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!

Donus D. Roberts Coaching Excellence Award

Coaches receive one point for every merit point earned by their students through competition, service, and leadership activities. Each point represents dedicated coaching and hours of practice, revision, and growth for students. Coaches earn Association membership and advanced standing at the same milestones as students, until they earn 10,000 points and the Donus D. Roberts Coaching Excellence Award.

Diamond Awards

Diamond coach awards reflect excellence and longevity in the activity. A coach’s first Diamond is earned when they receive 15,000 points and have 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 15,000 points must be earned to receive a second diamond. An additional 30,000 points must be earned and five years must pass for each additional diamond.
 
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

2019 Inductees (from left to right)

Georgia Brady, MO, Cynthia Burgett, KS, Dr. Mike Edmonds, CO, Steve Meadows, KY, Tim Sheaff, IA

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. Chairs may nominate up to two individuals for this commendation. The awards are presented at the National Tournament during the District Leadership Luncheon in June. In addition to District Committee members, other coaches, administrators, parents, or volunteers in the district may be considered for this award.

Nomination form to be completed by May 1, 2020, by district chairs only, please.

2019 District Leader Commendations

Ameena Amdahl-Mason – North Oregon (OR)
Dana Facer – Idaho Mountain River (ID)
Lyndsy Denk – Maine (ME)
Carina White – Wind River (WY)
Kevin Berlat – Arizona (AZ)
Stephanie Owen – Colorado Grande (CO)
Mike Brown – Nebraska (NE)
Victoria Beard – Space City (TX)
Seth Pietsek – Tall Cotton (TX)
Peter Quinn – New Jersey (NJ)

 

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.”

Don Crabtree

 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 four or more schools 1
Tabbing a tournament for four 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 2019 recipient, Karson Kalashian, from Orosi High School in CA!

Karson Kalashian
Karson Kalashian – 2019 Frank Sferra Director’s Commendation Recipient
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
Frank Sferra

James M. Copeland High School Coach of the Year Award

The 2020 James M. Copeland High School Coach of the Year is Irene Gardea from Americas High School in Texas. Irene is a two-diamond coach and goes above and beyond to serve her local speech and debate community as a district chair.

FROM THE NOMINATING ESSAY | “For us, speech and debate is more than a club, it’s a means of sharing our voices, stories and opinions so that we can one day give back to the world. Our speech and debate alumni go on to do amazing things because of the foundation that Ms. Gardea has set. She is a reminder of persisting and learning to appreciate the journey. Ms. Gardea once told me, “Everything you will ever need, you already have.” It is because of her that I know I will forever be equipped for whatever life throws at me, and I am forever thankful for the guidance and support she offers.” — Caitlyn Acevedo, Americas High School Student

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Irene Gardea

Irene Gardea – 2020 James M. Copeland High School Coach of the Year

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.

Selection Process

Each District Committee may award a District Coach of the Year to a deserving member coach in their district, and from those district-level award winners, a 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 14-19, 2020, and/or be present to accept the award on Thursday, June 18, in Albuquerque, New Mexico (if possible).

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 using the online form. Coaches may be nominated by their students, their fellow coaches, team parents, and/or community members. Coaches may not nominate themselves. 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, Hall of Fame, and the Executive Director.

District-level award winners must be submitted by May 1, 2020. The National Speech & Debate Association’s James M. Copeland High School Coach of the Year award recipient will be announced in May.

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.

New Coach of the Year Award

The National Speech & Debate Association’s New Coach of the Year award recognizes an exemplary high school coach who is in their first year of NSDA membership. The 2020 High School New Coach of the Year is Zachary Bolen from Grant County High School in Kentucky.

FROM THE NOMINATING ESSAY | “When he returned to his alma mater at Grant County High School, Zachary changed their dormant speech and team into a program on the rise in just one year. Zachary’s love for speech and debate has spilled over into his students and created a team culture of strong work ethic and humility.” — Katy Cecil, Head Speech Coach, LaRue County High School.

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Zachary Bolen

Zachary Bolen – 2020 New Coach of the Year

About the Award

The National Speech & Debate Association’s New Coach of the Year award recognizes an exemplary high school coach who is in their first year of NSDA membership.

Selection Process

Each District Committee may award a District New Coach of the Year to a deserving member coach in their district, and from those district-level award winners, a National New 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 a coaching merit date on or after July 1, 2019.
  • 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 14-19, 2020, and/or be present to accept the award on Thursday, June 18, in Albuquerque, New Mexico (if possible).

