Parker School coach wins award during defining season

  • Parker School speech and debate team poses for photo in January after claiming top sweepstakes at the Speech and Debate Qualifying Neighbor Island Tournament, which the school hosted. (Photo courtesy of Parker School website)

KAILUA-KONA — The National Speech and Debate Association announced last Monday that Carl Sturges, headmaster at Parker School, had won its Diamond Award for the third time, making him the first Hawaii-based speech and debate coach ever to accomplish the feat.

The Diamond Award recognizes “excellence and longevity” in the field of speech and debate and has been awarded on a point system since the organization began recognizing educational achievement in the area back in 1925.

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Coaches earn points in areas of team participation, student achievement, public service, and leadership work, the release explained. But his accomplishment last week is more about the students he recruits and their performance than it is an accolade unto himself, Sturges said.

“You get those based on how well your kids do and how many kids you’ve coached over the years,” he added. “To me, the focus is less on the award than just the team. This is the best team I’ve ever coached.”

Sturges first involved himself with speech and debate in 1984, coaching for five years in Utah before transitioning from teaching to administration. Now the headmaster at Parker Schools, he initiated a debate program there in 2007. In all, he’s coached for 17 years.

A coach must be a member of the National Speech and Debate Association for five years before becoming eligible for his or her initial award. Additional Diamond Awards are given out for hitting point milestones at progressing intervals of no less than five years each.

Receiving one tenth of a point for each point one of his students scores — six for a win and three for a loss — Sturges hit the 6,000 point mark this year, making him eligible for his third Diamond Award. He achieved the accomplishment the same year 45 of the school’s 131 high school-aged students decided to go out for debate, winning all six of the tournaments in which they’ve participated thus far.

Parker School was also the recipient of a $100,000 grant from the Julia Burke Foundation for mainland travel and competition. The team has participated in two mainland tournaments since receiving the grant to the tune of significant success, Sturges added.

“I found it helped me a lot in my own life,” he said of why he cultivated the program at Parker School to begin with. “It helps you be confident speaking in front of people. It helps you to organize your thoughts and use evidence to support your points. It’s also really helpful because it forces you to see both sides of an issue because you have to be able to debate both sides.”

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Sturges and his fellow winners will be recognized in June at the National Speech and Debate Tournament in Dallas, Texas. The largest academic competition in the world, according to the release, more than 7,000 students, coaches and parents will be in attendance.

“Our Diamond Award winners provide access to the life changing benefits of speech and debate for thousands of students,” National Speech and Debate Association Director J. Scott Wunn said in an organizational press release. “We are proud to recognize these educators for their service, and thank them for their hard work.”

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