Joshua Watkins tells his friends not to worry if they see him walking across campus and he ignores them.
Its just because Im talking to myself, said Watkins, 21, president of the Talkin Broncos speech and debate team. Im constantly reciting and rehearsing.
Being on the team makes for other interesting habits. Watkins, who is double majoring in political science and communications, has a ritual when he travels to meets: He wakes up, stands in the hotel hallway in his pajamas and recites speeches to the wall.
Being on the team is a big time investment six hours a week of official team practice, countless hours of independent practice, even preparation over the summer.
But that work has paid off for the 24 debaters. The Talkin Broncos are the 2011 Pi Kappa Delta National Champions in Speech and Debate an honor they also won in 2005. At the Sept. 28-29 meet at College of Southern Idaho, they won the Idaho Speech Conference Cup for the seventh year in a row.
A KALEIDOSCOPE OF TOPICS
Team members must maintain a 3.0 GPA a challenge for students who miss class traveling to up to 10 meets a year. Team adviser Manda Hicks, a professor in the communications department, sometimes has to administer other professors tests to team members in airport lobbies.
At the College of Southern Idaho meet, Watkins took home several top prizes, including one in public debate.
In that competition, speakers receive a topic then have 20 minutes to prepare before debating a competitor in front of a judge. Watkins had to argue that Chinas one-child policy is ethical and, in the next round, that sexist advertising should not be banned.
GETTING THE WORD OUT LITERALLY
Despite its successes, the team remains under the radar on campus.
People could have a national champion debater sitting next to them in class and they wouldnt know it, said Watkins.
Meets dont lure spectators other than a few parents, he said. This is odd since in some ways in a culture of talkers and listeners where success is often determined by ones persuasive abilities speech and debate are the ultimate spectator sports.
Debate isnt as sexy as football, said Hicks, but the team and the university administration are working to raise the team profile and let the community know what the team is all about.
Hicks grew up in Jerome and snagged the high school state champion title for after-dinner speaking in 1990-1991. She went to Ohio to get her Ph.D., but said she couldnt wait to get back to Idaho to teach.
Idaho has a wonderful tradition of competitive speech and debate, even if a lot of students dont know this opportunity is here, she said.
Former Talkin Bronco Michelle Bennett coaches the College of Western Idahos speech and debate team.
That team of 56 students is just 4 years old, but has won the community college division at the Pi Kappa Delta National Championships the past two years.
Pi Kappa Delta is the oldest national collegiate forensic organization in the country. It named Bennett its outstanding new forensics educator in October.
Now that Im coaching, its like Im giving back all that I was given by BSU. There are not too many times you can come full circle like that, Bennett said.
COMFORT IN ANY ARENA
When the Talkin Broncos compete nationally, they have to get used to regional style differences and learn to compete against them, said Hicks.
Southern schools, for instance, excel at oratory and persuasive speech; East Coast schools tend to be more debate-oriented.
The Talkin Broncos are characterized by their versatility, said Hicks.
Competition divisions range from politics to literary interpretation, even dramatic performance. Hicks expects team members to be fluent in all of them.
She wants graduates to leave college able to explain why something matters or how something works.
If you can do that, its an amazing skill to have, she said.
Anna Webb: 377-6431