BPHS forensics teams says goodbye to long time head coach Alice Ursin


Greydon Tomkowitz, Print Editor

The Forensics team says goodbye to the longtime Head Coach, Alice Ursin.

Despite what some may believe, Mrs Ursin does not inspect crime scenes, nor does she play football.

Forensics is the Speech and Debate team, and “NFL” is the National Forensics League, not the National Football League.

Mrs. Ursin, or “Urs” as the team members know her, has served as the head coach of the Forensics team for 31 years. In that time, Urs has coached almost 400 students.

To some people, the sight of dozens of well dressed teenagers talking to walls would mean they are in an asylum; but after 3 decades, Urs knows talking to walls only means practicing speeches for the upcoming round.

Competitors talk to walls to practice before competition

During her 31 years, Mrs. Ursin has led 43 students to the National Forensics League (NFL) national tournament, and more than 200 students to the Catholic Forensics League (CFL) national tournament.  In addition, Urs has led countless students to the State Championship Tournament.

Mrs. Ursin served as the Pittsburgh NFL District Chair the past five years.  She served on the State Executive Board for 16 years and chaired the Pennsylvania High School Speech and Language (PHSSL) District 3 for over 25 years.

Mrs. Ursin served as a Tournament Official for the NFL Nationals and is a Past President of the Pennsylvania Speech and Debate Association.  Additionally, she is a member of the PHSSL Hall of Fame.

To replace Mrs. Ursin, and with very large shoes to fill, is Mr. John Masslon, the current Debate Coach for the team. Mr Masslon has been a part of the team for the past three years and will take over as Head Coach for the 2015-2016 school year.

“For the past 31 years, Alice Ursin has been synonymous with speech and debate not only in Bethel Park, but across Pennsylvania and the Untied States,” Mr. Masslon said. “She has spent countless hours working with competitors and her work has had a tremendous impact on her students.  She has continued fighting for the forensics team despite the continued decline in support from the school board and administration.  She will be greatly missed.”

Returning next year will be Assistant Coach, Mrs. Pat Zenz. Mrs. Zenz has been involved for more than 20 years as a judge and five years as a coach, after she made the miscalculation of getting on the bus with her daughter Heidi when she joined the team in 1992.

Mrs. Ursin started in 1984 when she was a substitute teacher, some of the students she’d helped in middle school drama told her they’d be forming a Forensics team but needed a coach. She said she’d give it a year, and stayed for the next 31.

So no, Urs does not star on CSI, or play for the NFL, and she doesn’t even work with the insane; Urs teaches students how to present a speech confidently, how to do research quickly, and how to talk to walls.

Mrs. Ursin has taught hundreds of students how to speak confidently and effectively, almost 50 of those students can give a speech better than anyone else in the country. Right now, as high school students, it may seem like football and other sports are the most important things. But most people stop playing sports, no one will ever stop talking.

On behalf of the Forensics team, we’ll all miss you Urs.