Coach Profile: Jacob Boehm

Ace Peak has brought on three new coaches this year. We want you to get to know them! Over the next three weeks, Coaches Sam, Leah, and Jacob will be answering a series of questions that Drew and I ask them.

Last week, we heard from Coach Sam. This week, we’re sitting down with our NSDA expert Jacob Boehm.

Drew: “Of all the speeches you’ve given, which is your favorite?”

Answer: “My first ever Model Congress round went entirely off the rails. I was nervous and anxiously stumbled into the wrong chamber. To make matters worse, the chamber decided on a particularly difficult docket. I delivered my first speech with shaky knees and barely crested above two minutes.

I made some improvements the next round, but was still shaken by my slip up in the first one. Shortly afterward I found out I was automatically disqualified for competing in the wrong room (whoops). I was frustrated and thought about quitting debate entirely.

Fortunately, I didn’t.

My next tournament, I broke into the top five. During the week, I reflected heavily on why my initial speech was so disorganized, did research on terms I didn’t yet know (like claim, warrant, and impact), and went into competition with a new sense of confidence.

Bombing my first ever debate speech was humbling. It forced me to confront the fact that I didn’t know everything and that I had a lot to learn. And it inspired me to search for self-improvement.

I’ve never forgotten that first round. There is beauty in the learning curve, and this belief helps me today both as a coach and a training director at my collegiate debate society.

Joseph: “What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?”

Answer: “When competing, it’s easy to blame losses on the judge. Rather than own up to my mistakes, I’d often divert blame to poorly written ballots rather than poor performance. This made it much more difficult to improve as a debater and build character generally. 

As I matured, I would write out all the ways I could improve after tournaments—even tournaments I won. Holding myself to a high standard and viewing failures as opportunities to better meet this standard propelled me into competitive success. Growth is impossible without introspection. The advice I’d give to 12-year-old me is to direct yourself towards long-term growth. You’ll never regret choosing humility over pride.

This is difficult to do. It requires a high level of self-awareness and a willingness to evaluate yourself in critical terms. It’s easy to protect your ego and find excuses for your win rate, but you’ll never get better until you own those failures yourself.”

Drew: “What’s a subject you want to learn more about?”

Answer: “I’m interested in using legal theory to better understand what it takes to be an effective social movement.

There’s a lot to be said on the interaction between government and citizens. It’s more complicated than just “citizens vote and governments react” given all the other factors that influence politicians (special interest, personal interests, biases, legal precedent, etc.)

Most legal scholars agree that the structure of US government is built to uphold the current system. Therefore, activists have to “frame” their proposals in a way that lines up with government interests. For example, when Evangelicals pushed for access laws (permission to practice their religion in public space and/or use public funds) as a first amendment right—rather than an establishment clause (the constitutional clause saying the US government mustn’t favor certain religions) case—Supreme Court justices were far more receptive since they’d overwhelmingly supported first amendment rights in the past.

I’m fascinated by the dynamic between activists and government. By applying theories from thinkers such as Hobbes Locke, and Bentham, I hope to better understand why certain movements penetrate the American legal system and why others fall by the wayside.

I’m majoring in Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought at Amherst college in an effort to explore these issues.”

Joseph: “Why do you coach debate?”

Answer: “I used to be a relatively hard-headed, overly-opinionated person. Debate has allowed me to view hot-button issues objectively and consider both sides, however uncomfortable that process may be. 

You must be able to think objectively. Debate has taught me to grapple with positions I don’t personally believe, and in the process I’ve become a much more dynamic and productive thinker. I want to help my students develop these same skills!

The other reason I coach debate is because it’s phenomenal for confidence building. I always tell my students that nothing makes you feel like your voice matters more than standing in front of a room and knowing you have something worth sharing.”

I love coaching debate because I get to teach students that they have a voice, help them develop it, and show them how to use it persuasively.”

Jacob is excited to be working with NSDA students. If you want to book a session with him, click here!