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By Cyd Lass
Staff Intern 

Assistant speech and debate coach named Alumni of the Year


April 4, 2019

WORLAND – Worland speech and debate team’s assistant coach John Ryan received the Alumni of the Year award recently, at the speech and debate National Qualifiers tournament in Green River and Rock Springs,.

The National Speech and Debate Association introduced several new awards this year. Alumni of the Year is meant to recognize NSDA competitors for accomplishment and volunteer activies.

John Ryan has spent time the last year working with Coach Rick Dorn on the Worland High School speech and debate team. Ryan was born and raised in Worland, but moved to Chicago in his early-20s. He then moved to Madison, Wisconsin, to start working on a PhD in American history before returning to Worland.

“I moved back about eight or nine months ago to take advantage of the serenity and the low cost of-living while doing some writing for graduate school,” Ryan said. “I found work, but I also wanted to find something intellectually stimulating that would enable me to give back in what ways I could, and so I started working with the team in the fall.”

Ryan first started his work in speech and debate as a freshman at Worland High School in 2001. Ryan said he participated throughout most of high school and has since then worked intermittently coaching and judging around the country. As a student, he enjoyed debate and academic challenges. During his second trip to nationals for debate in 2004 he and his partner, Quincy Stott, finished 13th in the country. He studied at the University of Chicago and later attended the University of Illinois-Chicago.

This is Ryan’s first time receiving an award for his work. “Oddly enough, it’s also the only physical award related to debate that I still have in my possession,” Ryan said. “Some time back my old trophies from high school made their way to a better home with Special Olympics. So that’s what gives this award a fun significance. I think I’ll keep it.”

“[Receiving this award] was both surprising and humbling. I had the great fortune of throwing in my lot with a fantastic group of young people this year. They made the work easy for me and, dare I say, educational,” Ryan said. “I also worked with some amazing coaches. Mr. Dorn’s constant support along with the tireless work of my colleague Mike McDonald really proved what a shared endeavor this season was. Thus, I was humbled to be recognized for work that, in many ways, was not solely my own.”

Ryan stated that he was startled to even have received the award. “I had been very focused on the students’ performances and had not thought about any accolades coming my way. Additionally, as a non-official, volunteer coach, I had not expected that I would even have the standing to receive anything. As such, when my name was called I think I was caught somewhat off guard. I’m sure the deer-in-headlights look on my face was priceless.”

Being in the running for this award requires a nomination by a coach before going through a deliberation with the district council, according to Ryan. “I think I was fortunate that, despite my long absence from the area, I made good relationships with other coaches and competitors this season.” Ryan explained that he believed this helped people to know who he was enough to consider him for the award.

“There was a funny moment when I walked on stage to get my award when the coach of Natrona, who was also the coach when I was in high school, finally had a moment of recognition and said ‘ah, I remember you now’.”

Dorn had nominated both Ryan and Mike Macdonald for this award. “He traveled with us as a volunteer judge and he coached all of our debaters on a nightly basis,” Dorn said. “The district leadership picked him after considering his efforts this year to help statewide.”


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