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Speaking Bearcats

speech and debate team members pose with handfuls of trophies

Speaking Bearcats Forensics Team

The Speaking Bearcats, SBU's nationally acclaimed forensics team, has a long history of excellence in competitions as the team fulfills the motto of Pi Kappa Delta, the national collegiate speech and debate honor society: "The art of persuasion beautiful and just."

A Tradition of Excellence

  • 12 Pi Kappa Delta National Championships: 1975, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2008
  • More than 25 Missouri Association of Forensics Activities State Championships
  • More than 40 years of active membership in and service to Pi Kappa Delta, which is one of the oldest, largest and most prestigious intercollegiate speech and debate organizations
  • Numerous team sweepstakes tournament awards since 1969
  • Countless individual awards
  • Hundreds of successful forensics alumni around the globe who influence the world each day in a variety of vocations

Frequently Asked Questions

First, we think of ourselves as a family. We care about our team members and genuinely desire that they learn to be successful in both forensics and in life. Second, we maintain a comprehensive focus. While most programs teach their students to specialize in only a few events, we want our students to pursue excellence in a wide variety of speech and debate events. We do this because it enhances the learning that takes place as a result of participation in intercollegiate forensics. Third, we offer our students a great deal of attention in the form of both collective and one-on-one coaching. We don't see our students as cogs in a competitive machine, but as unique individuals who we can help realize their God-given potential. Fourth, although we strive to compete and to win we never lose sight of the fact that forensics is first and foremost an educational activity.

Forensics competition offers students many benefits. Some of the more significant benefits are:

  • Hone your research skills - Participating in speech and debate competitions will improve your research skills so that you can explore complex topics and be able to discuss an issue in much greater detail than someone who has only a casual familiarity with major sociopolitical issues. This will make you stand out from the crowd in both your written work and your ability to speak intelligently about a variety of topics.
  • Become a better writer - Multitudes of surveys reveal that employers are consistently looking for prospective employees who exhibit excellent written and oral communication skills. In forensics you will write and rewrite (with the help of your coaches) speeches with the objective of crafting a message that is timely, relevant and ultimately persuasive to a variety of audiences.
  • Become a better performer - While the term "performance" is often thought of as being reserved only for venues like the theatre and the music concert hall, the reality is that much of our professional lives involve performance. We perform every time we participate in a job interview or try to express our ideas to others. In forensics you will learn how to perform both speeches you have written and literature written by others in such a way as to make it come alive for an audience.
  • Be a better-informed citizen - Citizenship in contemporary life demands that participants be not only well-informed, but critical consumers of information. Speech and debate will enable you to understand a host of various issues confronting contemporary society in such a way that you can not only participate in debate and discussion about these issues, but you can be a leader in society and an ethical advocate for causes you believe in.
  • Have fun - Few things in life are more enjoyable than working hard with a group of coaches and teammates in order to achieve excellence in an activity. Alumni from our program consistently develop close friendships that last a lifetime. Hours spent competing, traveling and having fun together builds a type of special camaraderie not unlike that of high-performing athletic teams.
Absolutely. If you work hard and manage your time well in the manner your coaches prescribe, you will be able to be a successful forensics competitor, excel in your academics and still have an active social life in college. Over the years our program has produced hundreds of successful competitors who have managed to balance a host of other activities and forensics. Forensics will keep you busy, but it will not consume your entire life — we won't permit it to.

We are a nationally competitive program which means that we travel across the county to face the best of the best. Most of the tournaments we attend are within one day's drive from southwest Missouri, but we generally take at least one or two trips a year that involve air travel. Recently, the team has traveled to tournaments in California, Louisiana, Minnesota, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Ohio, and Oregon, to name a few.

We generally attend between four and five tournaments a semester. Many programs we compete against at the national level travel more frequently than we do (between eight and ten tournaments a semester). At SBU we travel as often as we can, but always maintain our sensitivity to the time constraints and academic demands of our students.

In the late summer of each year we get the team together in Bolivar for a team retreat. This is a time for us to practice, work on events, prepare for the coming year, and get to know each other by having fun together. We generally take a few afternoons during our team retreats to explore some local points of interest in the Springfield-Branson metro area. When time, schedules, and budgets permit, we will spend the day before or after one of our far away trips to go and be tourists. We also get together for cookouts, holiday parties, and other events when we can. Once each year we also will take an afternoon to do a team community service project.


Team membership is available to any undergraduate student in good academic standing who maintains a GPA of at least 3.0. The easiest way for current students to join us is by simply "walking on"— showing up to our weekly meetings which happen on Monday and Wednesday afternoons from 4:30-5:45 p.m.

Students who are new to SBU, either incoming freshman or transfer students from other colleges or universities, should apply for a performance scholarship and try out for the team. Try out dates vary, but we generally have one in the fall and one in the spring. We will keep you informed about the dates for tryouts. We begin making scholarship offers for the following year in December, so we do encourage applicants to apply early.

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