Jo Ball

logan brown, reporter

According to Jo Ball, a great speaker “is someone who can communicate with the audience and adapt to the audience ”.

According to Parker Hopkins, the way to become a great speaker is Ms. Ball.

Hopkins spends over 20 hours a week in class and working after school. Hopkins describes Ball as one of the most influential people in his high school career. Ball provides time multiple nights per week allowing her students to receive additional help and practice 

For the past eight years, Ball has coached the Free State Debate and Forensics Squad, winning the regional debate tournament six times. Ball has coached 2 teams that have won Novice State and coached the team that won the 4-Speaker State Championship in 2007.

Ball has been involved with debate and forensics since she was in high school. She originally took the course “because I could get out of school early on fridays”. She stayed in forensics because “her coach took care”. She also thought the relationship with her peers was worthwhile, 

“We belonged together and they took care of me. We were family.”

Most day’s after school, Ball’s room is bustling with students late into the evening. Students come to hang out, practice and seek Ball’s advice. Lucas Smith, a former Free State debater and current Macalester debater, fondly remembers work nights throughout high school.

“I went to work night mostly for the sense of community.”

Smith credits Ball with with his continuance of his debate career in college.

“Ms. Ball ultimately helped me decide to debate at Macalester. ”

Ball did not set out to become a coach. She worked various odd jobs when her former high school called her offering a job as a debate coach. She turned them down. The school repeatedly called and Ball repeatedly turned them down. However, a week before the school year was set to begin, Ball accepted, refusing to let the program die.  Ball continued coaching because she realized that she “could have conversations and shape the futures” of her students. She came to Free State in 2004. 

“Not every kid is going to like me.  Not every kid is going to respect me. But I think if I live by the medical oath. If I can make a difference in the lives of one or two kids ,then not having a life and not having weekends, working during the summer, makes it a little bit worth it. In the end I started coaching so the program wouldn’t die because of my coach and I’m paying her back.”