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 using the online form. Coaches may be nominated by their students, their fellow coaches, team parents, and/or community members. Coaches may not nominate themselves. Submitted nominations will be provided to district chairs for review by their committees.

From the submitted coaches, each District Committee will select their District New 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, Hall of Fame, and the Executive Director.

District-level award winners must be submitted by May 1, 2020. The National Speech & Debate Association’s New Coach of the Year award recipient will be announced in May.

The National New 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.

Assistant Coach of the Year Award

The National Speech & Debate Association’s Assistant Coach of the Year award recognizes an exemplary high school assistant coach serving at an NSDA member school. The 2020 High School Assistant Coach of the Year is Scott Voss from Apple Valley High School in Minnesota.

FROM THE NOMINATING ESSAY | “There is no task that’s too large or small for him to undertake, whether it be hiring judges, working with the Booster Club, running tech for our large annual tournaments, or leading pep talks. Scott cares deeply about every student— including those who may never make a final round at an invitational, let alone win an award at State or Nationals. In fact, I would say it’s those students who have a very special place in his heart, because as an “educator and coach” Scott believes that ALL students are better because of their training and experience in speech and debate.” — Pam Wycoff, AVHS Director Emeritus, NSDA President.

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Scott Voss

Scott Voss – 2020 Assistant Coach of the Year

About the Award

The National Speech & Debate Association’s Assistant Coach of the Year award recognizes an exemplary high school coach serving at an NSDA member school.

Selection Process

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

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

  • Currently work as an assistant high school speech/debate coach in a National Speech & Debate Association member school (each school may determine its own definition of assistant coach).
  • Plan to continue working as a high school speech/debate coach (as either an assistant or an advisor) 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 14-19, 2020, and/or be present to accept the award on Thursday, June 18, in Albuquerque, New Mexico (if possible).

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 using the online form. Coaches may be nominated by their students, their fellow coaches, team parents, and/or community members. Coaches may not nominate themselves. Submitted nominations will be provided to district chairs for review by their committees.

From the submitted coaches, each District Committee will select their District Assistant 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, Hall of Fame, and the Executive Director.

District-level award winners must be submitted by May 1, 2020. The National Speech & Debate Association’s Assistant Coach of the Year award recipient will be announced in May.

The National Assistant 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 National Speech & Debate Association’s Middle School Coach of the Year award recognizes an outstanding middle school speech and debate coach serving at an NSDA member school. The 2020 Middle School Coach of the Year is Shawna Christenson from The Weiss School in Florida.

FROM THE NOMINATING ESSAY | “For the past two years, her students frequently engaged the U.S. Congress, were selected to present at numerous international events, represented the United States overseas in an international competition, and been invited to present their work at the White House. Shawna has led her middle school debate students not only to success within debate tournaments locally and nationally, but she has prepared and led students to advocate, to compete, and to create federal legislation.” — Kevin L. Simmons, Science Educator, The Weiss School.

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Shawna Christenson

Shawna Christenson – 2020 Middle School Coach of the Year

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.

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.

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 be nominated.
  • If selected as the winner, be able to participate in the National Speech & Debate Tournament, held June 14-19, 2020, and/or be present to accept the award on Thursday, June 18, in Albuquerque, New Mexico (if possible).

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.

As part of the nomination process, nominators will be asked to provide a nomination letter and basic contact information using the online form. Coaches may be nominated by their students, their fellow coaches, team parents, and/or community members. Coaches may not nominate themselves.

Nominations will be reviewed by a selection committee comprised of members of the National Speech & Debate Association Board of Directors, Hall of Fame, and the Executive Director.

Nominations must be submitted by May 1, 2020. The National Speech & Debate Association’s Middle School Coach of the Year award recipient will be announced in May.

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 2020 NSDA National Educator of the Year is Christy Briggs from Reno High School in Nevada.  In addition to her speech and debate role, she is also the English Department Leader and advisor for the school newspaper. She also serves as the President of the Northern Nevada Forensics League, where she supports other local speech and debate coaches and teachers

IN THEIR WORDS | “One of the most beautiful things speech and debate does is give students a voice. If students walk away with nothing else from their time in my classroom, I hope they walk away knowing how to advocate for what they believe in, because they have been given opportunities to explore those beliefs in a safe and encouraging environment.”

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Christy Briggs

Christy Briggs – 2020 National Educator of the Year

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. For more information, visit our FAQs.

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