Jamie Snoddy with her co-coaches and the Patrick Henry High School debate team.

Jamie Snoddy with her co-coaches and the Patrick Henry High School debate team.

Yesterday, Patrick Henry High School was abuzz at the debate team pizza party kick-off. Community coach Jamie Snoddy led a debate game to get students standing and speaking their minds. By the end of the kick-off, a spirited debate emerged on topics ranging from cat vs. dog superiority to climate change.

Jamie sees her younger self in these students. She began her lifelong love affair with debate as a student competing for Patrick Henry High School.

“I remember walking through this exact same school and being just as excited. I just think, ‘I was you!’” 

Jamie was thrilled to tackle the community coaching role. “Debate did so much for me and helped open my eyes,” Jamie says. “To be able to give that back to my high school and the kids is something that really motivated me to become a community coach.”

This competitive season marks Jamie’s second year coaching at Patrick Henry High School. Her enjoyment for coaching hasn’t come from the big moments. Instead, she relishes every little moment when the debaters’ enthusiasm shines through. “You see that you are helping them realize this passion you also have,” Jamie states. “My favorite moments are realizing these kids really like this, and knowing you helped them to like it.”

Some of Jamie’s goals for this season include retaining more debaters, generating interest from more students, and spreading the word. “Now that we have three main returning students, we can have a solid team culture. That’s what got me into debate,” she adds.

Although Jamie coaches after school, she spends most of her day as a linguistics major at the University of Minnesota. Jamie connects her college career with her experience in MNUDL. “Being in debate and being a linguistics major is linked with my love of the technicalities of language,” she states. “Debate is very tactical in that sense. You have to word things very particularly. You can have entire debates about it!”

After high school debate season ends, Jamie plans to resume competing on the University of Minnesota policy debate team. Right now, her highest priority is getting the Patrick Henry High School students ready for the year ahead.

Putting the students first is an important part of Jamie’s coaching philosophy. After experiencing a year coaching, Jamie has some advice for new coaches: “Being a coach is less about the teaching of debate and more about the scaffolding for your debaters. A coach is somebody who is there for moral support. The kids are going to beat themselves up enough over losing debates. You need to be there to help them realize their strengths and capitalize on that.”

Jamie hopes her students will look back at their debate experience like she remembers her own: with a smile.

“That’s all I want to give to the kids – good memories with debate.”