Since its inaugural year in 2011, Oklahoma Christian University’s Ethics and Debate team has placed top three in the nation three times. Head coach Dr. Jeff Simmons shared the story of how the team came to be.
“Twelve years ago, a woman on faculty named Elaine Kelly volunteered for Oklahoma Christian University to host the regional Ethics and Debate team competition. I was currently teaching business ethics, so she came to me and said I should make a team,” Simmons said. “We got some kids to join us and the first year was rough. After that, we took off into a world of success.”
Simmons explained how the teams at Oklahoma Christian differ from traditional debate competitions.
“The Ethics and Debate team is similar to a traditional debate team in which two teams discuss a topic and compete against one another,” Simmons said. “However, it’s different because the two teams actually agree on a social dilemma. The difference in the teams comes from how they build their argument and get to their own solution”
Simmons expressed his love for coaching the team.
“It is my favorite aspect of my job here at Oklahoma Christian University,” Simmons said. “I love having deep, meaningful conversations with my students on the team, and I love traveling with them. We always play tons of spades.”
Simmons spoke on some of the accomplishments the team has achieved thus far.
“We have had a great amount of success in our small time we have been a team. Over the last ten years, we have won the state tournament nine times. In the Texas regional, we have placed in the top three nine times,” Simmons said. “This has clinched us a spot at the national competition, where in the last eight years, we have placed in the top three three times.
Simmons talked about the factors that lead to the ethics and debate team’s continual success.
“Oklahoma Christian has two teams. Bouncing ideas back and forth between the two help the other hone in on their arguments. Our team outworks, I imagine, a lot of other teams,” Simmons said. “We practice twice a week from six A.M to eight A.M. It takes commitment to make our team as successful as it is. I also preach to them understanding moral philosophy. I believe these are the keys to our team’s success.”
Simmons described how the team grows throughout the year.
“Practicing for four hours a week in the early morning shows a lot of character about these kids. It helps them get closer as they are in it together,” Simmons said. “Also, once they understand moral philosophy, they apply it to their own lives and teamwork. It helps them be better teammates and competitors.”
Sydney Byers, a member of the team, shared the factors that contribute to a debate team’s success.
“The biggest key for success is probably the ability to think quickly,” Byers said. “We get a two minute preparation time in competition, so we have to be able to fashion together an argument in that amount of time and think through many perspectives on a case, whether it is your position or not.”
Byers commented on the strengths of the team.
“Our biggest strengths are likely our enthusiasm for debating and our team itself. Each of us genuinely enjoy doing what we do and are so excited for competition days,” Byers said. “It is something that interests us, and this is an excellent opportunity to do what we love while representing Oklahoma Christian.”
Byers said teamwork and their coach’s influence contribute to the team’s success.
“There are only six team members, plus our coach Jeff Simmons, so we are all pretty close. I have become good friends with each member and we do things together outside of practice and competitions. And of course, probably the biggest asset in our favor is Dr. Simmons,” Byers said. “He is brilliant when it comes to structuring arguments and gives us important critiques for how we can do better. Outside of ethics, he has also become a very influential mentor to me and the other members. Dr. Simmons is the backbone of the Oklahoma Christian Ethics team.”
The Oklahoma Christian Ethics and Debate team will compete in the Texas Regional Ethics Bowl on Nov. 11 at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.