Speech and debate coach wins national award

Biola’s forensics coach is recognized as ‘coach of the year’ for his success in combining ministry with forensics.

Amanda Frese, Staff Writer

Director of forensics Daniel Elliott received the Dr. Bob Derryberry Memorial Outstanding Coach Award at the 2019 National Christian College Forensics Invitational on March 16. The award honors a speech and debate coach who has demonstrated consistent success in coaching and seeks to promote forensics throughout the year.

Upon bestowing the award on  Elliott, the National Christian College Forensics Association acknowledged his dedication to service and ministry, as well as the continued success of the Biola forensics team, according to the coach.


Elliott became involved in the forensics program as a college student at Biola in 1994. He joined the debate team as a freshman because he enjoyed talking and earned several awards during his four years on the speech and debate team. In 1998, Elliott worked as an adjunct professor, teaching a public speaking class per encouragement from Todd Lewis, the head of the communication studies department at the time.

“When I graduated, Todd Lewis handed me a textbook, [Clella] Jaffe’s public speaking book, and said ‘You did it, now teach it.’ So that’s how I started teaching a public speaking class,” Elliott said. “As a thank-you for doing that, the director of the forensics team at the time asked if I wanted to help coach the team as well.”

Since then, Elliott has also served as a missionary and attended seminary for six years before returning in 2010 to direct the forensics program and teach communication classes at Biola.


Combining education with ministry, Elliott says that as a coach his desire is for his students to not only grow mentally, but also spiritually. Before returning from the NCCFA Invitational, Elliott shared a sermon in the hotel lobby on the Sunday morning before departure, so his students could have a church service.

“My philosophy is based upon ministry and education. I want people to grow, but I also want to care for their soul,” Elliott said. “When you become a part of this team, it’s not just about winning trophies, but it’s about developing who you are, to be the best that you can be.”  

Elliott says that some of his favorite memories as a coach are of watching his students become successful, or being invited to be a part of their lives. He believes that in forensics, or any avenue of life, the most important aspect is the relationships that are made. If the goal of an experience is about the win, grade or test, Elliott says that it is always a win-lose situation that causes losses to be frustrating. However, by making the experience about people, there will be growth.

“The best part of an experience are the relationships that you build,” Elliott said. “You are always going to walk away from an experience learning something. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another, as the Bible says.”


As Elliott continues to coach the speech and debate team, he hopes to see growth in the forensics department at Biola, encouraging those involved in forensics to recruit potential students. He also hopes to invite more high school students to participate in Biola-hosted speech and debate events.

“Having these types of setups can be a great way to both feed into the university and strengthen the program, which can cycle around to recruit more students to strengthen the program,” Elliott said. “That’s my next goal, to create a self-sustaining experience to help Biola and the community all at the same time.”

On April 16, the forensics team will be hosting a debate showcase night, featuring speech presentations and a sample debate to show Biola what forensics is and what their team has been working on throughout the year.

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