You can’t fill the boots of a legend, but KWU alumnus Kiefer Storrer ’13 is excited to give it a try.
He was recently hired as the Kansas Wesleyan debate and forensic head coach, where he will take the reins from longtime coach Gary Harmon.
“It’s hard for anyone to keep up with someone this good, but I’m happy to do it. I know I can do it, ”Storrer said. “This job has been my dream since I was 20 or 21. Gary made the transition very easy.
During his 16 years at KWU, Harmon built a strong program and recruited students such as Storrer.
“Kansas Wesleyan was the only college I applied to because my high school debate coach knew Harmon, and she suggested I come here to pursue my career,” Storrer said. “I really found a home with the debate and forensic team and a good sense of community at KWU in general.”
During his student years, Storrer scored four individual victories, including top overall contender at Louisiana State University-Shreveport in 2012 and second place in parliamentary debate at Christian Nationals in 2013. He was also part of the debate team that placed first overall in Christian. Nationals in 2013.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in communication, Storrer took a year off to work. He then attended the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri, where he helped coach the debate team as he completed his master’s degree. During this time, he also served as a judge for some forensic debates and competitions organized by KWU.
In the fall of 2016, he heard about a job at Glendale Community College in Glendale, Arizona.
“I had to decide over a weekend if I wanted to move 6pm there,” he said. “My car died halfway through college, so I didn’t have a car at the time. My dad helped me move. We packed his little Honda and drove 18 hours to Arizona.
His first year was an assistant coach for the debate and forensic program.
After that year he was promoted to Head Coach.
“It was good preparation for future coaching experiences,” said Storer. “I have coached over 100 students at community college.
For some students, debate and forensics were a new experience.
“I only had a few who had debated in high school,” Storrer said. “The hardest part about community college is that I rarely had students for the full two years. Even though we had them for a short time, we had some success and got some national titles. “
Titles include the coaching of Glendale Community College’s first-ever National Champion in the Parliamentary Debate at the Phi Rho Pi (Community College) Nationals in 2018 and Glendale Community College’s first-ever Showcase Artist at the Pi Kappa Delta Nationals in 2019.
In 2019, he received the Collie-Taylor Fellowship Award at the Phi Rho Pi Nationals, an annual peer-reviewed award showcasing training excellence and contributions to the forensic community. He was also elected governor of the region of Phi Rho Pi III from 2018 to 2020.
When COVID-19 hit, Glendale cut the coaching position and he returned to Kansas in July 2020.
“Barbara Marshall jumped through the hoops for me to be an assistant coach and teach as an adjunct faculty member,” Storrer said.
He collaborated with Harmon for the team’s 2020-21 competitive year, which took place exclusively online.
“We had huge success last year,” Storrer said. “The students are talented, but we’ve embraced online forensics as well.
“We were able to walk away with three national titles and several rankings at the national championships. We’ve had success online, and it’s the prospect of going on a road trip that’s exciting. It’s crazy to think how much better we will be in person.
Pursuing the culture is a priority as he enters his first year as a head coach.
“You can’t train passion,” Storrer said. “We are fortunate to have hard working students. There are other programs where a coach will write an entire speech for someone, and I’m so glad that is not our team’s culture. We have college students who are young and thoughtful. They have something to say and a story to share. Helping cultivate and facilitate each student’s voice is important to me.
Storrer started running when he was hired as a head coach.
“I communicate with the students and they can work on events during the summer,” he said.
“I couldn’t do it without the students. They are very talented and motivated. We have so much potential. The program will continue to grow.
At the community college level, Storrer said he didn’t have the ability to recruit students.
“I am excited about the recruiting. We have such a good recruiting (admissions) office, ”Storrer said. “It makes my job a lot easier to have those I know who are interested. I think the recruitment is going well and will be even stronger.
As the 2020-21 school year was her first at KWU, her influence in the classroom drew students such as junior Elizabeth Schaefer to the team.
“For part of an oral interpretation course, we are required to participate in a competition. I was the first one, so I thought, “Maybe I should try again,” said Schaefer, a drama junior with a music minor. “I did forensics in high school and went to national championships in my senior year. I promised myself I would stop there, but I met Kiefer and he invited me to join the team.
Schaefer placed third in Dramatic Performance and fourth in the Oral Performance Program at the National Christian College Forensics Invitational and was semi-finalist in Dramatic Performance at the Pi Kappa Delta National Comprehensive Tournament.
“I love my team. We are close to each other and we support each other,” Schaefer said.
The family atmosphere is essential according to Harmon.
“The quality of the team is going to be solid, and it was really important that we keep the core that we’ve built over the past two years,” he said.
Storrer worked closely with Harmon as an assistant coach, and Harmon said he had earned the team’s respect.
“It’s relational. Kiefer was coming into my team, so he had to build a relationship with them – a relationship that they would trust, understand and know he knew what he was talking about, ”Harmon said. “At the end of the year, the students would go to him to ask questions before they came to see me, that’s where we wanted them to be.
The Wesleyan team is young and strong, with a bright future.
“I think Harmon wanted to know he was leaving the program in good hands,” Storrer said. “I didn’t have to go through a lot of obstacles to build that confidence. I think he always believed in me.