Speech and Debate Shakeup, a New Face on the Team
Written by Bryce Boyd on September 15, 2020
When people think of the debate and forensics team here at Kansas Wesleyan, many might not actually know that much about it. For those that don’t, the program is the most successful competitive event on campus, having won more national titles in its rather short lifetime than anything else here at the university. In fact, the team brought home two national titles last year, despite the national circuit being cut short due to a pandemic, and half a dozen the year before. This season though, it’s not the presence of more trophies and plaques that peak interest, it’s a new face to the team. Head coach Gary Harmon has brought on a former debater as an assistant coach, Kiefer Strorrer. I was able to sit down with my new assistant coach and pick his brain, and gain some insight into what be brings to the table.
Where are you from, and what did you do before you came here as an assistant coach?
I was born in Clay Center, Kansas and grew up in Osage City. I went to college right here at Kansas Wesleyan, and after I graduated I went to grad school at the University of Central Missouri where I taught communication and coached debate and forensics. From there I went on a four year excursion outside of the Midwest and then came back home. I moved to Arizona and worked as an assistant coach for a spell, and then ended up head coaching too before I came back to Kansas. Want to know something interesting; in New Japan Pro Wrestling, athletes will go on trips outside of Japan to learn new fighting styles from all over the world and come back even more successful, guess I did the same with school.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I play video games, write and watch TV. Just finished Fleabag, good watch.
Yep, wrote a novel called Ten Months of Courage, it’s about a college senior in his last year of school. Tragedy, political intrigue and love intervene in what should’ve been a normal year. Many people think it’s factual, but it’s only slightly related to the world around me. Most of it is fabrication and extrapolation.
Anything else about you that’s interesting? Something we might not know?
Some might say that I’ve brought Pancho’s to Kansas Wesleyan. It’s what I like to call a Styrofoam Mexican joint, and it stacks up pretty effectively to authentic Mexican food. When it came to Salina, I was hungry at three in the morning and found a new Mexican place and loved it. I came back to campus and told everyone about it, and the rest is history. If Pancho’s ever learns about my influence, I’d like a burrito named after me.
So, what brought you back here to Salina?
COVID led to my coaching contract back in Arizona not getting renewed so I moved back here. I started talking to Gary Harmon and Barbara Marshall again, and my love of this school and coaching debate and forensics brought me back.
How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
You get out what you put in. If you want to work hard with me I can get you to a national championship. You can’t coach passion, I’ve had students with talent that just didn’t want to work, so you need passion to find a place to succeed.
I get a lot of my coaching ideas from sports movies. Sometimes I just want to take the team and drive them somewhere and make them run through a field to a Civil War memorial. If the team ever annoys me, I’m going to take them to the Wall of Champions in Fine Arts and make them read off everyone on the wall. When they see that I’m not on there, I want them to realize that my favorite accomplishment in debate and forensics was winning team sweepstakes at Christian Nationals my senior year. My partner and I lost in finals when we should’ve won, so I didn’t end up on the wall. But, the most important award was winning that team award. Individual awards are great, but the team awards are really the best… it’s about everyone.
What sets you apart from other debate and forensics coaches?
My empathy and willingness to engage students on their level instead of looking down on them like I’m in some ivory tower. One thing I’ve learned coaching community college teams is the ability to make due with whatever time and experiences we’ve been given. I can coach a student with no clue what’s happening or bring someone on the cusp of greatness to something even greater.
What’s your biggest goal for the squad this year?
This year I hope we can just survive the transition to online tournaments. Everyone will be learning new things this year. I hope everyone can succeed in their own best way.
Does your coaching style complement head coach Gary Harmon’s, or are you more of your own person?
I’m a student of Gary Harmon, but I’m also a student of Donna Crane and Renee Gallagher who taught me in high school, all of them have a balance of hands on and laissez faire coaching. I’m a little more hands on, but I also don’t have the clout that the other coaches have and am still learning to cultivate a program. I’m excited about having students for four whole years to help them develop. I do think I complement Harmon because we have similar processes, but have different communication patterns. I can serve as a mediator between him and the students.
In a small team with an established dynamic, Strorrer’s new style of more hands on coaching can bring changes to the debate and forensics team here and Kansas Wesleyan. Someone with a great personality, entertaining anecdotes and coaching skill to lead others to national titles, the new assistant coach for the team will bring positive change in the future.