Former debate coach’s return marks new year


Varsity team members [Matthew Heller, Christopher Wu, Jessie Stern, Isha Slavin, Hiroki Doyle, Luke Brangaccio] pose with the principal of Paramus High School, Raymond Kiem, who happens to be the brother of their English teacher, Randi Metsch-Ampel.

by Luke Brangaccio, Advertising Manager

A teacher’s return as coach of the debate team after a two year hiatus should revitalize the group as they search for their first award in two years.

The debate team thrived under Justin Ecochard for eight years, collecting first place team awards as well as individual speaker awards. Una Kearns and Paul McCrary stepped up as coaches in Ecochard’s absence for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, coaching the JV and varsity teams respectively. Despite impressive progression in skill from both teams over the past two years, McCrary and Kearns were unable to bring in any silverware.

“I’ve pretty much committed to the fact that you’re going to get us first place,” Kearns said to Ecochard. “He’s helping a lot already. There’s a definite tone and a definite element of wanting to show up and work for it.”

There’s still plenty of time left for the team to improve, with a three weeks to go before the first varsity debate and just under a month before JV’s start. The coaches main goal for these upcoming weeks is to ensure that every team has a working plan that each member can fully comprehend.

Ecochard is familiar with what it takes to become a great debater, citing teachings from a former coach at Don Bosco as to what made him the debate figurehead he is today. However, Ecochard is adamant that the debaters are the ones doing the winning, not himself, and says the students will only get out as much as they put into debate.

“It’s all about the kids and what they want to put into it, which is what they’re gonna get out of it, so a lot of it’s motivation. I think this year, it seems like we have some motivated kids that really want to do well, so I project a good year,” Ecochard said.

While he coaches the varsity team, Ecochard fully recognizes the importance of the JV team when it comes to the overall improvement of the program. Ecochard says if no improvements are made in the JV team one year, the whole team suffers the next.

“One of your biggest focuses has to be JV. That’s your grassroot system, that’s your farm system,” Ecochard said. “If you just focus on varsity and the few kids that are there, you will have a horrible year the next year.”

Ecochard’s varsity team will travel to Northern Highlands on Oct. 26, and Kearns will take her JV team to Pascack Hills on Nov. 1 as the search for the first place team award begins.