Forest Lake High School speech coach Tim Newcomb was voted Section 7AA Coach of the Year at the sectional speech tournament on April 10. This is the second time he has received this honor.
Newcomb has been coaching the team since 1997, when he joined the high school English department.
For the first five years, he was the assistant coach. Newcomb said he was recruited and mentored by former Forest Lake teacher Deborah Bendix.
“Henry Hebert has been a big influence in my coaching career,” Newcomb said, “and I have also been fortunate to have the assistance of Becky Haven, another speech coach, for several years.”
Hebert is a former teacher and drama coach at the high school, now retired, and Haven is current head of the English department.
Newcomb also credits his family as being very supportive. “My wife, Megan, actually coached for a year or two before we had children; now Emma and Becka will occasionally come and watch.”
One highlight of his coaching career, he said, was in 1998 when the FLHS team went to the national tournament in St. Louis, Mo. He worked with the duo Jason Vincent and Chris Lankowski, who put on a play about potential in-laws called “Butterscotch.”
Another top memory is coaching Nicole Grundtner in the prose category when she won the state championship.
Newcomb worked with Stephen Anthony when he made it to state finals in humor, and to the semi-final round of the national tournament. Anthony now appears on Broadway.
Another high point was when Caleb Rotach and Shawna MacNamara placed third in dramatic duo at state, he said.
In addition to teaching and coaching, Newcomb has also directed the fall musical (13 years) and the spring play (six years). This year’s fall production was “High School Musical.”
Directing musicals is a natural fit for Newcomb, who participated as a teen at Winona Senior High School.
“I was in every musical, one a year: In 10th grade, I played a waiter in ‘Hello Dolly’; in 11th grade, I had a supporting role in ‘110 in the Shade’; and in 12th grade, I played Sir Harry in ‘Once Upon a Mattress.’”
At St. Olaf University, Newcomb majored in English/language arts education and minored in speech/theater education. He sang in the choir and had roles in musicals and one-act plays.
He also has a Master of Science degree in fine arts education from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
But he never competed on a speech team.
Now, after 16 years of coaching the speech team and 13 years teaching speech class, he is again recognized for leadership.
The fall musical fits with speech team in the school calendar year; the musical is done just before speech season gets busy.
“I have done the spring play at the same time as speech,” Newcomb said, “but you’re there until 9 p.m.”
This year’s spring play, which opens May 3, is being directed by Craig Zimanske.
Newcomb’s style is low-key. He stays calm and largely unperturbed during practice. His secret? Keep the parts of the process separate.
“First research and write,” he said. “Don’t worry about delivery.”
After you find, analyze and cut your piece, he advised, then you fine-tune it.
“Don’t give polish notes when you’re not ready to polish.”
Fixing problems one thing at a time “helps me keep my perspective,” he said.
He did steam a bit once during a rehearsal, when one of the students complained about a doorknob not working. His response was that there were more important things to worry about.
Then later that night, he fixed the doorknob.