Any current or retired NSDA coach, student, alum, or parent may nominate a coach for this award.
  • One individual must be the official nominator, and may only nominate one person for the award.
  • Coaches may not nominate themselves.
  • Members of the Board of Directors may not be the official nominator for a coach and must recuse themselves from the selection committee if any coach in their district is nominated.
Nomination Materials

In addition to basic contact information, you will be asked to provide the following materials when you complete the online nomination form below:

  • Gather and upload two (2) letters of nomination, not to exceed 1,500 words each. The letters should explain how the nominee meets the award criteria and describe their involvement in curricular and extracurricular speech and debate activities. PDFs are preferred, but Word documents (.doc or .docx) are also accepted. Please include:
    • — One letter from the official nominator.

— A second letter from a member student in the program. (If a student nominated, another student or a teacher/coach may be substituted.)

Awards and Recognition

The Middle School Coach of the Year will be recognized in Rostrum and online. Nominees and finalists may be recognized in Rostrum or through other publications. All nominees and nominators must consent to the use of any nomination materials including photos in NSDA publications.

National Educator of the Year Award

The 2018 NSDA National Educator of the Year is Mary Gormley from Montville High School in New Jersey. Mary teaches both Forensics and AP English at Montville Township High School and serves as Vice President of Speech for the New Jersey Speech and Debate League. Mary works tirelessly for students. A teacher at Montville since 1988, Mary is the longest-serving active coach in New Jersey, coaching thousands of students over the course of her career.

IN THEIR WORDS | “In a time when the buzz of the sound byte has silenced logical and critical thought, it is crucial that students embrace their voices. Today, the classroom has become the sole surviving portal where words matter more than ever. The world of speech and debate inside the brick and mortar classroom, and the classroom of the world, provides grit. It is a place where it is not only okay to fail, it is essential. It teaches children to be inquisitive, to be tolerant of opposing viewpoints, to be responsible for their rhetoric.” Learn more about Mary by reading her personal statement and portfolio including some of her lesson plans. You can also check out her Rostrum profile»

About the Award

The National Speech & Debate Association’s National Educator of the Year award annually honors an individual who has enhanced the quality of education in the field of speech and debate. This award is distinct from our Coach of the Year award as it is focused on the impact that is created in classrooms. Each State Educator of the Year will be considered for National Educator of the Year.

Looking for more recognition?

Share This